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Friday Hitzenmisses


It’s another one of those sloooow news days with no big stories but a few little ones. Here we go:


He’s baa-ack!

Rudy gearing up for DC run

Confident that he’d have a chance to win, Rudy Giuliani is rounding up his top political advisers for a possible 2012 presidential run, sources tell Page Six.

Sources say the tough-talking former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Giuliani has even scheduled a trip to New Hampshire for next month to meet with constituents in the state that failed him in January 2008, when he placed fourth in the Republican presidential primary.

Those of you who were paying attention to the GOP pre-primaries back in 2007 will recall that the media loved them some Rudy G. (Ru-dy! Ru-dy!) He was right up there with Mittens and Grandpa Fred as the GOP frontrunners. Then the voting started.


Speaking of Mittens, it’s gonna be a long year:

Romney flexes muscle in first NH Primary poll while Palin and others lag behind

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney holds a commanding lead in New Hampshire in the early stages of the race for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination, according to a new survey commissioned by NH Journal and conducted by Magellan Strategies. The survey is the first statewide survey of Granite State Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in 2011.

Romney leads former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin by 23 points, with Romney earning 39% and Palin earning 16%. Mike Huckabee (10%), Newt Gingrich (8%), Texas Congressman Ron Paul (7%), former MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty (4%), Rick Santorum (3%) and MS Gov. Haley Barbour (1%) all trail significantly behind. Romney finished second to Sen. John McCain in the 2008 New Hampshire Republican Presidential primary.

Apparently they called up all 1,500 voters in New Hamster and asked them their opinion. 49 of them weren’t home so they are basing the results on the 1451 who answered the phone.

We really have to quit letting a few hicks in the sticks decide which candidates the rest of the country gets to choose from.


Benny the Rat sez:

God was behind Big Bang, universe no accident: Pope

God’s mind was behind complex scientific theories such as the Big Bang, and Christians should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident, Pope Benedict said on Thursday.

“The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe,” Benedict said on the day Christians mark the Epiphany, the day the Bible says the three kings reached the site where Jesus was born by following a star.

“Contemplating it (the universe) we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God,” he said in a sermon to some 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica on the feast day.

While the pope has spoken before about evolution, he has rarely delved back in time to discuss specific concepts such as the Big Bang, which scientists believe led to the formation of the universe some 13.7 billion years ago.

Researchers at CERN, the nuclear research center in Geneva, have been smashing protons together at near the speed of light to simulate conditions that they believe brought into existence the primordial universe from which stars, planets and life on earth — and perhaps elsewhere — eventually emerged.

Some atheists say science can prove that God does not exist, but Benedict said that some scientific theories were “mind limiting” because “they only arrive at a certain point … and do not manage to explain the ultimate sense of reality …”

He said scientific theories on the origin and development of the universe and humans, while not in conflict with faith, left many questions unanswered.

“In the beauty of the world, in its mystery, in its greatness and in its rationality … we can only let ourselves be guided toward God, creator of heaven and earth,” he said.

Benedict and his predecessor John Paul have been trying to shed the Church’s image of being anti-science, a label that stuck when it condemned Galileo for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun, challenging the words of the Bible.

Galileo was rehabilitated and the Church now also accepts evolution as a scientific theory and sees no reason why God could not have used a natural evolutionary process in the forming of the human species.

The Catholic Church no longer teaches creationism — the belief that God created the world in six days as described in the Bible — and says that the account in the book of Genesis is an allegory for the way God created the world.

I’m not an atheist. I can accept the idea that (insert name of deity here) created the universe. I just don’t think any of the current religions have a clue about the true nature of (insert name of deity here).


New Broom Sweeps Clean Department:

Obama mouthpiece Robert Gibbs was forced out by new henchman William Daley

I wondered yesterday whether Robert Gibbs jumped or was pushed and noted that President Barack Obama’s words indicated that it was “not an entirely voluntary departure”.

It’s being reported by John King on CNN right now that Gibbs wanted to be a presidential counsellor – something he’s been putting about for quite a while – but William Daley, the new chief of staff, nixed this because he believed that too many cooks would spoil the presidential broth. So that’s why Gibbs is out.

Additionally, King reports that Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification to being a senior counsellor seems to be that she’s a long-time Chicago buddy of Barack and Michelle Obama, will have her wings clipped. Daley, not Jarrett, will be the person speaking to the business community.

It’s no secret that Rahm Emanuel, a Daley protege, clashed with Jarrett. Or that David Plouffe, about to join the White House, was often at odds with her when he was the 2008 Obama campaign manager. Obama is nothing if not ruthless. He dropped Jane Dystel, the agent who approached him to write “Dreams from my Father”, and has previously cut loose long-time advisers. One aide described him as “the most unsentimental man I’ve ever met”.

It’s already crowded under this bus. They need to get their own.


Okay, that’s it for now. Anything else we should talk about? This is an open thread.



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Freaky Friday News


Shitzen Giggles Department:

Republican lawmakers miss oath, vote on floor anyway

Two Republicans, including a member of the GOP leadership, voted on the House floor several times despite not having been sworn in, throwing the House into parliamentary turmoil Thursday — the same day the Constitution was read aloud on the floor.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) missed the mass swearing-in ceremony on the House floor Wednesday but proceeded to cast a series of votes. Sessions, appointed to the Rules Committee, participated in some committee activities, and that panel was forced, at the suggestion of House parliamentarians, to suspend consideration of a rule for the repeal of last year’s health care overhaul until the matter was resolved.

Some Democrats are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill over this but while embarrassing it’s hardly a constitutional crises.


Greg Sargent kinda sorta almost gets it:

The problem with William Daley as new chief of staff

Now that Daley has been picked, there will be a fair amount of commentary to the effect that Obama has wisely received this message and is in the midst of a course correction. But here’s the thing: Daley is wrong. Obama didn’t govern from the “left.” And as it happens, he did govern from the “center left.”

This has all been argued already at length by others, but here goes. Obama’s approach to the crises he inherited were by any sane measure mostly moderate and reasonable. The stimulus was smaller and less ambitious than most liberals wanted. The health care plan he adopted jettisoned the most liberal elements and embraced solutions once championed by Republicans. The Wall Street reform bill was the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations in generations, but as observers across the spectrum have noted, it wasn’t fundamentally transformative. Obama is winding down the Iraq War, but he escalated in Afghanistan. And he has embraced some controversial Bush policies on civil liberties and terrorism. And so on.

Despite all this, Republicans and conservatives have uniformly condemned the Obama administration as in the grip of unrepentant leftism run amok. Yet what’s actually happened is that in so doing, Republicans have moved to the right, and we’ve all agreed to move what we arbitrarily call the “center” to the right in order to accomodate this.

The pick of Daley, however, will reinforce the conventional narrative that Obama has recognized the error of his ultraliberal ways and has picked a “seasoned Beltway hand” to steer the adminstration back to the center. Obviously this is only one of many things to consider about the Daley pick, and there may be many other good reasons to pick him that outweigh this problem.

But in interpreting the Daley pick, many commentators will be pointing to Daley’s interpretation of the first two years as if it’s, well, true. They’ll assert that Obama has internalized it. And maybe the President has internalized the Daley interpretation of his young presidency. But that doesn’t mean it has anything to do with what actually happened.

Obama did not govern from the “center-left.” With the exception of a few bones tossed to the left he governed from the right. Now he’ll move even farther right.

Just remember, only 2 years and 13 days left before the end of the error.


Or maybe not:

Get Used To It
It could be six years before liberals can accomplish anything.

[…]

There’s only one problem with this scenario: the time-frame. Politicos and pundits are used to thinking in two-year cycles, and it’s easy to convince oneself that, in 2012, Obama will be able to capitalize on an improved economy, favorable voter-turnout patterns, and a weak GOP presidential field in order to sweep into office with a renewed mandate. But that misses a big part of the picture. Even if Obama wins reelection by a comfortable margin, it’s most likely that the House will remain in Republican hands and Democrats will lose seats in, and perhaps control of, the Senate—and beyond that, Republicans will probably do fairly well in 2014. In other words, we could be looking not at two years of damage control, but six.

That’s why 2008 was so critical. It should have been a sea-change election, and instead we got sewage.

Oh well, que sera, sera. This too, shall pass. (like a kidney stone)


Things that make you go WTF?

Why Are Taxpayers Subsidizing Facebook, and the Next Bubble?

Goldman Sachs is investing $450 million of its own money in Facebook, at a valuation that implies the social-networking company is now worth $50 billion. Goldman is also creating a fund that will offer its high-net-worth clients an opportunity to invest in Facebook.

On the face of it, this might seem just like what the financial sector is supposed to be doing – channeling money into productive enterprise. The Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly looking at the way private investors will be involved, but there are more deeply unsettling factors at work here.

Remember that Goldman Sachs is now a bank-holding company – a status it received in September 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, in order to avoid collapse (see Andrew Ross Sorkin’s blow-by-blow account in “Too Big to Fail” for the details.)

This means that it has essentially unfettered access to the Federal Reserve’s discount window – that is, it can borrow against all kinds of assets in its portfolio, effectively ensuring it has government-provided liquidity at any time.

Any financial institution with such access to such government support is likely to take on excessive risk – this is the heart of what is commonly referred to as the problem of “moral hazard.” If you are fully insured against adverse events, you will be less careful.

I should have gone to banker school. They gamble (investing is gambling) with other people’s money. If they win, they keep the profits. If they lose, Uncle Sugar bails them out.

It’s the perfect scam.


Do we have another brave and noble martyr?

Ex-CIA officer charged with leak to Times reporter

A former CIA officer has been indicted on charges of disclosing national security secrets after being accused of leaking classified information about Iran to a New York Times reporter.

Federal prosecutors charged Jeffrey Sterling with 10 counts related to improperly keeping and disclosing national security information.

The indictment did not say specifically what was leaked but, from the dates and other details, it was clear that the case centered on leaks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen for his 2006 book, “State of War.” The book revealed details about the CIA’s covert spy war with Iran.

Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo., was arrested Thursday and appeared in federal court in St. Louis later in the day. U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry I. Adelman told him he would be detained through the weekend because the government had declared him a danger to the community. There was no plea entered. Another detention hearing was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Sterling served on the Iranian desk at the CIA and handled Iranian spies who had defected to the United States. In Chapter 9 of the book “A Rogue Operation,” Risen detailed how a CIA officer mistakenly revealed the CIA’s network in Iran in 2004.

Iranian security officials were able to “roll up” the CIA’s agent network in the country. Risen called it an “espionage disaster.”

Before anyone fits Sterling for a halo, there is more to the story:

Sterling worked for the CIA from 1993 to 2002. His final posting was in New York beginning in 2002. According to the indictment, Sterling left the CIA an embittered man.

Sterling, who is black, filed a complaint against the CIA in 2000, claiming racial discrimination and later sued the agency unsuccessfully. He also submitted his memoirs to the CIA to be published and was extremely unhappy with the review process.

The indictment said Sterling’s anger and resentment grew towards the CIA and claimed that he retaliated against the agency by attempting to cause the publication of classified information. The indictment said that government officials warned Risen, identified only as Author A, and his newspaper employer, that Sterling’s information could endanger a human asset’s life and that in May 2003 the newspaper agreed not to publish it.

The story is somewhat unclear. It mentions that Risen revealed a major CIA fuck-up in 2004, but Sterling left the agency in 2002 so it’s unclear how he could have had any knowledge of the incident.

Apparently whatever information Sterling is charged with leaking to Risen was never published.


You didn’t really think I was gonna let you have an Assange-free Friday, did you?

Assange’s mental health

Instead, there seems to be something about Assange personally which sets people on edge and makes them dislike him intensely: his biggest fans are often those who have never met him or who have known him only for a very short amount of time.

That’s unfortunate, to say the least: it takes an issue which is messy to begin with and makes it a great deal messier. But at the same time, Assange has clearly been under an enormous deal of stress — and this is a man who once checked himself into hospital with depression after being charged with computer hacking in Australia. It’s easy to see how he wouldn’t have considered that to be an option in recent months.

My suspicion is that there’s something quite unstable and destructive about Assange’s current mental state and that there has been since before he was in Sweden. I hope his publishers have a lot of patience: getting his very expensive book into a publishable state could be a very arduous process indeed.

I’ve noticed that Julian seems to have stopped giving interviews. I’m guessing his lawyers told him to use his right to remain silent because every time he opens his mouth he puts his foot in it.


He should have gone to Krispy Kreme:

Florida Professor Arrested for Having a “Suspicious” Bagel on a Plane

A Florida professor was arrested and removed from a plane Monday after his fellow passengers alerted crew members they thought he had a suspicious package in the overhead compartment.

That “suspicious package” turned out to be keys, a bagel with cream cheese and a hat.

Ognjen Milatovic, 35, was flying from Boston to Washington D.C. on US Airways when he was escorted off the plane for disorderly conduct following the incident.

I used to have a girlfriend who made me bagel sandwiches for lunch. She had other bad habits too.
(I feel about bagels the same way Uppity Woman feels about Peeps)


Just for laughs:

Tru TV’s 25 Dumbest Criminals of 2010: A Pictorial Salute

Tasha Lee Cantrell cracked open a beer in the back of a squad after her friend was popped for DUI. Noah Smith broke into a house, passed out naked, then fought with the cops after he stuffed a computer mouse up his ass. They’re the dumbest in mopes in America, courtesy of TruTV.

My personal favorite:

Cops confronted Carolee Bildsten after she allegedly left a restaurant without paying her bill. The woman allegedly defended herself with a “clear, rigid feminine pleasure device.”


Today in History:

1999 Senate begins to try President Clinton on lying under oath and obstruction of justice in the Lewisnky case
1979 Vietnamese forces capture Phnom Penh from Khmer Rouge
1967 “Newlywed Game” premieres on ABC TV
1835 HMS Beagle anchors off Chonos Archipelago

Birthdays:

1977 Dustin Diamond
1964 Nicolas Cage
1958 Donna Rice
1957 Katie Couric
1946 Jann S Wenner
1912 Charles Addams

Deaths:

1990 Bronislau “Bronko” Nagurski
1990 Horace Stoneham
1943 Nikola Tesla
1536 Catherine of Aragon


NFL playoffs start tomorrow. Opening today:



Hmong leader Vang Pao dies

General Vang Pao


From the Merced Sun-Star:

Gen. Vang Pao, an iconic figure in the Hmong community and a key U.S. ally during the Vietnam War, died today in Clovis.

Vang, 81, was admitted to Clovis Community Medical Center on Dec. 26. Vang apparently was admitted shortly after making his annual appearance at the Hmong International New Year event at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

Charlie Waters, a friend and veterans advocate in Fresno, said Vang was suffering from pneumonia and an ongoing heart problem.

Vang is revered by many as a father figure and leader who helped bring and settle the Hmong community into American life.

But he also has been controversial — federal authorities in 2007 charged him and 10 others with conspiring to violently overthrow communist Laos. Charges against Vang were dropped in 2009.

Yet the arrest galvanized Hmong Americans who saw Vang as symbolizing the fight for public acknowledgment of the Hmong role in the war and the liberation of those still living in Laotian jungle. The central San Joaquin Valley has one of the largest Hmong populations in the country. Many Hmong — some of whom fought beside American soldiers during the Vietnam War — came here after fleeing Laos.

It was conflict that paved a path to prominence for Vang, viewed by some as a king and others as George Washington of the Hmong.

Born in December 1929 to farmers in a Laotian village, he became a teenage translator for French paratroopers fighting the Japanese in Laos during World War II.

Vang was selected to train at a French officers’ school in Vietnam and became a commissioned officer in the French army. Laotian leaders made Vang a general, even though the Hmong were a small ethnic minority in the country.

In 1961, Vang was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to lead a secret army of Hmong soldiers against Laotian communists and their North Vietnamese counterparts using routes through Laos to supply their troops.

Did you notice that date? In 1961 most Americans had never heard of Vietnam or Laos. In one of the many shameful episodes in American history we made promises to the Hmong people to get their assistance in fighting the North Vietnamese. When the war ended we conveniently forgot all about them.

After the war the Hmong were persecuted by the Laotian communists. Many of them died, but 300,000 of them made their way to refugee camps in Thailand.

Wikipedia:

In May 1976, another 11,000 Hmong were allowed to enter the United States. By 1978 some 30,000 Hmong had immigrated to the U.S. This first wave was made up primarily of men directly associated with General Vang Pao’s Secret Army, which had been aligned with U.S. war efforts during the Vietnam War. Vang Pao’s Secret Army, which was subsidized by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, fought mostly along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where his forces sought to disrupt North Vietnamese weapons supply efforts to the communist VietCong rebel forces in South Vietnam. Four years later, with the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, families of the Secret Army were also permitted to immigrate to the U.S., representing the second-wave of Hmong immigration to the U.S. The Hmong take their surnames from which clan they come. The clans which they take their surnames from are: Chang (Tsaab) or Cha (Tsab), Chao (Tsom), Cheng (Tsheej), Chue (Tswb), Fang (Faaj) or Fa (Faj), Hang (Haam) or Ha (Ham), Her (Hawj), Khang (Khaab) or Kha (Khab), Kong (Koo), Kue (Kwm), Lee (Lis), Lor (Lauj), Moua (Muas), Thao (Thoj), Vang (Vaaj) or Va (Vaj), Vue (Vwj), Xiong (Xyooj) and Yang (Yaaj) or Ya (Yaj).

My best friend is a member of the Xiong clan. His father fought for Vang Pao but my friend was born and raised here in California.

Large numbers of the Hmong were relocated to the Central Valley of California. I’ve always suspected some government bureaucrat figured since they were farmers in Laos they would fit in well in an agricultural area.

But rice paddy farming by hand was poor preparation for modern mechanized agriculture. For some of the older Hmong they might as well have been sent to live on another planet. As with all immigrant communities assimilation is a process. That process is entering third generation as grandchildren of the original immigrants are now moving through our schools.

As of 2006, the number of Hmong living in the United States was approximately 171,000.


Vang Pao, 1929-2011