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Archive for December 4th, 2009

Jewish Groups Object to Switzerland’s Minaret Ban

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:49 am by HL

Jewish Groups Object to Switzerland’s Minaret Ban
Recognizing that this week’s popular vote to forbid the building of minarets in Switzerland represented a blatant show of religious intolerance it couldn’t ignore, an association of Jewish organizations is expressing its strong disagreement with the ban and calling on Swiss leaders to defend religious freedom.  —KA The Jerusalem Post: Rabbi Pinchas Dunner, executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis, an Orthodox organization, said “a war on religious freedom cannot defeat Islamic extremists. The best weapon against radical Islam is support for moderate elements in the Muslim community and promoting interfaith dialogue.” In contrast, the Anti-Defamation League tied the move to religious discrimination against Jews. “This is not the first time a Swiss popular vote has been used to promote religious intolerance,” said the ADL in a press release. “A century ago, a Swiss referendum banned Jewish ritual slaughter, in an attempt to drive out its Jewish population.” Noting that the “Swiss government opposed the initiative during the campaign and underscored its commitment to religious freedom in a statement after the vote,” the ADL urged Swiss leaders to “be vigilant” in their “defense of religious freedom, even though the SVP is the largest party in the Swiss Parliament and has two of the seven government ministries.” Read more READ THE WHOLE ITEM

Not My Switzerland

Recognizing that this week’s popular vote to forbid the building of minarets in Switzerland represented a blatant show of religious intolerance it couldn’t ignore, an association of Jewish organizations is expressing its strong disagreement with the ban and calling on Swiss leaders to defend religious freedom.? —KA

The Jerusalem Post:

Rabbi Pinchas Dunner, executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis, an Orthodox organization, said “a war on religious freedom cannot defeat Islamic extremists. The best weapon against radical Islam is support for moderate elements in the Muslim community and promoting interfaith dialogue.”

In contrast, the Anti-Defamation League tied the move to religious discrimination against Jews.

“This is not the first time a Swiss popular vote has been used to promote religious intolerance,” said the ADL in a press release. “A century ago, a Swiss referendum banned Jewish ritual slaughter, in an attempt to drive out its Jewish population.”

Noting that the “Swiss government opposed the initiative during the campaign and underscored its commitment to religious freedom in a statement after the vote,” the ADL urged Swiss leaders to “be vigilant” in their “defense of religious freedom, even though the SVP is the largest party in the Swiss Parliament and has two of the seven government ministries.”

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Put Your Money Where Your Jobs Aren’t
The president is so desperate for ways to fight unemployment he issued a call Thursday for “fresh perspectives and new ideas.” Well, Nancy Pelosi has some. The House speaker wants to spend some of that hot, hot TARP money on job creation. Don’t get too excited. The figure that congressional Democrats dropped on The Associated Press is $70 billion. You may recall the original TARP budget was $700 billion. By the AP’s tally, $210 billion remains or has been repaid, and Bank of America recently promised to return $45 billion. So why only $70 billion? It seems there are rather complicated rules for how the funds can be spent—although it didn’t feel so complicated when the banks descended in a feeding frenzy.  —PZS AP via Google: “The investment that we have in jobs ought to be paid for in TARP funds,” Pelosi said. Using bailout authority for a jobs initiative would add billions to the $12.1 trillion national debt. Under the law, repaid TARP funds must be used to reduce the debt and unused bailout money is never borrowed. Read more READ THE WHOLE ITEM

The president is so desperate for ways to fight unemployment he issued a call Thursday for “fresh perspectives and new ideas.” Well, Nancy Pelosi has some. The House speaker wants to spend some of that hot, hot TARP money on job creation.

Don’t get too excited. The figure that congressional Democrats dropped on The Associated Press is $70 billion. You may recall the original TARP budget was $700 billion. By the AP’s tally, $210 billion remains or has been repaid, and Bank of America recently promised to return $45 billion.

So why only $70 billion? It seems there are rather complicated rules for how the funds can be spent—although it didn’t feel so complicated when the banks descended in a feeding frenzy.? —PZS

AP via Google:

“The investment that we have in jobs ought to be paid for in TARP funds,” Pelosi said.

Using bailout authority for a jobs initiative would add billions to the $12.1 trillion national debt. Under the law, repaid TARP funds must be used to reduce the debt and unused bailout money is never borrowed.

Read more

READ THE WHOLE ITEM

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Rajeev Goyal: What Happened to the Promise of 16,000 Peace Corps Volunteers by 2011?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:48 am by HL

Rajeev Goyal: What Happened to the Promise of 16,000 Peace Corps Volunteers by 2011?
At a time when the job market is difficult and people are struggling to find jobs or even internships or volunteer opportunities, why is the Peace Corps now half the size it was in 1966?

Obama’s Afghan War Strategy Roll-Out: Behind-The-Scenes Pictures
Most of President Obama’s day on Tuesday was devoted to rolling out his Afghanistan war policy — first to members of Congress and world leaders,…

Mitchell Bard: I’m Not in a New York State of Mind, Thanks to 38 State Senators
When you clear away baseless threats that legalizing same-sex marriage somehow has an effect on how religions handle marriages in their faiths, all that’s left for those opposed to same-sex marriage is bigotry.

John R. Bohrer: WATCH: Stand: Lobbying For Marriage Equality in New Jersey
What happens when New Jersey’s pro- and anti-marriage equality forces hold rallies at the statehouse on the same day? On Thursday December 3, one day…


Jamison Foser: The conservative media’s increasingly lame attacks

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:47 am by HL

Jamison Foser: The conservative media’s increasingly lame attacks

For all the hype about energized Republicans and independents abandoning the Democrats and town-hall outrage over President Obama’s agenda and tea-party protests, if you look closely, it seems the conservative media are getting a little timid.

Just a few months ago, they were convinced they had Obama and the Democrats on the run. They had suckered (or intimidated) the rest of the media into endlessly reporting the temper-tantrums thrown by a few town hall attendees, treating those tantrum-throwers as representative of the nation as a whole, and ignoring the obvious falsity of the tantrum-throwers’ claims. They spread lies about “death panels” and went on and on about rationing and the horrors of government bureaucrats (who needn’t worry about profits) replacing insurance company bureaucrats (who are quite concerned with profit) in the health care decision-making process. And they had suckered (or intimidated) the rest of the media into taking seriously their fantasies that millions of people had descended on Washington, D.C., to express their disapproval of President Obama.

They did such a good job of convincing the Beltway media that Barack Obama was on the ropes, they seemed to have bought into it themselves, and went for the political knockout punch. Led by the deeply disturbed Glenn Beck (who announced that his goal was to “take the administration down“), they launched some of the harshest attacks imaginable.

Barack Obama, they told us, was a racist and a socialist. A Stalinist. A Marxist and a Maoist. They claimed he reminded them of Mussolini and of Nixon (even getting a bunch of legitimate reporters to buy into that one). Not only that: He is just like Hitler.

But Godwin’s Law is not to be trifled with. Comparisons to Hitler tend to blow up in the speaker’s face, and this was no different. The constant barrage of off-the-wall claims — like the suggestion that Barack Obama was history’s greatest monster for urging kids to stay in school — began to drive home a basic truth about the conservative media who were behind them: These people aren’t right in the head.

So some on the right seem to be trying to dial things down, to dissociate themselves from the foaming-at-the-mouth fringes who have come to define their movement. And their criticisms of Barack Obama have become increasingly, well, lame.

Take, for example, the effort by The Washington Times, Fox News, and Matt Drudge to stir outrage over the White House’s alleged failure to invite any Republicans to last month’s state dinner. In fact, several Republicans had been invited, including the House and Senate minority leaders. But the whining over not being invited over for dinner would have been pathetic even if it were true. This isn’t seventh grade. Surely there are more important things to worry about than who hangs out with whom after school. In the meantime, if Republicans want to eat in the White House, they should elect a Republican president.

Then there’s the recent complaint that the Senate was going to vote on health care reform after only 10 hours of debate. Or, the right-wing blogger Gateway Pundit put it, “Senate Dems Will Only Deliberate 10 Hours Before Vote to Nationalize Health Care.”

What’s wrong with that criticism?

Well, for one thing, it isn’t true. The vote in question was not on passage of health care reform (which, in any case, would not “nationalize health care”). No, the vote was to begin debate on the bill. In other words: the Senate was debating for 10 hours about whether to debate health care reform. Under the guise of supporting debate on health care reform, Gateway Pundit was actually complaining about the Senate voting to debate health care reform.

Finally, it isn’t like the Senate — and the country — hasn’t been debating health care reform for almost a year. (Or, depending on your point of view, for several decades.) And it isn’t like the Senate “debate” over the bill is actually a deliberative process, as Gateway Pundit claims. Floor “debates” tend to be more explanatory than deliberative, with members explaining their votes rather than determining them. The Senate could schedule one hour of “debate” prior to voting on passage, or 30 hours, and it wouldn’t have much impact on how thoroughly members have considered the issue at this point.

Then there’s Fox’s let’s-throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-hope-something-sticks effort to raise a fuss over President Obama’s use of the word “unprecedented.” The less said about that one, the better. Even Glenn Beck suddenly feels the need to announce that he isn’t crazy enough to believe the nonsense he’s spewing.

Finally, take a look at conservative reaction to President Obama’s Afghanistan speech this week. Here’s Charles Krauthammer: “It’s not exactly the kind of speech that you would have heard from Henry V or Churchill.”

Ooooh … burn.

But the right-wingers apparently thought this really was a deeply damaging assessment, for they quickly piled on:

  • Bill O’Reilly: “I did not see a Winston Churchill-type performance. … [it was] OK, but not exactly the Gettysburg Address.”
  • Sean Hannity: “I didn’t hear Winston Churchill.”
  • Victor Davis Hanson: “[N]ot Winston Churchill.”
  • Nile Gardiner: “Barack Obama badly needed to display some Churchillian grit, but there was none on offer.”

Coming after so many months of comparisons of Barack Obama to Hitler and Mao and Stalin, a bunch of conservatives saying that he’s no Winston Churchill can only be viewed as praising with faint damnation.

Or maybe Pat Buchanan finally convinced his friends on the Right that comparing someone to Hitler is a compliment.

Jamison Foser is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Foser also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web, as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to receive his columns by email.


Is The Reid-Ensign Non-Aggression Pact Over?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:46 am by HL

Is The Reid-Ensign Non-Aggression Pact Over?
That non-aggression pact that Nevada senators Harry Reid and John Ensign have long maintained could be breaking down — under the strain of the Republican’s personal woes.


Will Obama Expand Afghan War Contractor Force? Gibbs Says He’ll Look Into It
Asked by TPMDC if the Obama Administration will expand the big contractor force in Afghanistan as it sends 30,000 more troops, Robert Gibbs said he believes there was no “extensive discussion” of the issue.


The Tattlesnake – The Reality Behind Obama’s Afghanistan Policy Edition

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:42 am by HL

The Tattlesnake – The Reality Behind Obama’s Afghanistan Policy Edition
First, forget Obama’s purported reasons for staying in Afghanistan; those are just easily understood anti-terrorist bromides for the media and the viewing audience. He supposedly knows we aren’t fighting any real threat to the US in Rock City, nor are there enough Al-Qaeda hanging around the Af-Pak border waiting to be captured to make it […]


Coleman Denies He’s Making a Comeback

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:41 am by HL

Coleman Denies He’s Making a Comeback
Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R) “denied a report that he’s raising his public profile in preparation for a possible run for governor next year,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Coleman said “there’s nothing to” it, adding “I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”

Palin Says Obama Birth Certificate is an Issue
In an interview with conservative talk show host Rusty Humphries, Sarah Palin was asked whether she would make an issue about President Obama’s birth certificate if she ran for president in 2012.

Said Palin: “I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers… I think it’s a fair question, just like I think past association and past voting records — all of that is fair game.”

GOP 12: “Is this what happens when you’ve been in an echo chamber for weeks, and think you can get away with saying anything?”

White Will Run for Texas Governor
Houston Mayor Bill White (D) will formally enter the race for Texas governor today, “instantly becoming the Democrats’ best hope of winning a statewide office in seven years,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

“White will face four opponents in the Democratic primary, and the winner of that contest will take on the victor of the Republican fight between Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and activist Debra Medina.”


Why Is Tiger Woods in Trouble? It’s Not His Steamy Sex Life; It’s His Family Values Hypocrisy

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:40 am by HL

Why Is Tiger Woods in Trouble? It’s Not His Steamy Sex Life; It’s His Family Values Hypocrisy
What’s the biggest P.R. sin? It’s not infidelity, or kinky sex, or making sex tapes. It’s profiting from a holier-than-though public image based on lies.

Mitt Romney’s Bizarro-World Economic Plan
Translation: more money for me and my friends!

Hey Religious Believers, Where’s Your Evidence?
In the marketplace of ideas, only religion gets a free ride in an armored tank.


Migration, Segregation and Tolerance

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:38 am by HL

Migration, Segregation and Tolerance
The reoccurring theme in American society is geographic inequality. People and places aren’t simply growing more different from one another economically, politically and culturally. Average incomes at the county level have grown more unequal since the ’70s. People are…


United StatesSociety of the United StatesPoliticsSociety and CultureParties

Netanyahu Meets With Settlers And Tells Them Freeze Is A Fraud
I love this Netanyahu statement published on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. It is six paragraphs long and fewer than 20 words are underscored. Those underlined words refer to Netanyahu’s nominal, perfunctory and utterly unserious commitment to a…


Foreign Affairs Minister of IsraelIsraelMiddle EastSociety and CultureAvigdor Lieberman


Gohmert opposes estate tax extension because ?Jesus never advocated the government go steal.?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:37 am by HL

Gohmert opposes estate tax extension because ?Jesus never advocated the government go steal.?
Today, the House voted 225-200 to permanently extend the estate tax at its 2009 level, which is 45 percent for estates valued at more than $3.5 million ($7 million for a couple). Due to a Bush-era accounting gimmick, the estate tax was set to disappear in 2010, and come back in 2011 at a 55 […]

Today, the House voted 225-200 to permanently extend the estate tax at its 2009 level, which is 45 percent for estates valued at more than $3.5 million ($7 million for a couple). Due to a Bush-era accounting gimmick, the estate tax was set to disappear in 2010, and come back in 2011 at a 55 percent rate on estates of $1 million. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), however, took to the floor to oppose the extension, complaining that his his great aunt once had to pay the 55 percent rate. Gohmert continued by arguing Jesus wouldn’t have wanted an estate tax:

Now, after someone dies and someone comes in and steals from them, we consider that in most society reprehensible. … But when the government comes in, because we have the power to pass laws and legalize theft that otherwise would be considered reprehensible, it’s okay. But it is not okay. … Jesus never advocated the government go steal. He said ‘you do it. Do it with your own money, don’t steal it from somebody else.’ And that is why this should not pass.

Watch it:

Apparently, Gohmert either doesn’t adhere to or hasn’t heard of Jesus’ admonition: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” An estate tax at the 2009 level exempts 99.8 percent of estates and affects about 100 small businesses and farms, almost all of which will be able to pay the tax without selling assets. The estate tax debate now moves to the Senate, where Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) want to enact a cut that would cost $250 billion over ten years and overwhelmingly benefit wealthy families.


Obama delivers closing remarks at White House jobs summit

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on December 4th, 2009 5:36 am by HL

Obama delivers closing remarks at White House jobs summit
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. (APPLAUSE) Thank you. Please be seated. We want to make sure we get in as much as discussion as possible in the remaining time that we have. I hope everybody enjoyed the breakout sessions. I had the opportunity to attend two of them for quite some time, and…

Sen. Reid has recipe for getting health-care deal done
Of the Democratic senators who have set out to transform the nation’s health-care system, one of the least likely is Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, whose legislative priorities typically fall more toward protecting the interests of his native Nevada.

Washington Sketch: The crashing Salahis had other parties in mind
Among party crashers, it must be considered gauche to attend a party to which you were actually invited.


Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to leave Justice Department
The Justice Department’s second in command announced Thursday that he will step down from one of the most critical law enforcement posts in the nation after less than a year of service, bringing to the surface tensions that have long simmered over management of the vast department.