Friday, April 30, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill Goes From Bad to Worse

An absolute disaster:
VENICE, La. (AP) -- An oil spill that threatened to eclipse even the Exxon Valdez disaster spread out of control with a faint sheen washing ashore along the Gulf Coast Thursday night as fishermen rushed to scoop up shrimp and crews spread floating barriers around marshes.

The spill was bigger than imagined -- five times more than first estimated -- and closer. Faint fingers of oily sheen were reaching the Mississippi River delta, lapping the Louisiana shoreline in long, thin lines.

"It is of grave concern," David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press. "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling."

The oil slick could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world's richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life. Thicker oil was in waters south and east of the Mississippi delta about five miles offshore.
. . .
Government officials said the blown-out well 40 miles offshore is spewing five times as much oil into the water as originally estimated – about 5,000 barrels, or 200,000 gallons, a day.

At that rate, the spill could eclipse the worst oil spill in U.S. history – the 11 million gallons that leaked from the grounded tanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989 – in the three months it could take to drill a relief well and plug the gushing well 5,000 feet underwater on the sea floor.
It looks like there's at least been one positive development, Obama is trying to walk back the stupid:
The White House put a hold on any new offshore oil projects until the rig disaster that caused the spill is explained.

A top adviser to President Barack Obama said Friday that no new oil drilling would be allowed until authorities learn what caused the explosion of the rig Deepwater Horizon. David Axelrod told ABC's "Good Morning America" that "no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what has happened here." Obama recently lifted a drilling moratorium for many offshore areas, including the Atlantic and Gulf areas.
Just think, it was only a few short weeks ago, Obama ended all debates over the safety of offshore drilling forever, because he's so trans-formative and post partisan he can do that sort of thing:
Ultimately, we need to move beyond the tired debates between right and left, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place. Because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again.
Yeah those crazy people who thought it that offshore drilling had no place, what a bunch of pussies. Just think of the 5,000 barrels of progress that's being unleashed each day into the Gulf, couldn't let that chance slip by while we fight the same old battles.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that he's putting his plans on hold now that his triangulation has become politically toxic. It just infuriates me that it took one of the worst environmental disasters in our history to stop something that very well would have destroyed another coastline 10-20 years down the road had gone through.

The stupidity of this decision is one thing, but when it's combined with triangulation rhetoric it's enough to drive you mad.

The phrase "age old debates between right and left" is something that I've absolutely loathed about Obama (going all the way back to the primaries) and it doesn't get any easier now. His triangulation fetish is honestly deeper than what Clinton did, in that it really envelopes every one of his policy arguments. Dick Morris Clinton picked issues to triangulate his base on so that he seemed more moderate (Nafta, School uniforms, welfare reform), and in his eyes, that was how you win elections and remain in office. This isn't smart, but you knew that already.

I really don't know what Obama's motivations are when he uses that type of rhetoric in almost every speech he makes on just about every single subject. I'm actually trying to think of a topic that he's tackled where he hasn't taken on as president where he hasn't tried to position himself as this arbiter between "the extremes on either side" and can't think of one with the possible exception of his policy on Israel. Triangulation isn't merely a political tactic like it was under Clinton, it has become the ethos of the Obama Administration.

Maybe it's out of anger over how much this spill is going to wreak havoc on an already bombed out Mississippi delta, but I really hope he feels it for this decision, and hard. I hope the press plays back that idiotic speech over and over again, line by line, until he suffers some real political damage for it. Very rarely does a dangerous long term decision like the one he made come face to face with very serious negative consequences the country is about to face the short term. If he pays a price in the short term, there's at least a chance that it makes him think twice before doing something that blindingly stupid again in the future.

I still have real hopes for this Administration, and there's a never ending list of things that we need to accomplish. But actions as reckless as his should have consequences. It's gonna be too late to save us from this disaster, but hopefully it will save us the time of having another "age old left-right debate" about the environmental impact of offshore drilling in the future.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


The Washington Examiner, ladies and gentlemen: (via Linkins and Weigel)

Any paper that has a picture of Byron York on the cover is very serious. And look, he's defending Arizona's new racist law! Who could have seen that coming?

It's as if the examiner is targeting a specific audience... (DCeiver)

The Examiner should have plenty of ammo, as Obama's assault on white people and white culture shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


ovechkingame7habs10 And that’s all I have to say about that.

Is Our Senators Learning?

The tactics that the Democrats have used so far during the financial reform debate have been surprisingly very encouraging. Over the last couple of days, Harry Reid has been forcing repeated cloture votes in an attempt to shame Republican senators that are blocking financial reform bill. And even better, today it looks like he's gonna take things to the next level:
Frustrated by an ongoing campaign by the GOP to block debate on financial reform legislation, Democrats plan to hold the Senate floor open all night, potentially holding repeated votes to break the filibuster, or forcing Republicans to publicly object to debating their bill. But the move comes just as Republicans appear closer than ever to throwing in the towel.

"The voting is up to the Majority Leader, how often they vote," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters after Republicans, for the third straight day, voted in lockstep to prevent debate on the Democrats' bill. "Staying in session? Making unanimous consent requests? Those things are all options.... Votes may be recurring regularly."

Republicans, though, don't seem long for this fight. Earlier today, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sounded close to ceding, calling his filibuster a useful exercise, but implying that it will soon come to an end.

"There is s some dissension within [McConnell's] ranks and I hope we see it in the votes soon," Durbin added.

That assessment dovetails with those of key Republicans.

"I think we'll know more by the end of the day," Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told me. "I think everyone--I think the leader, Shelby, and everyone thusfar has said at some point, it's recognized that this bill will be taken up."

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member on the Banking Committee, told reporters after the vote that he'd be meeting with his counterpart Chris Dodd one more time this afternoon, to "see if there's any way to bridge any gap between us and the Democrats on the consumer issues."

"If it's not, we'll have to go to the next step," Shelby added. "All roads ultimately lead to the floor one way or another."
Amazing what a little hardball will do, huh?

Why this hasn't been a strategy on other legislation remains a mystery, but if they break the Republican filibusterer on this bill, then maybe they'll try it again.

Then again, reports came out today suggesting that Republicans might drop their obstruction for another reason:
Word is that the Democrats might make the Republicans actually filibuster FinReg tonight. That is to say, stand on the floor and talk and talk and talk. And if the Democrats are serious about forcing the Republicans to really filibuster the bill, this is the right week for it: The Kentucky Derby starts Friday, and Kentucky's senior senator, Mitch McConnell, would surely prefer to attend. Given that his members are already talking about breaking ranks, McConnell may find himself eager to get this kabuki dance over with a little bit early.
We are ruled by idiots.

Spill Baby, Spill

Two weeks ago, the big oil companies must have thought they'd hit the lottery. They had a popular Democratic President willing to do betray his own supporters/promises/logic on an expansion of offshore drilling more radical than anything proposed under George W. Bush.

And then this happened:

NEW ORLEANS — A deepwater oil platform that burned for more than a day after a massive explosion sank into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, creating the potential for a major spill as it underscored the slim chances that the 11 workers still missing survived.

The sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, which burned violently until the gulf itself extinguished the fire, could unleash more than 300,000 of gallons of crude a day into the water. The environmental hazards would be greatest if the spill were to reach the Louisiana coast, some 50 miles away.
And this:
As efforts failed Tuesday to contain the flow of tens of thousands of gallons of oil leaking from an exploded well deep in the Gulf of Mexico, emergency response teams are considering a controlled burn-off of the oil on the water's surface as early as today.

Tuesday night, the expanding oil slick was about 20 miles off the coast of Louisiana and stretched 100 miles wide by 45 miles long at its greatest expanse.Workers were girding to protect environmentally sensitive areas nearby in the Mississippi River delta that are home to migratory birds and a nursery for nearly a quarter of the seafood production in the continental United States.

"It is the closest it's been to shore throughout this response, and we're paying attention to that, very careful attention to that," said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry. She added that if the spill isn't contained, it has the potential to become "one of the most significant oil spills in U.S. history."
I'm so glad we've moved past the age old debates between businesses leaders and environmentalists enough to realize that more offshore drilling is awesome and should be embraced by everyone.

This is horrific, and we can only hope that this disaster can make the Administration rethink it's idiotic reversal. Once again, we need to bring up the fact that this concession was not made with anything meaningful in return, but it was done solely to show Republicans that the Administration was willing to compromise.

As DCJonesy and I were discussing last night, there is not a single example of this type of preemptive concession leading to progress on anything that the Democrats are trying to push. They don't meet you half way, they don't vote yes. They take your concession, continue to lie about the bill and attempt to block it's passage.

Every day that this story remains in the news (and it's gonna be a while), it will be a huge black eye for the administration. And the beating that they (hopefully) take on this will be well deserved.

Attempting to enact idiotic policies rarely results in instant negative consequences for those that proposed them, but that might be the only positive to take from this environmental catastrophe.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Welcoming their Hatred"

Obama's speech in New York was billed as going into the heart of the beast and giving it to them straight. Not sure if those people were mislead, or if I just missed something but...
With Goldman Sachs's top leaders in attendance, President Barack Obama urged financial executives to work with him in passing the financial reform bill currently pending in the Senate.

"Ultimately, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street. We rise or we fall together as one nation. So I urge you to join me -- to join those who are seeking to pass these commonsense reforms," according to Obama's prepared remarks for a speech in New York City. "And I urge you to do so not only because it is in the interests of your industry, but because it is in the interests of our country."
Uh, what?

I understand good economy equals job growth, but it's fucking absurd to say that Wall Street and Main Street fall and rise together.

Sorry Barack, but there's simply no magical middle ground on this one. You're either with us or against us.

These people won't meet us half way, because there's no reason for them to. The system's working amazingly for them, so why would they change it?

What you need is people willing to fight and take these interests on directly. Since I mocked people who compared Obama to FDR in the primaries it isn't really fair to make this comparison, but look FDR's language towards the financial elites of his time:
"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace -- business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering," Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in a 1936 speech. "They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today.

"They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred."
Holy fuck, I think 1930s David Broder's head just exploded.

Populism gets a bad name because all the very serious people have decided that it's an overly simplified view of economics and the world. There's no denying that there are plenty of complex issues out there, but you don't need to understand the complexities of a credit default swap to figure out that working people in this country have been getting screwed for quite some time now. You don't need to know the ins and outs of derivatives regulation to figure out that when Mitch McConnell skips town to attend a retreat with banking lobbyists, he's probably not doing it for your benefit.

Obama may feel some duty to rise above that type of populism, but I'm sure there are plenty of Republicans smarter than Mitch McConnell that won't mind tapping into that anger. It will be hypocritical and the opposite of the policies they actually support, but when our political media has the attention span of a 3 year old, you can bet they'll get away with it.

The Republicans may not seize the opportunity, but I sure wish Obama would stop leaving the door so fucking wide open.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What If The Teabaggers Weren't White?

Pretty amazing stuff:
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters - the black protesters - spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.
I'd say you'd be hard pressed to find many conservatives who'd disagree with this assessment, but a decent number of them think Obama is a socialist and a secret Muslim so maybe not.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Fierce Advocate"

Pretty shameful stuff:
As LGBT activists grow more desperate to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” before the midterm elections, a picture is emerging of a divided White House where President Barack Obama’s own words are sometimes odds with the message his administration is sending about repeal.

Early in the year, multiple sources say some administration officials counseled the president against acting on the military’s gay ban in 2010. Still, Obama included his intention to end the policy in his State of the Union address, saying, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law…”

Yet just days after the January 27 speech, White House officials convened a meeting on February 1 with LGBT advocates in which they said the policy would not be included in the president’s recommendations for this year's Department of Defense authorization bill, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting.

“It was a definitive shut-down from [Jim] Messina,” said a source, who was present at the meeting and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, referring to the White House deputy chief of staff. “He said it would not be going into the president’s Defense authorization budget proposal.” The news was a blow to activists since the Defense funding bill is the best legislative vehicle for including a measure to overturn the policy. “It almost seemed like the bar on the hurdle got raised two or three times higher,” said the source.
Later in the article it suggests that Messina used the "fighting 2 wars right now" bullshit as a reason for the delay, which just adds insult to injury. We're using a lot of soldiers, so we need less of them. Right.

I honestly don't understand the point of going out of your way to say one thing in the State of the Union, when you know you're going to be contradicting it privately a few days later.

It's 2010. News like this will get out eventually, and people (Obama, Messina and HRC) will just look even more foolish as a result.

Shame on the administration for not pushing this when they had the chance. I'm sure not repealing DADT will stop the Republicans from saying that the Democrats are gay or don't hate gays enough or something equally stupid.

Over 700 people have been discharged since Obama took office.

This is getting fucking ridiculous.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Real Banking Reform

If this makes it into the Financial Regulations Bill, it would truly be a Big Fucking Deal:
In a conference call with reporters, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE) introduced a bill, The Safe Banking Act of 2010, which would mandate hard leverage and size caps on financial institutions and force the breakup of many of the largest mega-banks. The duo planned to introduce their legislation as an amendment to the financial reform bill expected next week.

The bill would place a cap on any financial institution, limiting their total assets to 3% of GDP (that would lower to 2% for banks, as opposed to 3% for non-bank institutions). Currently, the 6 largest banks have holdings that equal 63% of GDP. The Safe Banking Act would also impose a 10% cap on any bank holding company’s share of insured deposits. Bank holding companies and “selected nonbank financial institutions” would have a leverage limit of 6%, meaning that they would not be able to lend out more than around sixteen dollars for every dollar of capital in house.

In his opening statement, Brown said “If we’re going to prevent big banks from putting our entire economy at risk, we need to place sensible size limits on our nation’s behemoth banks. We need to ensure that if banks gamble, they have the resources to cover their losses.” Sen. Kaufman, who has been a hero on this issue for his strong stands against too big to fail, added that “this is exactly what we need,” because financial institutions don’t need this kind of size to compete internationally, and they just put the nation’s financial system needlessly at risk. He explained that we cannot leave the question of size and leverage caps to the regulators, because they already have the authority under existing statutes to institute these size and leverage caps, and they haven’t done it.
Unfortunately because it's so awesome, I have no doubt that it will be one of the first parts of the bill that people try to vote down/gut.

If Obama lends his support to this, anything is possible. As we saw in the health care debate, when he was willing to lobby for things, he largely got what he wanted.

He'll give a speech on reform later today, so maybe we'll get a few more clues then.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Week in Tibet

Remember Isaac Stone Fish? He’s the bizarrely-named Newsweek writer whom I featured on the very first This Week in Tibet. Allow me to refresh your memory on what he was saying about Chinese rule in Tibet a few weeks ago:
“Whether they like it or not, China has been very good for Tibetans… China's reign there has meant an economic boom.”
Those ungrateful Tibetans are just so damn prosperous under the Chinese flag. Hold on though, Isaac Stone Fish from the Recent Past is being interrupted by Present Day Isaac Stone Fish:
The [earthquake] has allowed Chinese throughout the country to learn a little more about the situation in Tibetan regions—insight that Han Chinese on the whole lack, partially because press reports on Tibet still read like Mao-era propaganda.
If you didn’t know any better, you really wouldn’t have any idea that the jackass who wrote those words is the very same jackass who recently wrote a press report on Tibet that reads like Mao-era propaganda, would you? “Minorities receive ample handouts from generous Chairman and central government” was literally his thesis just two months ago. He continues:
This week's earthquake—and footage of the devastation—is allowing the average Chinese to see both the poverty and humanity of a region they're used to seeing only in political terms. "It's very hard to see real Tibetans" through the media, says Yang. "On TV, they're dancing all the time, shaking hands with leaders, celebrating, or shown as troublemakers. This is an opportunity to realize that Tibetans live and suffer like we do."
Poverty? Suffering? I thought Tibet was experiencing an unprecedented economic boom… where did I get that impression… oh right, from Isaac Stone Fish when he was going on about how wonderful things are for Tibetans.

You want to know where that economic boom went? Here’s what happened. China drove a dump truck full of money into the region which was earmarked for building housing. This wasn’t out of any philanthropic urge to see every Tibetan given a modern apartment, but rather out of a fear that nomadic Tibetans are too far outside government control. So the nomads were resettled into housing developments built by companies who took advantage of government connections to build shitty houses and schools. While the cost of housing was subsidized by the government, there aren’t many jobs for middle-aged Tibetans in the middle of nowhere whose main skills involve herding livestock. Many of them were already worried about how they were going to continue paying for the houses that they were forced into after the subsidies run out, and then an earthquake leveled entire blocks and killed thousands who might otherwise have been fine because you don’t generally get crushed to death by tons of falling bricks when you live in a tent. That is the nature of the economic boom for which unappreciative Tibetans and their ignorant foreign supporters should apparently give thanks.

Oh, and one more quick example of the awesome journalistic prowess of Isaac Fish Stone:
“Inhabitants of Yushu are 97 percent ethnic Tibetans, thought to be more sympathetic to the Dalai Lama and his claims for Tibetan autonomy.”
“Thought to be more sympathetic”? More sympathetic to the Dalai Lama than who, Han Chinese? The prevailing opinion among Han Chinese is that the Dalai Lama is a terrorist mastermind thanks to a decade’s long propaganda campaign that includes government statements, Chinese journalism, school curriculum, and the occasional foreign news item like this piece of garbage. Are we pretending that Tibetans aren’t supportive of Tibetan autonomy? There are over 120,000 Tibetan exiles in India giving testament to just that, and two years ago we saw protests in over 150 Tibetan towns, but I guess the Chinese government says all Tibetans are very happy to be part of China so the truth must be in the middle or something, right?

Obama Realizes True Nature of Republicans

And it only took him 14 months!
President Obama thinks Republicans will engage in a full battle over his Supreme Court nominee regardless of the person's ideological leanings, and in some ways "that realization is liberating for the president" to choose whomever he pleases, an administration official told TPMDC.
The guy can't eat breakfast in the morning without having conservative pundits and politicians shit themselves in breathless horror over "our new socialist morning meal," so now in April 2010 he finally gets a hunch that they'll flip out regardless of what he does? Great job, genius!

I guarantee this is a story we'll see over and over again after Obama loses battle after battle. "Oh, those no-good Republicans stopped us last time... but now it'll be different! We're totally on to them now! Progressives, please continue supporting us- maybe donate a few dollars?" -David Plouffe

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Solid Democrat vs. Career Republican - Train Action Endorses Joe Sestak

For all the hate towards ConservaDems dished out on this blog (rightfully so), there's someone who has managed to avoid some of the general progressive criticism because he's been a good senator for 9 months. What Democratic senator did the following?(via Chris Bowers)
  1. Flipped his vote on the Employee Free Choice Act last year?
  2. Voted against President Obama's budget?
  3. Compiled a voting record far worse than Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman?
  4. Represents a state that President Obama won by more than 10%, and that has a Democratic voting registration advantage of more than 10%?
Blanche Lincoln? Mary Landrieu? Let's add a few more:

-Was endorsed by George W. Bush and Rick Santorum?
-Supported all of Bush's Supreme Court nominations?
-Campaigned, and voted for McCain/Palin because they were "the better choice"?

If it sounds like I'm describing a lifelong Republican, you would be right. Arlen Spector became a Democrat for one reason alone, to keep is job. He has no values, moral compass, and cares about absolutely no one but himself. While the the David Broders of the world will claim the opposite, Arlen Specter is the absolute personification of what is wrong with politicians, the Senate, and our Government. The idea that someone who enabled every aspect of the Bush Agenda that went before his Judiciary Committee would on a year later get endorsements of every prominent Democrat from the President on down is nothing short of a disgrace.

Even worse is the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO's, who also endorsement of Specter, the man who killed the Employee Free Choice Act as a callous attempt to save is own ass. The AFL CIO's decision to endorse Specter over Sestak is the just as much a step backwards as their courageous move to back Bill Halter over Blanche Lincoln was a step forwards.

So why did they endorse such an asshole? The simple answer is that he's been a good Democratic Senator for 9 months, that's mostly true. And why has he been a good Democrat for 9 months?

Because once again, Arlen Specter fears for his job, and we all know he is such a souless shit that will do a 180 on every position he claimed to believe in for 40 years in order to keep his place in the elite ego worshiping country club that is the US Senate.

And why does he fear for his job, even though Obama, Biden, Rendell and just about every other elected official with a D next to their name has attempted clear the field of actual Democrats?

He fears for his job because Joe Sestak has balls of the size of grapefruits, and hasn't been intimidated by the calls/threats to drop out, even when they came from the President of the United States. For more information on the race, here's a Chris Bowers' endorsement, someone who has serious knowledge of Pennsylvania politics:

Sestak is an extraordinarily relentless campaigner--I have honestly never seen anyone better than him on this front. His constituent services are, from what I understand, possibly the best in the entire Congress. His biography and resume are difficult, if not impossible, to match. Further, he is significantly more progressive than Specter according to all voting scorecards. Also, despite the standing ovations in front of the party leadership, there was a stronger anti-Specter undercurrent at the state Democratic committee this weekend then I think most news reports are indicating. You are talking about hundreds of people who spent thirty years trying to defeat Specter, after all.

I don't think many people are Democrats just for the sake of Democrats accumulating more power. People become Democrats because of the causes and ideals represented by the party. An octogenarian Senator who switched parties to save his job and who fails to cross even the bare minimum threshold on many of these causes and ideals is simply not why people are Democrats. The insider relationship that Governors and other high ranking party officials care about are irrelevant to the rank and file. In a campaign this high profile, most high ranking endorsements won't matter much, either. People want cheaper health care, and they don't want elections decided for them behind closed doors.

This is going to be a very close, election. I'm one Pennsylvania Democrat, state committee member, and former union organizer, who is throwing his lot with Joe Sestak.

I made a promise to myself that any time I heard Arlen Specter doing something good in the last year, I'd give 5 dollars to Joe Sestak. If I'd kept that promise I'd be nearing the fund-raising limit, because the transformation that Sestak has forced Specter to do has been nothing short of remarkable. Even if he doesn't win, making Specter fear that he has a competitive race is equally valuable in the short term.

Joe Sestak joins Bill Halter as the second candidate added to TRAIN ACTION, and even if you can throw 5 dollars his way, you can be assured it will go to good use.

Joe Sestak For Senate!

Monday, April 19, 2010

We Report, You Decide If It's True

No matter how much I'd get annoyed with the host, guests or panelists, Meet the Press has always been a Sunday tradition for me. You watch it to know what/who the political media has deemed important that week, every so often you'd get a genuinely interesting interview/debate along the way.

While I didn't think David Gregory would be a good fit as the MTP host, I also didn't think that he would make the show unwatchable within 12 months, and become the poster boy for what's wrong with political journalism.

When journalism professor Jay Rosen floated the idea of fact checking the Sunday shows as a way to prevent the constant lying and bullshiting that their current format makes possible, the responses were mostly positive. ABC's Jake Tapper has gone so far as asking to fact check each episode of This Week and publish the results.

Not David Gregory though. His response was so much more revealing than he ever intended, and cuts to the root of all that's wrong with today's political journalism:
[A]ccepting a challenge from New York University’s Jay Rosen, interim host Jake Tapper has arranged for the St. Petersburg Times’ PolitiFact site to fact-check what “This Week” guests say after each program.

An “interesting idea,” Gregory allows, but not one the NBC show will be emulating. “People can fact-check ‘Meet the Press’ every week on their own terms.”
If this were a just world, Gregory would have been called into his office 15 minutes after that quote was published and fired on the spot. Although, as someone who thought the press did a great job asking tough questions in the run up to the Iraq war, I'm not surprised to hear that he thinks he's doing a great job now. After being mocked for his answer, Gregory responded via twitter:
Look, I don't think it's fair to suggest I'm opposed to fact checking or accountability or real journalism for that matter. My view is that I just don't think we need a formal arrangement to accomplish that goal.
Glad he cleared that up. He's not opposed to people checking his facts, like he said before, you can do that on your own time! And why do you need a "formal arrangement" to do something that you weren't going to do anyway?

The Colbert Report did a brilliant segment on this last week for those who missed it:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sunday Morning Fact-Checking - Jake Tapper & Bill Adair
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Friday, April 16, 2010

Goldman Sachs to Feel it?

Shit just got real: (via Zero Hedge)

Washington, D.C., April 16, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Goldman, Sachs & Co. and one of its vice presidents for defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts about a financial product tied to subprime mortgages as the U.S. housing market was beginning to falter.

The SEC alleges that Goldman Sachs structured and marketed a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that hinged on the performance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). Goldman Sachs failed to disclose to investors vital information about the CDO, in particular the role that a major hedge fund played in the portfolio selection process and the fact that the hedge fund had taken a short position against the CDO.

"The product was new and complex but the deception and conflicts are old and simple," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the Division of Enforcement. "Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio, while telling other investors that the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party."

Kenneth Lench, Chief of the SEC's Structured and New Products Unit, added, "The SEC continues to investigate the practices of investment banks and others involved in the securitization of complex financial products tied to the U.S. housing market as it was beginning to show signs of distress."
I'm still not clear on what this means in terms of potential punishment, but any attempt to investigate Goldman has to be a good thing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Week in Tibet

The news of an earthquake in Tibet has been bouncing around for the last two days, although it seems to have largely slipped off the front page already. The 7.1 magnitude quake occurred in a sparsely populated prefecture (current population is roughly 300,000) alternately known, confusingly enough, as Yushu, Yushul, Gyegu, Jiegu, Jyekundo, and Kyigundo. It was historically part of the Kham region of Tibet, although today it's administered by Qinghai province, just outside the border of Chinese-designated Tibet province. This has led to confused foreign media labeling it a 'Tibetan border town,' even though it's hundreds of miles from the traditional Tibetan-Chinese border.

The destruction in Gyegu has been near absolute- some estimates say that 85% of the buildings in the town collapsed. A number of these were schools, which echoes the Wenchuan earthquake from 2008. Back then Chinese reporters uncovered a number of shady contracts which led to the construction of so-called ‘tofu schools,’ which collapsed immediately and totally. Presumably a possible repeat of this discovery is why China has already barred media outlets based outside Qinghai province from doing any on-the-ground reporting.

Meanwhile, the small town airport has spent much of the last two days inoperative, meaning that would-be rescuers have to drive in from provincial capital Xining. This drive takes 18 hours under the best circumstances, and with landslides, damaged roads and collapsed bridges in the way that drive will be much harder. The local hospital was destroyed, and residents have been cautious about entering any still-standing structures thanks to aftershocks that could reach 6 on the Richter scale. This has led to people sleeping outside in below-freezing conditions, and many wounded residents haven't even been able to get cleaned up in the 48 hours since the quake. As if all this wasn't enough, a large dam 12 miles upstream has sustained heavy structural damage, and engineers have warned that it could collapse at any time. Some people are reportedly moving up into the hills, above the potential waterline but also further away from disaster relief crews and medical help.

This disaster has brought together unlikely partnerships. A photographer captured a number of pictures of Tibetan monks and Chinese soldiers working side by side to excavate people buried in rubble:

More monks are coming from neighboring monasteries to assist with the relief efforts. More soldiers, too- both to help out, and to keep a close eye on the region in the coming days and weeks. Yushu Prefecture is 97% Tibetan, and Beijing is fully aware that grief could quickly turn to anger if locals find that Chinese contracts led to inferior construction once more. Politics are already at play, as Huffington Post writer Josh Schrei noted:
This is a region that does not look favorably on Chinese rule. It is a region that saw widespread independence protests in 2008, including the takeover of a Chinese police station by Tibetan protesters mounted on horseback. And the last thing the Chinese government wants is to bring any international attention to this restive area or give the local people any further reason to protest.

Public gatherings are banned in this part of Tibet, and from all on the ground reports it is already clear that the Chinese soldiers that have been trucked in Jyekundo are there to serve two purposes. They are there to help remove victims from the rubble, and they are also there to make sure that Tibetans -- homeless and freezing and distraught -- do not begin to demonstrate or make political statements. Wen Jiaobao, when outlining the plan for disaster relief yesterday, made sure to mention that efforts were being made to "safeguard social stability." In other disaster areas, this would translate as preventing looting and crime. In Jyekundo, it means preventing the locals from political agitation. As of yesterday, Tibetan monks and PLA soldiers were unified in their efforts to rescue schoolchildren from the quake's rubble; but more monks are on the way from neighboring monasteries, and the more days go by in which Tibetans are forced by circumstance to live in miserable conditions under the watchful eye of the PLA soldiers whom they already despise, it is highly likely Jyekundo will turn into a powder keg.
If anyone has a dollar or two they’re willing to part with, a few good organizations which already have resources in Gyegu/Jyekundo/Yushu are collecting donations specifically for disaster relief. I would recommend Machik, or The Bridge Fund.

It's Time...


The Power of AIPAC

In an article I read a long time ago, one of AIPAC's lobbyists bragged that he could get 70 Senators to sign a napkin. It looks like they were a few off:
More than three quarters of the U.S. Senate, including 38 Democrats, have signed on to a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implicitly rebuking the Obama Administration for its confrontational stance toward Israel.

The letter, circulated by the pro-Israel group AIPAC, now has the signatures of 76 Senators and says in part:

We recognize that our government and the Government of Israel will not always agree on particular issues in the peace process. But such differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies. We must never forget the depth and breadth of our alliance and always do our utmost to reinforce a relationship that has benefited both nations for more than six decades.

A similar letter garnered 333 signatures in the House, and its support marks almost unified Republican support for Benjamin Netanyahu's government, along with strong, but more divided, public Democratic discomfort with Obama's policies in the region.

What terrible actions merited this letter, signed by 3/4th's of the Senate?

When Obama was elected, he said he wanted Israel to stop building settlements on occupied land. This type of thing is nothing new (Bush said this as well), and Israel smiles politely while continuing to build new settlements on occupied land.

However, because Obama is a secret Muslim Kenyan usurper Democrat and gave the vaguest sense that he might have actually meant what he said, Israel decided that this was some grave affront to their sovereignty that wouldn't be tolerated.

Israel then proceeded to go down the list of all the various ways you can be a dick to someone in in international relations, and has leaked stories everywhere imaginable to let people know just how upset they are.

It bears repeating that they are upset because we said publicly that we maybe/possibly wanted them to stop breaking international law. This may not seem controversial, but when you're the spoiled child of the international community and have always been able to do whatever the fuck you wanted with fawning approval of the United States, this type of thing becomes an international incident.

The letter states:
We must never forget the depth and breadth of our alliance and always do our utmost to reinforce a relationship that has benefited both nations for more than six decades.
There is not a person following the US/Israel relationship who can tell you with a straight face that it has been mutually beneficial for anyone other than defense contractors and warmongers of all nationalities.

And that brings us to why 76 Senators in the United States signed a letter enthusiastically backing our self destructive relationship with Israel. That would be because AIPAC is probably the most powerful lobby of any kind in the United States, and if you dare challenge them they'll have a slew of other powerful groups call you an anti-Semite and recruit a well funded primary challenger to take you out of office. As it turns out, being called a bigot and losing your job are pretty good deterrents for stopping any real discussion of a rational foreign policy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Train of Thought Lounge- Lloyd Marcus

Oh you have got to be kidding me:

Where do you even start with that?! The background dancers, the generally nonplussed crowd, the lyrics... I'm speechless.

Why Didn't Unions Prevent The Mine Disaster?

Rush Limbaugh: (via Work In Progress)
Was there no union responsibility for improving mine safety? Where was the union here? Where was the union? The union is generally holding these companies up demanding all kinds of safety. Why were these miners continuing to work in what apparently was an unsafe atmosphere?
(Mind Explodes)

In case you were also wondering where the union was: (Think Progress)

There’s a simple reason the union didn’t protect the miners: the Upper Big Branch Mine, like nearly all of the mines under Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s control, is non-union. In fact, the United Mine Workers of America (UMW) “tried three times to organize the Upper Big Branch mine, but even with getting nearly 70 percent of workers to sign cards saying they wanted to vote for a union, Blankenship personally met with workers to threaten them with closing down the mine and losing their jobs if they voted for a union.”

Blankenship rose in Massey’s ranks by breaking its union mines in the 1980s. Blankenship said then that busting unions is “invaluable” to profits, as non-union companies can “sell coal cheaper and drive union coal out of business.”

Union mines have a significantly better safety record than non-union mines especially for major disasters, as union miners can refuse unsafe work and report dangerous conditions without fear of retaliation. In addition to preventing Blankenship-style intimidation, the proposed Employee Free Choice Act would increase whistleblower protections for non-union and union workers alike. Under Blankenship’s direction, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Association have spent millions to oppose passage of such legislation for worker rights, comparing it to a “firestorm bordering on Armageddon.”

With that said, it's pretty awesome that Rush backhandedly acknowledges the need for unions. Between this and his love of Costa Rica's government run health care, I'm glad to see he's coming around!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dawn Johnsen Dumped in Favor of Retaining Bush Administration Policies

In last Friday afternoon's news dump came the news that Dawn Johnsen had withdrawn her nomination to become head of the Administration's OLC. Glenn Greenwald:
After waiting 14 months for a confirmation vote that never came, Dawn Johnsen withdrew today as President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel. As I documented at length when the nomination was first announced in January, 2009, Johnsen was an absolutely superb pick to head an office that plays as vital a role as any in determining the President's record on civil liberties and adherence to the rule of law. With 59 and then 60 Democratic votes in the Senate all year long (which included the support of GOP Sen. Richard Lugar, though the opposition of Dem. Sen. Ben Nelson and shifting positions from Arlen Specter), it's difficult to understand why the White House -- if it really wanted to -- could not have had Johnsen confirmed (or why she at least wasn't included in the spate of recently announced recess appointments).

I don't know the real story behind what happened here -- I had an email exchange with Johnsen this afternoon but she was only willing to provide me her official, pro forma, wholly uninformative statement -- but here's what I do know: virtually everything that Dawn Johnsen said about executive power, secrecy, the rule of law and accountability for past crimes made her an excellent fit for what Candidate Obama said he would do, but an awful fit for what President Obama has done.
. . .

What Johnsen insists must not be done reads like a manual of what Barack Obama ended up doing and continues to do -- from supporting retroactive immunity to terminate FISA litigations to endless assertions of "state secrecy" in order to block courts from adjudicating Bush crimes to suppressing torture photos on the ground that "opennees will empower terrorists" to the overarching Obama dictate that we "simply move on." Could she have described any more perfectly what Obama would end up doing when she wrote, in March, 2008, what the next President "must not do"?

I find it virtually impossible to imagine Dawn Johnsen opining that the President has the legal authority to order American citizens assassinated with no due process or to detain people indefinitely with no charges. I find it hard to believe that the Dawn Johnsen who wrote in 2008 that "we must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power" would stand by quietly and watch the Obama administration adopt the core Bush/Cheney approach to civil liberties and Terrorism. I find it impossible to envision her sanctioning the ongoing refusal of the DOJ to withdraw the January, 2006 Bush/Cheney White Paper that justified illegal surveillance with obscenely broad theories of executive power. I don't know why her nomination was left to die, but I do know that her beliefs are quite antithetical to what this administration is doing.

Ugh. Not good at all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

We Aren't Racists!!!1!1!

There are no racist teabaggers!

Ok, but everybody has a few bad apples!

Or maybe the teabagger candidate for Governor in New York is a racist that's into videos of people fucking horses: (via TPM)
An online news outlet in New York state has obtained dozens of emails, many of them racist and sexually graphic, which it reports were sent by Carl Paladino, the Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate for governor of New York, to a long list of political and business associates. One email shows a video of an African tribal dance, entitled "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal," while another depicts hardcore bestiality.

• An October 2009 email with a photograph showing President Obama and the First Lady dressed in 70s-era blaxploitation pimp and prostitute costumes while attending a formal event at the White House.

• A December 2008 email showing a video of African tribesmen performing a traditional dance. The video is entitled "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal."

• A September 2009 email entitled, "Easy Steady Big Fella....XXXX," with a photograph that graphically depicts a horse having sex with a woman.

• A July 2009 email showing a photograph of an airplane landing directly behind a group of black men. The caption reads: "Holy Sh*t. run ni**ers, run!"

When one recipient complained about the "Obama inauguration" email, calling Paladino a racist, Paladino responded by apologizing "if that is offensive." He added: "I'm not a racist and have never related Obama's color to my political distaste for him....I'm not sensitive to ethnic humor."
When questioned about the emails, Paladino responded:
I'm going to be the same Carl I have always been. I'm not going out of my way to be blunt or politically correct or anything. I'm going to be me.
Can't argue with that!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Best Labor Dispute Ever

In light of the recent tragic mine disasters in West Virginia and China's Shanxi province, which JJ expanded into an entire post about American worker safety, I figured it's worth noting that not all labor disputes have such menacing overtones.

As many as 800 workers in Copehagen's Carlsberg brewery left work earlier this week after management decreed that they would no longer be able to drink free beer on the job. Previously given up to THREE FREE BEERS during non-lunch work hours, now Carlsberg factory workers can only drink their free beer at lunchtime.

The nerve of those fat cat bosses!

The Battle For The Soul Of The Democratic Party

I'm not going to quote from this epic piece by Ryan Grim and Arthur Delaney because there's so much good stuff that it wouldn't do it justice. The article is pretty damn long, but if you want to understand the ever changing power dynamics within the Democratic party, it's a must read.

And if you don't care about power struggles and are more interested in absurd stories, it reveals the White House's response to Harry Reid's attempt to reintroduce the public option in February. (Hint: it was one and a half middle fingers)




We Are So Screwed...

I don't doubt that this happened:
"I knew that we'd be buddies when I met her when she said, 'Drill here, drill now.' And then I replied, 'Drill, baby, drill' and then we both said, 'You betcha!'"

-- Sarah Palin, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, recalling a previous meeting with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
It's worth noting that no matter what else Obama does, if unemployment stays this high in the run up to 2012, there is a very real possibility that Sarah Palin is elected president.

Next time this blog is ranting on about how much Summers, Geithner and Bernanke suck, keep that in mind.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Naturally Fox News had something to say about the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty:

Answer: No. No, it will not.

I think the bomb footage they used was from the Trinity test, incidentally. Not sure why they went with one before decent color film was invented, but whatever... apparently it's still the 1950s over there.

Workplace Deaths Are A Tragedy, But Hardly Uncommon

There was an massive explosion in a West Virginia mine that killed 25 miners last Monday.

As more details emerge about the conditions of the mine and the mining company's safety record, it doesn't paint a pretty picture: (Think Progress)

Since 1995, Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine has been cited for 3,007 safety violations. Massey is contesting 353 violations, and 127 are delinquent. [MSHA]

Massey is contesting over a third (34.7%) of the 516 safety citations the Upper Big Branch-South Mine received in 2009, its greatest count in the last 15 years. [MSHA]

In March 2010, 53 new safety citations were issued for Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine, including violations of its mine ventilation plan. [MSHA]

Massey is now contesting $1,128,833 in fines for safety violations at the deadly Upper Big Branch-South Mine, with a further $246,320 in delinquent fines:

Over $2.2 million in fines have been assessed against Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine since 1995, with $791,327 paid. Massey is contesting $1,128,833 in fines. Massey’s delinquent fines total $246,320. [MSHA]

Massey is contesting $251,613 in fines for citations for Upper Big Branch-South Mine’s ventilation plan. [MSHA]

As if that wasn't bad enough, the CEO of Massey Energy sounds almost cartoonishly evil in his willingness to ignore safety regulations:

The country’s highest-paid coal executive, Blankenship is a villain ripped straight from the comic books: a jowly, mustache-sporting, union-busting coal baron who uses his fortune to bend politics to his will. He recently financed a $3.5 million campaign to oust a state Supreme Court justice who frequently ruled against his company, and he hung out on the French Riviera with another judge who was weighing an appeal by Massey. “Don Blankenship would actually be less powerful if he were in elected office,” Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia once observed. “He would be twice as accountable and half as feared.”

Over the two years through 2001 Massey was cited by West Virginia officials for violating regulations 501 times. Its three biggest rivals, mining twice as much coal in the state as Massey, were cited a collective 175 times. [CEO Don] Blankenship says Massey is unfairly targeted by regulators.
“We don’t pay much attention to the violation count,” he says.
As upsetting as this is, it is nothing new for the coal industry, or as was pointed out by Laura Clawson, many other workers throughout the county. As stunning as this figure may be, an average of 16 workers die on the job each day in the United States:

The reason for such an appalling numbers of workplace deaths is not a mystery. The fines and punishments that follow on the job deaths are so minuscule that corporation would often rather pay the fine than worry about implementing safety regulations that could have saved lives.

There will always be Don Blankenships out there willing to risk the lives of others in order to turn a bigger profit. Unless we make rules that force those bad actors out of the equation, it's only an incentive for them to keep up their dangerous practices and continue to risk the lives of their employees in the process.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Rundown of Obama's Nuclear Posture Review

For once, the Obama administration has proposed a compromise that actually makes some sense. The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, finally released yesterday, does not grant every gift that a nonproliferation activist would want –- it retains, in particular, the right to strike first against a nuclear-armed nation. But by eliminating ambiguities and deployment options found in previous incarnations of stated US strategy, Obama's NPR represents a marvelous, much needed breath of sanity.

Continue reading A Rundown of Obama's Nuclear Posture Review

ACORN Revisited

Last night Rachel Maddow used the power of the unedited ACORN tapes to expose O'keefe and Breitbart as the liars that they are.

Watch, then get really, really depressed:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Confederate History Month"

I can remember a time when even conservatives didn't celebrate treason:
Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell has declared April to be "Confederate History Month," the first time in 8 years that such a proclamation has been issued in the state.

In the statement, McDonnell says that the Confederate history "should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered," and that its leaders "fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today."
Virgina is well on their way to Tennessee status.

Why Health Insurance Companies Shouldn't Exist

As the health care reform debate fades into the rear view mirror, the most depressing part going forward will be the constant reminders that the bill only entrenched the existence of worthless companies run by disgusting human beings that reap enormous profits from the suffering of others:
Angela Braly, CEO of health insurance giant WellPoint, saw her compensation jump 51 percent to $13.1 million in 2009. The LA Times adds, “At least three other WellPoint executives got compensation increases of as much as 75%.” Braly’s boost comes as “WellPoint’s California subsidiary, Anthem Blue Cross in Woodland Hills, seeks double-digit rate increases for many of its 800,000 members who buy individual policies.” During the health care debate, WellPoint became the poster child for the abuses of the health insurance industry, pressuring lawmakers to support drastic reform and pushing Obama to add stronger cost control provisions into his health care blueprint. A Center for American Progress analysis from February found that “double-digit hikes have been implemented or are pending in at least 11 other states among the 14 where WellPoint’s Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are active.” WellPoint spokesman Jon Mills justified Braly’s compensation by saying that the company “wants to attract and retain top talent.”
Increasing premiums while giving themselves raises on their already absurd salaries. Fucking soulless.

I feel so much better knowing that these people will now be sorta kinda regulated with no actual competition. The medicare buy-in can't happen soon enough.

Monday, April 5, 2010

This Week in Tibet

Now that March is over it should be possible to compile a relatively complete list of protests inside Tibet- protests marking the anniversaries of the 2008 and 1959 uprisings, of course.

First, though, some background on protests inside Tibet. Lhasa is the largest city in Tibet, but the city has been under perpetual lockdown for years.  Having been the epicenter of many of the enormous protests of the past, China keeps a very watchful eye on Lhasa every time March rolls around.  The enormous police presence reaches across Tibet, though- even the tiny mountain villages across Kham and Amdo are host to huge militarized police barracks. Considering how low the population density is, gathering any number of people is impressive. Doubly so because everyone gathers knowing that they don’t have long before thousands of Chinese police show up, and that there are very real consequences to participating in any sort of protest. In the past protests were usually started and supported mainly by monks, but in recent years many protests were started and populated by laypeople and nomads as well as monks. This undermines the Chinese claim that the only dissidents in Tibet are religious extremists who have been riled up by the evil Dalai Lama.

Getting news about these protests to the outside world is also a challenge. Tibetans have been jailed for sending text messages or emails to relatives across the Indian border informing them of protests in their hometowns. The messages that do make it out are then relayed to the Central Tibetan Administration and/or one of the major Tibetan movement groups, who then in turn corroborate the story with contacts inside Tibet and then release the news. Chinese news agencies usually make no mention of protests, doing so only when they reach such a size that they cannot be entirely ignored, and even then they usually refer to them only as “smashing and looting events carried out by a small number of members of the Dalai clique.” This airtight media control is a major part of why Chinese citizens across China frequently have no idea what the rest of the world is talking about when we mention unrest in Tibet. News of more protests will likely continue to leak out for the next few weeks, but these seem to be everything so far:

Anniversary Protests, 2010:

In the Tibetan regional capital Lhasa, businesses meanwhile defied orders to open for business as usual and observed the anniversary in silence, residents there said.

“All the hotels and restaurants owned by Tibetans were closed,” he added.

“They were ordered to open their businesses as usual and were told that if they did not open their shops, their display carts would be taken away,” a Lhasa resident said.

“The Tibetans didn’t open their shops and marked the March 14 anniversary in silence,” he added.
“Thousands of security forces including those dressed in black uniform were deployed in Lhasa.”
Hundreds of Tibetans protested on March 10 in Markham county, residents said.

“They demanded compensation for damage to the local environment, animals, and human beings due to mining activities,” one resident said.

“The Chinese authorities attempted to detain some leaders, but at that time some Tibetan youths injured themselves with swords and threatened to kill themselves if any of the Tibetans were detained.”

“The local authorities sought the help of local Rinpoches and Lamas to convince the Tibetans to return home,” the Markham county resident said.

“On March 14, around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. … about 30 students from the Tibetan Middle School in Machu [in Chinese, Maqu] protested in streets close to the county center,” one local resident said.

“The student protesters were joined by 500 to 600 other Tibetans.”

“They were shouting against the lack of freedom, calling for Tibetan independence,” he added.

The protesters were surrounded by security forces, with at least 40 people detained late Sunday, March 14, sources said.

The detentions sparked fresh anger among local Tibetan residents, who make up more than 50 percent of the region’s population.

“Around 400 or 500 of them were standing in front of government offices and demanding the release of those detained,” the Machu resident said, in an account confirmed by several other local sources. Several Machu residents estimated that about 3,000 Chinese security forces had been stationed in the area, escalating tensions.

“Some of them shouted for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and demanded resolution of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue,” said Dolkar Kyab, a native of Machu county currently living in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

“They managed to protest for about 30 to 40 minutes before they were surrounded by armed police,” he said, citing contacts with local residents.
At least 20 teenagers were taken into custody by police in the remote western town of Hezuo on Wednesday, shortly after a larger group began a protest, a hotel clerk there said.

The town is now crawling with military police and feels safe and calm, said the manager, who declined to give his name because ethnic tensions in Tibetan areas are politically sensitive, and discussing them with foreign journalists risks punishment.

A string of checkpoints have also been set up along the road to Langmu temple, around 70 km (43 miles) away, since Sunday, a hotel employee near the monastery said, but added that he did not know the details of what happened in Machu.
More than 20 students from a primary school in Kham Driru held bold protests against Chinese rule earlier this week, an exile Tibetan having contacts in the region told Phayul.

Driru (Ch: Biru), traditionally a district in the Kham Province of Tibet, is currently a county in Nagchu (Ch: Nagqu) Prefecture of the so-called ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ (TAR).

"A peaceful protest was held by a group of students in a Primary School in Driru district in Tibet against the Chinese government on March 22," Ngawang Tharpa, a Tibetan from Nagchu now living in exile here, said.

Thapa said slogans like “Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama’’, “Free Tibet”, “China out of Tibet” and “Let His Holiness the Dalai Lama come back to Tibet” were raised by the students during the protest.

The protesters were later surrounded by Chinese security forces and their parents were held for interrogation, Tharpa said, citing sources.

[note: I can’t find the later version of the story, which added details about the number of townspeople who joined them]

A Tibetan youth has been secretly detained for his alleged role in burning Chinese flag after removing it from a government building in Kham Driru, an exile Tibetan having contacts in the region told Phayul.

Kunchok Namgyal, age 22, from Totho Village of Tsachu Township in Driru County was arrested by Chinese Communist authorities two weeks ago after removing Chinese flag from a local community meeting hall and setting it on fire, Ngawang Tharpa, a Tibetan from Nagchu now living in exile here, said.

Sporadic demonstrations, both by individuals and by small groups, against Chinese Communist rule in Tibet have continued in and around Driru for more than a month following the Tibetan National Uprising anniversary of 1959 last month.
Chinese authorities in Jomda County, Chamdo Tibet Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) have arrested 2 Tibetan monks who were accused of setting ablaze a government vehicle on the night of March 10, the 51st Tibetan national uprising day, Monlam Tharchin, a Tibetan MP said.

Officials and Police from the county arrested Karma Palden, 24, and 2 others from Zigar monastery on March 11, 2010. The three were taken to the county detention centre but 2 were later released. However, another monk named Gelek, 20, was arrested and locked up with Karma Palden.

In Qinghai, around hundred students of a monastic school founded in 1985 by the late Tenth Panchen Lama held a vigil on the 51st anniversary of the Tibetan uprising day (March 10, 2010) to mourn the death of Tibetans in the nationwide crackdown on protesters that started in March 2008 from Lhasa. The students of Bido monastery in Qinghai province held a prayer of thousand butter lamps for the victims of the Chinese government’s crackdown in the past two years, according to the Voice of Tibet radio service.
Chinese police in Sertha County, Kardze TAP have arrested a 20 year old youth for protesting against the Chinese government Friday (April 2, 2010), according to a Tibetan exile with contacts in the region. Ugyen Namgyal from Choktsang village of Sertha County carried the banned Tibetan national flag and raised slogans demanding “independence for Tibet,” religious freedom, and return of the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama to Tibet. The Chinese police immediately arrived at the scene and beat him severely before arresting him, the source said.

In another incident, two Tibetan monks of Larung Gar Buddhist Institute were taken into police custody on March 31 for holding a protest against the Chinese government, according to another source.

Beyond the sheer number of protests, Beijing should be especially concerned by the number of protests which are initiated by young Tibetans. The issue isn’t going to just magically disappear after the Dalai Lama dies- if anything, losing his moderating influence may lead to a rise in the number of violent incidents. Hopefully someone in Beijing is putting this all together.

I will say that the response from the US media has been pretty disappointing. The 2008 Uprising was a much bigger deal, to be sure, but this is still a pretty large concentration of protests which have gone entirely unremarked here. I guess there's only so much they can do when China bars most foreign journalists from entering Tibetan areas, but if the CTA and the other Tibetan advocacy groups can put it all together, is it too much to ask for them to just mention everything that's been collected?

Winning Hearts and Minds, Drone-Style

For the last few weeks whistleblower site WikiLeaks has been acting pretty strange. Through their twitter feed they've made seemingly paranoid statements about being tailed and detained by American government agents, and warned that there would be consequences if they disappear. Today they finally released the video that's been causing all the commotion:

Cool! They sure killed the shit out of those dudes! They also laughed about seeing an APC driver run over one of the bodies, and shrugged off the gravely wounded civilian children, and also opened fire on a van that did nothing more than arrive to pick up the injured, but that's what you get when you're a terrorist, right?

Except it turns out they weren't terrorists. Two of them were the Reuters staff members who were killed two years ago. The US military has stonewalled the investigation into their deaths, even going so far as to refuse to release their cameras. Their cameras, by the way, were what the drone pilot had identified as RPG launchers- whoops! I guess that explains why they all seemed so calm and relaxed right before they were killed by the US military.

The whole video is disturbing, but I'm most blown away by the attack on the van. Even if you accept that he had sufficient reason to think that the first group was comprised of armed hostiles (and I'm not saying we should accept that), the second was visibly completely unarmed. He even says that they're just picking up the wounded- I'm reasonably sure that firing on them is indefensibly illegal.

As someone on LF pointed out, the only reason that this video was so highly sought after is that the dead included two journalists employed by a western company- anyone care to guess how often this happens to hapless Iraqis, Afghans, or Pakistanis (am I forgetting a country there?) who don't have connections to a major company? Feel free to discuss your favorite drone pilot quotes in the comments.

Larry Summers Shares Your Priorities

It's good to know that with 9.7% unemployment, Larry Summers is focused on what's really important:
Summers' legendary self-regard worsened last August, when the president reappointed Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second term. Many Fed-watchers -- Summers chief among them -- thought that Obama might turn to his economic adviser instead of retaining the Republican academic whom President George W. Bush appointed and who presided over the Great Recession.

So peeved was Summers that he buttonholed Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for some personal perks he wanted to add to his position in the West Wing. First, according to informed sources, Summers asked to play golf with the president, which he did four weeks later on September 27. The economic adviser also huffed that he desired Cabinet status, an upgrade that Emanuel granted. Summers got walk-in privileges to Cabinet and other high-level meetings, for example, and he strode among the Cabinet officers who witnessed Obama's State of the Union address. In addition, the former Harvard University president sought a personal car and driver, which happens to be a privilege that the head of the nation's central bank enjoys. The chief of staff initially said yes, only to discover that that perk simply does not exist in the White House.
So Larry Summers is a self-absorbed dick, but we put up with him because he's so "brilliant" that his actions and ideology are a good deal responsible for the financial crisis.

I don't get it.