Welcome to UNKNOWN NEWS "News that's not known, or not known enough."
Helen & Harry Highwater's cranky weblog of news and opinion.

"Some political commentators have come close to seeing the problem by talking about how the ultra right-wing has been allowed to 'frame the discussion' in their own terms. But it goes deeper than that. The haters have actually been allowed to create the reality in which we now live. And that reality is a nightmare. A nightmare, that is, for all but the haters who use it to exploit and abuse the rest of us for their own gain."
McCain proposes detaining American citizens without trial

      ♦  Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has introduced legislation that would allow the American military to detain American citizens, without trial, for as long as military officials wish.

American flag at Guantanamo

      ♦  Lots of the alleged experts and serious people are saying that the Obama administration is against trials too, and will do an about-face, canceling the trial for alleged terror whiz Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He'll get a military tribunal instead.
      Of course, this would be an enormous mistake — another collapse of principle in the face of Republican rhetoric, further evidence that Obama is more a weather-vane than a leader, and most importantly a double-cross of President Obama's oath to protect and preserve the constitution of the United States of America.
      What it wouldn't be is a surprise, and I would dearly love to be surprised here. I would love to see the Obama administration surprise me, surprise millions of us who voted for him by doing the right thing, for once.

      ♦  Christopher Handley has been sentenced to six months in prison for possession of offensive comics. Drawings. After he's served his six months behind bars, assuming he survives, he'll get three years of supervised release and five years of probation. For possession of drawings. Ooooh, but they're drawings of children being sexually abused — imaginary children, being fictionally abused, in drawings.

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      We're opposed to children being sexually abused, of course, and we rather suspect that Christopher Handley is a scummy person, someone we wouldn't want to have lunch with. But no-one is harmed by drawings, and we're emphatically in favor of freedom of speech, and this is an inexcusible violation of the First Amendment.


      ♦  The abominable Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) has a primary challenger named Bill Halter, who sounds like he's not a Republican, which would make him an improvement (donate). He's an enthusiastic backer of the public option, which Lincoln helped shoot down. The AFL-CIO backed Halter as soon as he announced, along with the Sierra Club and MoveOn, and Halter has even received $10 from Unknown News (wish it was twenty and it might be eventually, but times are tough.)
      President Obama and former President Bill Clinton have both said they'll campaign for the bad guy in all this, Lincoln, which shows, of course, who the big-money establishment wants, and is. Blanche Lincoln has been a key roadblock to anything and everything that progressives and even ordinary Democrats want, for years. Maybe she's a Democrat by Arkansas standards (I doubt even that) but she's utterly useless and actively counterproductive as a Democrat on the national level. The next time the insiders and pundits claim that conservative Democrats like Lincoln are "blocking Obama's agenda", remember that supporting and electing conservative Democrats like Lincoln is Obama's agenda, and the agenda of the Democratic Party.

President Obama, where's that 'change' you promised?

      ♦  As the annoying Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) walks away, the man who's considered the likely choice (by back-room Democrats, since voters won't get any say) for the party's nomination is one Brad Ellsworth, an Indiana Congressman who's noticeably farther to the right than Bayh.
      No tenspots from me for a schmuck like that, and no donations to the Democratic Party, ever.

      ♦  Congressman Charles Rangel (D-New York) has "temporarily" stepped down as Chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee (everyone always calls it that; they should capitalize "Powerful" and make it part of the committee's name). Rangel, who's been obviously corrupt and eternally annoying for decades, is in the midst of a whirlpool of allegations, all true, about his unethical trips, assets and income, use of rent-controlled apartments, and his solicitation of donations for a university center to be named after him.
      It's worth pointing out that these are all fairly minor crimes by Republican standards. "Less criminal than Republicans", though, is not a badge of honor and ought not be tolerated.

      ♦  President Obama's appointment of Scott Matheson Jr to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals drew a weird but predictable response from the right-wing. They're not outraged because of Matheson's record, which seems utterly bland and mainstream, but because Matheson's brother is Congressman Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who's one of the waverers on health care reform. Quid pro quo, the Republicans are shouting, with no evidence. Appointing Judge Scott Matheson is intended to buy Congressman Jim Matheson's vote for health insurance reform.
from recent readers' comments

From recent readers' comments

      It's an accusation that's unlikely to be true. Matheson is a back-bencher who presumably can be bought at a reasonable price, but I think he'd want something more than a promotion his brother was in line to get anyway.
      And I'll add, at a quick glance Judge Matheson seems to be another lousy choice on his own merits. Like almost all of Obama's nominations for virtually every position, Matheson has all the connections and a fine resumé or teaching and prosecutions, but there's no indication that he's never done anything even slightly brave or sincerely principled or ever stood up for something that mattered and was in danger. He looks like another empty robe to me.

      ♦  Congressman Eric Massa (D-New York) has resigned — because of his health, he says, or because of a sexual harassment scandal, others say. He was only elected to Congress in 2008, but Massa had already established himself as another useless sell-out to Republican interests, and nobody who's not a Republican should be sad to see him go.
      It's hard to guess what's true or false, but Massa's version of events is intriguing. "Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill and this administration and this House leadership have said, quote-unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health-care bill, and now they’ve gotten rid of me and it will pass,” Massa said. “You connect the dots." There's no reason to believe Massa on this, of course — he's basically a Republican and that's a synonym for liar. But if he is telling the truth that would be good news indeed. It would be the first evidence that someone in Obama's gang might know how to play political hardball.

      ♦  Dawn Johnsen, Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, has again been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Login as unknownnews with password unknown.) Of course, Democrats will continue allowing Republicans to use their fake-filibuster to block a full vote in the Senate on Johnsen's nomination, so getting her name out of committee (again) doesn't mean much.
      Obama nominated Johnsen before he even took his own oath of office, so she's been sitting in limbo for well over a year now. She's one of three, count 'em, three not-lukewarm but genuinely good appointments that Obama has made, but she'll never get the job — unless President Obama names her as a recess appointment. But that might annoy someone somewhere among the lunatics of the right-wing, so I rather doubt it's even crossed the President's mind.

      ♦  Alan Grayson, the big-mouthed and delightfully liberal first-term Congressman who's been unfairly tagged as crazy in the mainstream media, is a Democrat, of course. But he's won a poll of Republican voters in his district.
      There's a lesson to be learned in Grayson's rising popularity. Voters like politicians who actually believe something and stand up for what they believe. It's not as important as what the politicians believe, but it's a factor. Heck, I remember voting for a few candidates with whom I disagreed about key issues, just because I sensed that the candidate was speaking from the heart instead of from calculated market research.
      The lesson here is stand up for something and you'll earn respect even from people who disagree with your positions. Speaking from the gut and meaning what you say helps win elections, and that's a lesson the Obama administration and the Democratic Party are going to learn in reverse this November.

      ♦  Sen Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has thoughtfully made a TV commercial for his Republican opponent in the upcoming elections. Reid is a perpetual embarrassment even on days when he isn't tripping over his own tongue, and the sooner he loses and leaves, the better.

♦  We give President Obama and the Democratic Party's leadership a lot of complaints because, let's face it, they deserve a lot of complaints. They're playing go-along-to-get-along and yielding on almost everything, when America desperately needs a complete about-face on any number of fronts — war and peace, civil rights, the environment, the economy, open government, on and on.
      But in the interest of fairness, we'll also give Obama and the Democrats a whoop of hooray when they get something right. This week...
      ... Well, this week we looked and looked for something Obama or the Democrats got right, and we didn't find diddlysquat.

      ♦  Brett Arends in The Wall Street Journal:  "Still, when it comes to the idea of walking away from debts, many people are held back by a sense of morality. They feel it’s wrong to abandon their obligations. They don’t want to be a deadbeat. Your instincts, while honorable, are leading you astray.
      "The economy is fundamentally amoral.
      "Sometimes I think middle-class Americans are the only people who haven't worked this out yet. They’re operating with a gallant but completely out-of-date plan of attack — like an old-fashioned cavalry with plumed hats and shining swords charging against machine guns."

      ♦  After a long career of successfully lying about everything, I sometimes wonder whether Karl Rove even knows the difference between truth and lies.
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      ♦  A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center has unearthed shocking data about the rise of militias, anti-government groups, and other right-wing extremist groups. The report, titled “Rage on the Right,” has found that there has been an increase of 244 percent in the number of these extremist groups in 2009.

      ♦  Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has pardoned Timothy Cole, after Cole's rape conviction was vacated with an unprecedented ruling. District Judge Charlie Baird ruled more than a year ago that Cole, who died in prison in 1999, "shall be and is hereby exonerated".
      Thirteen months later Cole gets a pardon from the state's Governor, and I'm not even going to criticize Perry for waiting so long. Though I do abhor him, and he's among the most vile and dangerous Republicans on the national scene, Perry's a Republican, duh, so there's no expectation that he has a heart anyway. I'm pleasantly surprised that Perry issued the posthumous pardon at all.
      What gets my attention is that even though the story is tragic and there's no way to really set it right, you just can't read the story without crying for joy. Or at least, I sure can't. No, what strikes me (again) is that the pardon is an amazing power to put a happy ending on even the most egregious miscarriage of justice. Used smartly, it's a tool for justice, and it can make an executive downright beloved. So for the life of me I don't understand why President Obama has never once used this power. There's not a single miscarriage of justice anywhere in the American penal system?

      ♦  In last week's fake Republican outrage, we saw the right-wing take great phony umbrage over members of the Obama administration actually having a cup of coffee and a chat with the Secular Coalition of America, an advocacy group made up of atheists, agnostics and humanists. The godless horror of it all, acknowledging that a sizable sliver of Americans don't practice religion and thus don't want religion packaged inside the government's laws and spending policies.
      Can't wait to see what next week's fake Republican outrage will be about. It's always something.


      ♦  About those mysteriously missing DoJ emails involving torture advice from the likes of John Yoo — it's not easy to delete emails and the also-deleted back-up documentation. That requires expertise and intent. And where's the White House side of those communications?

      ♦  FBI and State Department officials are blowing off FOIA requests about mass graves in Afghanistan where the bodies of 2,000 Taliban soldiers who had surrendered were buried in December 2001, Physicians for Human Rights claims in Federal Court.
      After several news stories were published confirming the mass graves and suggesting that members of the U.S. military may have seen the burials,

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Physicians for Human Rights submitted Freedom of Information Act requests, seeking evidence of war crimes.
      The non-profit says Uncle Sam repeatedly refused to deliver documents, saying, among other things, that the information was classified or unsearchable.

      ♦  US authorities will now decide who may board air flights in Canada. Mighty considerate of the Americans, eh, to shoulder that responsibility for our neighbors to the north, as if Canadians are new at the whole "sovereign nation" thing, or not up to speed on the notion of security.

      ♦  In Kentucky, legislators want to make it illegal for teens to 'sext' each other. Of course what matters is the punishment, and that's what they're addressing. Looks like the proposed punishment would be a small fine and community service and it would be dealt with in juvenile court, which would be a life-saving improvement over the present system that classifies such ordinary and predictable behavior as a sex crime and puts the "perps" on a life-long list of sex offenders.

      ♦  Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is asking the state’s colleges and universities “to rescind policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation".

No special rights for heterosexuals

      ♦  To show his angry opposition to repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), mavericky Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) touted a letter signed by 1,000 "distinguished retired military leaders" who all say they oppose DADT repeal. Several of the signors say they never signed such a document, and most of the signors are so old (the average age of the officers is 74) they presumably retired before DADT even went into effect.

      ♦  I sure hope this account of kooks running rampant in Amarillo, Texas is a little exaggerated. A gang of religious wingnuts have made it their business to embarrass the sexually peculiar, shut down theaters, harass a nature preserve, etc. It's ugly to even think it, but when freedom's enemies use tactics this direct and confrontational, a real respect for freedom requires an equal and opposite direct and confrontational response.


      ♦  Here's a quick and concise recap of how Goldman Sachs helped hide Greece's economic collapse, along with a plea for restoration of actual regulation for criminal outfits like Goldman Sachs. It's a plea which will almost certainly be ignored, sadly, since Goldman Sachs owns the US Congress.

fascism : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

      ♦  AIG's bonus babies are angry that you're angry about their ginormous bonuses.

      ♦  In an interoffice memo from headquarters, AT&T is asking its managers and employees to oppose net neutrality.

      ♦  A new report out of Finland suggests that the country's corporate poster child, Nokia Siemens, has been involved in some pretty tawdry dealings with Iran, dealings that go beyond the company's admitted involvement with the Iranian regime.

      ♦  PayPal continues to be what it's been for years, a scummy and untrustworthy operation. They've closed the account of John Young's invaluable Cryptome, for reasons he can only guess. But his guess is quite well-informed, as is his site in general.

      ♦  Walt Baker, the CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association, has cracked an alleged joke comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to a chimp.

      ♦  Weight Watchers, which isn't much more than a for-profit scam on fat people, has now endorsed McDonald's.

Isn't there something in the Bible about NOT screwing over the poor?

      ♦  I'll admit, I'm amused as gun-nuts and anti-gun nuts take aim at Starbucks.

      ♦  Here's what should be a heartwarming story about a shift manager at a Burger King in New Hampshire who sings on the job.
      Having worked at Burger King myself (many years ago), it's fair to say that working there for ten years is a potentially soul-crushing experience, so it's rather remarkable that through extraordinary perseverance, an employee who's worked for the King for ten years hasn 't yet learned to smother every aspect of his personality during work hours. He'll have to smother his personality pronto, though, or BK will fire him.

      ♦  New customers and customers who bring in new customers both get screwed by DirecTV.


♦  An American Marine in Afghanistan was killed by... wait for it... Afghans high on opium who'd been hired as contractors to provide security.

♦  They're still arresting opposition and human rights activists in Iran. With a light touch, that country could be encouraged toward more freedom instead of less, if America led the way with carrots instead of pounding 'em on the head with sticks and threats and insults. But down that path there's no money for the military-industrial-Congressional complex.

♦  Doctors are seeing more birth defects and deformities in Fallujah, the city targeted with an extra-strong ration of so-called "depleted uranium" during the American war crimes there in 2004.

♦  Michael Martin:  "What I witnessed in Gaza, amidst all the rubble and devastation still so evident from last year’s conflict, was a population traumatized and reduced to poverty by an unjust and completely counterproductive blockade. All that is being achieved through the imposition of the blockade is to enrichHamas and marginalize even further the voices of moderation." (Login as unknownnews with password unknown.)

♦  As we approach the century-mark since Turkey's genocide of Armenians, it's still considered a huge controversy if anyone calls it a genocide. Turkey is officially enraged that someone spoke the truth, and the Obama administration is predictably on the side of hush-hush don't say it, because Turkey is a "key ally", which means, Turkey lets America use its air space and airports in support of America's several unnecessary Middle East wars.
      So the lily-livered denial of reality is largely just about helping America squish the world under its thumb, in the genocides already underway and soon to come.

♦  Guatemala's chief of national police and the country's top anti-drugs official have been arrested over alleged links to drug trafficking.

♦  In Honduras, Human Rights Watch is warning of ongoing attacks against opponents of the coup that overthrew then-President Manuel Zelaya last year.

♦ The Mexican government has issued the maximum fines allowed under law to Eli Lilly and Co and two other conglomerates for conspiring to fix the prices of insulin, the life-saving drug for diabetes. Of course, American regulations are so stringent that Lilly et al would never try such shenanigans in the United States, she typed sarcastically while shaking her head.

♦  Iceland held a referendum last week on the question of whether their nation should pay the debts of its banking collapse, owed to Britain and the Netherlands. To my delight and Iceland's pride, "93% of voters said 'no', and 1.6% (that's one point six percent) said 'yes'."

health care sucks in America

      ♦  Perpetual Presidential candidate Mitt Romney seems to believe, in all seriousness, that visits to the emergency room in America are free for patients, which is of course a fantasy of the absurd. Says Romney, delusionally: "Look, it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way."
      A few days later Romney said on national television, "Nobody believes that health care is expensive in America because of insurance companies. Health care is expensive because we use a lot of health care treatment." This guy is a front-runner for the Republicans' Presidential nomination — and he's arguably brighter and more honest that his Republican opponents. America, man — what a country.

      ♦  Sam Smith:  "It helps to understand the current debate to realize that it is not about health care. It's about Obama vs. his polls and Democrats vs. Republicans. All have accepted this legislation as the bill of the year and none care anywhere near as much about what's in it as they do in passing or stopping it. The GOP will even oppose things its supporters like and the Democrats will include any anathema that will get it passed. It's all not about medical health care but about political quackery."

global climate change

      ♦  Methane is leaking into the atmosphere from unstable permafrost in the Arctic Ocean faster than scientists had thought and could worsen global warming, a study said Thursday.

      ♦  Electrical storms produced by a unique meteorological phenomenon have lit up nights in this corner of Venezuela for thousands of years. Francis Drake abandoned a sneak attack on the city of Maracaibo in 1595 when lightning betrayed his ships to the Spanish garrison.
      But now the lightning has vanished. A phenomenon that once unleashed up to 20,000 bolts a night stopped in late January. Not a single bolt has been seen since.
      "This is unprecedented. In recorded history we have not had such a long stretch without lightning," said Erik Quiroga, an environmentalist and leading authority on the Relampago de Catatumbo, or Catatumbo Lightning.

      ♦  The legislatures in fifteen American states are now considering very similar and presumably big-money backed bills seeking to block any ceilings on greenhouse gas pollution, and pretending that global climate change has been debunked. It hasn't been and hasn't been and hasn't been and hasn't been and hasn't been and hasn't been and hasn't been and hasn't been, but the liars have lots of money, chutzpah, and media access, and they won't stop lying until the Empire State Building is under water.

      ♦  Why does a salad cost more than a Big Mac? Because the main ingredients in the Big Mac are government-subsidized, and the salad isn't.

      ♦  Heavy rains in eastern Uganda have triggered flooding that has displaced more than 20,000 people and hampered search efforts to find victims of massive landslides feared to have killed hundreds, officials said Thursday.

      ♦  We already knew that the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) used to replace ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are proving to be a super greenhouse gas — 4,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, we're still using them in everything from spray cans to refrigerators to air-conditioners.
      Now a new paper in Journal of Physical Chemistry finds that HCFCs may also be increasing acid rain. Computer models show HCFCs break down in the upper atmosphere to form oxalic acid, one culprit in acid rain.

      ♦  Japan will not comply if a total ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna is imposed, a government official was quoted as saying on Thursday, as support grows for the unprecedented trade halt.

This be journalism?

      ♦  Rachel Maddow deserves some kind of award for calling Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) on his lies, as published in the Washington Post, a newspaper that's becoming famous for its lies. After reading from Hatch's op-ed, Maddow says with a clarity that should be common in journalism, "That is a total, utter, complete, 100%, unambiguous lie."
      And I smile, nod my head yes, but I also wonder — do the facts even matter any more? Seems to me we've been having an almost entirely fact-free national debate on myriad subjects since about the time George W Bush lied his way through his oath of office for the first time.
      You could put together an entire television network with bright, intelligent people like Rachel Maddow and have them critiquing right-wing hypocrisy, debunking right-wing lies, and spotlighting the routinely irresponsible statements of right-wingers around the clock, and it wouldn't matter since (a) right-wingers have no shame, and (b) even with Maddowesque reporting 24/7 they couldn't catch up and keep current with the lies, hypocrisy, and general treachery. Republicans manufacture such stuff more efficiently than Hormel makes hot dogs.

      ♦  While Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) keeps doing his dangedest to block health care reform, Maddow keeps asking who paid his rent while he lived at the posh "C Street" boarding house in DC.

      ♦  Observe this freakishly honest account of the arrest of anti-gay Republican arrested for drunk driving as he left a gay bar. Weirdly, this report is from CBS News, and I'll just say that if this much honesty was the standard at CBS News, I'd be watching Katie Couric five nights a week and 60 Minutes on Sundays. But of course, this ain't at all standard so there's no danger that I'll be watching.

      ♦  The New York Times is still refusing to issue a correction to a falsehood published in the Times, that video prankster James O'Keefe was dressed as a 1970s blaxploitation pimp when he visited ACORN offices. He wasn 't. He edited his videotapes to give that false impression, and that falsehood was reported as fact in the New York Times and virtually everywhere else in mainstream media, becoming another lie that's permeated the national discourse. And the New York Times won't set the record right.

      ♦  Here's a pretty good explanation, direct from the mouth of conservative propagandist Andrew Breitbart, of the fundamental dishonesty of the infamous but phony ACORN "sting" videos — and the repercussions of that dishonesty, as what's basically a lie has become "common knowledge". Which is the point of propaganda, of course. The video is from Mike Stark Reports, a relatively new website (brand new to me) that seems worthy of support.

      ♦  The New Republic displays the right kind of bigotry, against Arabs.

      ♦  National Journal has again released its annual calculation of Congresscritters on the spectrum from liberal to conservative, and again its findings are laughable and ludicrous. Why National Journal keeps doing this is beyond me — it's actually a pretty good publication, but it inexplicably sets itself up as a public laughing stock once a year, using just plain stupid methodology to come up with these ridiculous rankings.
      How ridiculous? Well, this time they've scored Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) as the one-hundred-sixtieth most liberal Congresscritter. Commence chuckling.

      ♦  It's hardly investigative journalism to note that Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia don't give half a hair off a rat's rectum about torture or brutality, in war or by American police or prison guards. But click here if you'd like their love of cruel and unusual punishment presented plainly and, dare I say, fairly.

      ♦  Mark Benjamin of Salon says Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Florida) is crazy, bonkers, out of his tree, apparently because Grayson says the truth in a system where the truth is despised. Benjamin's spin is utterly normal "mainstream" journalism, and it's at the heart of what's wrong with such corporatized crap.
      In the "mainstream" you're allowed to state an obvious truth, like that fact that Michelle Bachmann is out of her mind, but you can only say it if you can find an equal and opposite person on the other side of the aisle who's similarly insane. That's what they call balance. And if there *isn't* an equally insane person on the other side (and there isn't) the media norm is to do what Benjamin's done, to flat-out lie and pretend that there is. Lately it's Grayson, but in the past it's been Michael Moore or Dennis Kucinich.
      You see the same phenomenon with "fact-checking" the lies in a political debate — the Republican candidate lies that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and the Democrat "lies" by citing some obscure Labor Dept stat as 43% when it's actually 47% — and the mainstream media's headline will be, "Both sides mangle the facts".
      I am way, way sick of that crap, and I just wish we had a couple of hundred more members of Congress (or members of the press) with the brains, common sense, and integrity of Ron Paul, Alan Grayson, and Dennis Kucinich.

      ♦  Cable News Network (CNN) bought and regurgitated the far-right's astoundingly un-American narrative about "jihadists" in the Department of Justice. CNN couldn't even muster up the integrity to offer a serious apology.
      What it means to me is that CNN really can't be taken seriously as anything approaching journalism (as if there was much doubt remaining).

      ♦  Further reverberations over Newsweek's hilarious decision that "terrorist" means "not white".
      What it means to me is that Newsweek really can't be taken seriously as anything approaching journalism (as if there was much doubt remaining).

      ♦  David Neiwert:  "All I know is that if this had been a Muslim man who had walked into the Pentagon and opened fire, all the talk this morning would be about an 'act of terrorism'. Instead, it's just another 'isolated incident'. Funny how that works,isn't it?"

      ♦  Much hubbub here in my home town of Madison, because a local campus newspaper ran an ad for a holocaust deniers' group. The paper is the Badger Herald, a conservative paper not officially affiliated with the University of Wisconsin, and because of the paper's rightward tilt it's probably a safe assumption that there's some anti-semitism in the paper's management.
      But was it wrong for the paper to accept this paid ad? I don't think so, but I can see both sides of the argument, and I'd be curious to know what you think.

Iraq. Out. Now.

      ♦  MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford has left the network in a pique of righteous indignation. He thinks he was unfairly smeared by Chris Matthews, and decries the leftward lurch of MSNBC over the past few years.
      For the former I can only say that Matthews is emptier than most talking heads on the tube, so an insult from Matthews means nothing to me. For Crawford's latter complaint, I can almost see his point — it really is a sad situation, that there's only one channel on television where it's permissible to call the right-wing on its endless tidal wave of lies. He says he doesn't want to be aligned with a station that isn't fair and balanced in prime time, and I'll take him at his word if he doesn't end up on a station that tilts the other way.
      The only pot-shot I'll take at Crawford is to note that he's described as an analyst who appears regularly on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and I watch that show five nights a week. But he must not be very good at it, as I don't remember Crawford in the slightest, and his photo rings no bells.

      ♦  Half-kudos to Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC for showing no patience when a wingnut on his program wouldn't answer his questions. We've seen Ratigan do this before, of course, and he does it well, but he and his staff know who the wingnuts are and they know it when they're booking the wingnuts. He'll get full kudos when he and his staff stop booking the wingnuts.

      ♦  Variety will kill a negative movie review for $400,000.


      ♦  It's worth noting, I think, that the Oscars used instant runoff voting (IRV; explained here if you need it) to determine the Best Picture winner. I've only heard of IRV in politics before, where the theory is that it better reflects voters' true intentions, and thus gives outsiders a better chance of upsetting the big-money candidates. So of course, I've always thought IRV is a very good idea, and I think IRV is why Avatar didn't win the Oscar.
      Movies are an inherently expensive art form, and there are a lot of people in the movie business who understand the difficulty of raising a budget and staying within it. And those people, I suspect, didn't want to vote "Best Picture" for a movie that had the advantage of, practically speaking, an obscenely unlimited budget — so they voted Avatar tenth-best out of ten nominees. That's how IRV let Hurt Locker pick up the grudge vote against Avatar, and win. Further evidence that IRV would be a good idea in political elections.
      I'm sleepy and I'm aware that I've said the above rather poorly, but I've just stumbled across an article in The New Yorker that says it much more clearly.

      ♦  A fridge on the wall — I would really like one of these, but I doubt that most homes (definitely not my apartment) are constructed sturdy enough to support the weight.

      ♦  This pedal-powered 'Shweeb' monorail looks like it has the potential, with proper financial backing, to be more than a mere amusement.


      ♦  Prosecutors have cleared ACORN (donate) of criminal wrongdoing after a four-month probe triggered by some well-funded right-wingers' heavily over-publicized and misleadingly-edited "sting" videos.

      ♦  This ten-year-old's depiction of a policeman beating his kid brother is, to my eyes, pretty dang terrific, but it's always a dicey gamble to have a church sponsoring art so don't look for it to hang at the Ecclesia Church in Houston.

      ♦  Long-time anti-rights activist Donald Wildmon has stepped down from leading his American Family Association, to deal with his ongoing battles against encephalitis and eyeball cancer.

      ♦  “You may have been given this leaflet because of the way you are dressed,” it begins. “Have you thought about standing before the true and living God to be judged?” If someone handed me that flyer and said, “Even though nothing is showing, you’re being ungodly" and "you make men want to be sinful,” there would be ... volume. It pisses me off when people make up excuses for rapists. But amazingly, the woman in this story kept her cool.

      ♦  The Vatican was today rocked by a sex scandal reaching into Pope Benedict's household after a chorister was sacked for allegedly procuring male prostitutes for a papal gentleman-in-waiting.

      ♦  The proposed sainthood of Pope John Paul II might be endangered, after questions are raised over his purported "miracle".

      ♦  It's suspected but disputed by NBC that The Tonight Show sweetened the audience response to Sarah Palin's stand-up act. I saw a brief clip of Palin's comedy, a handful of weak jokes I assumed came from Leno's weak joke-writers, and to my ear the laughter certainly seemed more raucous and generous than the material or delivery seemed to warrant.

      ♦  Boy, life must be the pure puritan ideal in Aurora, Colorado, where the city attorney and a fleet of bureaucrats spent on-the-clock time fretting about a coffee shop's sign because it features a picture of a bikini-clad woman. You'll see more skin in a beer commercial or an episode of 2½ Men.

      ♦  Starting next week we'll have a new schedule for Unknown News, if anyone's paying close enough attention to notice. Instead of Mondays, our big once-weekly updates will be on Tuesday mornings, or occasionally Wednesdays if Tuesday is especially hectic. We're hoping this is a better fit with our altered work shifts in the real world. Mark your calenders.

      ♦  Unknown News is updated once weekly, usually on Tuesdays. It's our attempt to spotlight news that was underplayed, ignored, or simply lost in the non-stop news cycle. Have a seat and some cheese puffs but please, no smoking.
      A tip o' the hat to Daniel D., the letter Z, AK for CSS help, JR Mooneyham, Bad Attitudes, Photography is Not a Crime, Right Wing Watch, Pharyngula, The Agitator, E & P in Exile, Progressive Review, Newshoggers, Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog, Little Green Footballs, Jim B., Sherri B., Cassandra, Joseph D., Joe G., Lon Garm, J.S. (not the Watergate felon) Magruder at Eat the Blog, Andrea O., HughBris, Comrade Q., SirJ, Bill T., wlgriffi, our first web-home at pitas.com (1999-2003, and still a great place for publishing your blog), and the love of my life (who prefers to remain anonymous).

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Compiled by Helen & Harry Highwater
Monday, Mar. 8, 2010
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