Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chrysler Deal Kaput, National Council for a New America

Olympia Snowe
Dana Millbank
David S Broder

"I think the altitude subconsciously gives us a confidence that we're in better shape." - George Karl

Well, it looks like the Chrysler deal fell through and it will head into bankruptcy court. This was one of the most interesting deals, involving a foreign car maker, two governments, major banks, the union retirement and pension fund, and about 20 other financial groups that held out on the deal, thinking they could get more money in bankruptcy by about 20 cents on the dollar. As the Washington Post writes: "Today, a group of about 20 firms who declined to go along with the deal to save Chrsyler from bankruptcy, released a statement claiming that the deal was unfair...

The holdout lenders -- who said their combined debt holding represents about $1 billion of the $6.9 billion owed to senior secured lenders -- struck back at comments from an unnamed administration official this morning that blamed them for causing the imminent bankruptcy. The group said they had offered to accept 60 cents on the dollar, despite "long recognized legal and business principles" that gives senior lenders such as themselves the right to be repaid in full before others recover anything in bankruptcy court.

"Our offer has been flatly rejected or ignored," the group said. "In its earnest effort to ensure the survival of Chrysler and the well being of the company's employees, the government has risked overturning the rule of law and practices that have governed our world-leading bankruptcy code for decades."

The hedge funds likely think they could get a better return in a bankruptcy filing or in a sale of Chrysler's assets, said Sheldon Stone, a turnaround expert at Amherst Partners. The government offer made yesterday would represent a recovery of about 32 cents on the dollar. A recent Standard & Poor's analysis said the lenders could recover 30 to 50 cents on the dollar.

"These rogue hedge funds are not coming in line because they feel like the government is attempting a cramdown, which is essentially a take it or leave it deal," Stone said.

Last night Barack Obama gave another press conference. He did well. The hullabaloo afterwards was that Fox News did not carry the press conference and Obama did not call on the Fox News reporter to ask him a question. Coincidence? I think not. Instead of quoting from the story, it's more fun to give you some of the comments readers gave on Politico: "Toughen up, Fox Fans. Just think of how happy you'll be in just a couple of hours when Beck decides to light someone on fire, Bill-O talks about how he "fell asleep" during the presser, and Hannity starts waving his arms and crying "Communism" and "Fascism" (as if he could explain the difference). If you're REALLY lucky, maybe Sean will trot out ol' Bernie Goldberg or Bonehead Brett Bozell to shed a bucketful of tears about "liberal bias." Enjoy your next 100 years in the wilderness, as you grow more irrelevant day by day." - Drew

"So much for the postpartisan presidency. To all the obnoxious, rude liberals claiming that Fox deserves it, Republicans are just whining -- what was your reaction when Bush didn't talk to the news outlets that weren't "nice" to him? Obama hasn't remotely lived up to his pledge of postpartisanship, but his cult's response to that is always, "Bush didn't do it either!" But didn't we all want "change" in that department too? Obama is dumb to do things like snub Fox after all his talk of decency and civility during the campaign -- his poll numbers may be good today, but how long can he flout his central campaign theme and think voters won't notice?" - Katharine

"Maybe you read too much into this. Last time it was that he failed to call on NYT and Washington Post." - Thomas

Politico has a good article it created by asking several top Gop'ers about Arlen Spector's defection from the party: "Orrin Hatch, the No. 2 man at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Toomey can’t win in a general election in Pennsylvania — and that by chasing out Specter, the Club for Growth and its backers may have cost the GOP another seat in the Senate.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with leadership; it had to do with Club for Growth,” the Utah Republican said of Specter’s switch. “I wish they’d spend their money going after Democrats, rather than Republicans. ... Let’s just be honest about it: In blue states, we’re not going to get conservative Republicans. It’s just that simple.”

The GOP is going to launch National Council for a New America, taking leaders and placing them in townhall meetings across the country, trying to get their message out to people, and hopefully, learning to listen what the people say back to them. Sarah Palin has been asked but hasn't returned the message.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had her own advice to give to the GOP: "Yes, there is -- shall we say -- a 'radical right-wing' element with whom they identify. But by and large, I say to Republicans in America: Take back your party. The party of protecting the environment. The party of individual rights. The party of fairness. This is not the Grand Old Party."

Pelosi concluded her long riff about the GOP by saying, "Our country needs a strong, diverse Republican Party." Without missing a beat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chimed in, saying "not too strong."

As Pelosi, Reid and other Democratic leaders ticked off a list of legislative accomplishments passed largely without Republican support, the speaker insisted she's tried to reach out to Republicans in Congress, but said it hasn't been easy.

Republicans in the House of Representatives "are difficult to deal with, let's put it that way," she said. Asked about Pelosi's comment, House Republican Leader John Boehner responded curtly, "She hasn't tried."
I think old John is part of the problem, not the solution. Memo to all states on your Congressmen: term limits, baby, term limits...

Late night jokes:

"As you know, a big holiday is coming next week here in Los Angeles and Mexico: Sicko de Mayo." --Jay Leno

"Remember the good old days when we thought the only bad pork was in the Federal budget?" --Jay Leno

"Give you an idea how bad it is with the swine flu, earlier today, the U.S. took down the wall between the United States and Mexico and replaced it with a giant sneeze guard." --Jay Leno

"They say this outbreak of swine flu got its start in Mexico and then came up here. You know what Wal-Mart calls something that got its start in Mexico and came up here? Employees." --Jay Leno

"Well, another pilot has been taken off a plane for being drunk. This time it was an Air Canada pilot who was about to fly from London to Calgary. They took him off the plane before he could do something really stupid, you know, like fly low over Manhattan." --Jay Leno

"Did you see that, the 747 jet flying low over New York City? It caused a huge panic. Some government idiot thought it would be a good idea to buzz the city to get pictures of planes flying over the Statue of Liberty. But they didn't warn anybody. What's the government's next big idea? 'Hey, let's send a guy in a pirate costume to Captain Richard Phillips' house.'" --Jay Leno

"And in a move that has stunned Washington, D.C., longtime Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter has switched parties. He is the first Republican senator to switch teams since Senator Larry Craig, I guess." --Jay Leno

"And I love this. At the Summit of the Americas, the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela all agreed that capitalism will destroy the planet. Then they all hopped in their private jets and returned to their huge palaces." --Jay Leno

"Well, the U.S. government is saying look out for the swine flu, which apparently comes from Mexico. Thank God we have an airtight border with that country. So, the U.S. is going to be fine." --David Letterman

"This is, I mean, this is exciting. Air Force One was in New York City and apparently nobody knew. They didn't make the call. Hello! Air Force One comes to New York City and wants to take some pictures. They send it right up and start buzzing New York City. I mean, isn't this something you would expect from the Bush Administration?" --David Letterman

"President Obama, if you take a look at it, has accomplished quite a lot in his first 100 days. By way of comparison, take a look at George W. Bush's first 100 days in office. This is in his memoir. So, according to that, Bush spent 100 days in the Oval Office looking for the corner." --David Letterman

"Specter announced he'd become a Democrat and the Republicans are like, 'Yeah, he's been a Democrat for about 15 years.'" --Craig Ferguson

"This really is big, because Specter's move puts the Democrats within a hair's breath of a unfilibusterable 60-seat Senate majority. So now it appears the Senate's balance of power, in many respects, the future of our nation is in the hands of Al Franken. What a country!" --Jon Stewart

"Republican Senator Arlen Specter has contracted donkey flu. Folks, this disease is now officially out of control. Back in 2004, we thought we had it contained to the coasts and the cities, but then it mutated and tore through the country [on screen: a map of 2004, showing most states as red states. The next map, from 2008, showed more blue states than there previously were]. Republicans tried to fight it off, but their white cells weren't strong enough, although they were very, very white [on screen: photos of four prominent Republicans]. Now, we should have seen this coming, folks. Specter was exhibiting the classic symptoms of donkey flu: mild fever, and being 21 points behind in Republican primary polls. I want to warn Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to take every possible precaution. Donkey flu is highly contagious and virtually incurable. Only one man has ever beaten it, but clearly, it took a horrible toll [on screen: a photo of Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut]." --Stephen Colbert

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

North American Flu, Trials of Michael Steele - Again

Dana Millbank
Kathleen Parker
Kaveh Afrasiabi

“I hope Arlen Specter's party change outrages you,” - Michael Steele

Quite a furor yesterday, over the North American strains of swine flu. We had the hog variety sweeping up from Mexico, and we had the Pennsylvania strain sweeping across Congress. Every time I check the news, the reported cases in the US have gone up. At this rate, I shudder to think how many will have contracted it in two weeks. Thankfully, it doesn't seem to be as strong as it is in Mexico, yet one 23 month old child has died from it in Texas... I worry what might happen to someone like my sister, who is a cancer survivor and has a depressed immune system, and we don't have a good vaccine developed for it yet... This was the first year I got a flu shot, and I've been catching everything that's been drifting through town...

As for the Pennsylvania strain, it has caused a lot of concern among conservative Congressmen, TPM reports that: "Mitch McConnell (Ky.) forgot all about the swine flu as he gave a news conference denouncing Specter and "the threat to the country presented by this defection."

What does it all mean, I hear you ask. Is this signaling the end of the Republican Party? Dry rub or wet? Remember Vick's Vaporub? According to Jeffrey C. Stewart, Professor of Black Studies writes in Politico: "First, the Swine Flu epidemic started spreading, making Obama's investment in local government in the Stimulus Bill seem sensible, given that the American public always looks to government for help in a crisis. Second, there is Specter's defection to the "big tent" party; and now this--Governor Sarah Palin's announcement that she, indeed, now, after further reflection, is going to accept most of the money intended for her state in the Stimulus Bill, despite earlier saying she would not accept such monies because of the "strings attached." Democrats might be thinking that this all signals the tide is turning. It really just signals that reason has returned to American politics." Oh, thank God, even my Sarah has floated back down to earth...

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting on how improbable it might be, but Obama really has a good reputation in Iran, and its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn't above using his influence to help him win re-election this June: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has chosen the Farsi phrase Ma Mitavanim, or “We Can,” as his campaign slogan ahead of Iran’s June 12 elections.

Did he copy the phrase from President Obama? Who knows for sure. But it brings to mind the fictional McDowell’s restaurant in Eddy Murphy’s classic 1988 comedy “Coming to America.” You know. The one that sells “Big Micks” and has the “Golden Arcs.”

On the one hand, you can’t blame Ahmadinejad for choosing the winning slogan. But isn’t this the same guy who responded to Obama’s friendly offer to end 30 years of hostility with a cool suggestion that Obama first apologize for all the “crimes” that the US has commited against Iran?

Of course, Obama may have borrowed the slogan from Mexican-American civil rights leader César Chávez, who popularized the “Sí, se puede” (”Yes, it can be done”) chant in the early 1970s.In fact, it’s quite possible that ancient Greeks running for office used a similar catchphrase..."

Our friend Michael Steele just can't get no respect. First, he had to issue some kind of response to Arlen Spector's defection from the Republican Party, from Politico: "Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele urged Republicans on Wednesday to channel their anger over Sen. Arlen Specter’s party change toward defeating “Democrat candidates.”

“I hope Arlen Specter's party change outrages you,” Steele wrote in a fundraising email. “Specter claimed it was philosophical—and pointed his finger of blame at Republicans all over America for his defection to the Democrats. He told us all to go jump in the lake today.”

“I'm sorry, but I don't believe a word he said.
Some will use Specter's defection as an excuse to fold the tent and give up. I believe that you are not one of those people. When Benedict Arnold defected to the British, George Washington didn't fold the tent and give up either.”

Then the web site Senate Guru gave him his own 100 day evaluation: "Countless media outlets are paying close attention to the benchmark of President Obama's 100th day in office. Not as many are focusing on the first 100 days of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.
Steele was elected Chair of the RNC on Friday, January 30, ten days after President Obama was sworn in. The 100 day mark will be on May 9. While it's 10 days early, I thought today would be a good time to reflect on the highlights of RNC Chair Michael Steele's first 100 days.

January 30 (Day 1): Michael Steele is elected RNC Chair.

February 4 (Day 6): Steele makes his first visit to New York's 20th Congressional district to help Republican nominee Jim Tedisco in the upcoming special election. Steele subsequently boasts that a Tedisco victory would be a "credible repudiation" of President Obama and the Democratic Congress. The race is thought to be an easy pick-up for Republicans given that the GOP enjoys a 70,000+ voter advantage over Democrats in the district.

February 9 (Day 11): Steele refers to President Obama's economic stimulus bill disparagingly as "bling bling." The ensuing laughter is at Steele rather than with Steele.

February 19 (Day 21): The Washington Times runs an interview with Steele in which Steele commits to an "off the hook" PR effort aimed at younger voters by applying conservative principles to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings." The laughter at Steele continues.

February 23 (Day 25): Steele makes clear that he is open to withholding RNC funds from the re-election campaigns of the three Republican Senators who voted in support of President Obama's economic stimulus bill, perhaps making them feel no longer welcome in the Republican Party.

February 25 (Day 27): Steele sends "slum love" to Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

March 1 (Day 31): Steele belittles conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh as "ugly," "incendiary," and just "an entertainer."

March 2 (Day 32): Steele promptly apologizes to Limbaugh for his comments, illustrating who truly runs the Republican Party.

March 10 (Day 40): Rumors emerge that Steele may face a no-confidence vote before the Republican National Committee.

March 25 (Day 55): In an interview with CNN, Steele insists that "there is a rationale, there's a logic behind" his mistakes and gaffes.

April 24 (Day 85): Republican Jim Tedisco concedes defeat in the NY-20 special election that Steele earlier boasted would be a "credible repudiation" of President Obama and the Democratic Congress.

April 28 (Day 89): Senator Arlen Specter announces that he will defect from the Republican Party and join the Democratic Party.

May 9 (Day 100): ???

In less than 100 days, Steele led the GOP to defeat in what should have been an easy pick-up in a House special election, lost a Senator to a Party switch, became the subject of no-confidence vote rumors, embarrassed himself over and over again, and convinced America that Rush Limbaugh controls the Republican Party. I'll give Steele considerable credit - one must keep extremely busy to fit that many "strategic" gaffes into less than 100 days."

Finally, to add indignity and shame, the RNC is now trying to limit his powers over the pursetrings. As the very conservative Washington Times reports: "A battle over control of the party's purse strings has erupted at the troubled Republican National Committee, with defenders of Chairman Michael S. Steele accusing dissident RNC members of trying to "embarrass and neuter" the party's new leader.

Randy Pullen, the RNC's elected treasurer, former RNC General Counsel David Norcross and three other former top RNC officers have presented Mr. Steele with a resolution, calling for a new set of checks and balances on the chairman's power to dole out money.

The powers include new controls on awarding contracts and spending money on outside legal and other services. The resolution prompted a top Steele supporter to issue a scathing attack against Mr. Pullen and his allies after they had asked Mr. Steele to support the "good governance" resolution at a special meeting of the full national committee set for next month. The party spent about $300 million in last year's elections.

"I urge you to reject this hostile attempt to embarrass and neuter the chairman of the RNC," Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus wrote in an e-mail to the 168-member national committee.

Mr. Pullen and his allies need signatures from RNC members from 16 states to force the resolution to the floor for a vote by the full party committee at the May 20 special meeting.

The funding fight comes on the heels of another open challenge to Mr. Steele's authority. Unhappy RNC conservatives secured the signatures to force the committee to convene next month's special meeting to vote on a resolution labeling Democrats as "socialists," despite the chairman's reservations about the political wisdom of the move.

Critics said the "socialist" resolution battle was a sign of Mr. Steele's rocky start as RNC chairman and his continuing struggle to assert control of the party's message since his election in January. So, the fascist conservatives are calling a special meeting to label liberals socialists? I gotta get some more jujubes and popcorn for this one...

Late night jokes:

"Great to be back. As you know, I was sick for two days last week. Had to go to the hospital after I ate a raw pig a friend brought back from Mexico." --Jay Leno

"But you learn a lot about the system. You know, like, people say, 'Oh, where do hospitals get the nerve to charge $10 for an aspirin?' See, this is why President Obama wants to do something about healthcare in this country. See, under his plan, hospital aspirin only costs a dollar maximum. Of course, there would be a $9 tax on it." --Jay Leno

"I wasn't that sick, but some people are, because of this swine flu, which has knocked the torture stuff right off the front page. You notice that? So, it's obvious who is spreading the swine flu. Dick Cheney." --Jay Leno

"Well, it's interesting. They call it swine flu because they think it originated either with pigs or an AIG executive." --Jay Leno

"Oh, on Friday, President Obama was taken to a secure location in the White House after a single engine plane strayed over White House air space. As a precaution, they took the President to a place in the White House nobody even knew existed -- Joe Biden's office." --Jay Leno

"Next month in Canada, former President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton will have a debate. They're gonna debate each other. The topic will be, 'which is better, getting in bed with big oil or big women?" --Jay Leno

"I tell you, the economy is so bad, third graders in China are being forced to get second jobs." --Jay Leno

"And the bad economy is hitting Nashville. Nashville's in bad shape. You know Big and Rich? Now down and out." --Jay Leno

"The economy is so bad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez asked President Obama to give him the book back. He needs the money." --Jay Leno

"GM is phasing out Pontiac. You know what that means? Another $20 million bonus for the head of GM" --David Letterman

"We're getting close to President Obama's first 100 days in office, and he has had to deal with a lot of trouble, including a global financial crisis, pirates, and swine flu. Plus, Obama's got a live-in mother-in-law. I'm telling you, this guy cannot catch a break." --David Letterman

"I think this is a first for President Obama. This weekend he played golf. President Obama apparently, and at one point, and this happens, you know, you play golf, he got stuck really deep in a sand trap. Same thing happened to George Bush, and it's called Iraq." --David Letterman

"Now, here's the difference between President Obama and our previous Democratic president, President Clinton. President Obama enjoyed playing a round of golf. President Clinton just enjoyed playing around." --David Letterman

"I was surprised. Obama is a pretty good golfer. And he missed a couple of putts, or he would have broken 90. Could have broken 90. Missed a couple of putts. Speaking of a couple of putz, anybody hear anything of Bush and Cheney?" --David Letterman

"In a new interview, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complained that President Obama hasn't been returning his messages. No offense Mahmoud, but maybe he's just not that into you." --Craig Ferguson

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chrysler May Stick Around, New Hope for GOP

Bret Stephens
John Fortier

"So Bobby Jindal makes fun of “volcano monitoring”, and soon afterwards Mt. Redoubt erupts. Susan Collins makes sure that funds for pandemic protection are stripped from the stimulus bill, and the swine quickly attack.

What else did the right oppose recently? I just want enough information to take cover..." - Paul Krugman

A deal was reached this morning that may save Chrysler from going bankrupt. It involves the creditors writing down its debt by almost $5 billion, and entering into an agreement with its workers, yet to be ratified by the unions. This is pretty historic if it happens, because the auto workers would own 55% of the company, with Fiat owning 35%. Reported by the Washington Post: "The carmaker had owed a fractious group of 45 banks, hedge funds and other firms about $6.9 billion. These creditors have agreed to write down the debt to $2 billion.

The two sides had been far apart in the negotiations, leaving Treasury officials little choice but to prepare a bankruptcy filing. Indeed, one government official said last week that it would take a "miracle" for a deal to be worked out. But the lenders realized that they would have received far less in a bankruptcy and ceded to government demands.

Chrysler also reached a deal over the weekend with the United Auto Workers, in which the union would own a majority stake in the automaker.

A source familiar with the matter said if the restructuring of the storied American automaker is completed according to the tentative deal, the union would have a 55 percent stake in the company, the Italian automaker Fiat would eventually hold a 35 percent stake, and the government and Chrysler's lenders would share a 10 percent stake in the company. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the talks."
The Pontiac division will be gone, as well as the best-selling PT Cruiser. Now, if only I could get my mortgage written down by my creditor...

Oh hey look at that—Citigroup and Bank of America need more money. Reuters reports: " U.S. regulators have told Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc they may need to raise more capital following stress testing of the two banks.” The shortfall at Bank of America, according to people familiar with the situation, is billions of dollars, and it is expected that some of the other 17 banks that underwent stress tests will need more capital. Officials at Citi and BofA are objecting to the findings and plan to reply with detailed rebuttals."

The Washington Times has an article on Rush Limbaugh upsetting gun owners across America: "Rush Limbaugh's new pet project -- fighting animal cruelty for the Humane Society of the United States -- is riling sportsmen from coast to coast, prompting fears that the talkster typically supportive of gun rights is aiding a group they say has a secret agenda to end all hunting in America.

Twenty-eight groups representing millions of hunters and sportsmen are demanding that the conservative radio commentator end his collaboration with the HSUS and stop "helping them to mainstream their image in the minds of reasonable people."
Gosh, you just can't please everybody in this day and age...

Maybe better news today for GOP lovers. No longer will they be seen as the way David Roberts portrays them in the Huffington Post: ""They are increasingly beholden to the hardcore, angry-white-man demographic, which is getting increasingly insular and wingnutty, screaming about socialism and handshakes with Chavez and one-world currency. Republicans in Congress have decided on a program of total obstruction.

"This shrinking minority and its representatives in Congress are unreachable and unreasonable. They speak only to one another and their shared mythology of victimization and looming threat is increasingly baroque and opaque to those outside. They are shrinking into themselves, drifting into the wilderness, becoming more and more cultish. There is, in short, no reason to pay much attention to them." Sigh, I could go on like that all day...

But, as I said, things are looking up, as CQ Politics reports : "...if there is a silver lining for Michael Steele in the GOP’s special election loss in upstate New York, it could be that the new head of the Republican National Committee is finally taking more flak from Democrats than fellow Republicans.

Steele’s three-month tenure as the GOP’s first African American chairman has been marked by intraparty sniping, back-biting and hand-wringing, all of which have contributed to raising Steele’s profile beyond heights attained by most of his predecessors...

Republicans showed no interest in playing the blame game in the wake of Democrat Scott Murphy’s razor-thin victory over Republican Jim Tedisco in the New York race where second-term Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand left open the 20th District when she was appointed to fill the Senate spot of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton . That left it to the Democrats to pummel Steele."

And the Democrats aren't mining just for Steele, but also for our poor mad housewife, Michele.
From Politico: "Democrats just can’t get enough of Rep. Michele Bachmann, the always controversial, always quotable Minnesota Republican.

In fact, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has built a website — — devoted entirely to Bachmann’s rhetoric, slamming what they believe are overstatements or exaggerations about everything from ACORN to the stimulus.

“The same woman who once said Congress should be investigated for those with anti-American leanings and once argued that she couldn’t support the economic recovery act because America was ‘running out of rich people,’” the site blares.

But if the DCCC couldn’t knock off Bachmann in the wildly successful Democratic congressional campaign of 2008, it may have a tough time in 2010. Bachmann’s office seems more amused than upset about the attention.
“When you can’t defend your policies and you’re so far out of touch with the American people, I guess there’s nothing more you can do than nitpick your opposition,” said Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok."
Amen to that, brother Dave.

Finally, fed up with truly weird policies, like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney thinking that supporting torture is a good pick me up for Republicans, and the bad history from Newt, Ed Gillespie has decided to roll up his sleeves and actually create something helpful for Republicans running for office. Politico also reports: "Ed Gillespie, the former GOP chairman and counselor to President George W. Bush, and top pollster Whit Ayres on Tuesday are launching Resurgent Republic, a group aimed at shaping the debate as the party regenerates itself for the upcoming elections.

Resurgent Republic plans to offer itself as a resource for policymakers and congressional leaders and will conduct focus groups and polling, and plans to hold at least one forum this year.

Think of it as a Republican version of Democracy Corps. “The Republican Party has been declared dead at least three times already in my lifetime — in 1964 after Goldwater lost in a landslide, in 1974 after Watergate and in 1992 after Clinton won with a Democratic House and Senate,” Gillespie said.

“In every case, we came back, and that will be the same in this fourth instance. But we have real challenges as a party, and we need to be thoughtful in addressing them. The most important thing we have going for us is that our center-right philosophy is in sync with where most Americans tend to be also. Making sure people understand how that philosophy translates into policies that translate into improvements in the day-to-day lives of families and workers is where we have to put our focus.”
Right now it's a shell of a web site, but I will provide a link in my blogroll when they begin posting useful information.

Some vintage late night jokes on the Republican convention, from 2004:

"Tonight at the Republican National Convention, in what was called the biggest speach of his career, President Bush took on his enemy, the English language." --Jay Leno

"Now that Bush has accepted the nomination the next step, of course, is the rigging of the voting machines." --David Letterman

"Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a terrific speech last night. See, that's where the Republicans are really smart. They don't want to portray themselves as the right-wing party so they bring in an actor to play the moderate." --Jay Leno

"Republicans went from Arnold Schwarzenegger last night to Dick Cheney tonight. It's like, Arnold's like the picture in the dating service ad, and Dick's the guy who shows up." --Jay Leno

"Protesters made it inside the Republican convention and started taking off their clothes. Republicans said it could have been worse, one of the naked protesters could have been Michael Moore." --Conan O'Brien

"Word now is circulating that Republicans are not tipping the hotel staff where they stay. And I'm thinking, Come on folks! Why not spread some of that Halliburton loot around?" --David Letterman

"Earlier this week the Republican party held a reception for black Republicans. Apparently the receptions was a big success. They both showed up." --Conan O'Brien

"You probably know it's been crazy here in New York City with the convention. We have had naked people in the streets. We have had all-night parties, arrests. And that's just the Bush twins." --David Letterman

"The Republicans are in town this week. Don't worry, they will only be here until we are capable of self rule." --David Letterman

"Over 800,000 New Yorkers left during the convention. Boy, Bush really knows how to clear a room, doesn't he? 800,000 people leave town because of the Republican convention. They raise the terror alert in New York to elevated, no New Yorkers leave. A threat by al Qaeda to destroy our financial institution, New Yorkers stand firm. Republicans come to town it's like, Get out of here." --Jay Leno

"Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke tonight at the convention. At first they were planning on having Arnold speak on the same night as President Bush but, then they realized, oh no, the convention interpreter's head would have exploded." --Jay Leno

"The Republican Convention goes on all week, and of course, the highlight will be toward the end of the week. George Bush will show up for one day, you know, just like he did in the National Guard." --David Letterman

"You folks excited about the Republican convention? Well here's good news, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge has declared New York City is safe. Of course, that's based on 4-year-old intelligence." —David Letterman

"If you are planning on going to the convention, even if you are a delegate, you're going to get frisked, you're going to get patted down, you're going to get groped, and that's just by Arnold Schwarzenegger." --David Letterman

"Now that the Democratic convention is over, the Republicans are getting ready for theirs. Their slogan for Bush: Four more wars, four more wars!" —Jay Leno

"How many of you folks watched the Democratic convention? It's over and now the Republicans have just one month to become ethnically diverse." —David Letterman

"At the convention John Kerry showed up with all his Vietnam crewmates. And not to be outdone, next month at the Republican Convention George W. Bush is going to show up with all his college drinking buddies." —David Letterman

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Guess Pigs Do Fly, Rape Locally

Paul Krugman
Jimmy Carter
Mikhail Gorbechev

"This particular virus started in Mexico, and spread from pigs to humans. Probably during spring break. I'm sorry, have I offended pigs? I apologize." --Bill Maher

Confirmed cases

As of Sunday, officials had confirmed 20 cases of a new A(H1N1) swine flu virus in the United States, including eight New York City high school students. Six cases were identified in Canada — all linked to travel in Mexico. While only a handful of swine flu cases in Mexico have been confirmed, officials say there are at least 1,400 suspected infections and at least 86 suspected deaths. There are even cases confirmed in New Zealand...(Source:NY Times) The incidents are spread out so widely that you might think the infected swine could fly, or that the flu got caught in the slipstream, or someone was putting lipstick on Petunia and giving her a big, wet one... Thank God you can't get it from barbecue, or we'd all be dead...

Over the weekend much time and analysis was made over President Obama's first 100 days in office. Damn, the man was busy... An ABC poll came out showing him with a 65% approval rating, I think people like it that he has taken a strong stand towards the economy, among other things. Only time will tell if he is successful or not, and for our sake, I hope he is. I get tired of the nattering nabobs of negativity that has become the GOP. Time for the old elephants to shut up and lumber off towards the graveyard... Or, as I heard one Republican pundit remark on the tube about the poll: here I am a Republican in a two party system, and my party came in third...

Other than Meghan McCaine, there aren't any other young conservatives harmonizing the airwaves. Most of our local kids are clones of their parents, who are pod people mimicking the latest distributed talking points. My local newspaper publishes one young organizer, but he needs to go back and take English 1B and learn how to write an essay...

Meanwhile the torture debates go endlessly on. We have stopped practicing the "enhanced interrogation techniques" so the discussion is over. OK, put a couple of judges and lawyers in jail; I know that will make me happier. And the Swat Valley Talibans are scoffing at whatever agreement they made yesterday... I just know there is a Monty Python skit there, but it's unfortunate that real innocent lives are at stake here.

The is one thing that Colorado can be proud of: we have the highest amount of wildlife strikes at Denver International Airport, the highest reported statistic in the country. As reported in both the Denver Post and Christian Science Monitor: "Denver International, Colorado, 2,416 reported incidents.

Kendra Cross, the U.S. Department of Agriculture biologist who manages wildlife at DIA, told the Denver Post that the airport is more susceptible to bird and wildlife strikes because it covers more land than any other airport in the nation — 49,000 acres. It’s the fifth-busiest airport in the country. Geography also plays a role. DIA isn’t an urban airport — “We’re situated right in the middle of an agricultural area,” Cross said.

Locally, we have had a 30% rise in reported rapes. A lot of it from Fort Carson. So, not only do we have to worry about dealing with the anger, fear, and suicidal feelings of our returning vets, now we have to throw sexual predation into the mix. Hopefully, raping women then killing them afterwards isn't a habit picked up in Iraq...having these boys recruited by American Nazi hate militias is the least of our worries. From the Colorado Springs Gazette: "Last year, police tallied 338 rape complaints in Colorado Springs, a 30 percent spike from three years ago and the highest toll in at least a decade.

With 12 detectives and four nonsworn investigators who assist police, each detective in the sex crimes unit oversees an estimated 20 investigations at a time, police said, leading to tough decisions about how quickly new complaints are examined by detectives and how much attention they receive.

"Not every case that comes into my office gets assigned, and I have to make some of those decisions," Sgt. Hugh Velasquez said.

Rape victims in Colorado Springs wait an average of two weeks before detectives are available to speak with them, police said. Victims advocates say it can be much longer: between four and six weeks." With the budget cuts, expect less resolution rates and longer times until the police come and take a report. Vigilantes, anyone? Or maybe we can create our own patriotic militia to counter all of this rising crime...

Late night political jokes:

"Yesterday President Obama hauled in the presidents of the credit card companies and said the days of tricky fine print and sudden rate increases and late fees are over. And he also demanded to know what kind of screwed up, cracker name was MasterCard." --Bill Maher

"Unemployment is continually rising, foreclosures are through the roof. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, 'If this van's a-rockin', it's because we live here now.'" --Bill Maher

"Are you ready for the next outbreak that isn't really going to happen, but sounds really scary, so the media's freaking out? Swine flu. Have you heard that? Yes, apparently swine flu has appeared in the U.S. This particular virus started in Mexico, and spread from pigs to humans. Probably during spring break. I'm sorry, have I offended pigs? I apologize." --Bill Maher

"Of course, the really big news is what's going on in Washington, and Obama opening the door, now, to prosecuting former Bush officials about torture, or, as they call it, severe interrogation procedures, which include waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forced nudity. We have outlawed all of these practices, although they are still challenges on 'The Love of Ray-J,' which is a television show." --Bill Maher

"It's interesting how the progression changes with the Republicans. First, when they talked about torture, it was, 'Well, there's just a few bad apples.' Then it was, 'Okay, we did it a couple of times.' Then it was not really torture, and now, it works." --Bill Maher

"They first said they tortured this Khaled Sheikh Mohammed -- and by the way, if there's anyone who deserved it, it was him -- but first they said they did it once. Now it comes out 183 times that they waterboarded this motherf**ker in a month. This comes out to six times in a day. I would think after that, you get used to it. He was showing up at his torture sessions in flip flops and a beach towel, with a Danielle Steele novel. 'Would you like sparkling or flat waterboarding today, sir?'" --Bill Maher

"No, it is fun watching the Republicans trying to defend torture, because they insist that what's wrong with the Democrats on this issue is they don't get what it's like in the 'real world.' And, to prove it, they cite Jack Bauer, a character from a television show." --Bill Maher

"Dick Cheney is all over television defending this. He said yesterday, he would be happy to undergo waterboarding himself, but his heart might rust." --Bill Maher

"George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have announced their going to have a debate. They already have a name for it -- 'Alienated vs. Predator.'" --Craig Ferguson

"It’s World Penguin Day. Penguins are important. It’s true. Some say John McCain lost the election due to his resemblance to The Penguin from Batman." --Craig Ferguson

"Yesterday was 'Take Your Kid to Work Day.' It used to be 'Take Your Daughter to Work Day,' but political correctness took over. Thanks to the economy, there’s a new special day for parents and kids – 'Take Your Child to Where You Used to Work Day.' This day shows that daddy and mommy didn’t always just sit around in their underwear." --Jimmy Kimmel

"The White House was on lockdown because a small plane flew into restricted airspace. Say what you want, but Dick Cheney would have shot that thing down." --Jimmy Fallon

"Obama was on the news today speaking about college spending. He’s proposing a new budget '' $15 billion for college loans, $20 billion for Ramen Noodles." --Jimmy Fallon

"Crime is down in New York City. Tomorrow criminals head down to Washington to request a bailout." --David Letterman

"Today is the 81st birthday of Madam Tussauds wax museum. Biggest collection of wax figures since 'The View.'" --David Letterman

"In economic news, ExxonMobil's profit last year was $45 billion. In second place was the company that makes those foreclosure signs." --David Letterman

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Islamabad Mon Amour, Pelosi's Forked Tongue


Bad news from Pakistan. This thing is playing out like some bad drama written by a Hollywood studio hack, and it will end with in the most hideous way. Instead of fiddling while Rome burned, Zardari will twiddle his thumbs while Islamabad and most of Pakistan goes up in a nuclear mushroom cloud.

The Taliban took over Buner province, just 60 miles away from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Then the military got them to withdraw. Yeah, right. Like a bad farce, the spiritual leader Sufi Mohammed made a pretense of herding his Talibans out of Buner, while leaving many others behind to enforce sharia law. Nobody else in the Islamic countries is interested in endorsing this backwards, draconian interpretation of Islam. Indonesia just rejected it, and even Saudi Arabia is trying to modernize and lighten up with the church police. If we could take away the nuclear arsenal, then let these people lord it over each other, throw acid in their women's faces, and stone each other to death in the name of some hick version of Allah the Compassionate...

The analogy here is if the Christian right wing evangelicals, our own American Talibans, were to take over El Paso county. James Dobson would be in charge and members of Focus on the Famly could roam around in public and hassle you and give you a ticket for not being Christian enough. They could shoot and kill your children if they lived in sin with someone, or gotten pregnant out of wedlock.

Of course, the underlying problem in places like Pakistan is the clash of cultures, with Wahabism being a synthesized solution to creeping Westernization. As long as there is the amount of poverty and lack of education, you will always have fodder you can convince to become suicide bombers. As long as children are taught in schools nothing but the Koran, you will have boys as young as 8 years old wanting to be Taliban soldiers. It may be that any solution is years in the future, more than the US is willing to spend in the region. We haven't been able to stop government corruption, the drug trade, blackmarkets, or animosity of Sunni against Shia. We were hoping to set a good example of what a democratic nation has to offer, but killing civilians by drones and torturing prisoners pretty much put an end to that...

Here's a reversal: the Republicans looking to protest over spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reported in the Washington Times: "President Obama's $83.4 billion war-spending bill is headed for an unexpectedly tough time on Capitol Hill, where Republicans are scrutinizing the funding priorities and rank-and-file Democrats want to include performance benchmarks for the Afghanistan mission.

Despite bipartisan support for Mr. Obama's war policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans are taking a stand against the more than $81 million requested to shut down the prison camp at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba...

Republicans, who have made criticism of massive new spending the cornerstone of their opposition to Mr. Obama and the Democrat-led Congress, also are ready to pounce on any funding not directly linked to the war effort."

I'd been wondering why Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been keeping a fairly low profile since Barack Obama took office, and now I think I know why. In an interview with the Colorado Statesman a few weeks ago, ex-Governor Bill Owens, talking about the stimulus bill, dished some gossip that: "...the analysts basically say that he let (Speaker of the House and California Congresswoman) Nancy Pelosi write the bill. And she threw in everything her constituency wanted — which had very little to do with stimulus...

Everybody put in essentially earmarks, though they didn’t call it that. And it’s 1,000 pages that nobody had read. And it wasn’t very transparent. And they didn’t allow amendments in the House..."
Because the bill was not received very well, she has taken a backseat in promoting Obama's agenda.

And well she should stay back there, with the recent lies she told the media over being briefed about wiretapping on members of Congress, specifically throwing Jane Harmon under the subway train, and on being briefed on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, the government speak for torture. Kara Rowland reports in the Washington Times: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said she had no recourse to stop the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding after receiving a classified briefing from the CIA in 2002 - an explanation the top Republican on the House intelligence committee called "the lamest of lame excuses."

As scrutiny over who knew what about the controversial tactics has turned back to Congress, Mrs. Pelosi sought to distance herself from revelations that she and other key Democrats were kept in the loop by the CIA between 2002 and 2006. Mrs. Pelosi, who was briefed by the agency as the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, suggested that the current system - in which sensitive information is shared chiefly with only the top members of the House and Senate intelligence committees - needs tweaking so that all members of the committees have the same information.

"They don't come in to consult. They come in to notify," she said. "You can't change what they're doing unless you can act as a committee or as a class."

As for charges the lawmakers could have sought to cut off funding if they disapproved of the tactics, she noted that the Appropriations Committee ultimately has that authority.

But Rep. Peter Hoekstra, currently the ranking Republican on the House intelligence panel, described her comments as the "lamest of lame excuses," saying she could have gone to then-Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt to discuss her concerns.

"The minority leader has the same type of clearances that she has," said Mr. Hoekstra, of Michigan. "Guess what - so does the president."

Within the past three years, Mr. Hoekstra said he "can think of at least specifically three or four cases" in which he raised concerns about an issue with Minority Leader John A. Boehner or former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. In a couple of instances, he was granted an audience with then President Bush.

"Last time I checked, the appropriators were part of the House of Representatives," he said when asked about the intelligence panel's influence over funding decisions."
If only we could get politicians to stop politicking... terms limits, baby, term limits!

Late night vintage jokes on the war on terrorism:

"I'm not worried about things in the world because yesterday President Bush told reporters that he is monitoring the situation in North Korea, very carefully. In fact today the president spent the whole day watching reruns of M.A.S.H." —Conan O'Brien

"Osama bin Laden has released a new audiotape praising recent terrorism attacks and proving he is still alive. But how alive is he? It's been 12 months since his last tape and, quite frankly, there's been no artistic development whatsoever." —Jon Stewart

"These days it's good to know we still have friends in the Middle East, friends like Saudi Arabia. That's right where, may I remind you, four of the 19 September 11th hijackers were not from." —Jon Stewart

"Al Qaeda has issued another threat to the U.S. saying we're not safe on land, at sea, or in the air. Well, Amtrak, Carnival Cruise Lines and United Airlines took care of that." —Jay Leno

"I read something interesting today about President Bush. Did you know on his desk, in the Oval Office, he keeps a paper with the pictures of the most al Qaeda members on it and whenever we capture or kill one of them, he crosses them out? Clinton used to do the same thing with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Whenever he'd nail one of them, he'd put a line through them." —Jay Leno

"Counter-terrorism experts say that Osama bin Laden may be hiding secret messages on pornographic websites. You know what that means, Clinton could find this guy before Bush." —Jay Leno

"Terrorist mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has been arrested. He has been described as the CEO of al Qaeda. See, that's two things to be happy about. Not only did we arrest a high-ranking member of al Qaeda, we also get to torture a CEO." —Jay Leno

"One of these al Qaeda guys was actually raised in Brooklyn, New York. Can you believe that? Apparently, it was pretty easy though. The al Qaeda guys went to him and said if you martyr yourself you'll go to paradise where there's plenty of parking." —David Letterman

"More warnings issued by all branches of the government today that another terrorist attack is imminent. We're not sure when, we're not sure where, just that it is coming. Who is attacking us now, the cable company?" —Jay Leno

"Saudi Arabia Prince Abdullah is visiting President Bush at his Texas ranch. After that, like many other Saudis, he'll go enroll at a U.S. flight school." —David Letterman

"Today the 20th hijacker, Zacharisa Moussaui called for the death of America in the courtroom. The INS was so mad that they're threatening to revoke his student visa. Keep it up, and you'll lose your pilot's license, pal." —Jay Leno

"The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, 'Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.' She's got a baseball bat and she's yelling, 'You want a piece of me?'" —Robin Williams, on the September 11 attacks

"My only hope is when those terrorists get to heaven, they meet up with the kind of virgins we had in Catholic school: Sister Mike Ditka from Our Mother of Eternal Retribution." —Robin Williams

"According to a new report from Afghanistan, the hottest music over there right now is Disco. So, we've achieved a compromise here. We brought them out of the 13th Century, but only took them up to 1978." —Jay Leno

"A newspaper in London has received an e-mail from Osama bin Laden. It’s odd to get an e-mail from Osama bin Laden because when you turn on the computer it says, "You’ve got Jihad!" —David Letterman

"Today President Bush has clarified his world view saying 'You're either with us or you're with the terrorists. Or you're with the terrorists but you have oil [graphic shows Kuwait]. Or you're with us but you hate us [graphic shows Egypt]. Or you're with us, but you fund all the terrorism in the world [graphic shows Saudi Arabia]. Or you're a hundred percent with the terrorists accept for one little guy in charge [graphic shows Pakistan]. Or you're with us but you can't really help us [graphic shows Iceland]. Or you're with the terrorists with each other and against us even though you really hate each other [graphic shows Iraq and Iran]." —Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update"

"After what they say was an exhaustive investigation, the Defense Minister of France said today that Osama bin Laden is either still in hiding in Afghanistan, he may have escaped to Pakistan, or he may be dead. Hey, France, thanks a lot. We'll take it from here. Hard to believe they were invaded twice." —Jay Leno

"Here's a story that has a lot of people in government upset. It seems the major tobacco companies have been smuggling billions and billions of cigarettes into Iraq. Where is their patriotism? They're supposed to be killing Americans with those cigarettes!" —Jay Leno

"On Thursday, a senior U.S. official said that the CIA released a formerly-classified document warning that Afghanistan might descend into civil war. Boy, you want to keep that one a secret. I'd hate to shatter people's illusions about the utopian wonderland that is Afghanistan." —Dennis Miller

"Some human rights groups are complaining that the al Qaeda detainees in Guantanamo Bay are being treated inhumanly. Oh please! They're in the Caribbean in January, okay. You add some goats and sheep to the place they'd think it was Temptation Island." —Jay Leno

"Today more al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners were flown to Quantanomo Bay in Cuba. On the plane they are bound, they are sedated, they are chained to their chairs. Or, as Continental calls it, coach." —Jay Leno

"One thing we learned, bombing works. ... We've flown over 2,800 sorties, dropped 15 tons in warheads, and done $39 in damage. But we're a compassionate nation ... and when this is all over, we're going to put the rocks and dirt back." —Comedian Al Franken

"News from Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance is now saying they know exactly where Mullah Omar is. And what that means of course is that they have no idea where he is. ... If you're keeping score this is the fourth location where Mullah Omar announced he'll be fighting to the death." —David Letterman

"An interim government has been set up in Afghanistan which includes two women, one of whom will be Minister of Women's Affairs. Man, who'd she have to show her ankles to to get that job?" —Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update"

"The latest report is that Mullah Omar's own troops may try to kill him now. Well, duh. I guess they figure that with that $25 million reward, they can get all the virgins they want." —Jay Leno

"French troops arrived in Afghanistan last week, and not a minute too soon. The French are acting as advisers to the Taliban, to teach them how to surrender properly." —Jay Leno

"There's no authority in Afghanistan right now. All these different ethnic groups — people are in the streets armed and shooting guns. So, it's just like L.A., except without the traffic." —Jay Leno

"In Afghanistan this week, outnumbered Northern Alliance rebels on horseback defeated Taliban forces armed with tanks. Experts say the victory is just like the story of David and Goliath and David's friend, the Stealth Bomber." —Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

From Baghdad to Alaska, Weekend Love Fest

Porter Goss
Bruce Bartlett

"If You Think It's About Greed, You Don't Know Me" - Al Gore

"We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets." - Porter Goss

"Protestors need to do a better job of figuring out what they are protesting and devise a real plan for dealing with our nation’s fiscal problem." - Bruce Bartlett

craigslist > casual encounters > warning & disclaimer

Hillary Clinton paid her first visit to Iraq this year, and commented on the recent surge of suicide bombings. From Politico: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in unannounced visit to Baghdad that the recent spate of bombings is a sign that the situation in Iraq is improving, downplaying sectarian violence and said that U.S. support will not waiver.

“We are committed to Iraq, we want to see a stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq,” Clinton told an audience including 120 invited Iraqi civilians at the U.S. embassy. "As we make this transition, the United States will stand with the people.”

Clinton's visit comes after two days of bombing that targeted Shiite Muslims and killed nearly 150 people. "I think the suicide bombings ... are, in an unfortunately tragic way, a signal that the rejectionists fear that Iraq is going in the right direction," she said, referring to two days of bombings that killed nearly 150 people. “Are there going to be bad days? Yes there are. But I don’t know of any difficult international situation anywhere in the world or history where there haven’t been bad days.”

Here in Colorado we are waking up from hibernating, the newspapers are full of warnings on how to handle a bear attack, which is different than confronting a mountain lion. In my townhouse complex, we primarily worry if the foxes have taken and killed our pets during the night... and my cat is still here.

We not only are trying to get fresher foods onto our school lunch plates, but, it seems, in our jails too. The NY Times reports: "The Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry L. Nichols has lost a round in his lawsuit seeking more whole grains and fresh food in his diet at the federal prison in Florence. A federal judge in Denver denied Mr. Nichols’s request for a preliminary injunction. The judge said Mr. Nichols did not show that he faced immediate and irreparable injury. The court has not ruled on the suit itself. Mr. Nichols contends his diet consisted of “unhealthy dead and refined foods” and is causing him physical problems. He also said the food violated his religious beliefs. Mr. Nichols is serving a life sentence for conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the 1995 courthouse bombing." We're all doomed to life with chicken nuggets and velveeta cheese pizza. I wonder if the food contributes in any way to anti-social behavior...

Public service announcement: a new strain of swine flu is traveling north from Mexico, where it has killed over 60 people. There are reported cases in California and Texas. From the SF Chronicle:
Signs of possible swine flu

-- Flulike symptoms, including fever, sore throat, cough, and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.

-- Recent travel to Mexico, or contact with someone who has been to Mexico recently.

-- Recent travel to San Diego or Imperial counties in Southern California, or contact with someone from there.

-- Recent plane travel to airports in affected areas, including Mexico, San Diego and San Antonio.

What to do if you're sick

-- If you have a fever, stay home. Do not go to work, and do not send sick children to school.

-- If symptoms worsen, contact a doctor. Be sure to report other risk factors such as recent travel to Mexico.

I love Sarah Palin. She has become such a cartoon figure that you can always count on her and Michele Bachmann for comic relief. The lates gaff comes from CNN: "For Alaskans, the time has come to end the siege on our government by political tricksters. Enough is enough. With the help of reform-minded advocates from across our nation, we will stand up for what is right," said a message on the Web site for the Alaska Fund Trust.

"Your maximum contribution of $150.00 will allow the Governor, her family, and her colleagues to retire their legal debt at no cost to Alaskans and reduce the incentive for mischief by her opponents. Together, we can help Governor Palin and future elected officials turn back the tide of overtly partisan and unnecessarily personal political attacks."

And some reader's reactions: "Money for Palin? Yeah, and I'm going to give my house to Donald Trump, my car to Junior Earnhardt, and all my food to Emeril. Not! Stop acting corrup, Palin, and you won't need anybody else's money." - Tom

"Here is an idea Sarah, Pay your own freakin legal bills for your own freakin legal problems. Don't create a freebie money fund open your purse strings and be responsible for your own obligations!!!" - AVoR

"Do any of the Professional Liberal Bloggers(PLB) know that the reason Gov. Palin needs the legal defense fund is because the liberals are filing ridiculus lawsuits over a lot of nothing! They are trying to bankrupt her and ruin her name which tells me they still fear her.
Get your facts straight, PLB's, and earn your money from ACORN, LaRaza, and Obama "honestly".
- Sue

"I'm not sure I want Gov. Palin to go away. For absolutely no cost to myself, I get to watch somebody bungle their personal & political life on a regular basis, live in comical & woeful denial & sound an obviously false note of indignation that she should become a victim of external forces, not recognizing the chickens are coming home to roost." -Bernard

And good ol' Steve Benen weighs in on the author of the torture memo on Political Animal:
"Unlike the other Bush administration officials who provided the justification for torture policies, Jay Bybee currently enjoys a lifetime appointment on a federal appeals court. The nomination was an insult, his confirmation was absurd, and as amn NYT recently noted, "These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him."

As the jurist comes under closer scrutiny, Bybee's friends want the political world to know that the poor guy just feels awful about the whole mess. The Washington Post was kind enough to publish a lengthy piece today on Bybee's "regret...

But if Bybee feels bad about all of this, it suggests maybe the infamous Bybee Memo was a mistake. If he's filled with regret, maybe he realizes his legal guidance was wrong. Indeed, Bybee's anonymous friend said the torture memo "got away from him," and ended up in a place Bybee "never intended." Another source said Bybee "was not pleased" with the memo that bore his name.

I'd find it a lot easier to believe this if Bybee were to say something publicly, and perhaps explain his conduct.

The Post piece added that Bybee didn't even want to work in the OLC in the first place.

Bybee's friends said he never sought the job at the Office of Legal Counsel. The reason he went back to Washington, [Randall] Guynn said, was to interview with then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales for a slot that would be opening on the 9th Circuit when a judge retired. The opening was not yet there, however, so Gonzales asked, "Would you be willing to take a position at the OLC first?" Guynn said.

Being unable to answer for what followed is "very frustrating," said Guynn, who spoke to Bybee before agreeing to be interviewed.

But that's hardly helpful. As Adam Serwer explained, "So Bybee knew he was breaking the law in allowing the use of torture, but you have to understand, he only did it because he really wanted to be a federal judge."

Late night jokes on post-war Iraq:

"The FBI is investigating Americans -- just for opposing the war. You know, maybe when we're done establishing a democracy in Iraq, we could try it over here." --Jay Leno

"Pentagon records show that at least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. Army have deserted since the Iraq war began. Hey, at least somebody has an exit strategy." --Tina Fey

"Looks like some kind of civil war brewing in Iraq. Well, who could have seen that coming? That came out of left field, huh? They say it is total chaos over there. People are roaming the streets with guns. It's like everyone is Dick Cheney now." --Jay Leno

"Rumors are that the reason Dick Cheney didn't say anything about the hunting accident for about 24 hours was because he had been drinking. And I'm thinking, well jeez, he was probably drinking when we planned the invasion of Iraq." --David Letterman

"President Bush admitted that the United States went to war in Iraq based on bad intelligence. But he says knowing what we know now he would still do it again. So at least we're learning from our mistakes." --Jay Leno

"The general election's taking place today in Iraq, so I guess that means we're one step closer to being there for another 10 years." --David Letterman

"Already there have been reports of 1000 fake ballots in the Iraqi election. So it looks like another victory for Republicans." --David Letterman

"A new study suggests that middle-aged adults who go on periodic drinking binges may face a heightened risk of dementia later on in life. The study is entitled, 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.'" --Tina Fey

"President Bush getting tough. In his speech at the naval academy he said we will not leave Iraq until we have achieved our goal. He calls this plan 'leave no oil barrel behind.'" --Jay Leno

"In his speech President Bush said we need to rebuild Iraq, provide the people with jobs, and give them hope. If it works there maybe we'll try it in New Orleans." --Jay Leno

"For the first time ever, Republicans in Congress -- Republicans! -- are demanding to know the president's exit strategy from Iraq. Yeah, in response the president said I have an exit strategy, I'm leaving office in 2008." --Conan O'Brien

"A new poll shows that 66% of Americans think President Bush is doing a poor job on the War in Iraq. And the remaining 34% think Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church." --Tina Fey

Friday, April 24, 2009

Don't Torture Me, Bro...

Paul Krugman
Philip Zelikow
Eugene Robinson

“Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” - Barack Obama

"The ugliness is already there, and pretending it isn’t won’t make it go away." - Paul Krugman

"Yet the main rationale for using extreme methods is to save time" - Philip Zelikow

" Go f**k yourself..." - Dick Cheney

I got this fun story from The Guardian, about a couple of New Guinea tribesmen suing the New Yorker over their portrayal in an article by Jared Diamond: " abstract still carried by the magazine's website bills it as a work of anthropology. It explores the story of a New Guinean highlander whose uncle was killed in a battle against a neighbouring clan and who thus felt duty-bound to seek revenge.

The tribesman named in the article is Daniel Wemp, a member of the Handa clan, who is one of the two individuals that have brought the lawsuit. In the New Yorker he is said to have prosecuted his public fight over three years, at the cost of 29 lives in the course of six battles and the theft of 300 pigs.

The other man listed in the legal action is Henep Isum Mandingo, who Wemp is said in the article to have held responsible for his uncle's murder. According to Diamond, Mandingo was shot in the back with an arrow, leaving him paralysed and in a wheelchair

The whole story about the New Yorker article's mistakes can be found at the web site Stinky Journalism

Poor Dick Cheney, he's feeling so unloved lately. How else can we describe the rash of interviews he's been giving to the media? Other than he may be scrambling trying to keep from eventually going to jail or tried for treason... Even his daughter felt compelled to go on MSNBC and defend her old man: ‘I think he feels compelled to make clear why, particularly related to national security issues, it is so important that we don’t abandon those policies and that we remember the fact that we are at war,’ [daughter Liz] Cheney said Thursday. ‘When he sees the current administration making decisions that he believes are making the nation less safe, he does not believe there is any obligation under those circumstances to be silent.’”

“At a time when his party has no high-profile leaders on Capitol Hill, Mr. Cheney is in effect the ranking Republican speaking out against Mr. Obama. His message has been amplified — on television, in op-ed pieces and elsewhere — by an informal band of supporters, including Ms. Cheney.” It's weird, here's a man that kept everything super secret, he had the old escape tunnels that led from his house to under the Potomac refurbished so they were more than a historical footnote, then had the image of the Vice Presidential house blurred out on images from Google Earth, and now that he's out of office and is spending too much time brooding over the past few years, we can't get rid of him or get him to shut up... Even Meghan McCain is complaining about him on The View, which is why he felt compelled to trot out his daughter to go to bat for him.

It's all about the torture memos the Justice Department has released, and gotten everyone's underwear bunched up. The furor won't die down with more pictures being released this week, and until something is established to investigate all of the charges and come to some kind of official settlement, either by committee or by court. Cheney thinks that requesting and releasing certain reports from the CIA will vindicate him as a tough, patriotic guy and not some cowardly sadistic bastard that filed for deferments five times over...

It looks like most of the problem stems back to the Bush administration wanting to shoehorn facts to fit their argument that the 9/11 attacks and al-Qaeda were linked to Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The CIA didn't have any spies or information on the area, so they began torturing the first people they captured to get quick results, for example, waterboarding a suspect 183 times in one month... From CQ Politic's Spytalk: "When interrogation subjects coughed up some seemingly vital new information about new plots or al Qaeda personalities, the CIA had few means to check it against reports supplied by spies under its control, either in the terrorist group or elsewhere.

Everything they were hearing was new. By many accounts interrogators slapping suspects like hamburger patties didn't have a clue whether they were telling the truth. They didn't have independent sources of information to know what was up.

... As for CIA headquarters officials reportedly ordering interrogators to go back and hammer subjects again and again, even after they'd been milked dry, Faddis asked, "Why were they hanging desperately on every word they could wring out of the detainees?"

Because, he said, the agency didn't have much coming in from other sources -- spies -- and they were desperate to prevent another att

The problem we now face, is how to go about investigating. Do we respect the rule of law and prosecute those responsible, or do we find some convenient scapegoats like the low level CIA operatives or Army guards like we did at Abu Ghraib, who are still in jail? Even former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib prison and had to let in the outside special interrogators, expressed her frustration on MSNBC over Bush apologists who are defending "hard interrogation techniques" now, but were silent about accountability for torture at Abu Ghraib five years ago. Eugene Robinson sums it up in the Washington Post: "I don't know what more we'll find out if a blue-ribbon investigative panel of some kind is formed. But what we already know is enough to ensure that sooner or later, the abusive interrogation methods authorized by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other officials are going to be measured against the law. Our system, left to its own devices, is not designed to let illegal acts be revealed and then ignored.

From the viewpoint of the Obama administration, the alternatives may be unattractive or even unacceptable. No one wants to see low-ranking CIA interrogators go down for doing what their superiors told them was legal, especially if the superiors are not held to account. But pursuing criminal charges against the highest-ranking officials of the previous administration would be unprecedented, and it is unclear where such a process might lead."

I found this satire that Bill Maher wrote in the LA Times: "Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota recently said she fears that Obama will build "reeducation" camps to indoctrinate young people. But Obama hasn't made any moves toward taking anyone's guns, and with money as tight as it is, the last thing the president wants to do is run a camp where he has to shelter and feed a bunch of fat, angry white people.

Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.

That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.

But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.

And if today's conservatives are insulted by this, because they feel they're better than the people who have the microphone in their party, then I say to them what I would say to moderate Muslims: Denounce your radicals. To paraphrase George W. Bush, either you're with them or you're embarrassed by them.

The thing that you people out of power have to remember is that the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public."

Late night jokes:

"Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, once two of the most powerful men in this country, are now suffering from Balzheimer's disease. Why didn't I see it before? Balzheimer's is a terrible illness that attacks the memory and gives its victims the balls to attack others for things they themselves made a career of. There is no known cure." --Jon Stewart (Watch video clip)

"Hey, I thought this was nice. To celebrate Earth Day, a group of schoolchildren in Washington each planted a hair plug in Joe Biden's head." --Jay Leno

"Even Dick Cheney was into Earth Day. Did you see what he said today? He called for the use of only recycled water when waterboarding prisoners." --Jay Leno

"Well, here's an interesting study. Researchers in Britain announced today that global warming is caused in part by overweight people. They say obese people release more carbon dioxide into the air. No, this is real. This is real. See, all this time you used to think it was caused by coal-burning factories. Turns out it was Cheesecake Factories." --Jay Leno

"Next month in Toronto, Canada, former President George W. Bush will debate former President Bill Clinton. The question of the debate -- is it worse to lie to your wife or lie to the entire country?" --Jay Leno

"No, this is big. They're billing the debate as 'the corn dog versus the horn dog.'" --Jay Leno

"Former President George W. Bush said today he does not remember seeing any of those torture memos. But to be fair, to Bush, any memo on his desk was torture. 'I'm not readin' that.'" --Jay Leno

"During an interview with The New York Post, Rudy Giuliani said that he is against gay marriage. He feels marriage should be between a man, a woman, the other woman, and the other woman he met after that." --Jay Leno

"The Justice Department says they want to make an example of this Somali pirate guy. And I thought, really? In terms of making an example, I don't think you can do much better than shooting the other three guys in the head." --David Letterman

"Speaking of things like that, classified documents that were recently released show that Dick Cheney, who a couple of years ago went nuts and shot a guy, ordered Khalid Shaikh Mohammed waterboarded 183 times. When do you suppose Mohammed caught on and said, 'I know this is just horse play'?" --David Letterman

"But anyway, they waterboarded Mohammed 183 times, and thanks to the information they got from this guy, via waterboarding, we were able to capture bin Laden." --David Letterman

"President Obama has kind of a happier outlook on torture. He says instead of waterboarding terrorists, he's going to put them in dunk tanks." --David Letterman

"But Dick Cheney is now criticizing President Obama, and he's saying that his recent actions around the world are 'disturbing' and 'not helpful.' Yeah, yeah, things were so much better when Cheney was president, weren't they?" --David Letterman

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hillary Warns Pakistan, Mohsen Rezai Throws His Turban Into the Ring

Robert Scheer
Robert Mackey
David Broder
Ali Soufan

"What has happened so far is no more than the overture to the first act of this opera." - David Broder

"It was the right decision to release these memos, as we need the truth to come out." - Ali Soufan

“I haven’t made no money yet.” - Levi Johnston

Just to show how worried US officials are over the state of Pakistan, here is Hillary Clinton being pretty blunt and honest to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, from the NY Times:"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sharply rebuked the government of Pakistan on Wednesday, accusing the country’s leaders of surrendering large tracts of territory to the Taliban and saying that the country’s instability is a “mortal threat” to world peace.

“I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists,” The secretary’s words were striking, aimed as they were at a nation that Washington has described as a key ally in the international campaign against terrorism. Her remarks may have been aimed not just at Pakistan’s rulers but at American lawmakers reluctant to provide more money for a region that has been a trouble spot.

“If you talk to people in Pakistan, especially in the ungoverned territories, which are increasing in number, they don’t believe the state has a judiciary system that works,” she said. “It’s corrupt, it doesn’t extend its power into the countryside. So the government of Pakistan, however it is constituted, which is of course their business, not ours, must begin to deliver government services.”

Otherwise Ms. Clinton warned, “they are going to lose out to those who show up and claim that they can solve people’s problems, and then they will impose this harsh form of oppression on women and others.”
The questions we should be asking are what plans do we have to extract Pakistan's nuclear arsenal if it does fall to the Taliban? Those plans should be in place right not, ready to be enacted within the next few months...

Many people within Iran see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as an embarrassment to Iranian interests, especially after the walkout on his speech at the racism summit. Another hardline conservative has announced that he would run against Ahmadinejad for President, as reported by the NY Times: "Mohsen Rezai, announced Wednesday that he would enter the presidential race, indicating additional splintering among the country’s conservatives.

Mr. Rezai, who oversaw the Revolutionary Guards from 1981 to 1997, had been seeking to unite conservative politicians behind another candidate to compete against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Rezai, who has accused Mr. Ahmadinejad of mismanaging the economy, will run as an independent candidate, the ISNA news agency reported.

His candidacy underscores the political fragmenting of a conservative faction known as the Principlists, which threw its support behind Mr. Ahmadinejad when he ran for president in 2004. Some leading figures who supported Mr. Ahmadinejad then have not publicly backed him this time. Mr. Rezai is not necessarily considered a strong candidate, but because of his association with the Revolutionary Guards, he will probably attract conservative voters who might otherwise vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad. The president is expected to have strong support from the poor and the Revolutionary Guards, among others.

Politicians who favor more political and social openness, along with closer ties to the West, have also been unable to coalesce around a single candidate. They are divided between a former prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and a former speaker of Parliament, Mehdi Karroubi.

Opponents have accused Mr. Ahmadinejad of economic mismanagement and of using government money to attract support for a second term. His government has come under attack in the past month for distributing about 400,000 tons of potatoes around the country and giving bonuses, including gold coins, to civil servants, Iranian newspapers have reported.

In another development, Iran announced Wednesday that it
welcomed nuclear talks and said it was ready to offer a proposal to resolve the dispute over its uranium enrichment activities, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. Mr. Ahmadinejad said last week that Iran would take part in talks, and Wednesday’s statement appeared to be an official response to an April 8 invitation by six major powers for a meeting."

And on the home front,Politico reports on dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks Levi Johnston, who: "said during an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" that he has hired an attorney in hopes of compelling former fiancée Bristol Palin to honor his visitation rights.

Johnston last saw his 4-month-old son "a couple weeks ago," he said, adding that going over to the Palin household to see Tripp is "an uncomfortable thing."

Despite his threat of legal action, Johnston insists that he does not "want to stir anything up."
But Levi, how can you not stir things up when you hire a snake? Of course the Palin family is mad at you, you knocked up their daughter and now you have walked away. Try getting a job and making child support...

And to warm you up for the late night jokes, TPM is reporting that a movie is going to be made about Bernie Madoff, called Scumdog Millionaire...

Late night jokes:

"What was it, 101 today? Man, it was hot. People were sweating like Miss California at the gay pride parade." --Jay Leno

"Well, here's no surprise, Exxon has earned the top spot in the new 2009 Fortune 500 list. Last year, Exxon took in -- this is an unbelievable number -- $443 billion in revenue, and made a profit of $45 billion. You know, here's my question: why not have Exxon bail out the car companies? I mean, one can't live without the other, right?" --Jay Leno

"They are now holding national elections in India. You know, voting over there lasts a month. They have a month of voting, which seems long for an election. Unless you're from Minnesota. Then it's like nothing." --Jay Leno

"So many newspapers all across the country are going out of business. It's pretty scary, so congratulations to The New York Times this week, which this week won five Pulitzer Prizes. I read about it online on Google News." --Jay Leno

"And as the economy lags, the Army is getting more and more selective now. The Army announced this week they will no longer accept drug addicts and felons. But the good news is there's always Congress, the NFL, and show business." --Jay Leno

"A journalist from Playboy magazine attempted to withstand 15 seconds of waterboarding. And he's going to write all about it in an article that no one will ever read." --Craig Ferguson

"Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will appear together on stage in Toronto for a two-hour, friendly debate. Each side gets to pick a topic, so the first hour will be centered on the international banking crisis. The second hour will be dedicated to Nascar trivia." --Jimmy Fallon

David Letterman's Top Ten Thoughts Going Through the Somali Pirate's Mind While in New York City

10. This city is more dangerous than downtown Mogadishu.
9. It's like my own episode of "Gossip Girl."
8. Maybe Madonna will adopt me.
7. If I don't get a corned beef on rye soon, I'm gonna plotz!
6. How can I meet Zac Efron?
5. Go Niners!
4. Any chance of getting "Jersey Boys" tickets?
3. This would be a pretty sweet trip if it weren't for the handcuffs and jail.
2. Why the hell are these people lining up to see Letterman?
1. You charge $40 for parking, and I'm the pirate?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IMF Doom and Gloom, Real Estate in Sri Lanka Now Real Cheap

Dana Millbank
Henry Kissinger
Robert Kaplan

“It is high time that the world wakes up to the fact that the Sri Lankan government is conducting an ethnic cleansing within its shores,” - Anand.

This is depressing news, the International Monetary Fund is forecasting more doom and gloom for the world's economy this year, and next year not much better with a global deficit of $3 to $4 trillion dollars. The NY Times reports: "The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday the world economy has fallen into a severe recession, cutting its forecast for global growth and calling for forceful action to spur a recovery.

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the monetary fund said the global economy would likely contract 1.3 percent this year in the deepest post-World War II recession by far. Growth is set to re-emerge to around 1.9 percent next year, a pace more sluggish than average recoveries because of lingering strains in the financial sector, it added.

The monetary fund warned that the turnaround depends on efforts by governments to nurse the global financial sector back to health by cleaning banks’ balance sheets, and on additional fiscal and monetary policies in advanced economies.

“A key concern is that policies may be insufficient to arrest the negative feedback between deteriorating financial conditions and weakening economies in the face of limited public support for policy actions,” the monetary fund said."

And the pressure is too much to bear for some folks. Politico reports that: "Tragedy struck Freddie Mac Wednesday morning as Fairfax County, Va., police found the company's interim chief financial officer David Kellermann dead at his home, the victim of an apparent suicide.

Freddie Mac, the struggling mortgage giant, was taken over by the federal government in September. The news of Kellermann's suicide was first reported by WTOP radio in Washington.

Kellermann, 41, was the acting chief financial officer and senior vice president of Freddie Mac, and he had reported directly to CEO David Moffett, who resigned in March. Moffett, in turn, had only been in his position since September, receiving the job after the federal government took over the ailing company and ousted its leadership. "

Banks are still crying that the government restrictions are too tough to let them pay back the TARP funds without telling the government how they spent the money. President Obama is calling for the heads of the credit card companies to come to the White House, he plans to read them the riot act because they are raising their rates and enacting predatory lending practices again. Congress will only too happy to write sweeping new laws to regulate them if they don't want to get their act together. These bankers and Wall Street financiers are whining worse than our 12 year old granddaughter when I try to get her ready for school in the morning, and that's bad... Yet JP Morgan had a profitable quarter, and Colorado-based Wells Fargo had a record profit. Telcomm and technology stocks are leading in sales and stability, but Wall Street as a whole is still shaky. Where would you invest right now? For myself, it would not be with any company who's CEO made more in salary than the President of the USA...

While the world has been distracted by socialistic handshakes and fighting those pesky Somalians and their derring deeds, there has been much turmoil and social upheaval in Asia. The NY Times reports: "The Sri Lankan military said Wednesday its soldiers were fighting their way through a lethal and dwindling “no-fire zone” on the country’s northeastern coast — the last bit of territory held by separatist Tamil rebels — as thousands of civilians continued to stream out of the area.

The military said on its Web site Wednesday that 58,000 civilians had escaped overland from the former safe zone in the past two days, and 4,000 more had been ferried away in boats. Another 10,000 were gathering Wednesday to leave, the military said.

“It is 60,000-plus and counting, and we have heard various reports of up to 110,000 coming out,” said Gordon Weiss, a United Nations spokesman quoted by Reuters in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. Mr. Weiss emphasized that the U.N. reports could not be confirmed.

The exodus created a situation that the International Committee of the Red Cross said was “nothing short of catastrophic,” as tens of thousands more civilians remained in the zone, apparently trapped.
There is no reliable estimate of how many civilians remain in the area. Aid agencies guess there are 50,000 to 100,000." They have been trying for many years to get rid of the revolutionary Tamil Tigers, and the past couple months have decided to wipe them off of the face of the earth, pity for those who get in the way.

Also, my favorite country Thailand has been in the grip of violent protests, as the Asia Times reports: "Earlier this month, red-shirted demonstrators supporting former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra caused the cancelation of an Asian summit in Pattaya and disrupted daily life in parts of Bangkok in hopes of forcing the resignation of current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. This comes after the events of last November, when yellow-shirted demonstrators opposing the then-government of Thaksin's brother-in-law occupied government buildings and closed Bangkok's two international airports.

Thaksin lost the latest round of violence. Military forces contained the protests, forced the leaders to surrender or flee, and supplied buses to take rural demonstrators back home. But "victory" is surely only a respite, since the larger issues that are dividing Thai society and fueling the unrest remain unresolved. Power has already shifted back and forth three times since the September 2006 military coup, with enormous disruptions to Thailand's society, economy, and international standing.

Thaksin and Abhisit represent opposing forces, both claiming to promote democracy. Now living abroad to escape jail time for a conflict of interest conviction, Thaksin is the central, polarizing figure on the Thai political stage. A former policeman and telecom tycoon, he is the first Thai politician to fashion a power base independent of the traditional elite, Bangkok-centered institutions. He accomplished this by becoming a hero to many underprivileged Thais during the time he was prime minister through the lavish disbursal of money for rural health, education, and grants or loans to villages."

Late night jokes:

"There's been a lot of talk lately about lifting the trade embargo in Cuba. President Obama says he understands that a relationship that has been frozen for this long won't thaw out overnight, to which Hillary said, 'Tell me about it!'" --Jay Leno

"Well, as you know, President Obama's been reaching out to Iran, reaching out to Cuba, reaching out to Latin America. The only place he can't seem to be able to reach out to, Texas." --Jay Leno

"Despite Governor Rick Perry talking about how Texas could secede from the Union if it wanted to, 75 per cent of the people who live there want to stay in the United States. Of course they want to stay. I mean, after spending all that time and effort sneaking across the border to get here, why would they want to leave?" --Jay Leno

"And amid much criticism, President Obama has released top-secret terror memos from the Bush Administration. According to the memos, President Bush authorized various forms of torture, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and of course, the fourth hour of the 'Today' show." --Jay Leno

"And American hero, Captain Richard Phillips, who was recently captured by Somali pirates, flew home to Vermont over the weekend. Ironically, the movie on the plane, 'Pirates of the Caribbean.'" --Jay Leno

"Congratulations to 'The New York Times,' which won five Pulitzer Prizes today, including one for breaking the call girl scandal that ended Eliot Spitzer's career. And Spitzer won a prize for fiction, for the story he told his wife about the affair." --Jay Leno

"President Obama met with his entire Cabinet today. Well, sure, now that April 15th has passed, they've all come out of hiding." --Jay Leno

"Very exciting news. We have a Miss USA Her name is Kristen Dalton, and she is from North Carolina. She says she's now looking forward to one day being the Republican vice presidential candidate." --Jay Leno

"And a lot of people thought that Miss California lost the contest when she said she was opposed to gay marriage. So, apparently, she forgot who the audience is who watches beauty pageants." --Jay Leno

"It's hot here today in L.A. In fact, it was so hot, I called up the CIA and begged to be waterboarded." --Craig Ferguson

"It's 'Green Is Universal' week here at NBC and we're part doing our part here at 'Late Night.' In fact, the whole monologue tonight is recycled from Friday's show." --Jimmy Fallon

David Letterman's Top Ten Things Overheard in the Meeting Between Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez

10. Donde esta 'el Presidente dumb-ass'?
9. Sorry, Mr. President, they don't sell Marlboros here.
8. Let's get a picture of you shaking hands with Hugo Chavez to really piss off Rush Limbaugh.
7. Mr. Chavez, I have a book for you, too -- Artie Lange's "Too Fat To Fish."
6. Does this breakup mean Lindsay Lohan is back to dating guys?
5. Remember, you can't spell Hugo without "hug."
4. I can't believe they killed Edie on "Desperate Housewives."
3. Does Biden really think he's fooling anybody with those plugs?
2. I think there's one thing we can both agree on -- there's a new star in the
Hollywood galaxy by the name of Zac Efron.
1. Is it too late for me to buy your Senate seat?