Saturday, February 22, 2014

Upstart Finland squad crushes globally hegemonic American Empire at obscure Russian outpost called Sochi

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, it was a thorough drubbing, 5-0, with the Finns led by veteran future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne, who had two goals, and goalie Tuukka Rask, one of the best around, who recorded the shutout.

Thanks for coming out, America. Some effort might have been nice.

Teemu Selanne and the Finns win the bronze medal game against the U.S.

Actually, the Finns were solid all tournament, taking Canada to overtime in the preliminary round (making few mistakes and playing a great defensive game) before losing 2-1, beating Russia 3-1 in the quarterfinals, and losing 2-1 to Sweden in a close semifinal match (though they didn't play all that well) before today's blowout of the U.S. (And, yes, that's two straight shutouts for the U.S.)

They're a good team that was under the radar heading into Sochi and they might have done even better had it not been for injuries to some key forwards, like center Mikko Koivu.

Indeed, given their inability to generate much offence against Canada and Sweden, putting up five goals against the Americans was quite something, even if the fast-paced, free-wheeling style of the U.S. tends to allow lots of goals by the opposition when the goaltending isn't in absolute top form, and of course the U.S. performance was rather lackluster in any event following yesterday's loss to Canada in the semis.

Anyway, well done, Finland.

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Stupidest Shithole in America: Arizona

By Michael J.W. Stickings
There are many, many shitholes all across America -- like Nelson, Georgia; Mississippi; Dietrich, Idaho; Burkesville, Kentucky; Pickens County, South Carolina; Henderson, Texas; and Evergreen, Alabama.

Well... not really.

 You'll notice one state on that list. Here's another: Arizona

The Arizona legislature sent a bill to the Gov. Jan Brewer's desk Thursday that would carve a massive hole into state law allowing business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers, employers to deny equal pay to women, or individuals to renege on contract obligations -- as long as they claim to be doing so in the name of religion.

Brewer, a Republican who vetoed similar legislation last year, has not said whether she will sign the bill. Ann Dockendorff, a spokesperson for the governor's office, said in a statement that "It is the governor's policy to not comment on legislation until she’s had a chance to review it. Monday would be the earliest she would take action, assuming it's transmitted by the Senate by then. She'll have five days to act once she receives it."

When even right-wing Republican extremist Jan Brewer is relatively sensible when compared to your legislators, you know you live in a crazy shithole of a state.

And remember, this is also the state that, among other right-wing things, has implemented draconian immigration and abortion laws, the state that banned ethnic studies courses, just another example of how it's targeting Latinos and other non-whites. One could go on and on.

In targeting gays, lesbians, woman, and anyone else anyone doesn't like with newfangled Jim Crow laws that would authorize segregation in the name of phony "religious freedom," Arizona isn't alone. Republicans in numerous other states are pursuing similar measures. But Arizona always seems to be at the forefront in embracing bigotry and enshrining bigotry in its legal code.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Sorry America, the world was against you

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You really are "exceptional," though.

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Sorry America, you keep Justin Bieber

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Canada 1, United States 0.

But, really, it should have been 3-0 or 4-1. At least. It was a dominant performance by Crosby & Co. for the Canadians.

By the way, this is a real billboard in Skokie, Illinois. Be careful what you ask for, dear Americans. Because we don't want him back.

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The Canadian men's Olympic team advances to the gold medal game

By Richard K. Barry

The Canadian men's hockey team beat the United States today 1-0 to advance to the gold medal game against Sweden on Sunday. The U.S. will play for the bronze Saturday against Finland, which lost to the Swedes 2-1 in the other semifinal.

Yesterday the Canadian women's hockey team beat their U.S. counterparts 3-2 to win gold in Sochi. They did it by pulling even the with Americans with 55 seconds remaining in the 3rd period before winning with a goal at 8:10 in overtime. 

We do love our hockey here in the Great White North. And though I don't pay a great deal of attention to the Olympics, hockey is so important to Canadians that I'm glad to see them do well. 

I do apologize (sort of) to my American friends for the picture, but it's making the rounds and it's pretty funny, you'll admit. Viva la photoshop.

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On the Hustings

(Public Policy Polling): "Brownback extremely unpopular, trails for reelection"

(CNN): "McCain: If elections were tomorrow, Clinton would be president"

(Real Clear Politics): "New politics shop aims to keep Obama, Dems in tune"

(Politico): "Election landscape boosts GOP govs"

(New York Times): "For Christie, awkward return to a setting he once ruled"


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The real money in politics

By Richard K. Barry

It's way too easy to bullshit the American people

The Daily Kos noted today that "Democratic House and Senate campaign committees each out-raised their Republican counterparts," which, they write, is "a surprising theme of this cycle." 

A big reason is the Dems' list-size advantage, built up over years of investment in Internet fundraising and cemented by the state-of-the-art Obama reelection campaign. Republicans do fine with big donors, but Democrats have a crushing advantage in donations under $200, where online fundraising has proven to be a goldmine. Besides better lists, Dems benefit from "learned behavior": Their supporters are used to giving online.

While I would never claim that Democrats dislike hitting up big donors, it's also heartening to think that the relatively more progressive party is able to appeal more successfully to smaller donors.

My favourite part of the Daily Kos story, however,  had to do with various Republican appeals for funds, as they note this one from former GOP White House flack Ari Fleisher:
[There] is little doubt that the Senate is within reach for Republicans, but they must have the resources to effectively compete against the Obama fundraising machine. Your donation and grassroots support can shape the 2014 election in a way that the Democrat's Hollywood money cannot. Please donate $100, $50, $25 or whatever you can today. ... Thanks, Ari.

Yes. The real money, the important money, in politics comes from Hollywood, not Wall Street board rooms, not the Koch brother coffers, not the oil fields of Texas. 

The Republican Party has always been about the little people. Brings a tear to my eye. 

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Republicans, banking on bigotry, look to resurrect Jim Crow

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Republicans like to think of their party as the party of capitalism, patriotism, and faith. In reality, it's the party of trickle-down brutality, xenophobic nativism, and moralistic fundamentalism akin to what you might in, say, Saudi Arabia.

Oh, and the party of bigotry. More and more, bigotry:

Kansas set off a national firestorm last week when the GOP-controlled House passed a bill that would have allowed anyone to refuse to do business with same-sex couples by citing religious beliefs. The bill, which covered both private businesses and individuals, including government employees, would have barred same-sex couples from suing anyone who denies them food service, hotel rooms, social services, adoption rights, or employment -- as long as the person denying the service said he or she had a religious objection to homosexuality. As of this week, the legislation was dead in the Senate. But the Kansas bill is not a one-off effort.

Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader "religious freedom" bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

"This is a concerted campaign that the religious Right has been hinting at for a couple of years now," says Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes gay rights. "The fact that they're doing it Jim Crow-style is remarkable, considering the fact that one would think the GOP would like to be electable among people under 50 sometime in the near future."

Make sure to read the whole piece at Mother Jones. It's a helpful, and deeply disturbing, look at what's shaping, driving, and dominating the Republican Party in 2014.

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Pope Francis needs to go kick some New Jersey ass

By Michael J.W. Stickings


John J. Myers, the archbishop of the Newark Archdiocese, comes to this vacation home on many weekends. The 4,500-square-foot home has a handsome amoeba-shaped swimming pool out back. And as he's 72, and retirement beckons in two years, he has renovations in mind. A small army of workers are framing a 3,000-square-foot addition. 

This new wing will have an indoor exercise pool, three fireplaces and an elevator. The Star-Ledger of Newark has noted that the half-million-dollar tab for this wing does not include architects' fees or furnishings.

There's no need to fear for the archbishop's bank account. The Newark Archdiocese is picking up the bill.

And it's not just the upscale living while so many struggle and suffer:

He is known to insist on being addressed as "Your Grace." And his self-regard is matched by his refusal to apologize for more or less anything.

It was revealed last year that a priest seemed to have broken his legally binding agreement with Bergen County prosecutors to never again work unsupervised with children or to minister to them so long as he remained a priest. When next found, he was involved with a youth ministry in the Newark Archdiocese.

Parishioners in Oradell, N.J., also discovered that the archdiocese had allowed a priest accused of sexual abuse to live in their parish's rectory. A furor arose, and last summer the archbishop sat down and wrote an open letter to his flock. He conceded not a stumble. Those who claim, he wrote, that he and the church had not protected children were "simply evil, wrong, immoral and seemingly focused on their own self-aggrandizement."

Evil, wrong, immoral, focused on self-aggrandizement? Huh. It really does seem that Pope Francis should have a chat with this prick. And while he's in the beautiful Garden State, maybe he can also teach its bullying blowhard of a corrupt, power-hungry governor a thing or two about humility and true public service.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Craziest Republican of the Day: Tom "God wrote the Constitution" DeLay

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Tom DeLay used to be a big deal in the Republican Party. Whatever he's doing with himself now, he's as crazy as ever:

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) this week warned Americans to remember that God "wrote the Constitution" based on the Bible.

During an appearance on John Hagee Ministries' Global Evangelism Television (GETV) network on Wednesday, host Matt Hagee asked the Texas Republican where the country had gone wrong.

"I think we got off the track when we allowed our government to become a secular government," DeLay explained. "When we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on biblical principles."

This is where you'd like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton to tell him he's full of shit and then punch him in the face for good measure.

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Back in the USSR

By Carl 

Well, it sure seems like things haven't changed much in 25 years:

At least 22 people have died in renewed clashes between protesters and police in central Kiev after a truce agreed on Wednesday broke down, eyewitnesses say.

Witnesses reported live rounds, petrol bombs and water cannon at the main protest site, Independence Square.

A meeting between EU foreign ministers and President Viktor Yanukovych is now under way, officials say, contradicting earlier reports that the ministers had flown out without seeing him.

The EU will discuss sanctions later.

The protestors are pretty smart, too. They set up a makeshift mortuary/field hospital in the lobby of the hotel where foreign journalists covering the protests are staying.

The protests, nominally aimed at the Ukraine president, Viktor Yanukovych, are really aimed at Vladimir Putin and Russia, as Russia has strongly signaled their intent to dominate Ukrainian governance in a form of hegemony not seen since the Soviet Union lined tanks up along the Czechoslovak border.

This was the nation that Edward Snowden picked as a bastion of human rights and self-governance? It is to LOL.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On the Hustings

(Quinnipiac): "Ohio Gov can't break free of unknown challenger"

(Washington Post): "Scott Walker, eyeing 2016, faces fallout from probes as ex-aide’s e-mails are released"

(Robert Shrum): "Yes, pundits, Hillary has the 2016 nomination in the bag"

(Politico): "Will a governor win the White House in 2016?"

(Politico): "Rand Paul’s Republican revolution"


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Quote of the day

By Mustang Bobby
They just want to use brute power to force the states to take down marriage laws that have been in place for centuries and that’s inconsistent with the Constitution, it’s not right and it’s heartbreaking.

No, he was not talking about the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that did away with the bans on interracial marriage. But it’s easy to make the assumption that he was.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)


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A.M. Headlines

(Reuters): "VW workers may block southern U.S. deals if no unions: labor chief"

(Politico): "Kathleen Sebelius: No job loss under Obamacare"

(Albany Business Review): "U.S. borrowing grows by biggest amount in six years"

(Washington Post): "Student debt may hurt housing recovery by hampering first-time buyers"

(New York Times): "Kiev protesters set square ablaze to thwart police"


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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In other news, dog bites man

By Carl

North Korea is an oppressive, tyrannical, and genocidal regime. One can only hope that, between rehab and this report, Dennis Rodman will stop making an ass of himself:
(CNN) -- A stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse of even the weakest of North Koreans reveal a portrait of a brutal state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world," a United Nations panel reported Monday.

North Korean leaders employ murder, torture, slavery, sexual violence, mass starvation and other abuses as tools to prop up the state and terrorize "the population into submission," the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights (COI) in North Korea said in its report

The commission said it would refer its findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible prosecution. It also sent a letter warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he could face prosecution for crimes against humanity, and said other options include establishing of an ad hoc tribunal by the United Nations.

Some of the victims drew sketches. You probably don’t want to try to find them online until you’ve digested any food you planned on eating.

In what may have been the only real surprise in the entire report, the UN took pains to point out China’s complicity in the violence and oppression done by the North Korea regime, in that they have forcibly returned refugees from the PRK.

In many ways, some of the punishments sound straight out of 1984, being tortured and imprisoned for thought-crimes like watching soap operas or trying to find food.

Many comparisons are made between Obama and Hitler by rightwingers. The next one who makes that comparison ought to be air-dropped into North Korea.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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On the Hustings

(New York Times)"Retreat on debt fight seen as G.O.P. campaign salvo"

(Politico): "Mega-donors plan GOP war council"

(USA Today): "Petri asks for ethics probe of his actions"

(The State): "Election 2014: SC poised to elect first black candidate to statewide office since Reconstruction"

(The Hill): "In first, Minnesota poll finds Obama unpopular"


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A.M. Headlines

(National Journal): "''Meet the Press' host: Climate segment meant as debate on 'policies'"

(Reuters): "Obama set to order new fuel standards for U.S. trucks"

(New York Times): "Financier plans big ad campaign on climate change"

(Time): "5 years after stimulus, Obama says it worked"

(Politico): "Last call for state parties?"


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Monday, February 17, 2014

Obama's stimulus package wasn't enough but was much better than nothing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As CNN is reporting, Republicans are crapping all over the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the fifth anniversary of its passage. That's the stimulus package that President Obama was able to get out of Congress, and specifically out of obstructionist, trickle-down Republicans, early in his first term. Apparently making shit up about Benghazi and the IRS and otherwise smearing the president at every turn isn't enough. Now they're on to blaming him for... saving the economy from utter disaster.

The economy needed much more of a stimulus back then, but of course Obama wasn't about to get a bigger package from Republicans wedded to their extremist anti-government ideology and intent on trying to make him fail even at the expense of harming the country, and from Democrats who lacked either the courage or the simple common sense to embrace even this limited government intervention in the economy. But what he got was still absolutely necessary, and it was not just better than nothing but enough, it would appear in retrospect, to stabilize the economy and put the country on the road to recovery, as bumpy as it's been given how little his opponents have bothered to help.

Indeed, as Steve Benen reminds us today, "the global economic crisis had reached terrifying levels, and U.S. policymakers had to choose a direction for the nation’s future." Democrats, on the whole, demanded action and got behind stimulus, while Republicans "called for a five-year federal spending freeze." Just imagine what would have happened had Republicans gotten their way. Imagine what the unemployment level would be today, imagine how weak the economy would still be, imagine how so many more Americans would be suffering, unable to pay their bills and put food on the table, if even on a table at all.

Just take a look at the charts in Steve's post. What do you see? Significant GDP growth and private-sector job growth that is connected directly to Obama's stimulus package:

The evident details are hard to miss – the economy crashed, then Democrats approved the stimulus, and then the economy started growing, job creation picked up, and the stock market soared. I've long been curious: for Republicans, how is this possible? Was it magic? Was it a coincidence? How do they explain why every relevant economic metric showed sharp improvements immediately after the Recovery Act kicked in?

None of this would have happened with Republicans in power. Things would have gotten far worse:

Indeed, perhaps the most striking thing about GOP economic arguments is that they weren't just wrong about the efficacy of Clinton's policies, and then wrong again during the Bush/Cheney era, and then wrong once again about whether the Recovery Act would help turn the economy around, congressional Republicans also seemed to go to great lengths to impose policies – debt crises, spending cuts, sequestration, a government shutdown – that seemed almost designed to make the economy worse.
It's why Ben Bernanke – a Fed chairman who, up until extremely recently, was considered a fairly conservative Republican – repeatedly told Capitol Hill that the single biggest obstacle to a healthier economy has been the fiscal policies demanded by GOP lawmakers.
It's why Republicans are bad for America. Period.

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Vimeo of the Day: "Into the Cave of Wonders"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's a short film of the glorious Gruta de las Maravillas (Grotto of the Marvels or Cave of Wonders), located in Aracena, Andalusia, in southern Spain. It was shot in stunning 4k HDR. The details are truly incredible. Try to watch it on a big screen.

For more on the film, see here.

Into the Cave of Wonders [4k HDR short documentary] from LovetheFrame on Vimeo.

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