31 December 2010

We're Headed for a Major Battle with the Tea Party Crowd over the Constitution Itself from ALTERNET 31DEZ10

THE insanity, the hypocrisy of the right wing extremist of the gop and the tea-baggers is amazing....and a real threat to the can people just sit back and let them get away with it??? I hope the writer of this piece from AlterNet is wrong, and that progressives and sane Democrats and Republicans can join together in the name of protecting the Constitution and the nation....I can assure you this is one Christian Socialist that will not give up without a fight!!!!!

Despite a few victories in the lame-duck session of Congress, Democrats and progressives should be under no illusion about the new flood of know-nothingism that is about to inundate the United States in the guise of a return to “first principles” and a deep respect for the U.S. Constitution.
The same right-wingers who happily accepted George W. Bush’s shift toward a police state – his claims of limitless executive power, warrantless wiretaps, repudiation of habeas corpus, redefining cruel and unusual punishment, suppression of dissent, creation of massive databases on citizens, arbitrary no-fly lists, and endless overseas wars – have now reinvented themselves as brave protectors of American liberty.
Indeed, the Tea Party crowd so loves the Constitution that the new Republican House majority will take the apparently unprecedented step of reading the document aloud at the start of the new congressional session, presumably including the part about enslaved African-Americans being counted as three-fifths of a white person for purposes of congressional representation.
One also has to wonder if these “constitutionalists” will mumble over the preamble’s assertion that a key purpose of the Constitution is to “promote the general Welfare.” And what to do with Section Eight of Article One, which gives Congress the power to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce among the states, and “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”?
If one were to buy into the Tea Party’s interpretation of the founding document, you’d have to denounce such concepts as “socialism” and/or “intrusions” on states’ rights.
Part of the Tea Party’s mythology is that federal taxes are an unconstitutional imposition invented by modern-day “lib-rhuls,” that the national debt is another new thing, and that regulation of commerce is outside federal authority.
Surely, there can be honest debates about what’s the best way to “promote the general Welfare,” or the wisest balance between taxation and debt, or the proper role of states in enforcing laws when there is a federal interest (as with Arizona’s anti-immigrant “present your papers” law).
But the pretense of the Tea Party is that the U.S. Constitution is definitive on these points and that the Founders favored today’s right-wing interpretation of the federal government’s powers, i.e. that taxes, debt and regulation of commerce are somehow unconstitutional.
Another curious “reform” from the new Republican House majority will be a requirement to specify what constitutional authority underpins every piece of legislation, a rather silly idea since every bill can make some claim to constitutionality even if the federal courts might eventually disagree.
But the larger truth that the Tea Partiers don’t want to acknowledge is that the Constitution represented a major power grab by the federal government, when compared to the loosely drawn Articles of Confederation, which lacked federal taxing authority and other national powers.
The Founders also recognized that changing circumstances would require modification of the Constitution which is why they provided for amendments. Indeed, the primary limitations on federal authority were included in the first ten amendments, called the Bill of Rights. Subsequent amendments included the eradication of slavery and extending the vote to blacks, and later to women.
Civil Liberties?
Yet, while the Tea Partiers and the Right have embraced a mythical view of the Constitution as some ideal document that opposes federal power to tax, borrow and pass laws that improve “the general Welfare,” they have been less interested in the document’s protection of civil liberties, especially when the targets of abuse are Muslims, Hispanics, blacks and anti-war dissenters.
Many on the Right have found plenty of justifications to trample on the rights of these minorities, even when the actions violate clear-cut mandates in the Constitution, such as the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of “probable cause” before the government can engage in search and seizure and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on inflicting “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Especially when the Right’s hero George W. Bush was violating those rights last decade, there were word games to explain the unexplainable.
For instance, in 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales argued that “there is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution.” But that was a point of sophistry since the Founders took habeas corpus rights for granted under English law and thus limited the reference in the Constitution to the extreme circumstances required before the government could suspend its need to justify a person’s incarceration before a judge.
Gonzales’s game-playing was similar to the argument made by Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell during a Delaware Senate debate – that the Constitution doesn’t call for the “separation of church and state,” because those specific words aren’t used.
The First Amendment does say that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” which Thomas Jefferson paraphrased as the “separation of church and state.” But it has become an article of faith among many on the Right that “separation of church and state” is a myth. O’Donnell later described herself as high-fiving her aides, thinking she had won the debating point.
Many on the American Right also insist that the Founders created a “Christian nation,” even though the word “Christian” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution and the Founders pointedly set no religious exclusions for those serving in the U.S. government.
One has to wonder, too, how the Republicans on opening day will read the Constitution’s prescribed oath for the president’s swearing in, which ends with a promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of United States,” without the add-on “so help me God,” which was freelanced by George Washington but is not what the drafters of the Constitution wrote.
Leaving out “so help me God” might be deemed part of the war on Christmas.
Radical Revision
Curiously, too, while supposedly revering the Constitution and its original intent, the Tea Partiers and their Republican allies simultaneously are proposing a radical revision of the founding document, an amendment that would allow a super-majority of states to overturn laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.
This neo-nullificationism smacks of South Carolina’s resistance to President Andrew Jackson’s federalism in the 1830s, a clash that set the stage for the Confederacy’s secession and the Civil War in the 1860s. The proposed Tea Party amendment, which is supported by many Southern officials including incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, could again wreak havoc on the nation.
A New York Times editorial noted that because the proposed amendment "focuses on giving states power to veto (e.g., taxes) without their shouldering responsibility for asserting it (trimming appropriations because of lost tax revenue), the unintended consequences would likely be at least as important as the intended.”
In other words, the Tea Party and the Republicans are positioning themselves as both fundamentalists embracing the Constitution's "original intent" and radicals determined to rip it up. Still, they are not likely to pay any price for their reckless ideas or their blatant hypocrisy.
If we’ve learned anything over the past several decades, it is that reason and consistency have little place in the U.S. political/media system. What counts is the size of the megaphone – and the American Right has built a truly impressive one, while the Left has largely downplayed the need for making an alternate case to the public.
As the Times noted, the Tea Party’s proposed 28th Amendment “helps explain further the anger-fueled, myth-based politics of the populist new right. It also highlights the absence of a strong counterforce in American politics. …
“The error that matters most here is about the Constitution’s history. America’s fundamental law holds competing elements, some constraining the national government, others energizing it.
“But the government the Constitution shaped was founded to create a sum greater than the parts, to promote economic development that would lift the fortunes of the American people.”
The Times also noted the inability of the American Left to make a case for more government intervention to address the nation’s deepening problems, such as high unemployment and severe income disparity. The Times wrote:
“In past economic crises, populist fervor has been for expanding the power of the national government to address America’s pressing needs. Pleas for making good the nation’s commitment to equality and welfare have been as loud as those for liberty.
“Now the many who are struggling have no progressive champion. The left have ceded the field to the Tea Party and, in doing so, allowed it to make history. It is building political power by selling the promise of a return to a mythic past.”
This means that we can expect the Tea Party’s myth-based assertions about the Founders’ intent to continue, along with the Right’s selective concern about the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.
When those rights are extended to non-white minorities, it’s “lib-rhul” activism. If the rights go to multinational corporations or white folks with guns, then that’s the way it was meant to be.
Though the Tea Partiers insist that race is not a factor in their current fury against government power, they don’t explain their relative silence when Republican George W. Bush, a white man, was asserting unlimited executive power. But Barack Obama, a black man, can’t even get away with welcoming students back for the school year without howls about Orwellian totalitarianism.
Even Michelle Obama’s well-intentioned campaign for healthful eating has become a target of anger from the likes of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the Right’s powerful media machine.
So, it seems the country is in for a new round of crazy while the voices for sanity stay largely mute.

Three extraordinary nonprofits 30DEZ10

MOVEON.ORG polled all it's members for charities to support for an end of the year fund drive and here are the three out of 4000 charities submitted that received the most votes. If you are like me you have more than enough, so please consider making a donation to one or all of these charities, or to a charity of your choice that feeds, houses, educates, provides health care, fights for human rights, protects the environment, provides micro check the reliability and responsibility of the charity you choose check them out at Charity Navigator

THANK you God for all your blessings for me and my family and friends in 2010, and I ask for your blessings on all of us in 2011.

MoveOn and its members have chosen three organizations—Habitat for Humanity, Planned Parenthood, and Feeding America—to donate to in our year-end fundraiser. Can you make a donation to each of these great organizations today?

Contribute Now
It's tough out there this holiday season. We all see the signs: a family member out of work, a neighbor who still can't afford health care, or a child not getting enough to eat.
So as a community, MoveOn and its members have chosen a few extraordinary nonprofits to support together. From thousands of nominations, we've voted to support Habitat for Humanity, Feeding America, and Planned Parenthood with our combined dollars.
Together, our goal is to raise $150,000 for these organizations—to help provide food to hungry families, build safe housing for those with no place to call home, provide health services to low-income women, and much, much more.
Can you donate to these vital organizations today? Just click here:
The top vote-getters span a wide array of work, but they do all have one thing in common: a mission core to helping people in difficult economic situations.  
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built, rehabilitated, repaired, or improved more than 400,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent, and affordable shelter for more than 2 million people.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America is the nation's leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate. Planned Parenthood affiliates operate 825 health centers nationwide. Each year they provide sexual and reproductive health care, education, and information to 5 million women, men, and adolescents worldwide.
Feeding America is the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Through a nationwide network of food banks, the Feeding America network provides food to more than 37 million low-income people annually. And you can make a difference today—each dollar donated to Feeding America will help provide 7 meals to men, women, and children facing hunger in America.
Around the country, nonprofits are doing important work to help people in need and to reverse our economic crisis. The need is staggering, and funds are scarce. Please donate as generously as you can today to help these organizations in the crucial work they do.
Just click here to donate:
 Thanks for all you do.
–Kat, Michael, Laura, Eli, and the rest of the team

The Year of the Big Lie: 6 Outrageous Falsehoods That Took Flight in 2010 31DEZ10

Thank God for media organizations like AlterNet and Mother Jones and PolitiFact and Salon and Politico, organizations committed to truth in reporting, not afraid to challenge and report on the shenanigans of the left and right.
In a political year dominated by tales of polarization, a flurry of themes emerged as I contemplated the year just past -- the year of the Tea Party, the year that psycho became the new normal (Glenn Beck), the year in which info leaks rocked the world (WikiLeaks), the year that saw accomplishments defying conventional wisdom (Obama). But at the root of all of these themes lies the Lie; all other themes speak to either its advancement or in its defiance.
In the politics of 2010, the Big Lie, in both its gigantic and more attenuated forms, was almost always deployed in the service of corporations. It may not be so obvious at the surface, especially when the Lie dubs the nation's first black president a racist, or labels a Jewish holocaust survivor an anti-Semite, but the ultimate aim of the Lie in these contexts is to discredit purveyors of ideas and policies that certain corporate leaders and shills find threatening to their quest for all the world's riches.
What follows is a mere sampling of some of the defining lies of 2010, not presented in any particular order of importance, for they're all of a piece.
The Big Lie
The Big Lie theory goes like this: A gigantic, audacious lie is more likely to be believed by the masses than a small one if it is repeated often enough. First articulated in the pages of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (who attributed the practice, of course, to Jews) and deployed as a tactic by Nazi master propagandist Joseph Goebbels, the Big Lie went mainstream in 2010, as its propagators on the Right were accepted by big media as respectable articulators of a legitimate point of view. These include Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and numerous other Republican officials and Tea Party leaders who, in our first Big Lie, refer to the 2010 passage of health-care reform legislation as "a government takeover of health care." The non-partisan named this assertion the lie of the year -- an award that will likely have no impact on the issue's framing, since media figures generally fail to challenge the assertion when it's made.
Sometimes Big Lies are personal, targeting a figure whose appearance or background plays to the prejudices of a particular constituency. An attempt to lay just one such Big Lie to rest finds Neil Abercrombie, the newly elected Democratic governor of Hawaii, seeking to release data on the birth of President Barack Obama in his state 49 years ago in an effort to appease birthers -- those who have bought into the lie that Obama was born in Africa, not America, which would make him ineligible for the presidency. Really, Abercrombie needn't bother: the Tea Partiers who doubt the president's birthright will never be satisfied with any level of proof. They're far too invested in the lie.
Perhaps that's why Andrew Breitbart, the right-wing Web site impresario, author of our second Big Lie of the year, thought he could get away with targeting an unknown U.S. Department of Agriculture official, Shirley Sherrod, through the creative editing of a video taken of Sherrod's remarks to a local NAACP gathering.
Brietbart was ripping mad when the NAACP passed a resolution at its national convention that called on Tea Party leaders to repudiate racism within its ranks. The clip was edited to convey the opposite message of Sherrod's remarks, which addressed how she overcame her own prejudice against a white farmer she assisted in the course of her job duties. But before Breitbart's lie was exposed, the Obama administration fired Sherrod (who was later offered another job at USDA). The story immediately became about the video clip as Breitbart presented it, and Sherrod's firing. It wasn’t until the next day that the Lie was exposed.
Breitbart himself demonstrated little chagrin at having posted a distorted view of Sherrod's remarks -- after all, he had achieved much of his desired result: damage to the Obama administration. In rushing to fire Sherrod before an investigation could even begin, the administration signaled that Breitbart's Lie was truth.
In essence, Breitbart's Big Lie was of a particular sort: those designed to prove that one's opponent is guilty of the same sin of which your side stands accused. From the early days of the Tea Party movement in 2009, aided by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, there's been a concerted attempt to paint Obama as a racist, a black man with "a deep-seated hatred for white people," in Beck's words. As a representative of the Obama administration and a speaker at an NAACP event, the Sherrod clip, had it not been exposed as a misrepresentation, would have killed two birds with one stone. Yet, even thus exposed, Breitbart remains an influential figure, the incident simply plowed, in an oily heap, to the side of the highway of hatred he travels.
Glenn Beck, of course, is the master of the Big Lie. That each lie Beck tells is more outrageous than the next does nothing to impede his success: in fact, his outrageousness fuels his success. Just last month, marking Big Lie number three for our purposes, Beck falsely accused the liberal financier George Soros of being a Nazi collaborator during World War II, when in fact, the Jewish Soros is a Holocaust survivor. In a three-part series on Soros, Beck framed his attack in language drawn from Hitler's Mein Kampf, calling his series "The Puppet Master," and referring to Soros as a "bloodsucker." While this caused great consternation in the progressive media world, protests in the world of mainstream media were not sustained enough to force Beck from his perch at Fox News, where he serves as community organizer for Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation, Fox's parent company.
Having made health-care reform his signature issue, Obama was ripe for this kind of attack from the likes of David Koch, the billionaire who founded Americans For Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which have actively promoted the Lie that Obama's insurance-company-friendly reform actually amounts to a government takeover of the health-care system. Like Murdoch, who is also a billionaire, Koch opposes government regulation of any kind -- be it of the health-care industry, the energy industry or the financial sector. Koch also happens to be a top executive at Koch Industries, the company founded by his father, a founder of the John Birch Society, that is rooted in the oil and gas sectors.
George Soros is also a billionaire, but one who favors government regulation, and puts his billions to work in the non-profit sector to fund organizations that support liberal efforts to regulate industry. So Soros became a prime target of the Big Lie.
The Little Big Lie
Perhaps the most pernicious outcome of society's resignation in 2010 to a media landscape blanketed by the Big Big Lie is the proliferation of smaller Big Lies which, taken in the context of enormous Big Lies, come to be seen as not such big deals. Take, for instance, Big Lie number four: the assertion by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, that Obama's recent trip to India was costing American taxpayers $200 million per day. Media dutifully quoted Bachmann's lie, some even noting that there was no evidence to support it. The media's interest sustained only as much as a 24-hour news cycle would allow. Just another instance of Bachmann being Bachmann.
Or take, for instance, the right-wing trope -- Big Lie number four -- that Obama cannot speak without a teleprompter, that he uses the teleprompter far more often than his predecessor, the verbally challenged George W. Bush. It matters not that Obama has proven, at news conference after news conference, that he does quite well answering questions off the cuff, or that his use of the teleprompter is on a par with that of previous presidents. In January 2010, Obama so deftly fielded questions lobbed at him by members of Congress at a Republican retreat that party leaders conceded it had been bad strategy for their side to allow the exchange to be televised. Yet Tea Partiers remain convinced that the black president is too stupid to speak without a machine scrolling text presumably written by white staffers.
And, coming in just under the wire for 2010 after having been an ongoing 2009 theme, thanks to Sarah Palin, is Big Lie number six: the notion that voluntary counseling for end-of-life care that is reimbursed by Medicare amounts to a government "death panel" designed to "pull the plug on Grandma."
The Media's Role
No Big Lie strategy can work without the dissemination of the Lie by mainstream media and in this regard, the media have been exemplary -- not in a wittingly conspiratorial way, but in a, gee-these-sensational-claims-will-really-boost-our-ratings kind of a way. After all, they too have corporate masters to serve.
The success of the whole Big Lie scheme, it seems, works here on something of a paradox. The rise of right-wing media, which is always the amplifier -- if not the creator -- of such claims, came to pass because of the distrust of mainstream media by a sizable chunk of the American public. However much that distrust existed throughout the history of the republic, it really picked up steam once network news was removed from its role, in the 1970s and '80s, as a public service provided by media entities that use public resources -- the airwaves -- as the vehicle for reaping profits, and news programs were made into profit centers by the corporations that owned the networks.
For their part, conservative personalities played on the jingoism of their adherents, especially during the Vietnam War, to claim that the media were hopelessly liberal in their bias, since they were reporting news that turned the American people against the war -- news, incidentally, that often exposed government lies about body counts and the ostensible success of the war. Daniel Ellsberg's historic leak of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times brought such falsehoods into brutal relief, much as WikiLeaks did earlier this year with its release of communications and classified video from the war in Afghanistan.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, mainstream news producers and editors have been on the defensive, always needing to prove they're not biased toward liberals. This leads many mainstream outlets to pick up and amplify the themes advanced in right-wing media, while giving little play to those advanced in progressive media. Aiding this process is the fact that the messaging shops of the Right are more adept at framing issues in pithy and emotional ways.
Take the term "death panels." I'll bet you're thinking, what's that doing in a 2010 year-end piece? That's so 2009. Think again. Just this week, the term resurfaced with a vengeance when the New York Times reported that the Obama administration, having failed to win inclusion of coverage for end-of-life counseling in the health-care reform legislation that passed in March (largely thanks to the Right's death-panel framing), is changing Medicare regulations so that doctors will be reimbursed for offering the counseling.
In a segment of "Anderson Cooper 360" that aired on CNN this week, the introductory piece leading into a discussion of the new rules included, in the course of less than four minutes, nine mentions of the phrase "death panel" by the guest host and in clips of politicians discussing the subject (h/t, AlterNet SpeakEasy blogger Linda Milazzo). The graphic for the story read: "'Death Panel' Resurrection."
Congratulations, CNN. You are an accessory to the Big Lie.
Note that CNN is owned by AOL/Time Warner.
And take the postscript to the Breitbart/Sherrod episode. Was Andrew Breitbart hounded out of the polite company of mainstream media? Hardly. He was hired by ABC News to provide commentary on the midterm elections -- a deal that was canceled only after public outcry from media watchdogs.
Note that ABC News is owned by the Disney Corporation.
Newspapers are hardly immune to the pressures of the Big Lie, which often turns up in nuanced ways. In the final days of the battle for health-care reform, USA Today ran a front-page story headlined "Health care law too costly, most say."
Pounded by right-wing messengers, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that there was no public support for an optional public health-care plan, despite ample polling showing that indeed a majority of Americans supported a public option.
In fact, the very USA Today/Gallup poll on which that poll was based revealed continued majority support for a public option -- a fact that was mentioned nowhere in the text of the piece, but appeared only in a tiny graphic that ran alongside the text. Without stating the reasons that two-thirds of Americans thought the plan too costly, USA Today reporter Susan Page never articulated the fact that many of those Americans likely thought the law too expensive in light of the fact that it did not offer a publicly financed health-care plan, thus reinforcing the right's Big Lie.
Note that USA Today is owned by the Gannett Co., Inc., which owns 100 media entities, including newspapers and television stations.
All of the corporations mentioned here as parent companies of media outlets are publicly traded -- hence the lack of accountability to anybody other than shareholders. The axiom at local news stations has long been, "If it bleeds, it leads." Murder and mayhem hold the attention of viewers. In the world of mainstream national news, there's a new axiom taking hold: "If it lies, it flies" -- as long as the Lie is sensational enough to keep viewers tuned in. And the Right is genius at turning out just those sorts of lies.
Because the Big Lie relies not on facts for its impact, but the counter-factual, it cannot be refuted by empirical data. If progressives are to thwart the momentum of the Big Lie's suffocating expansion, they must offer a viable counter-narrative -- stories that speak to people's souls, emotions and experiences -- something more than a raft of facts and policy solutions. We know the true story of our people. We must learn how to tell it.

Sea Shepherd Hunts Down the Japanese Whalers Before a Single Whale is Killed 31DEZ10


The Southern Ocean - 148 degrees west 63 degrees south

Yushin Maru No. 2 when spotted by the Steve IrwinYushin Maru No. 2 when spotted by the Steve IrwinSea Shepherd Conservation Society’s fleet has found the illegal Japanese whaling vessels on the last day of the calendar year. In the vastness of the Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd’s ships have now found the Japanese fleet before they even began killing whales.  This is a momentous victory for the whales and precisely how Sea Shepherd’s President and Founder Captain Paul Watson had hoped to ring in the New Year.
At around 0900 hours (Australian Eastern Standard Time), Sea Shepherd’s ship the Bob Barker found a harpoon vessel on the edge of the ice at 148 degrees west. The unidentified Japanese vessel attempted to move south to draw the Bob Barker away from the Nisshin Maru.
At 1500 Hours AEST, some 60 miles to the North, Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel the Steve Irwin found the Japanese harpoon vessel Yushin Maru #2 sitting in the ice.
The Gojira and Sea Shepherd’s helicopter the Nancy Burnet, continue to search for the Nisshin Maru, Japan’s floating abattoir.

The Art of Finding the Whalers

The Bob Barker in the Southern OceanThe Bob Barker in the Southern OceanBy knowing when the Nisshin Maru left Japan and estimating the speed of the ship as it headed south, Captain Watson was able to get a rough idea of the whaling fleet’s daily progress.
He decided to take the Steve Irwin to Wellington, New Zealand and then down to Bluff on the southern end of the South Island. The Gojira stayed in Hobart and the Bob Barker moved to the middle and to the south of the Tasman Sea to show the Japanese that we were covering their path should they choose to go through it.
Captain Watson figured this would force the whaling fleet to the east to avoid being caught in the middle of the Sea Shepherd fleet in the Tasman Sea.
The whalers made an announcement that they would expand their hunting area to make it more difficult for Sea Shepherd to find them but over the last seven campaigns that Sea Shepherd has been harassing them, the illegal Japanese whalers have proven themselves to be nothing short of predictable and Captain Watson decided they were bluffing.
When the Tasmanian patrol reported the whalers well to the northeast of New Zealand heading southeast, Captain Watson deduced that they would head for the extreme eastern boundary of the area Japan has designated for their so-called research, an area that extends to 145 degrees west. This would place them at the maximum distance from where the Sea Shepherd ships departed from Tasmania and New Zealand.
Captain Watson instructed Captain Locky MacLean to take the Gojira east along the 60-degree line of latitude. Captain Alex Cornelissen of the Bob Barker was instructed to head east along the 64-degree line of latitude, and Captain Watson took the Steve Irwin east along the 62-degree line of latitude.
The two harpoon ships were spotted at 148 degrees west line of longitude on December 31st.  The interception of the Japanese whaling fleet took place 1,700 nautical miles southeast of New Zealand and 2,300 nautical miles southwest of Chile.
“This is fantastic,” said Steve Irwin’s Chief Cook Laura Dakin of Canberra, Australia, “for the first time in Sea Shepherd’s history, we have located the whalers before they had a chance to kill a single whale.”
The Gojira in front of an icebergThe Gojira in front of an iceberg The Steve Irwin in the Southern OceanThe Steve Irwin in the Southern Ocean

Operation No Compromise

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 31, 2010

GOD bless and protect our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, keep them safe and bring them home soon. END THE WARS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN! BRING THE BOYS (AND GIRLS) BACK HOME!!!!!
Army Spc. Erik Martin uses a footbridge to cross over a river during a dismounted mission to Khwazi village, Afghanistan, Dec. 14. Members of Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul visited the village to survey a site for a future well project. PRT Zabul is comprised of Air Force, Army, Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel who work with the government of Afghanistan to improve governance, stability and development throughout the province. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

30 December 2010

Bradley Manning Support Network Supporters Newsletter 23DEZ10

Exposing War Crimes Is Not A Crime!

* * * * * * * * * *

December 22, 2010

Issue: 2.1

A Typical Day for P.F.C. Bradley Manning.
Find out what Bradley Manning's daily existence is like in this blog post written by his lawyer, David Coombs.  No push-ups, sit-ups, or pillows.  What next?

The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning's detention.
Month upon month in solitary confinement and punitive restrictions are leading to a depressed physical and mental state for Bradley Manning. All without being convicted of anything at all.

Bradley Manning Support Network Condemns Unjust Detainment of Activist.

The F.B.I. detained a developer helping the Bradley Manning Support Network and confiscated his property with no formal charges made.

Bradley Manning Support Network accepts responsibility for all expenses to defend accused Wikileaks whistle-blower.

We (meaning all of you!) have already provided half of the funds required for P.F.C. Manning's legal defense, but there are still other expenses just to maintain the Network. Please consider helping us meet our goal!

What Can I Do?

Join the fray!  Learn ten simple ways we've come up with for you to help Bradley Manning (plus one more written in the comments section by a very helpful supporter). Together we can!

The Bradley Manning Support Network is an ad hoc, international grassroots effort to help accused whistle blower Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Media: +1 (202) 640-4388 or

Could Gays Spoil the Special Forces? 28DEZ10

OH PLEASE! All of you worried about gays in the military need to get over yourselves...because if you think you are going to be an object of lust now that DADT has been repealed you might want to take a better look and stop flattering yourself.....and if you still think you are going to incite wanton lust in gay service members then maybe you need to re-examine your own sexual orientation! From MOJO....
The Washington Times, for decades a Moonie-owned, money-hemorrhaging adventure in right-leaning reporting, has a most fascinating story today: "Special-operations troops think the elite force is facing difficulties by accepting open gays into one of the military's more politically conservative communities." The story's premise is that gays could wreak havoc on the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Air Force pararescuers, and Marine recons. "Of particular interest," the Times' Rowan Scarborough writes, "is how Navy SEALs, the macho sea, air and land commandos who put great emphasis on physical prowess, will accept gays." Um, dude? You just answered your own question.
The story's evidence is three pages of weird Family Research Council-style rants by anonymous military sources. Well, not entirely. As TPM's Josh Marshall points out, one of the story's few named sources is George Worthington, who retired from the SEALs in 1992, four years before I was even old enough to join the service. A cursory web search reveals that Worthington was the commander of the Virginia-based SEAL Team 1972-74. Almost 40 years ago. And what a piece of work the old man is:
"If an open gay does his job, I think he'll be accepted...I don't think there is going to be that many of them that want to sign up for SEALs anyway because of the closeness and the tightness of the training. My opinion is that they're probably more clerical oriented. Medical profession. Corpsmen. Stuff like that..."Put the word out. If you hit on somebody, you're going to get in a fistfight...It just depends on how they comport themselves. If they start breaking out the bows and the earrings in the barracks, that might cause a little trouble."
Unnngh, eeyah. Right. While we're on the subject of nonsequiturs, there's this, from (according to the article) "another Green Beret officer": "Take the issue of showers. Is a soldier wrong for not wanting to shower with a gay soldier?"
We definitely wouldn't want gays to ruin training moments like this.Well, yes. At the point where you signed up not only for the privations of military life but of the special operations community—that is, at the point where you volunteered to do this, this, this, this, and this in order to become a proficient snatcher-and-grabber, a demolitions expert, a sniper, and a steely-eyed combat killer, then yeah: If you can't deal with showering with a shipmate because it feels ooky, it's your damned problem, and you're probably not specops material. Achieving that level of comfort with your teammates is a basic prerequisite of being a special warrior, albeit a prerequisite that's rarely highlighted in the recruiting literature. Like being able to poop in the forest, subsist on crappy MRE rations, and deal with NOT showering or sleeping for days. Can't do it? Don't sign up.
What's really strange about this story is that the Times acknowledges—in the final three paragraphs—that it's a nonstory. It achieves this by quoting the military's own conclusions from its 2010 Don't Ask, Don't Tell survey of the troops, a survey that predicts the specwar community will come around like everyone else:
"These survey results reveal to us a misperception that a gay man does not 'fit' the image of a good warfighter—a misperception that is almost completely erased when a gay service member is allowed to prove himself alongside fellow warfighters.
"Anecdotally, we heard much the same. As one special-operations force warfighter told us, 'We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.' "
On a related personal note, I've known and served in the military with many special operators, particularly Navy SEALs. And everything about these guys is homoerotic, from their too-much-is-showing "UDT shorts" to their love of sugar cookies to every single freaking photographed minute of their basic training. My sense is that as long as gay sailors can run 12 miles, do twelve pyramid sets of pullups, withstand two hours of combat side-stroking in some foreign shore's dark freezing surf, kidnap a terror suspect in a busy village without arousing any suspicions, and take a joke, the majority of operators won't care who their shipmates are inclined to bed, date, or marry. A guy's gotta have his priorities.

Adam Weinstein is Mother Jones' copy editor. For more of his stories, click here or follow him on Twitter. Get Adam Weinstein's RSS feed.

The Year in Islamophobia: Timeline from MOJO 30DEZ10

HERE are a couple of examples of the kind of ignorance and prejudice that fuels Islamophobia in this country.....people who spread this bull, especially Christians, should be ashamed of their hypocrisy.
Sharia-Ruled City Doesn't Exist
Oct 8, 2010   stumbleupon: Sharia-Ruled+City+Doesn%27t+Existdigg: Sharia-Ruled+City+Doesn%27t+Existreddit: Sharia-Ruled+City+Doesn%27t+ExistShare this on Facebook
Local filmmakers investigate Sharon Angle's claim that Sharia is already in effect in Frankford, Texas. Conclusion: Frankford, Texas doesn't exist.

Arizonans Accidentally Protest Church
Nov 15, 2010   stumbleupon: Arizonans+Accidentally+Protest+Churchdigg: Arizonans+Accidentally+Protest+Churchreddit: Arizonans+Accidentally+Protest+ChurchShare this on Facebook
Phoenix residents freak out over new mosque being built. It's actually a church.

The Year in Islamophobia: Timeline

It's never a good sign when you find yourself longing for the halcyon days of George W. Bush. But after a year in which right-wing activists and politicians identified America's greatest threats as mosques and infants, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit nostalgic for the man who responded to the 9/11 attacks by emphasizing that "Islam is a religion of peace."
So, is America Islamophobic? It depends. For the overwhelming majority of Muslims, America's still a pretty sweet place to work and pray (just watch out for these fellas). And as conservatives like Jeff Jacoby are quick to point out, when it comes to reported hate crimes, Jewish Americans still have it worse. Much, much worse. But with precious few exceptions, anti-Semitism is confined to the paranoid fringe; you'd never see a slew of presidential candidates line up to, say, protest the construction of a synogogue.
2010 was the year Islamic fearmongering officially went mainstream. Here's a quick look back at how the heck it happened. Enjoy.

Are We Going to Let the Biggest Financial Fraudsters Keep Their Money and Avoid Jail Time? 30DEZ10

I am afraid the wall street bankers and financiers that brought our economy to it's knees will get away with their crimes and will keep on laughing all the way to their off shore bank accounts....this from AlterNet.....
The FBI and the DOJ are unlikely to prosecute the elite bankers who ran the enormous fraud that drove the financial crisis.

The role of the criminal justice system with regard to financial fraud by elite bankers in 2011 is likely to reprise its role last decade — de facto decriminalization. The Galleon investigation of insider trading at hedge funds will take much of the FBI’s and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) focus.
The state attorneys general investigations of foreclosure fraud do focus on the major players such as the Bank of America (BoA), but they are unlikely to lead to criminal liability for any senior bank officials. It is most likely that they will lead to financial settlements that include new funding for loan modifications.
The FBI and the DOJ remain unlikely to prosecute the elite bank officers that ran the enormous “accounting control frauds” that drove the financial crisis. While over 1000 elites were convicted of felonies arising from the savings and loan (S&L) debacle, there are no convictions of controlling officers of the large nonprime lenders. The only indictment of controlling officers of a far smaller nonprime lender arose not from an investigation of the nonprime loans but rather from the lender’s alleged efforts to defraud the federal government’s TARP bailout program.
What has gone so catastrophically wrong with DOJ, and why has it continued so long? The fundamental flaw is that DOJ’s senior leadership cannot conceive of elite bankers as criminals. On Huffington Post, David Heath writes:
Benjamin Wagner, a U.S. Attorney who is actively prosecuting mortgage fraud cases in Sacramento, Calif., points out that banks lose money when a loan turns out to be fraudulent. An investor in loans who documents fraud can force a bank to buy the loan back. But convincing a jury that executives intended to make fraudulent loans, and thus should be held criminally responsible, may be too difficult of a hurdle for prosecutors. ‘It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be deliberately defrauding themselves,’ Wagner said.”
Mr. Wagner is confused by his own pronouns: “It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be deliberately defrauding themselves.” This direct quotation needs to be read in conjunction with the author’s description of his position: “banks lose money” when loans “turn out to be fraudulent.” Wagner was responding to a question about control fraud — frauds led by the person controlling the seemingly legitimate entity who uses it as a “weapon.” The relevant “they” is the person looting the bank — the CEO. The word “themselves” refers not to the CEO, but rather to the bank. The CEO is not looting the CEO; he is looting the bank’s creditors and shareholders. Two titles capture this well known fraud dynamic. The Nobel laureate in economics, George Akerlof, and Paul Romer co-authored Looting: the Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit in 1993 and I wrote The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One (2005). The CEO becomes wealthy by looting the bank. He uses accounting as his ammunition because, to quote Akerlof & Romer, it is “a sure thing.” The firm fails (or in the modern era, is bailed out), but the CEO walks away wealthy.
Here is the four-part recipe for maximizing fraudulent accounting income in the short-term:
1. Grow extremely rapidly
2. By making bad loans at high yields
3. While employing extreme leverage, and
4. Providing only minimal loss reserves
A bank that follows this recipe is mathematically guaranteed to report record income in the near term. The first two ingredients in the recipe are linked. A bank in a reasonably competitive, mature market such as home mortgage lending cannot decide to grow extremely rapidly by making good loans. A bank can, however, guarantee its ability to grow rapidly — and charge a premium yield — if it lends to the tens of millions of people who cannot afford to own a home. Equally importantly, if many lenders follow the same recipe they will cause a financial bubble to hyper-inflate. Financial bubbles extend the lives of accounting control frauds by making it simple to refinance loans to those who cannot afford to purchase the asset. The longer that delinquencies and defaults can be delayed the more the CEO can loot the bank.
Note that the same recipe that maximizes short-term fictional income in the near term maximizes real losses in the longer term. Mr. Wagner is unable to understand that accounting control fraud represents the ultimate “agency” problem — the unfaithful agent (the CEO) enriches himself at the expense of the principals he is supposed to serve and the firm’s creditors. Agency problems are well known to white-collar criminologists, economists, lawyers that practice corporate, securities, or criminal law, and financial regulators. Yes, accounting control fraud causes the bank to suffer huge losses. The loans don’t “turn out to be fraudulent” — they are fraudulent when made. The recognition of the losses is delayed when an epidemic of accounting control fraud hyper-inflates a bubble, but the bubble will increase the ultimate losses. Sacramento, California is one of the epicenters of the mortgage fraud that drove the financial crisis, so Mr. Wagner’s lack of understanding of fraud mechanisms is particularly harmful.
Financial regulators are essential to prevent this kind of error by senior prosecutors. The regulators have to serve as the Sherpas for the criminal justice system to succeed against epidemics of control fraud. The FBI cannot have hundreds of agents expert in many hundreds of industries. The regulators have to do the heavy investigative lifting. They have the expertise and greater staff resources. The regulators also have to serve as the guides. Their criminal referrals have to provide the roadmaps that allow the FBI to conduct successful investigations. The regulators played this role successfully at key times during the S&L debacle, filing thousands of criminal referrals that led to over 1000 priority felony convictions. During the current crisis the OCC and the OTS - combined - made zero criminal referrals. None of the federal regulatory agencies appear to have enforced the regulatory mandate that federally insured depositories file criminal referrals - and noncompliance with that requirement was and is the norm. There is no indication that the FBI has demanded that the regulators enforce their rules.
Absent guidance and support from the regulators, the FBI turned to the worst conceivable source of guidance and support - the trade association of the “perps” — the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The MBA, predictably, defined its members as the victims of mortgage fraud. The MBA invented a nonsensical definition of mortgage fraud which made accounting control fraud impossible. All fraud supposedly fell into one of two categories: “fraud for housing” or “fraud for profit.” The MBA members are, in fact, victims of accounting control fraud. The mortgage banks, however, do not set MBA policy. The CEOs of the mortgage banks determine MBA policy and they are not about to tell the FBI that they are the primary source of the epidemic of mortgage fraud. Similarly, they are not about to make criminal referrals, which might cause the FBI to investigate why some lenders made loans that were overwhelmingly fraudulent. MBA members virtually never made criminal referrals even though they made millions of fraudulent loans. Why don’t the victims make criminal referrals and help the FBI protect them from the frauds?
Why did an industry, home mortgage lending, which had traditionally been able to keep losses from all sources to roughly one percent suddenly begin to suffer 80-100 percent fraud incidence on “liar’s” loans? Why would an honest mortgage lender make “liar’s” loans knowing that doing so would produce intense “adverse selection” and a “negative expected value”? They would not do so. They were not mandated to do so by federal regulation or law. They were not encouraged to do so by federal regulation or law. They did so because their CEOs decided they would do so in order to maximize fictional income and real bonuses. The CEOs increased the number of liar’s loans they made after they were warned by the FBI that there was an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud and the FBI predicted it would cause an “economic crisis” were it not contained. The CEOs increased their liar’s loans after the MBA’s own anti-fraud experts stated that they deserved the name “liar’s” loans because they were pervasively fraudulent and after those experts said that “liar’s” loans were “an open invitation to fraudsters.” The industry’s formal euphemisms for liar’s loans were “alt-a” and “stated income” loans. None of this makes sense for honest CEOs.
The federal regulators have not made any public study of liar’s loans. The FDIC and OTS’ joint data system on mortgages is an anti-study — it uses a categorization system that ignores whether the loans were underwritten. This makes the data base useless for studying loans made without full underwriting — the loans that were overwhelmingly fraudulent and drove the crisis. Credit Suisse reported that mortgage loans without full underwriting constituted 49% of all new originations in 2006. If that percentage is even in the ballpark it indicates that that there were millions of fraudulent loans originated in 2005-2007. It is appalling that the regulators are not studying the facts necessary to understand the crisis and hold the perpetrator accountable.
Fortunately, the state attorneys general have studied these mechanisms and they have found that it was the lenders and their agents that overwhelmingly (1) prompted the false loan application data and (2) coerced appraisers to inflate market values. An honest lender would never engage in either practice or permit its agents to do so. The federal regulators, however, have spent their passion trying to preempt state efforts to protect borrowers. The federal regulators took no effective action in response to the State AGs’ findings.
The combined effect of these private sector, regulatory, and criminal justice failures has created a set of intellectual blinders that have caused DOJ to mischaracterize the nature of mortgage fraud. Attorney General Mukasey famously dismissed the epidemic of mortgage fraud as “white-collar street crime.” He did so in the context of refusing to establish a national task force against mortgage fraud. A national task force is essential in this crisis because of the national lending scope of many of the worst accounting control frauds. Attorney General Holder has maintained Mukasey’s passive approach to the elite frauds that drove the crisis.
The U.S. needs to take three major steps to be effective against the epidemic of accounting control fraud. First, DOJ needs to realize that it is dealing with accounting control fraud. That task is not terribly difficult. The criminology, economics, and regulatory literature — as well as the data on fraud and analytics are all readily available. The FBI must end its “partnership” with the MBA.
Second, the regulators need new leadership picked for a track record of success as vigorous regulators and a willingness to hold elites accountable regardless of their political allies. The regulators need to make assisting prosecutions, and bringing civil and enforcement actions, against the senior officers that led the control frauds their top priority. The regulators need to make detailed criminal referrals, enforce vigorously the regulatory mandate that insured depositories file criminal referrals, and prioritize banks that made large numbers of nonprime loans but few criminal referrals. The regulators need to work with DOJ to prioritize the cases. In the S&L debacle we used a formal process to create our “Top 100″ priority cases. The regulators need to investigate rigorously every large nonprime lending specialist by creating a comprehensive national data base. We have unique opportunities given the massive holding of nonprime paper by the Fed and Fannie and Freddie to create a reliable data base and use it to conduct reliable studies and investigations.
Third, the regulators and the DOJ need to partner with the SEC and the state AGs to share data (where appropriate under Grand Jury rule 6e). The federal regulators need to end their unholy war against state regulatory efforts and the SEC needs to end its disdain for the state AGs. The SEC needs to clean up accounting and the Big Four audit firms. The bank control frauds’ “weapon of choice” is accounting. The Big Four audit firms consistently gave clean opinions to even the most egregious frauds. Provisions for losses (ALLL) fell to farcical levels. Losses were not recognized. Clear evidence of endemic fraud was ignored.
What are the prospects for these three vital changes occurring in 2011? They are poor. There is no evidence that any of the three changes is in process. The new House committee chairs have championed even weaker regulation and have not championed the prosecution of Wall Street elites.
The media, however, has begun to pick up our warnings about the failure of the criminal justice response to the epidemic of fraud. Prominent economists, particularly Joseph Stiglitz and Alan Greenspan, have joined Akerlof, Romer, Galbraith,Wray, and Prasch in emphasizing the key role that elite fraud played in driving this crisis. Even Andrew Ross Sorkin, generally seen as an apologist for the Street’s elites, has decried the lack of prosecutions.
Our best bet is to continue to win the scholarly disputes and to continue to push media representatives to take fraud seriously. If the media demands for prosecution of the elite banking frauds expand there is a chance to create a bipartisan coalition in Congress and the administration supporting prosecutions. In the S&L debacle, Representative Annunzio was one of the leading opponents of reregulation and leading supporters of Charles Keating. After we brought several hundred successful prosecutions he began wearing a huge button: “Jail the S&L Crooks!” Bringing many hundreds of enforcement actions, civil suits, and prosecutions causes huge changes in the way a crisis is perceived. It makes tens of thousands of documents detailing the frauds public. It generates thousands of national and local news stories discussing the nature of the frauds and how wealthy the senior officers became through the frauds. All of this increases the saliency of fraud and increases demands for serious reforms, adequate resources for the regulators and criminal justice bodies, and makes clear that elite fraud poses a severe danger. Collectively, this creates the political space for real reform, vigorous regulators, and real prosecutors.
Bill Black is a NewDeal2.0 braintruster, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a white-collar criminologist, a former senior financial regulator, and the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.

Sermon on Herod and The Other Christmas Story from Sarcastic Lutheran 26DEZ10

THERE is nothing to say or add, just read it and think about it.....

Sermon on Herod and The Other Christmas Story


Well, the tinsel is still falling to the ground, that plate of cookies left on the counter has yet to go stale and having just barely been blown out the candles we held while singing Silent Night still hold their red glow - while we gather now on this the first Sunday of Christmas and read aloud the Christmas story not of sheep or shepherds or angels but of the slaughter of innocent babies.  Yeah, That Christmas story.  Merry Christmas.  Merry Christmas indeed.  I’m not gonna lie.  Given the death of my Granddaddy on Thursday and the 3 whole days I’ve spent cooking for family and sitting at my mother’s side as she grieves I was secretly relieved when Matthew offered to preach his sermon from this morning at House for All tonight and the relief I felt was more than just “O good, now I don’t have to write a sermon”  It was O good, now I can avoid trying to figure out if there is any good new in the slaughter of innocent babies.  But in the midst of grief Herod was never far from my thoughts this week as though he was taunting me….daring me to give it a try.
So just to get it out of the way…no. There is no “good news” in the slaughter of the innocents.  There is only terror and weeping women.  But this story is not going to be removed from the Bible any time soon so I say screw it.  Let’s dive in deep.
You see, I think the trouble is that we’ve heard the Christmas story so many times that it’s not shocking anymore. It simply takes its place on a dusty shelf of over familiarity among all the other worn and tattered stories woven into our unconsciousness somewhere between George Washington and the Cherry Tree and Star Wars Return of the Jedi.  The Christmas story sits among other things we know so well and we brush it off once a year without even bothering to notice how shocking it really is.  But it’s ironic that we fail to be shocked by the story of Christmas - even though its ground shaking in it’s unfathomable beauty - and yet we hear the story of Herod and are shocked… even though innocent children suffer in our world as a result of human pride and greed and fear and hate every day.  Herod is nothing less than common.

But you know how we’re used to hearing Christians say “let’s keep Christ in Christmas” well, My friend Joy Carol Wallis, wrote an essay called “Let’s keep Herod in Christmas”
And after thinking about this text all week I have to say, I’m with her, because the thing is…the world into which Christ is born is not one of a Normal Rockwell painting….the world has never been that world.  God did not enter the world of our nostalgic silent night snow blanketed peace on earth suspended reality of Christmas.  God slipped into the vulnerability of skin and entered a world as violent and disturbing as our own.  Herod was the Jewish puppet king for Rome…and the wise men were honestly kinda stupid to show up at Herod’s doorstep and say “Hey where’s the child who has been born the King of the Jews” to the guy who is supposed to kinda sorta be king of the Jews.  What did they expect… that he would Mapquest it for them?  Whatever it was, I’m sure they didn’t expect infanticide on a large scale.  The murder of children by a scared little man trying to protect his feeble grasp on worldly power.  Here in this Christmas story there simply is no mistletoe and reindeer… this scene of a despotic ruler slaughtering children out of little more than his personal insecurity somehow never makes it onto wrapping paper and the display window at Macys….yet the slaughter of the holy Innocents is as much a part of the Christmas story as are shepherds and angels.
And if you do a little research you’ll find that Bible scholars are all a flutter about how there are no historical documents from that time that mention Herod killing all the babies in Bethlehem so it probably didn’t actually happen … as though this clever academic crap can keep away the reality that this has actually always happened and is actually still happening all around us.  Let’s just say I looked up the term ethnic cleansing on Wikipedia yesterday and wished I hadn’t.  Tyrants like Herod and Pharaoh and Pol Pot and Slobodan Milosevic have always taken that little Lord of the Flies instinct which is really within us all and played it out in three terrifying acts on the human stage.  And that thing which resides in the human heart, when unchecked and filled with power, demonstrates itself in killing fields and showers of gas and the slaughter of babies…that thing in the human heart is nothing less that the desire to be free from God so that we might be Gods ourselves.  And history has shown…we make lousy Gods.  And what makes it worse is that we tend to take the image of what we would be like as Gods (despotic, angry, wanting to be worshipped sycophantically, defensive, insecure, seeking vengence and retribution) then we take that stuff about us and project that on God….as though God must be as lousy at this being-God-business as we would be if given the chance.  And when God had had quite enough of our projections, quite enough of our characterizing God as being as vengeful and paranoid as we are - God’s Loving Desire to be Known overflowed the heavens and was made manifest in the rapidly dividing cells within the womb of an insignificant peasant girl.  And when the time came for her to give birth to God there was no room in our societies and institutions and business or any of the other things we are so proud of …and let me just say this: (as much as I love Joy to the World) I’m fairly certain that every heart did not prepare him room. Because we already thought we knew what God was like….and how can a heart prepare room for that which it cannot fathom?  So rather than waiting till our hearts were prepared instead God simply broke our hearts… like only a baby can do.        
So I guess I wonder if keeping Herod in Christmas might remind us that God did not wait till we as the human race got our collective crap together before joining us in the difficult reality of being human.  God didn’t just plop God’s self down into a Nostalgic Norman Rockwell painting but entered a world as violent and dangerous as our own.  And the weird thing is that God did this heart breaking thing to be with us. Even those who will crucify him. Even Herod.  Because the fact is that God is continually breaking our hearts so that the true nature of God can be known – so that in breaking our hearts God can replace them with God’s own.  Perhaps this is what is meant when we sing  O Holy Night.  Long lay the world in sin and error pinning till he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.  May you all allow God to be God for you.  May your soul feel its worth.  Amen

The Army's backlash against Jeff Hanks from IVAW 28DEZ10

HERE'S  a big surprise, the US Military is reneging on the commitment to provide Jeff Hanks with treatment for his PTSD at Ft. Campbell, KY and has set a redeployment date of 8 JAN to send him back to Afghanistan. This from IVAW

Army reneges on medical care for Jeff Hanks, sets January 8 deployment date back to Afghanistan

When we last reported to you about Army Specialist Jeff Hanks, he had turned himself in to Fort Campbell, Kentucky after going AWOL when the Army denied him treatment for his severe PTSD.  Because of our efforts, Jeff's commanders were forced to give him proper medical care with a civilian therapist off base.

But the Army has stopped Jeff's therapy and is again denying his right to heal. 

Your donation today will help us turn up the heat on Jeff's commanders.

                                      Photo courtesy of
Jeff's commanders have disallowed further therapy treatments and have set a re-deployment date of January 8.  Jeff is predicting that they will charge him with an Article 15 and detain him once he sets foot in Afghanistan.  They will likely attempt to court martial him there, where he will be far away from his lawyer and other supports.
Perhaps the Commanders at Fort Campbell think we have stopped paying attention. 
But we are working on a strategy that will get Jeff the care he needs.
Will you help with a contribution today?
Make a gift here and help us keep the pressure on Jeff's commanders.
On average, 11 soldiers from Fort Campbell are killed in action each month.  Because soldiers at Fort Campbell are so heavily deployed to Afghanistan, the base community there is also experiencing an epidemic of suicides.

This military community is really hurting right now and needs our collective support.

That is why our Operation Recovery campaign to stop the deployment of traumatized troops will be targeting outreach efforts at Fort Campbell in the New Year, and we are developing a local network of civilian support.
Your year-end gift today will help defend Jeff Hanks' right to heal and help us organize others at Fort Campbell to stand up for their rights and end multiple deployments of wounded soldiers to Afghanistan.
If you have already made your end-of-year gift, we thank you.
If you have not yet made your donation, we could use it right now.  
Please make a generous gift today.
Thank you!
Iraq Veterans Against the War staff
Aaron, Amadee, Bryan, Chantelle, Jason, Joe, Jose, and Selena

A Politically Correct Christmas? Who Cares! 23DEZ10

Firoozeh Dumas was born in Iran, and moved to California when she was 7.

When we moved to America in 1972 from Iran, we noticed that right around Dec. 1, everyone started wishing us a Merry Christmas.
Merry Kereestmas! we replied. Sometimes, the well-wishers also offered us homemade cookies in the shapes of candy canes, stars and
uneven ovals with excessive sprinkles. We ate them all.

Then came the invitations for caroling. Let me confess that aside from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," I learned no other lyrics
except for the "pa-rum-pum-pum-pum" of the "Little Drummer Boy."

A few years ago, some people started complaining that being wished "Merry Christmas" was insulting. What?!? During the 36 years I
have lived in America, it never once occurred to me that a "Merry Christmas" was anything other than an excuse to say something nice
in December, to start a conversation perhaps. I never took those two words to mean "come believe in Jesus, you non-practicing
Muslim." Nor did I think that receiving a plate of rum balls was anything more than an act of generosity and kindness. This is why I
absolutely abhor so-called political correctness. In fact, "political correctness" has done nothing other than make people nervous
and stop conversations that should be taking place.
As I travel this country as an Iranian-American lecturer, I am always approached by at least one audience member after my speech,
someone who says with trepidation, "I didn't want to ask you this in front of everyone else because I didn't want to insult you ..."
— and then I am asked a question that is not at all insulting. In fact, in the past seven years that I have traveled this country —
from Arkadelphia, Ark.; to Olivet, Mich.; to Hebron, Maine; to Bakersfield, Calif. — I have rarely been asked an insulting question.
What makes a question truly insulting? Tone and purpose. Most of the questions I have heard are quite innocent, asked by people who
are aware of political correctness. In other words, those who don't need it.

So, let's say you have a question about Iranian people or basketball players. How are you going to have your question answered
without asking an actual Iranian or a basketball player? Google only goes so far, and the only question answered on the evening news
is, "Whom shall I fear today?"

So this is what I suggest: Let's get rid of political correctness altogether and replace it with civil conversations and
bridge-building. After all, we all have questions about other cultures and religions — so let's talk. Better that you ask me, an
actual Iranian, than some blog where the author's main qualification is having seen the movie 300, 300 times. Go ahead and ask me
whatever you want, and let me do the same. Oh yeah, and don't forget the rum balls. I'll bring the baklava


SOME will see this as shameless propaganda, I see it as accomplishments of President Obama's administration and the Democratically led Congress benefiting the American people. I didn't support everything, and took every opportunity to voice my opinion, but all in all this government accomplished more for the nation than they are getting credit for. So click the link and put in your zip code and see just what the government is doing in your congressional district, and think about what could have been done if the gop and tea-baggers actually tried to work with the administration and Democrats in Congress. 
This time of year, Americans around the country are taking the time to exchange heartfelt messages with friends and loved ones, reflecting on the past year. They write of achievements and setbacks, of births, graduations, promotions, and moves.

These messages allow us to overcome the miles that separate us. And they allow us to continue one of the most basic American traditions that has held folks close for centuries -- the simple sharing of stories.

And as families gather around holiday tables this season, we also have the opportunity to share the stories of the change this movement has achieved together.

It is a narrative woven by individuals across America -- in big cities and small towns, hospitals and classrooms, in auto manufacturing plants and auto supply stores.

These are stories of rebuilding, and of innovation. Stories of communities breathing new life into old roads and bridges, of local plants harnessing alternative fuel into new energy. Stories of small businesses getting up, dusting themselves off, and beginning to grow again. Stories of soldiers who served multiple tours of duty in Iraq now coming home -- and enjoying the holidays this year in the company of loved ones.

These are stories of progress.

They unite us, and they are ours to share.

We've pulled many of them together in one place, PROGRESS. You can see what our reforms have meant to Americans in every state -- block by block, community by community.

Click here to read about stories of progress in your area -- and share them with your friends and family.

The reforms that we fought long and hard for are not talking points.

And their effects don't change based on the whims of politicians in Washington. They are achievements that have a real and meaningful impact on the lives of Americans around the country. They are achievements that would not have been possible without you. PROGRESS localizes them -- and brings them to life.

It tells of how a green technology business in Phoenix, Arizona, is using a grant through the Recovery Act's Transportation Electrification program to bring the first electric-drive vehicles and charging stations to cities around the country.

It tells how, thanks to closing the "donut hole" in prescription drug coverage, a diabetic woman in Burlington, Vermont will no longer have to choose between purchasing her monthly groceries or the insulin she needs to survive.

It tells about how 76,000 Virginia residents' jobs were saved or created by the Recovery Act.

And about how, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 18,800 small businesses in Virginia's 10th Congressional District are now eligible for health care tax credits -- and how 11,300 residents in Virginia's 10th with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage.

There are thousands more stories like these.

In the coming days, as we gather with our loved ones at dinner tables around the nation, let's pass them on. Let's celebrate the spirit of service and responsibility that brought them to fruition. And let's steady ourselves with the resolve to continue pressing forward.

Because the coming year will hold new challenges -- battles that have yet to be fought, and stories of progress that have yet to be written.

Take a look at the progress we've made in your area -- and share the stories you read with your friends and family:

Happy holidays, and God bless,