Thursday, December 31, 2009

Epic Portrait Fails

What's below are 30 of the most Homeric, epic-class portrait fails in the history of photography. With the exception of the last three, all pictures courtesy of Sexy People. All captions are courtesy of a certain misanthropic blogger with way too much time on his hands.

Extreeeeeme incipient spinsterhood!!!!!

And yet, Tim Burton still thought Wil Wheaton was too gay to cast even as Robin. Life is cruel, sometimes.

And still they thought the Goth lesbian look would become a permanent part of the American counterculture.

So fuckin' bitchin', man, he's got PMS.

"No, seriously, Joana, that hairstyle perfectly conceals your vestigial twin. Really!"

Even if they are obviously celibate for the week, friends don't let friends get expensive portraits done during Spring Break.

Mark fancied himself to be the coolest Carl Ballantine impersonator on the block.

Meet Jesse. Happy Jesse. Shiny Jesse.

Yet, coincidentally enough, both the kids look like Stanley's wife's Swedish masseur.

Cholic or a horrifying prescience of the internet? You be the judge.

Ah, the 80's: Prince. Hair Bands. Pensive gay Hispanic rednecks.

The tense standoff between Meghan and the Goodie Barrette Company reaches its nerve-racking 181st day.

Stoners and the Prom Queens Who Love Them: Next on Jerry Springer!

Morphing into psychotic Billy Bob Thornton in 3... 2... 1...

Palinitis, n- An overmastering desire to use shiny, reflective surfaces to turn oneself into a human palindrome.

Justin's 20/20 vision and non-special needs look always made him feel like the Marilyn Munster of the Farkle family.

Earl and Bubba always looked forward to Portrait Day, the one time of the year when their parents would let them out of the attic. But during the rough patches, plaid always united them.

Boy, I remember the first time I stepped into virtual reality during an Olin Mills Portrait.

If you feel the need to color-coordinate your shirt, jacket and tie with your facial hair... you're a redneck.

So, if one kid wins the National Spelling Bee, are all you kids going to win the National Spelling Bee, too?

.oO They have to feed me, clothe me, pay money to photograph me and open the door for me 20 times a day. So who's the planet's superior life form again? Oo.

Yet, amazingly, even after college, Harry remained unmarried. And celibate. And unkissed.

"I can out-nerd anyone in this whole mall!"

That's right, ladies. You can unwrap Chad all day long on Christmas morning. Just be careful when you pull off the stick-on bow (not seen).

Poor Wayne and Jeffery had the misfortune of getting the only child photographer in North America who focused his young clients with a headless rabbit.

I don't know what's creeping out poor Mr. Toonces more: Getting his skeletal structure crushed or the wildly, ineffably redundant mullet.

This was the guy who had Quarterdeck watch the night the USS Cole was bombed. Think it's about time he got a new AA sponsor?

Who needs putas, right, homies?

No, this wasn't taken at a wedding. This is how everyone looked every day in 1988.

"Say, 'Magic Mushroom!'"

The Federation of Russian Forklift Drivers...

...will now re-enact the health care reform legislation in the American Congress.

V Fucked Up on Rush Limbaugh

Because he's "resting comfortably" in a Honolulu hospital. If he's taking nitrates for his chest pains, he may want to take it easy on the Viagra.

Lord only knows why Limbaugh would want to vacation on Honolulu the same time as a President that he obviously hates as much as Obama.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What The CIA Didn't Find in Africa.

Just because Republicans helped lead the ban on better technology and opposed airport security spending doesn’t mean they’ll stop Cheneying the Democrats for subverting national security. - Maureen Dowd, NY Times, 12/29/09

There are so many lessons to be learned, so much information to digest, so much that needs to be said about the failed destruction of Fight 253 that one's mind is almost paralyzed with the facts. But one must start somewhere if one is to be heard so let me just say right here and now, Dick Cheney, go fuck yourself. Shut the fuck up, go back to your spider hole, clutch your .45 ACP, dress it with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt on it and then eat it because you, you bloated miscreant, are more responsible for this mess than most people know.

What am I talking about? Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) is one of those rare Democrats who's taking point in this or any matter while the rest of the wet-legged Democrat Party are content to let the GOP vent (i.e. to, once again, frame, define and control the debate). This is what Massa had to say on the matter:
I would remind the American public that the apparent leaders of the al Qaeda cell in Yemen were 2 terrorists who were released by Vice President Cheney in secret. I think there's a level of accountability that has to be levied personally on the vice president. He is personally responsible for that.

If true, this would be pretty explosive stuff (no pun intended), no matter who's currently in the White House (or Hawaii). Yet, does it really matter on whose watch these men were released while the turnkeys blithely whistled and looked the other way? Looking to the past is what Republicans do whether they're moderates or neocons. Politicians pointing fingers will get us nowhere and will not make us safer. The people who ought to be pointing fingers are intelligence operatives, TSA officials and airline security people provided they point to the right people.

Now, thanks to this Nigerian Abdulmutallab, according to Dowd, we're looking at the prospect of showing up at the airport in hospital johnnies, with the open back ends flapping in the breeze (maybe now, though, the TSA will finally take away our 4 books of matches and two Bic lighters since we can't smoke or ignite our shoes on airliners, anymore).

But at least in the interests of credibility, the Democrats could at least take Massa's and DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen's lead and defend our President, to remind the American people that there was an eight year-long administration that ended less than a year ago, an administration that kept us vulnerable up until 9/11 and kept us more vulnerable still for over 7 years after 9/11, an administration that was so fixated on Iraq and vacations that it literally brushed aside like so many mosquitoes those nattering voices from our intelligence community or that of foreign governments that tried warning us of the impending threat.

It's already been said by cooler heads than Peter Hoekstra and Dick Cheney that the President did the right thing by waiting 72 hours to comment on the Flight 253 clusterfuck. President Obama wasn't merely being coy but was, instead, conscious that a rapid response would elevate the wouldbe terrorist's status. He was also still gathering information that, if his assertions are correct, the intelligence community should've gotten to him months ago and not days after the incident. This may be one time in which the White House actually can lay the blame for this latest SNAFU at Langley's doorstep.

Yet, like Dowd and John Aravosis have said, it just didn't look good that Obama went back to playing golf and to resurrect Fahrenheit 9/11 memories of Bush saying, "Now watch this drive..." after inveighing against terrorism. It also didn't look good when Obama blindly defended DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's assertion that the system worked.

No, Madam Secretary, someone in our government fucked up. We can't blame the Dutch for all this. Let's take stock of the facts: Abdulmutallab's father, a Nigerian banker, went to the US embassy and warned us his son had been radicalized. The kid finds himself on a terrorist watch list but on a low priority and somehow escaped being put on a No Fly Watch list on which James Moore and Ted Kennedy had found themselves. He then pays for his ticket with $3000 in cash and doesn't check any baggage.

By Christmas Day while Bill O'Reilly was busy stalking elementary school principals or manger displays or whatever else is at war with Christmas, a real war reared its ugly head again. And everyone from the President of the United States on down is wondering how the largest, most sophisticated and well-funded intelligence machine in the world couldn't simply put the dots together.

The president isn't being detached like Bush was during Katrina. He's playing it smart, playing catchup like the rest of us. Things are humming along in Hawaii so quietly that it would be easy to think of Obama as doing nothing but playing golf. No, the President is being smart.

Still, he could've handled it better. Smart is not always what's called for.

Yet, to hear the GOP talk, Democrats have been in charge the whole time, as if Obama took over from Slick Willie with no bloodily incompetent eight year interregnum in between, as if the Democratic Party has had a generation or more to get a grip on al Qaeda (and even if that was the case, what does that say about the GOP?). But there was an eight year-long period of unparalleled brutality toward the innocent with hardly a dent made in al Qaeda's infrastructure, a period presided over by a so-called President who waited twice as much time to comment on Richard Reid than Obama did on Flight 253.

It was an administration that didn't seem to be at all concerned about al Qaeda's mastermind bin Laden barely six months after the attacks, an administration that so completely fucked up national security, the very launch pad Republicans are using now to attack our president, that the annual State Dept's terrorism report contained so much bad news it was then redacted for Congress and no longer released to the American public.

So the Republican Party, starting with Dick Cheney, can all go fuck themselves. How dare they? Yes, Janet Napolitano spoke out of turn and championed a system that plainly failed and would've literally crashed and burned were it not for a Dutch filmmaker. But what is that in comparison to a plainly clueless Michael Chertoff who didn't even know that thousands were cooped up inside the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center for five days? No one died on Flight 253 and the president was kept in the dark. 1800 perished on the Gulf Coast while the Bush administration sat on the facts.

Could President Obama have handled the Flight 253 debacle differently? Sure, but he loses nothing more serious than style points. The GOP is resorting to 2002, 2003 and 2004 fear-mongering because they sense a political opportunity, to wean away an American majority they legitimately and understandably lost on a (snort) national security platform.

2000-2009: The "I Wish We Could Have a Do Over" Decade

The Rude Pundit hath summed up the decade in a most foul, vile way that's notable even for him. In his three part series, he takes on sacred cows such as Al Gore, Twitter and Facebook, to name just a few but obviously there are a few other people/entities that escaped his baleful notice.

The Rude One began his meanderings with a reminiscence of what he was doing on New Year's Eve 1999. Those of us who read the news were in the grip of Y2K and were listening to the pre-Homeland Security government telling us to buy bottled water and duct tape if our computers rolled back to the Low Middle Ages. We thought that shit was scary, that our time stamps were going to go back to January 1, 1900.

JP was with his family in Boston "enjoying" First Night. My bladder was bursting thanks to a large cup of joe drunk on the "T" earlier that evening and with Port-O-Potties nowhere in sight. While it didn't stop us from celebrating the new year, decade and millennium, we all had Y2K on the brain. George W. Bush was some dimly recognized dimbulb out of Texas who was somehow related to a former one termer.

Then The Election happened over 10 months later, the Election that changed everything. That dimly recognized dimbulb from Texas had somehow galvanized a class of crazies who were for the most part successfully kept under wraps during the Clinton years and we were led to believe that he'd beaten a man who would turn out to be the poster child for the invertebrate Democratic Party. Not wanting to fight the election results, telling every Democrat in the Senate to not sign a resolution that would've put the kibosh on certifying the results in Florida, Gore and every fucking Democrat in the Senate couldn't have rigged the election for Bush better than as if they actually wanted him.

So Midland's answer to Jed Clampett moves into the White House with his Mayberry hillbillies, a bunch of PNAC maniacs who were nothing more or less than war criminals in waiting who didn't want to hear about al Qaeda but did have a throbbing, oozing case of priapus for oily Iraq. Before we knew it, America had turned into some predatory neighbor who used any excuse to fuck your hot wife and steal all those wonderful power tools in your shed on the grounds that your grass was too tall and bringing down property values, that you diddled your kids and farted at Homeowner's Association meetings. Who cared whether or not the allegations were true or not? Saddam was the only thing standing between us and those oil wells he sat on top of. Once we got there, it was too late to turn back. It was the bloodiest, most massive and expensive game of King of the Hill ever and, by God, we won.

So we diddled in Afghanistan, routing our old business buddies of the Taliban just enough to show that we meant business in spite of the fact that the Taliban had nothing to do with the 9/11 that didn't happen on Bush's watch, according to Dana Perino, a massive fuckup that somehow, with a logic that would only make sense in a universe constructed by Rube Goldberg and M. C. Escher, earned Bush a 95 percent approval rating despite telling his own CIA when they tried to warn him of al Qaeda's plans on his vacation, "Alright, you covered your ass."

And Bush stood atop that mountain of rubble on Ground Zero like a crow cock-a-doodle-doing on a massive, tragic dunghill and made himself into some superhero like Rudy Giuliani, a buck-toothed shit bird who made millions on 9/11 through $100,000 a pop speaking gigs and his security consulting firm who was nonetheless caught as much by surprise by bin Laden as Bush.

So we rah rah, sis boom bahed him as he led tens of thousands into Afghanistan and Iraq and those of us who didn't cheer the war or would question 9/11 were "truthers" at best and "traitors" at worst. For good measure, the NY Times did its part to shore up shaky claims about Iraqi WMD's made by alcoholics, Iraqi counterfeiters and cab drivers by sending Judith Miller, who by the time of the invasion was practically writing policy. There wasn't a major newspaper, radio station or network that didn't support this buttfucking of Iraq in some degree.

So we poked around looking for them pesky WMD's and while we didn't find 'em, we certainly found in nine months the guy who was directly responsible for 9/11 who, as it turned out, wasn't responsible for 9/11 and we hung him after a show trial that lasted longer than most TV series. We'd spent a trillion dollars and wasted more than 3000 American lives and hundreds of thousands of more Iraqi lives to hang one tinpot dictator.

Meanwhile, the real raping was already underway when Jerry Bremer set his Timberland boots on Iraqi sand and set about showing Iraq how a real dictator runs a dictatorship. Under Bremer, the Iraqis had less electricity, less potable water, less food, fewer jobs and fewer rights than under Saddam. Under Bremer, American contractors were neither answerable to American or Iraqi law. The smashed Iraqi military became a ready-made insurgency, al Qaeda would prove the fly paper theory correct and the Halliburton oil pumps no longer had meters.

Meanwhile, at Abu Ghraib, we began rounding up innocent Iraqis, tortured, detained and murdered them then wondered why they weren't grateful. Bremer shut down a dog shit newspaper in Fallujah, thereby giving power and credibility to a slumlord maniac named Muqtada al Sadr. We slaughtered more Iraqis in Fallujah not once but twice yet were outraged when 4 Blackwater mercenaries were murdered, mutilated and hung from a bridge.

Meanwhile, contractors with no Congressional oversight whatsoever (thanks to Jerry) got sleek and bloated for not doing the jobs for which they were contracted. 1/3 of Iraq's "reconstruction" budget was spent on mercenaries like Blackwater which one fine day for no reason whatsoever indiscriminately killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad while the company's founder had the nerve to deny the whole thing before Congress with the kind of oleaginous aplomb that only sociopaths can manage.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan was forgotten year after year. In fact, it seemed the only people who didn't forget about what was at stake in Afghanistan was the resurgent Taliban. Meanwhile, our puppet ruler there, a former secret policeman with ties to the heroin trade, watched his country deteriorate without even a token attempt by us at nation-building (except for spraying his opium crops, which he told us not to do).

Then, in the greatest moment of mass hysteria on human record, tens of millions of us decided that we wanted four more years of this shit.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, we then lost a city full of black people who were blamed by the right wing for the bad weather, Bush's red, white and blue version of the Enabling Act continued stripping away our civil liberties with our regretful but tacit approval, saying that we'd get 'em back after the war on terra was won and our Congress rear-ended us time and again by giving Bush the power to torture and spy on us, by giving credit card companies the right to jack up our APR's while not allowing us to file for bankruptcy and even after the Republicans lost Congress the Democrats still let them call the shots. Moveon was condemned. ACORN was defunded. A brain-dead woman was lionized. America was bent over like a cherry in a prison shower and eventually even the stick between our teeth was yanked out and replaced with corporate cock.

Which brings us to the bailout. Somehow it was rigged that the very people who'd been fucked by these derivative-selling scumbags who'd been boning us all these years would be the very same ones who would wind up bailing them out because they and not the American middle class, were "too big to fail." Never mind that that in itself makes a wonderful argument about shoring up the gutted antitrust laws. Never mind that $12 trillion of our bailout money was shoveled at the feet of sociopathic cocksuckers like Lloyd Blankfein, John Thain and other upholstered ticks on Wall Street with no enforceable preconditions whatsoever. God forbid we should counsel them as to the error of their excessive ways and to get the automakers to make some serious environmentally-friendly changes before getting a penny of our tax dollars.

War veterans came back with only 70-80% of their bodies and we made them live in moldy, filthy rooms at Walter Reed because we outsourced their care to other negligent corporations like the kind who gave our troops in Iraq bacteria-riddled food, contaminated drinking water and electrocuted about two dozen more. Who cares? Putting the clampdown on private industry would be to stifle the free (as in unregulated) market. What are you, a Commie?

Then, a light appeared in the heavens. From that Holy Land of Chicago came a guy who until two years before was a state senator and community organizer, a guy who thought he could get our great nation back on track and 72,000,000 of us agreed with him. Anything was better than McCain and Palin, we all said, and voted for the handsome, articulate, occasionally humorous guy.

And now, a year later, we still have well over 120,000 troops in Iraq in spite of SOFA, Blackwater's still plying its trade in Baghdad in spite of being banned, we'll soon have over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and will have over 150,000 contractors there alone. Our airliners are still vulnerable, our health care system is about to get exponentially worse, our economy even worse and HMO's, Big Pharma, banks, defense contractors and lobbyists own whatever China doesn't and the price of oil is starting to skyrocket.

A withered dildo like Joe Lieberman gets to hold hostage health reform because he's the magical 60th hijacker, he gets to keep his chairmanships, he gets to caucus with the Democrats and all while pledging to support the next GOP candidate for president in 2012. NAFTA, DOMA and DADT's still in place, the USA PATRIOT Act is still in place, Gitmo's still open for business and, after Christmas, will be for some time to come. We've expanded our adventurism to Yemen and Pakistan. We're hiring more contractors than ever and almost three quarters of the Pentagon has been privatized. InfraGard is still growing, New Orleans isn't close to fully recovering and unemployment is now at double digits and holding steady.

And those of you who think that 2010 will be the start of a better decade, think again. After it hit the iceberg, it still took the Titanic a couple of hours to sink. And I find myself longing for the good ol' days when Y2K and a full bladder were the scariest things I had to face.

The News at a Furtive Glance

When news breaks, Pottersville Central makes sure it stays broken.

According to ABC's Brian Ross, two of the four masterminds who'd allegedly plotted to blow up an American airliner on Christmas day were released from Gitmo by George W. Bush. It gets better: These two Saudi al Qaeda clowns were enrolled into an art rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia. Yemen had a similar program but was 86'd when it was discovered that you can't turn a terrorist into Andrew Wyeth.

Says Megan Carpentier at Air America (aka the HuffPo 2.0), "Both the families of al-Awfi and Shari attribute their radicalization to their years in detention at Guantanamo Bay." So, bottom line, we jailed two normal guys, turned them into terrorists through torture and illegal detention then turned them out into the world to harm us. Heckuva job, Bushie. Give yourself a big ole thumbs up. There ya go. Asshole.

You may have heard that about a month and a half ago, Barack Obama actually nominated Dana Perino, Bush's last press secretary, to head up the Broadcasting Board of Governors. You may have also heard that right after her inexplicable nomination, the former press secretary actually said to Sean Hannity, "We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term." I guess she was out of town on 9/11.

Well, seems that Mary Matalin is taking up Perino's whiteboarding of history by insisting that not only did Bush inherit a recession from Clinton but he even inherited 9/11 from him, too. (Hey, at least she's brave enough to admit that 9/11 actually happened.)

I guess Mary was also out of town when Richard Clarke and the outgoing Clinton administration officials tried to warn the apathetic incoming Bush administration about the danger represented by al Qaeda or when several foreign governments tried to warn Bush about an impending al Qaeda attack on US soil. I would find it very easy to hate Matalin were it not for the pathetic fact that every night she has to sleep with James Carville.

Earlier this month, Eric Sprott and David Franklin of Sprott Asset Management LP published a report on the Treasury Securities that are being bought and sold like mad, especially in the third quarter of FY '09. The title of the article is not very reassuring but it seems to strengthen the suspicion we all have of the highly secretive Fed: "Is It All Just a Ponzi Scheme?"

After the federal gov't decided to issue $1.885 trillion of debt for FY 2009, it sold trillions in T-bills. But someone has to have the capital to finance all that public debt so who bought it? Well, "foreign and international buyers", who are supposed to be the target for this unimaginably large refinancing of our debt, bought a respectable $697.5 billion in Q3. The Fed itself bought $286 billion in Treasury holdings. So who or what was the third entity to push the sale of T-bills to over a trillion with a Q3 purchase of over $528 billion? Well, that's where it gets interesting. It was a group eponymously named "Other Investors." So who are they, exactly?

Well, Sprott and his people decided to investigate further by consulting the Federal Reserve Board of Governors Flow of Funds Data and this is what they found: Out of all the groups that make up "Other Investors", all but one nominally increased their purchase of Treasury Securities. These would be insurance companies, pension funds and depository institutions. That leaves another generically-named entity called the "Household Sector." Now, at first, this sounds as if American homeowners were able to somehow buy up over $510 billion of Treasury notes but how could that be when so many of us are out of work and facing foreclosure?

Well, it's not us or foreign governments or insurance companies or banks or the like but phantoms, to use Sprott's and Franklin's word. This mysterious entity that had bought up only $15 billion in treasury bills in all of FY 2008 bought a staggering $528+ billion in the third quarter of this year alone and all without a hiccup. In other words, this Household Sector purchased almost twice what the Fed itself had bought in Treasury bills, T-bills are that are being cranked out like economy-sized confetti to fool foreign investors and governments into thinking we're managing our public debt better than we actually are (shades of Enron). And that's why Sprott thinks the Fed is just a massive Ponzi scheme. Some day all this debt's going to have to be paid by somebody and the other Ponzi architect named Bernard is naively hoping it's going to be leery foreign governments. And don't think they're not watching the actions of powerful bond investor Bill Gross, who's selling his own Treasury notes like crazy.

You got ten bucks to spare? If not, tough shit, because that's what it'll cost every man, woman and child in the US to bail out GMAC yet again. The government is expected to announce later today that it'll extend another $3.5 billion to the automaker's financial services arm.

At long last, America's premier conservative is newly single, ladies. Karl "Turblossom" Rove is finally single and available. After a Texas court gave Karl his walking papers, the aforementioned Dana Perino, an official Rove spokesperson, had the gall to say,
“Karl Rove and his wife, Darby, were granted a divorce last week. The couple came to the decision mutually and amicably, and they maintain a close relationship and a strong friendship. There will be no further comment, and the family requests that its privacy be respected.”

Well, I think the still-married Wilsons would have a thing or two to say about respecting family privacy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

He Said, She Said.

Bubba and Billary: More Clueless Than Ever

The headline of this AFP story says it all: 'We built back better' after tsunami: Bill Clinton. Which is odd considering that just three days ago, according to another AFP story, a corruption watchdog group named Transparency International released a report saying that $1.1 billion of the $2.2 billion raised in tsunami aid for Sri Lanka never got spent on the victims. In fact, the audit revealed that $603.4 million never got spent on reconstruction and almost half a billion more simply went missing.

That means, statistically speaking, a full $5 million of the ten million Bubba raised with HW never reached the victims of the December 2004 tsunami. But you wouldn't know it to hear Bubba's glowing reports about how well we rebuilt Indonesia. If you close your eyes and ears to sounds of 30,000 people in Sri Lanka drowning, you can almost hear George W. Bush at his final presser positively bursting with pride about how quickly we rescued another 30,000 off their roofs.

To be fair, Bubba did say, "Though some tsunami-affected areas have not fully recovered, the recovery process continues, and governments, communities, and people around the region are better prepared for the future."

Well, wouldn't you think that after over five years since the disaster, more progress would've been made considering the rest of the world threw $13 billion at the damage, $2.2 billion of it to Sri Lanka alone?

Consider this: It took less than three years from the sinking of the first caisson to the opening of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. Consider, also, that the Trump Tower is currently the second-tallest building in the world and is a modern marvel of engineering multi-tasking. We live in a day and age when you can have pre-fab offices and even homes delivered to you with no construction involved. Prefab steel buildings, which would have the best chance of withstanding another tsnunami, can be bought for as little $16 per square foot.

So how can Slick Willie afford to back-pedal from what's an obvious case of corruption that's keeping Sri Lanka as far from reaching its potential as New Orleans? And how can Bill Clinton say that people in Indonesia "are better prepared for the future" when human corruption and unaccountability is eternal?

Sri Lanka is just one of 11 Indonesian nations that was hit by the tsunami. It would be interesting if Transparency International were to demand audits from the other ten governments to see how much of the other $11 billion was wasted, misappropriated or simply disappeared.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"I Can Lick Any Guy in This Legislative Body!"

You want to know why the impending health care "reform" bill resembles something that a drunken chimpanzee would type up? Because everyone thought, once upon a time, that it would be a good idea to let Max Baucus, the God of Eggnog, take point crafting this co-opted piece of shit.

Enjoy. Or cringe.

Top 10 Reasons Why Obama Should be a One Term President

OK, OK, I've heard it all, especially from the left wing loons on Daily Kos: "Barack Obama has only been in office less than a year." "He hasn't proven himself, yet." "At least his name isn't George W. Bush." All true yet all bankrupt of reason and willfully blind to the facts at hand.

Now, Barack Obama, like all of us, thinks he's the cat's meow, someone who thinks he's worth more than he's getting paid. On the 22nd, he pretty much gave himself A pluses across the board, citing his Wall Street bailout as the most important achievement in his first year. I'm sure many on Wall Street if not those "recovering" without jobs or homes will heartily agree. However, I'm sure there are many who would disagree with our bipartisan president when he says that he didn't compromise too much in his agendas. In fact, this is what Obama said over the phone to the Washington Post (probably because he knew he couldn't keep a straight face in person):
Overall, if you had a checklist of promises made, a lot of those promises have been kept. When those things are complete, and I think they will be, we will have achieved a fundamental shift in health care, energy, education and our financial regulatory system that will put this economy on a firmer footing to grow over the long term.

Uh huh. Well, I think these past 11+ months have given us enough of a sample to be able to safely say that Barack Obama is not merely sandbagging us until he gets re-elected in 2012. We're not talking about Jack Kennedy waiting until the '64 election before pulling our troops out of Vietnam because by the time Barry hits the stumps again, we will have been in Iraq for close to a decade. So, while carefully avoiding the talking points of the loons on the far right who shriek about birth certificates and the like, here are my top ten reasons why our arbiter of change and hope ought to be tossed out on his well-toned ass in the 2012 election.

Consider this an appendix to the recent 2009 Assclowns of the Year, one starring Barack Hussein Obama II.

10) Disloyalty

I'm actually somewhat surprised that Obama didn't divorce Michelle when Larry Johnson at No Quarter began flogging a nonexistent tape on which she was purported to have said "whitey." Because every single person who's ever been singled out for blame or some transgression by the GOP or some mouthpiece for them has been swiftly thrown under the wheels of the bus.

The Rev. Wright is the most classic case. The minute the right wing and Fox "News" denounced him as some rabid black separatist for statements he made when Obama wasn't even there, Obama almost immediately fired him as his pastor and he stopped going to his church. However, because the right wing didn't have much of a problem with Rick Warren, Obama somehow found the strength to resist outrage from the liberal blogosphere of which he was recently a part.

When Glenn Beck denounced with McCarthyesque fervor Van Jones being a Socialist or worse, Obama gratefully accepted Jones' resignation without even bothering to defend Jones from Beck's clearly insane accusations. After all, considering how polite and cooperative the GOP had been toward the Obama WH, I can understand the president wanting to preserve that calm and tranquility.

At least Bush knew a thing or two about loyalty, to judge by all the actual criminals he had working for him.

9) Bipartisanship

Imagine Joe Lieberman stuck in a tanning booth for a month and you'll have Barack Obama. From the beginning, Obama took a road that appeared to be the high one in not resorting to negative campaigning and attack ads. But then something strange happened after the election. Obama got it into his head that bipartisanship may actually work.

This despite the fact that Sarah Palin said he "palled around with terrorists" and E. D. Hill made mention of his "terrorist fist jab" with his wife. Right wingers called him "racist", "Socialist", a "Muslim" even a "Communist." On election night, Rush Limbaugh actually hoped he'd fail. High-ranking birthers like James Inhofe actually fueled the nontroversy of Obama's "missing" birth certificate. Joe Wilson called him a liar to his face during a nationally-televised address when he spoke the truth. He couldn't even address our nation's students as had HW Bush to give them platitudes about staying in school and doing their homework assignments. His every agenda, save for sending more troops into Afghanistan, has been universally blocked by the GOP.

He let the minority GOP cut over $100 billion from the stimulus package so the Senate could get three votes, had them over the White House for drinks and still they clamor for his impeachment.

Obviously, we need a liberal in the White House who won't cave in to a tyrannical minority at every available opportunity.

8) Fearing Teh Gays

It can't be said that Barry broke many campaign promises regarding gay rights other than pledging to end DADT and he went on record while on the campaign trail as calling DOMA "abhorrent." Obama, as with Biden, as with Hillary, as with McCain, never told anyone he was in favor of same sex marriage. Quite the contrary.

Yet after he was done paying lip service to voters after election day, we saw an emerging administration that was nothing less than overtly hostile to gay rights. Last June, his DOJ filed a brief not only standing up for DADT and DOMA, one likening same sex marriage to pedophilia and bestiality but the president actually defended it to enraged gay rights groups.

Of course, the disenfranchisement of the LGBT community started while Bush was still packing up his pork rinds in the Oval Office when Obama insisted on using the rabidly homophobic Rick Warren to deliver the Inaugural Invocation. Not only that, as the President-elect's office began naming nominees to fill key positions, it became clear that no Cabinet-level seats would be filled by openly gay people.

DADT is still in effect, by the way and ENDA, to Obama's obvious relief, is still on cinder blocks. This means essentially that gay rights has hardly advanced an inch since the Bush years.

7) Bailouts

It's hard to tell which financial institution is the most perfect poster child for the bailout. We could point to AIG, which, the minute it received the first of three bailout checks from Hank Paulson, immediately splurged $440,000 on a retreat. Or BofA chief John Thain who spent $1.2 million renovating his office and accelerated the bonus schedule before the Merrill Lynch purchase so that several of his buddies got their million dollar bonuses. But that was all during the campaign.

During the Obama administration, we saw another round of TARP bailouts go out with virtually no meaningful oversight or pre-conditions from either the executive or legislative branches. Obama's Treasury Secretary, the upwards-failing Tim Geithner, has more than once came out swinging against any cap on executive pay and it came out during the holidays that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae's CEOs will make an estimated $6 million apiece this year. This is largely possible because the insider-infested Treasury Dept. recently lifted the $400 billion cap on bailout money. Which is odd considering that even the Treasury is saying that there's virtually no chance of troubled corporations receiving anywhere near that much. It's also an odd development considering that, despite Fannie's and Freddie's stock doubling in value recently, they've yet to enjoy a successful year since receiving bailout money.

In other words, they own the joint just as securely as they did during the Bush years. And, uh, NAFTA is not only still in effect, no one in the Obama White House has lifted a finger to renegotiate it despite campaign pledges to.

6) Iraq

We now currently still have roughly as many boots on Iraqi soil (126,000) as we did when George W. Bush announced his surge on January 10, 2007. Yet this is in spite of the SOFA agreement that mandated US troops were to begin withdrawing from certain cities such as Baghdad by June 30th 2009. The biggest troop reduction we've seen thus far in the Obama administration is the one taking at least 30,000 troops off US soil to put into Afghanistan, another nation we had no business invading.

The government of Yemen also revealed recently that the Obama administration worked out a secret deal with them that's resulted in little more than the drone strike killings of innocent civilians, many of them women and children. No, that's Pakistan and Afghanistan you're thinking of. This is Yemen, a suspected al Qaeda stronghold, which automatically makes collateral damage acceptable.

Which, besides Saudi Arabia and Israel, is one spot on earth that hadn't been turned into dog shit by the Bush WH that Obama had somehow managed to find.

5) Tolerance of War Profiteers

Jeremy Scahill through Rebel Reports posted an amazing story recently about exactly how many taxpayer dollars are getting funneled into Afghanistan in the Obama years. Claire McCaskill's Senate Contract Oversight subcommittee discovered that nearly 70% of the Pentagon's entire workforce is made up of contractors. Sen. McCaskill's report went on to state:
From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.

We can assume those figures also include the secret war we're paying Blackwater to fight for us from their secret stripped-down base in Karachi.

We now have roughly 68,000 troops in Afghanistan with no exit strategy in mind and 104,000 contractors. It's estimated by the Congressional Research Service that when Obama's 30,000 troop surge kicks in, that will automatically result in 56,000 more contractors, which is almost a 2:1 ratio.

That means, at a pace far more accelerated than under Bush, we're rapidly creating a super class of mercenaries and PMC's, not to mention green badgers in the intelligence community who presently work for the government only for money rather than patriotism and honor. People who are now entrusted with secrets that are above top secret can take them with them and to the highest bidder when their contracts end.

4) Global Warming

The incremental change administration of Barack Obama received another black eye in the international community when his proposals at NATO's Climate Change summit in Copenhagen earlier this month were almost universally rejected and even ridiculed except by the world's biggest polluters.

While countries like China and Canada, to name just few, are trying to walk away from their voluntary commitments to shrink their carbon footprint and sky dumping pollutants, Obama walked in with wishy-washy concessions as if he was addressing the GOP. During the auto bailout, Obama could've made giving them the money conditional on refitting their factories to produce greener, more fuel-efficient cars, which would've saved jobs as well as get a fingerhold on cleaning up the atmosphere. Instead, he did nothing and just handed them the money without even imposing any binding restrictions on executive pay and compensation.

Granted, Obama promised to do whatever he could to get power companies to generate a quarter of its electricity from at least 25% renewable sources in the next 15 years and Congress is blocking it. Yet it can't be said that Obama seems too heartbroken by this disappointment that affects all 6+ billion of us and I don't recall him resurrecting this plan at Copenhagen, do you?

And, uh, just as in the Bush years, we're still the only nation on earth that hasn't signed on to the Kyoto Protocol.

3) Israel

As with every single president since Truman, Barack Obama has essentially sucked up to Israel and let them literally get away with murder. During the campaign trail, while Olmert was calling Bush off a podium in Philadelphia to order him to order Condi Rice not to vote for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip at the UN, Obama was proposing raising our annual gift to Israel from $3 billion to $30 billion.

And even though he was sniped at by Joe Lieberman afterwards, Obama reaffirmed his ignorance regarding Iran when told AIPAC in a video conference call that he'll get hawkish on them over their nonexistent nuclear weapons program.

Which was a tack that was revisited time and again by the Bush "Saddam's got WMDs!" White House.

2) Health Care Reform

Dear God, where do we start? Any stupid Iowa tourist at an Arabian bazaar in Marrakesh knows that you start haggling at the highest (or lowest) figure then work your way down (or up). If Barack Obama was at such a bazaar, he would've taken home a papier mache elephant that would've cost him $2000.

Instead of bargaining from an obviously controversial (if necessary) bargaining position such as single payer, he would've given himself room to get chewed down by the human jersey barriers of the GOP and the equally corrupt Blue Dog Democrats. Instead, Obama said from the gitgo that single payer would be too wrenching for our poor HMO-dominated health care system, publicly nixed the idea of co-ops competing with HMOs then said a public option wasn't even a necessary component in a bill he'd sign.

Then there was the news that the WH had struck a secret deal with Billy Tauzin's lobbying group PhRMA that essentially took power out of Congress's hands by not allowing them to impose more than $80 billion on reimbursements Big Pharma would've made to the government. God forbid we should also allow the government to negotiate drug prices on behalf of those who have a problem paying $10 for an aspirin.

Instead, it looks as if we'll be saddled with a plan that will be hailed with full-throated praise by Obama and Democrats that will criminalize noncompliance with those who still can't afford health care, thrusts on us an individual mandate without a public option to speak of and doesn't provide any subsidization for necessary abortions. In other words, everything Joe Lieberman didn't want in the Senate version got left out.

Which is how he got to be the fair-haired golden child of the Bush junta.

1) Embracing Torture

Two weeks ago today, the Supreme Court upheld a decision from a lower court that said essentially that terrorism detainees aren't persons and are therefore not covered under the protections of the Constitution, the Geneva Convention or even the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

OK, that was a Supreme Court decision and has nothing to do with the Obama administration, you may say. Well, I wish that was the case but it isn't because the case was brought before the SCOTUS on behalf of Obama's laywers in the DOJ who aggressively wanted to keep those Kafkaesque Bush-era policies in place.

Now, don't forget to contrast this with what Obama said about torture while on the campaign trail and as President-elect and what we're seeing now from a WH that plainly has no appetite for prosecuting the fascist war criminals of the Bush White House.

No wonder Obama suddenly didn't want these torture photos and videos to come to light- The time stamps may say anything from 1/20/09 on.

So there you have it, folks: We now officially live in a country in which faceless, soulless corporations have personhood but not tortured American citizens and others falsely accused of terrorist acts. God bless help America.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tehran in Pictures

I think one way to explain the regime's brutality is by looking at the calendar. There are two important national holidays coming up, the first one is "Arba'ain" it is the 40 day anniversary of third Shia imam (who died in "Ashura" which was today), this will be also the 40 day anniversary of everyone killed today (I think it will be Feb. 5th). The second one is 11th Feb. the anniversary of Iranian 1979 revolution which is a national holiday accompanied by mass rallies. - A Daily Dish Reader

Indeed, it hasn't yet struck the Shi'ite superclerics running the Iranian government, or what passes for one, that, as with the martyred Neda Soltani, grieving in the Muslim world begins anew after 40 days and that will certainly be the case 40 days from now during which nine people and perhaps more have been killed in today's protests. And before that will be the 40th day after the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

I predict that in order to avoid clashes, the February 11th anniversary of the original Iranian revolution will be a less public, lowkey affair. I don't see any such reticence on the part of these embryonic revolutionaries in the pictures and video below, do you?

Another soon-to-be iconic photo of Iranian defiance.

A wounded policeman helped to safety by protesters.

A rare sight: Heavily-fortified cops in riot gear cowering, their backs literally against the wall.

What follows is a brief but stunning video of something else we didn't see in Tehran last summer: Protesters stopping and destroying a mini van to free their own people who'd been arrested. (Courtesy Irannewstoday.)

Is This Mir Mousavi's Slain Nephew?

According to Irannewsnow and their sources on the ground, it could be. Even if it isn't, it looks as if this young man is dead, which immediately blows out of the water the Tehran police chief's risible assertion that not only has no one been killed but that his men weren't even armed with guns.

And even if you're skeptical about that man's death, this picture ought to put an end to your cynicism. In all other photos and footage I've seen of this poor bastard, his unrecognizable pulp of a face was pixillated or blurred. Now you know why.

This next video shows Iranian security forces attacking more protesters. At the end of the video, the woman shooting it shouts, "Let's get out of here! They're coming!" Note even the elderly are throwing rocks.

As CNN pointed out, as during the protests last June and July, no international aid is forthcoming. There are manifold reasons for this not the least of which is the idiotic vandalism that doesn't elevate the standing of the protesters. Another is the enduring myth that Iran is a sovereign democracy and their internal affairs are no one's business but their own.

Think about why we invaded Grenada. A few American students were kidnapped and came to no harm during their captivity. They were used as a cover story in order for Reagan to hunt down Communists that weren't really there.

Think about why we invaded Iraq. Every reason we used turned out to be a fucking pack of lies. No WMD ever materialized any more than did the democracy that President George W. Appleseed was going to implant.

This is one military intervention that I could live with whether or not it involves regime change. As with last summer, this is a human rights emergency and just because these unarmed people are gaining ground and are being heard doesn't mean the government won't bring more guns to work with them tomorrow.

Iranian Protesters Capture Police Station

Another thing you never really saw last June: Iranian protesters not only successfully beating back the police and the basij, but even capturing a small police station.

In this Wall Street Journal blog entry, the events of this video are dispassionately given. However, in this five minute long cell phone video, you'll see all sorts of random but telling images:

Note the two wounded and stunned security officers being led out of the building to safety so they don't get injured more seriously. Note the police helmet bounced across the square as casually as if it was a soccer ball. Note the joy that erupts when a fire is set next to the police station.

There's something very weird going on in Tehran and I'm increasingly getting the feeling that democracy and the demand for it is gradually taking a back seat to this carnage. About the only redeeming feature that I can see in this video is the mercy instantly extended to their injured and incapacitated opponents and their willingness to accept into the fold the few Iranian cops who take their side.

Those who are looking to get their votes back are gaining ground yet they're squandering this valuable ground they're gaining, on a Muslim holiday, in petty acts of vandalism. There doesn't seem to be a leader. Mousavi is crying over the body of his nephew. Montazeri is dead. Student leader Mehdi Arabshahi has reportedly been arrested.

Who's calling the shots in the streets?

Appetite for Destruction

Here's an unforgettable photo essay of what's going on in Tehran right now, courtesy of Tehran Live. Something we're seeing more than last summer is the headlong, chin-first approach taken by these protesters. Whereas before, the basiji and Tehran police beat them senseless last June and July with little opposition, now we're seeing cops getting separated from their motorcycles. We're seeing those bikes getting burned, nightsticks and riot helmets getting taken and brandished as weapons and trophies, large knots of Iranian police getting crushed against locked gates.

From what these pictures convey, these people are dangerously close to where LA residents were in 1992 after the Rodney King beating nonconviction. I hope they don't forget for a minute why they're out there hurting other people and that they're not carried away with the tonic of their momentary power. Anarchy and wanton destruction can be highly seductive and highly communicable. I hope they continue realizing that these protests are supposed to be underpinned by a much nobler cause than mere anarchic and superficial destruction of the establishment.

The Guardian UK: 9 Feared Dead in Iran Protests

Think about the massive mistake the Basij made when they shot through the heart a young female who wasn't even a protester. When Neda Soltani fell on June 20th of this year, the dictators running Iran created a ready-made martyr for which the protesters had been unintentionally waiting. This time they created another martyr and it was none other than Reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew, Saeed Ali Mousavi.

As the Guardian goes on to say, Ashoura commemorates the day the 7th century cleric Imam Hossein died in battle. To Shi'ites, Hossein is revered as a symbol of resistance against despotic, totalitarian rule. This year, almost as if scripted by Imam Hossein himself, Ashoura coincides perfectly with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's death and the seven day mourning period. As with Hossein, the latter-day Montazeri was a consistent foe against despotism as well as a champion for human rights and openly deplored the excesses of Ayatollah Khomenei and Khamenei, at one having said this summer the latter had "no religious authority."

Apparently, the people agree. Whereas before, the young people of Iran merely wanted back their democracy, if you read comments from Iranians below protest videos on Youtube and see their actions, now they're openly trying to overthrow the regime. Police motorcycles are being burned and the Basiji are successfully being repelled by unarmed protesters who have nothing but sheer size on their side.

While it may be true when Andrew Sullivan says, "any victory raw violence may have, it is Pyrrhic," one also has to realize that these people have nothing much to lose but their own lives. If you look at the protest videos being shot and posted on Youtube today, you'll see a conspicuous absence of the green that symbolized the protest movement last June and July. Even though it looks as if Mir Hossein Mousavi lost his nephew a few hours ago, it can't be said this is even about politics anymore, much less direct support for him and his reform candidacy.

Rather, in a way, the protests seem to have lost their original focus and, rather than demanding they get their votes and democracy back, they seem to have fallen into a much harder row of merely demanding the overthrow of the current regime. And that simply won't be effected with rocks and even massive numbers.

But the world is listening to them again and, Barack Obama and his $4000 a day Hawaiian retreat aside, some of us are listening.

While the liberal/progressive blogosphere has been typically silent during this latest Iranian human rights emergency, CNN is at last reporting on this, as is the indefatigable Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish.

Democracy is Messy

There's no way around it. The birth of our own democracy was not a staid, orderly affair as depicted by artists commissioned to paint the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the 1770's. It is messy, necessarily lubricated with the blood of democratic partisans and committed citizens that selflessly rise up against a tyranny.

Iran is most certainly no exception. Exactly six and a half months after the tainted elections that briefly turned Tehran into the most dangerous city on earth, clashes between Iranian civilians and government military and paramilitary forces are resulting in more deaths. We're hearing reports from the ground that the Iranian military are firing into crowds and tear gas is also being used (Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish has some horrific tear gas videos).

In the Muslim world, this is the mourning period known as Ashoura. In a way, it's appropriate that this latest wave of deaths at the hands of the corrupt and heavy-handed dictatorship of Iran would coincide with Ashoura, a holiday in which Shi'ite Muslims mourn the death of a revered Shi'ite saint who fell in battle.

The video that you see above was allegedly taken today. You can plainly see people falling and streets of central Tehran are in a state of chaos. There are unconfirmed reports on Iranian reformist websites (such as the usually-reliable Irannewstoday) that Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew was killed in the protests today. In one of the videos on that page, you'll see Iranian protesters carrying the body of a teenaged boy allegedly killed earlier today.

The video just above was shot days ago when Grand Ayatollah Katami was holding a memorial honoring the recently-deceased Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. Keep in mind this memorial was held in the former home of the Ayatollah Khomenei. The people busting through the door are who are charitably referred to in the media as "plainclothes security forces." (More notoriously known as the basiji. At 1:34, you can see a young man getting slapped or punched by one of these thugs.)

Grand Ayatollah Montazeri had long had my admiration and respect. Almost from the earliest days of the revolutionary government, the once heir-apparent had criticized Khomenei for hanging tens of thousands of enemies and self-perceived enemies and as recently as this past summer said "no one in their right mind" would believe the election results. The 87 year-old cleric had been excommunicated, the inevitable response of despotic regimes embarrassed by the truth spoken by those they can't get away with assassinating.

Montazeri's death had unwittingly touched off a firestorm that eventually ignited the renewed street violence in central Tehran that we're indifferently reading about as we eat the last crumbs of our Christmas fruitcakes. With six months of hindsight, it is clear that it was Montazeri, and not Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was the real heart and soul of the budding revolution. It begins to explain why more and more older Iranians, many of them actually religious conservatives, are marching shoulder to shoulder with the younger urban Iranians who made headlines around the world last summer.

Some of the best pictures taken earlier today of the Iranian protests can be found on Iranian photographer/artist Arash Ashoorinia's website (it's been heavily tweeted on Twitter, so please be patient as it may take several attempts to load).

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pottersville in Pictures

Horton hears a Wall Street bailout. The last sound you want to hear if you're a balloon is a boom.

If you still have trouble finding a cab in Taipei, you might want to check your deodorant.

Just the luck of liberals; Our ship finally comes in and it runs aground.

Coming to theaters Black Friday 2010: Gorillas in the Mall.

Stressing the difficulties of bipartisanship, President Obama takes a symbolic walk across the Great Ideological Divide.

"Hey, Inhofe! Global warming is not a myth!"

By 2009, people had gotten so sick and tired of "Candle in the Wind" that Elton John was reduced to performing in rice paddies.

"...In summation, Senator Inhofe, I have to strongly urge you to rethink your position on global warming. Respectfully, Mohamed Nasheed, President of Moldives."

According to a US theological survey, Alaska is considered to be the worst state to live in if you're Baptist.

Immutable Law of Nature #714: If you're stupid enough to watch a hurricane from your hotel patio, you deserve to become fish food.

Dennis Quaid in The Day the Earth Stood Still For Welders.

Ted Nugent's fishing trip was interrupted when he had to go back home to get his M40 grenade launcher.

Sure, we've all heard of the aftereffects of anabolic steroids such as shrunken testicles and 'roid rage but the least publicized one is the constipation.

And the one thing that Honduran death squads are afraid of...?

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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