Archive for February, 2010


Is the Missile Defense Agency’s logo Obama-meets-Islam?

February 27, 2010

Missile Defense Agency

By Al Kamen in The Washington Post

The blogosphere is abuzz over conservatives’ charges that a logo being used by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency looks very much like a fusion of the Muslim crescent moon and star and the Obama campaign logo. Some folks even detected a similarity to the Iranian Space Agency logo.

“New Missile Defense Agency Logo Causes Online Commotion,” said the headline on Drudge. Indeed it did. Our pal Frank Gaffney, writing on his blog, expressed alarm. “The Obama administration’s determined effort to reduce America’s missile defense capabilities initially seemed to be just standard Leftist fare,” wrote Gaffney, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration. But “a just-unveiled symbolic action suggests, however, that something even more nefarious is afoot.”

Iranian Space Agency

Iranian Space Agency

Lefty bloggers insisted that the logo meant nothing of the sort, suggesting the right-wingers must have found some particularly high-grade hallucinogens.

Turns out, however, the “new” logo is not so new. “This was a logo that was developed three years ago for our recruiting materials and our public Web site,” MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told our colleague Ed O’Keefe. “It did not replace our official MDA logo, and of course it has no ties to any political campaign. It was done one year before the 2008 elections. So the whole thing is pretty ridiculous.” Lehner said the insignia was chosen because it was “cheaper, because it’s three colors as opposed to the five colors on the official logo.”

Obama Campaign

What a minute. Did he say one year before the election? During the George W. Bush administration? Can we get some subpoenas out on this?


NBC’s Broken Olympic Coverage Manages To Annoy Absolutely Everyone

February 26, 2010

In most nations, live streaming coverage of all Olympic events is available on the internet.  But not in America.  Why is that?

by Linda Holmes

Let us put aside for a moment the rah-rah, “Go Team USA” focus of the NBC coverage that often bugs viewers who would like a more global view of the Olympics. Let us also set aside sport-specific beefs, like the way Scott Hamilton’s groaning has gotten completely out of hand when he’s calling figure skating, or the way the curling announcers make it sound like only a three-year-old wouldn’t know precisely how to win every single game with ease, because they certainly could.

The mere structure of the NBC coverage has left a great deal to be desired this time around, and it came to a head the other night when they shuffled the much-anticipated USA-Canada hockey game off to MSNBC, in part to use NBC as a showcase for probably the least anticipated of the figure skating events: ice dancing. (Along with some speed skating, bobsled, and the men’s super-G, which happened earlier in the day — oh, and the much-hyped ski cross event.)

West-coast residents have been particularly incensed that they wait an additional three hours after the East coast gets whatever “live” coverage there actually is in prime time, even though they are in the time zone where the Olympics actually are. What this means is that even if NBC is showing “live” coverage of its big events in New York, which is across the continent from Vancouver, it delays them three hours for Seattle, which is less than three hours south of Vancouver.

This just isn’t the way people follow … anything, really, at this point. At one time, you could broadcast events hours after they happened, and you’d have a reasonable chance that people could live in a bubble while they were waiting. That is not the world we live in anymore. The fantasy that is indulged when Bob Costas speaks breathlessly about an upcoming ski race where he already knows exactly what happened is no longer even a fragile fantasy; it’s a blatant fiction that everyone knows about.

Naturally, NBC wants to kick the big events into prime-time for ratings reasons, and it’s hard to argue with their ratings successes for these Olympics, which have been massive. Nevertheless, they’re clinging to a broadcast model that’s not only on its last legs — it’s on the last toe of the last leg. This isn’t Wide World Of Sports — people don’t want to wait around for when your big sports show happens to take place.

Self-scheduling is the rule, at this point. It’s harder and harder to tell people when they will watch things, and in what form. I can’t prove it, but my sense is that part of the reason so many of us have taken to watching curling is that you can see entire matches, without the break-ins from Costas and the cutaways to other sports.

There’s probably too much action in a set of Olympics for absolutely everything to be shown top-to-bottom, and perhaps that would be boring, anyway. But if the broadcast networks who cover this stuff don’t find a way to stop pretending it’s still 1976, where an event happens when the person who owns the broadcast rights tells you it happens, they’re going to wind up being left in the dust by whatever manipulator of technology figures out how to do it better.


Conservatives: “Cut spending – but not that. Or that. Or that….”

February 25, 2010

by John Sides

Conservatives agree that the government spends too much. But ask them what to cut …

At last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called on the attendees to imitate the wife of Tiger Woods: “We should take a page out of her playbook and take a nine iron and smash the window out of big government in this country.”

But there’s a problem for Pawlenty and the activists who cheered him: Rank-and-file conservatives actually like big government.

In 2008, the American National Election Study asked a national sample whether federal spending on 12 different programs should be increased, decreased or kept about the same.

As the graph above illustrates, the respondents who identified themselves as “conservative” or “extremely conservative” had little appetite for specific spending cuts.

Very few conservatives said they favored reducing (or cutting out altogether) spending on any program. The least popular program proved to be childcare — with a grand total of 20 percent of conservatives saying they’d slash it. The most popular is highways; only 6 percent want to cut spending there. Even bugaboos like welfare and foreign aid fare well, attracting the ire of only 15 percent of conservatives. Amazingly, the survey found that, on average, 54 percent of them actually wanted to increase spending.

Political scientist James Stimson has suggested that a fifth of the country consists of what he calls “conflicted conservatives,” those who might respond positively to a broad appeal like Pawlenty’s, but not once specific windows start getting smashed.

At CPAC, Glenn Beck turned to 12-step lingo: “Hello, my name is the Republican Party and I have a problem! I’m addicted to spending and big government.” But why blame the GOP? After all, the party is being enabled by its own base.


Huge rally FOR health care reform held Saturday in NYC

February 24, 2010

Did you hear about it in the mainstream media?  I guess not – it wasn’t a “Tea Party.”

From the Brooklyn Bridge to the HQ of Anthem-Wellpoint (shown here), thousands marched in support of health care reform.

More photos – LOTS more photos – HERE.


And the winner is…. Ron Paul?

February 21, 2010
Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas Republican who ran a quixotic bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, was the top vote-getter Saturday in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll, capturing the support of 31 percent of those who participated in the contest. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had won the CPAC straw poll for three consecutive years, took 22 percent of the vote. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin won 7 percent, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty garnered 6 percent. Pawlenty attended the conference; Palin did not.

Paul’s victory renders a straw poll that was already lightly contested among the likely 2012 GOP hopefuls all but irrelevant, as the 74-year-old Texan is unlikely to be a serious contender for his party’s nomination.

As the results were displayed on twin large screens in the ballroom — and even before Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio could announce who had won — a cascade of boos came down from a crowd that views Paul and his fervent supporters as irritants. Paul’s backers responded with cheers, though, when their candidate was then proclaimed by Fabrizio as the winner.

CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.

A spokesman for the conference rushed over to reporters after the announcement to make sure they had heard the unmistakable boos when the screen first showed Paul had won the straw poll.

Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who heads the House Republican Conference, took 5 percent of the vote. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee each won 4 percent.

Nearly 3,000 votes were cast in the straw poll, the most in the history of the 37-year conference, but that number represented only a fraction of the approximately 10,000 people who attended CPAC.

By finishing well above Palin and Pawlenty, Romney clearly remains well-positioned among the conservative activists who attend conferences such as CPAC. Having already sought his party’s presidential nomination once, and retaining many of the supporters he had in 2008, Romney enters the early going of the 2012 race as something close to a front-runner.

But the results of the straw poll, though imprecise, indicate that conservatives are not entirely happy with the field of likely candidates mentioned two years before the first balloting.

Fifty-three percent of those who participated in the contest said they wished the GOP had a better field of candidates. Forty-six percent said they were satisfied with those now seen as possible presidential candidates.

While Palin’s decision not to attend the conference may have been a factor in her single-digit showing, her modest finish underscores the degree to which she is not seen as a serious presidential contender by the most attuned activists in her party.

Even though he and his aides sought to downplay the poll, Pawlenty’s finish represents a disappointment for the 2012 Republican contender who has worked the most aggressively in the past year to make a name in party circles. Besides Romney, Pawlenty is the only potential candidate with the makings of a campaign infrastructure.


The “Reverend” Joe Stack – from “religious” leader to suicide bomber

February 19, 2010

From Joseph Stack’s suicide manifesto (emphasis added):

Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling (sic) from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0.


Most of what I have read in  news reports about Stack’s tax problems focuses on a small provision in the tax law that required contract software programmers to be employees of their employer like everyone else, rather than receive the more favorable treatment given to bona fide “independent contractors.”  But it appears that Mr. Stack actually fell off the train  when he fell for the pitch of one of the many nutty tax protest gurus who were fleecing the gullible back in the 1980’s.  The tax protest gurus had learned that you can make a lot of money just by telling people what they want to hear – true or not.

The gist of the “I’m a church” tax protest scheme – the one that I speculate that Mr. Stack fell for – is illustrated by this summary from the Peister case:

Peister formed a church with himself as minister and his wife and parents as its trustees, took a vow of poverty in form only, set up church checking accounts, and used the funds in those accounts for personal purposes. Peister, 631 F.2d at 660. The court stated:

“In the instant case the record contains adequate evidence from which the jury could infer that Peister set up the church to avoid taxes. Viewed most favorably to the government, the evidence showed the church was a shell entity, fully controlled by Peister and his wife, or at the least by them together with Peister’s parents. The vow of poverty was one in form only, and had no substantive effect on defendant’s lifestyle. The use of the purchased forms to establish the church and the sequence of events all indicate a deliberate plan to manufacture a religious order exemption. The jury apparently chose to disbelieve Peister’s testimony of his belief in the church, and that was within the jury’s power as the fact finder.”

The “I’m a church” dodge is just one of many tax protester arguments that has led to financial ruin or even jail for those who tried them.  A summary of many of the various failed arguments can be found here.  They range from the simple-minded (“the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution is unconstitutional”) to the bizarre (“the Republic of Texas is not part of the USA”).  What they have in common is that NOT ONE of them has ever prevailed in court.  NOT ONE.

Benjamin Franklin observed that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  Apparently Mr. Stack disagreed.  Now he has experienced both.

A wasted life.  May you rest in the peace that eluded you in this life, Rev. Stack.

– Graychin


Cheney’s real enemy… is Bush!

February 15, 2010

It seems the former vice president can’t stop attacking the Obama administration. But Peter Beinart says his actual target is George W. Bush—for being soft on terror.

Soon after 9/11, Foreign Affairs published an article arguing that the struggle between al Qaeda and the United States was just a byproduct of the struggle among Muslims themselves. It was titled “Someone Else’s Civil War.

As it happens, that’s a pretty good title for the escalating struggle between Dick Cheney and the Obama administration. On the surface, the sides are clear: Republican versus Democrat, liberal versus conservative, hawk versus dove. But the more you examine Cheney’s attacks on Obama, the more it looks like Obama has simply gotten caught in the crossfire of an intra-Republican civil war. Cheney’s real target may be less Obama than his predecessor, George W. Bush.

On Sunday, Cheney appeared on ABC’s This Week with Jonathan Karl. His criticisms of the Obama administration were predictable: It shouldn’t have read Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights; it shouldn’t be trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court; it shouldn’t be trying to close Guantanamo Bay; it shouldn’t rule out waterboarding. Also predictable were Karl’s questions, in which he noted that many of these criticisms could be applied to the Bush administration as well.

What wasn’t predictable was Cheney’s response. Usually, when reporters ask politicians why they’re attacking the other party for things their own side has done they deny that there is any double standard, and find some distinction to suggest that what the other guys are doing is much worse. Cheney didn’t do that. To the contrary, he repeatedly acknowledged that his gripes with Obama are also gripes with George W. Bush.

Karl: Didn’t the Bush administration also try terror suspects in civilian court? Cheney: “We didn’t all agree with that.” Karl: “You opposed the [Bush] administration’s actions of doing away with waterboarding?” Cheney: “Yes.” Karl: “Did you oppose those releases [of Guantanamo prisoners to their home countries]. Cheney: “I did.” Karl: “Did you advocate a harder line [than others in the administration on Iran].” Cheney: “Usually.”

You have to hand it to the guy. He may be an ideological fanatic, but he’s no partisan hack. Time and again, with barely a nudge from the questioner, Cheney essentially volunteered that, “Yes, George W. Bush was soft on terror, too.”

But Bush, and the other people who reined Cheney in, aren’t talking. Cheney is—and the congressional Republicans are parroting his words. As a result, the Congressional GOP is now considerably more extreme than the Bush administration. The Bush administration oversaw hundreds of civilian trials of terrorists; today’s Republicans want to defund such trials. The Bush administration stopped waterboarding; Congressional Republicans defend the practice. The Bush administration read shoebomber Richard Reid his Miranda rights; Congressional Republicans find the practice despicable. Bush said he hoped to close Guantanamo Bay; Congressional Republicans practically consider it a national treasure.