Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama Love

I'm feeling it:
President Obama repealed rules on Friday that restricted federal money for international organizations that promote or provide abortions overseas, sweeping aside a pillar of the social policy architecture of George W. Bush’s presidency.

The executive order that Mr. Obama signed reverses one of the first measures enacted by Mr. Bush when he took over the White House eight years ago and capped an opening-week flurry of action intended to signal a sharp break from the past in domestic and foreign arenas.

“For the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries,” Mr. Obama said of the restrictions. “For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development.”


Friday, January 23, 2009

He Won

And he's not afraid to say it:

The top congressional leaders from both parties gathered at the White House for a working discussion over the shape and size of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan. The meeting was designed to promote bipartisanship.

But Obama showed that in an ideological debate, he’s not averse to using a jab.

Challenged by one Republican senator over the contents of the package, the new president, according to participants, replied: “I won.”

The statement was prompted by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona , who challenged the president and the Democratic leaders over the balance between the package’s spending and tax cuts, bringing up the traditional Republican notion that a tax credit for people who do not earn enough to pay income taxes is not a tax cut but a government check.

Obama noted that such workers pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. The issue was widely debated during the presidential campaign, when Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, challenged Obama’s tax plan as “welfare.”

With those two words — “I won” — the Democratic president let the Republicans know that debate has been put to rest Nov. 4 .


Guns and Gay Rights

Clinton's replacement is a darling of the NRA and apparently a champion of gay rights:
New York Gov. David Paterson on Friday named U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill New York’s vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Gillibrand is a second-term lawmaker from upstate New York. She is a proven vote-getter in a largely rural eastern New York district that sprawls from the mid-Hudson Valley to north of Albany. She defeated a long-term Republican incumbent in 2006 and won re-election last year by a wide margin.

On LGBT issues she earned an 80 out of a 100 rating from the Human Rights Campaign and HRC PAC deployed Campaign College participants to work on her re-election campaign last fall.

She gained the support Friday of New York’s largest LGBT rights group - Empire State Pride Agenda - following a late Thursday night telephone conversation between Gillibrand and Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.

“After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples,” said Van Capelle. “She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and passage of legislation outlawing discrimination against transgender people. While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues.”



Will the Nazi pope reinstate a Holocaust-denier? We shall see:

The four were ordained in 1998 by the controversial break-away French bishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The Italian newspaper Il Giornale reported that the Pope has already signed a decree lifting the excommunications, which will be made public later in the week.

Lefebvre, was excommunicated in 1988 by Pope Jean Paul II for having ordained the bishops in defiance of the Vatican's authority.

Lefebvre, who died in 1991, led a schism from the Catholic Church over the more ecumenical approach reflected in the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s, and in particular the abandonment of the traditional Latin mass.

Pope Benedict has signalled he wishes to heal the rift. But he will face a difficult decision over reinstating the British bishop, Richard Williamson, 68, after his appearance on Sweden's SVT television channel this week.

"I believe there were no gas chambers ... I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers," he said.

"There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies!"



More blood at Virginia Tech:

Xin Yang's head was cut off with a kitchen knife, just weeks after arriving in the United States from China to study accounting.

Her alleged attacker, Haiyang Zhu, also from China, was arrested at the scene by an officer who arrived less than a minute after receiving an emergency call.

On January 7, he wrote on a Chinese-language blog he had been so frustrated over stock losses and other problems that he thought "only of killing someone or committing suicide".


Thursday, January 22, 2009

No President!

The right wing continues to amuse:

Unlike the bungled version of Barack Obama's oath of office delivered on Tuesday, last night's repeat performance featured all the right words in the right order – but that may not be enough to satisfy the conspiracy theorists.

Most people dismissed comments by the likes of Chris Wallace on Fox News that Barack Obama was not president because of the bungled oath on inauguration day, but citing "an abundance of caution", White House officials arranged for the oath to be retaken last night.

Alas, Obama did not bring his Bible, which has led some bloggers to state that the oath was once more invalid and the US has still not had a black president.

On Above the Law an anonymous poster writes: "It clearly states that a Bible was not used on Wednesday. Obama is not president."

"WE DON'T HAVE A PRESIDENT! … Now get this, the 2nd time he did it, everything went well, but he didn't do it under a BIBLE. WTF WTF WTF. So you telling me since Obama screwed up a few words, that's a big deal, but not having the Bible during the oath isn't important!? This is heresy I say," says another anonymous poster, this time on Godlike Productions. The writer does go on to say Obama forgot his Bible on purpose and "is one of many antichrists to only serve the will of the DEVIL himself", so is perhaps not a reliable expert on the US constitution.


A New Era

Obama is not wasting any time:

President Obama signed an executive order this morning to shut down the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center within a year.

The military-run prison camp at the US Navy base in Cuba, where about 245 terrorism suspects are being detained, has become a symbol of the Bush administration's war on terror and a magnet for critics who say it violates human rights.

Obama also signed an executive order banning harsh interrogations -- what critics say are tantamount to torture.

Obama signed the orders after meeting with retired military officers, who he said pleaded with him to stand up for human rights and American values in combatting terrorism.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Gramsci Considers the Situation

Contrary to popular belief (and yes, of course he is so wildly popular that there are "popular beliefs" about him!), Gramsci can be a very serious cat. For example, he spends a lot of time pondering the Wisconsin cold, and is always careful to be located on top of either a person or a coat as he does so.

He has also been known to spend time weighing solutions to the current economic crisis.

But in spite of the fact that Obama started off poorly already by deciding to get a dog (!), overall, the new administration is making Grammikins worry a lot less, and so he's spending his time in more traditional kittenish pursuits.

(He loves that colorful string/wand combo so much he carries it around the house in his mouth. So maybe he does have a certain kinship with puppies.)


My Heart Bleeds

Welcome to the real world:

The ranks of the nation's unemployed are swelling this week.

As President-elect Barack Obama's team transitions into the federal government tomorrow, President Bush's political appointees will be locked out, and in these tough economic times many of them are scrambling to find new jobs. High-ranking White House loyalists have deluged Washington headhunters with pleas for jobs. Corporations and nonprofit organizations have stopped hiring. With the GOP out of power, jobs on Capitol Hill are scant and K Street lobbying firms have trimmed their golden parachutes.

So this is the new reality: Instead of boasting to friends and colleagues of new jobs in goodbye e-mails, many longtime Bush aides have offered home phone numbers and Gmail and Yahoo e-mail addresses as their new contacts.

"For Republicans, the inn is full," lamented veteran GOP operative Ron Kaufman, a close White House adviser to former president George H.W. Bush and an executive at Dutko Worldwide. "You have lots of folks in the House and Senate on the streets and 3,000 administration appointees on the streets at a time when the job market is shrinking anyways. It's just not a fun time."


Happy MLK Day!

And here's to 48 of the worst hours that American racists have lived through in a long time.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Zora: International Kitty of Mystery

Bonjour, monsieur; pourriez-vous m'aider? Je cherche le cataire.

Ah, bien sur - oui, oui, mon cher, vous pouvez baiser ma patte.

As you can see, Zora is a very cosmopolitan cat.



We're being robbed:
Most of America's largest publicly traded corporations -- including several that are receiving billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers to finance their recovery -- have set up offshore operations that could help them avoid paying U.S. taxes on their profits, a government study released yesterday found.

American International Group, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley are among the companies that are getting bailed out by U.S. taxpayers while having subsidiaries in locations where they can avoid paying U.S. taxes, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Of the 100 largest public companies, 83 do business in tax-haven hotspots like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, where they can move their income into tax-free accounts.


Thank God That's Cleared Up

The Pentagon has declared that the Pentagon didn't do anything wrong:

An internal investigation has cleared the Pentagon of violating a ban on domestic propaganda by using retired military officers to comment positively about the war in Iraq in the US media.

In a report posted on its website Friday, the Pentagon's inspector general said "we found the evidence insufficient to conclude that RMA (retired military analysts) outreach activities were improper."

The report said the controversy, which erupted in April following an expose in the New York Times, warranted no further investigation.

The Times found that the Pentagon laid on special briefings and conference calls for the retired officers, many of whom then repeated the talking points as military experts on television news shows.

It also found that many of the media analysts also worked as consultants or served on the boards of defense contracting companies, but that those ties often went undisclosed to the public.