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Helen & Harry Highwater's cranky weblog of news and opinion.
Are the right-wing bastards right?
Is the BP disaster becoming Obama's Katrina?

  All signs continue to indicate that the Gulf of Mexico will soon be the Gulf of Chernobyl. It seems increasingly doubtful that anyone near the upper levels of the Obama administration seriously understands the consequences of what's been happening for more than a month now. Pardon my sour mood, but this is a calamity almost beyond comprehension. Is it too much to ask that somebody in charge should give a damn?

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  President Obama is giving BP a free hand to clean up oily catastrophe. Unlike the response to other past national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina where the government was in charge, BP has been designated as the "responsible party" under federal law and is overseeing much of the response to the spill. The government is acting more as an adviser ...

What could possibly go right with that strategy? It's hard to envision a more efficient way to ensure that the disaster's disastrousness continues disastrously, and to make this disaster into exactly what the right-wing has called it since day one, Obama's Katrina. LINK

  Ah, but here's reassurance. The Obama administration is planning to appoint a blue-ribbon committee to look into what happened. LINK

  BP has been lying since before the disaster, lying about its preparedness and lying about the volume of the gusher. So why does Obama's team still say that BP's guys are in charge of the mess? Because BP's guys and guys just like BP's guys are in charge of Washington DC much more than Obama or McCain or Bush could ever be. And no, I'm not saying they're interchangeable — Obama is much better than Bush or McCain or BP, but he's no less a tool of corporate power than Bush or McCain or anyone else who'd be allowed to be President, and he'll never do or say anything to jeopardize his status as Top Tool.

We have a political system that's finely tuned for corruption, ensuring that only corporate-friendly candidates are elected to Congress, screening out anyone who doesn't sufficiently genuflect at the altar of Big Business, and mocking any candidate who doesn't play along. As the predictable end result of this, we get leaders who don't know what real people are let alone give a damn about us, and who haven't got clue what to do in a genuine crisis like the current disaster brought to us by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean.

And so, this spreading catastrophe will get disconnected-from-reality non-solutions, rather like the disconnected-from-reality non-solutions enacted for everything from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (which didn't exist) to Goldman Sachs' weapons of mass destruction (which definitely do).

BP's guys and Obama's guys are exactly the wrong people to turn to in a crisis, but they're America's leaders, in that order — BP's guys and DC's guys. The problems in the Gulf are already solved, so far as BP is concerned, because their liability is limited. To them, it's just a public relations problem, nothing that can't be fixed with a series of TV ads with a tinkling sad piano or a down-home guitar. Worries about the economy and the environment are worries for somebody else — maybe you. But that doesn't much matter to the people in charge.

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That's why the Gulf is gone for a generation, at least, and that's why the America era is ending.

    Much more on the BP-Halliburton oil gusher below, but first let's round up the rest of the week's unknown and under-reported news ...


  The Obama administration maintains that it has the right to abduct anyone anywhere in the world and imprison them without charges, without a trial, without habeus corpus, without any of the civilized niceties that Americans say they're so proud of. And a US Court of Appeals agrees.

This is, of course, the endorsement of world-wide tyranny.

President Obama is too milquetoast to be much of a tyrant, though, so he probably won't use this power for more than holding and torturing a few thousand souls far from any system of justice. And they'll be mostly Muslim — and most Americans would probably be happy to hear about that.

At some point, though, in a future maybe after you and I are dead, some American President won't be so nice. Some future President could and probably will use this power to go far beyond Obama's low-volume secret prisons and Muslim-torture, and begin imprisoning and torturing people at a higher volume, maybe people who aren't Muslim. Will we care then?

It's a traditional power, people will say, and they'll be right. Heck, they'll say, the power to imprison and torture people is a power all Presidents have had, since way back in the days of George Bush and Barack Obama. So when the President wants five of these beyond-the-law prisons instead of just one, or fifty instead of five, and when the President needs to lock up half a million or a million people instead of a few thousand, and when the President wants to lock up Americans instead of just foreign people, hey, why would anyone object? Object too loudly and you could be one of the disappeared.

God, I get tired of this un-American crap. In all seriousness, dead seriousness, damn it, we have legal constraints on executive power because we've seen what national leaders have done without legal constraints. Muslims are people and ought to be treated with the respect all people deserve, and locking them up in some secret gulag doublecrosses every American primciple Americans pretend to respect. We have a Constitution for a reason. We have these things — a Bill of Rights, a Constitution, laws of the land — because we've seen what happens without them. We have a president, not a king capable of condemning anyone to life in prison with a stroke of a pen. Or, we used to, but we don't any more.

Are you really OK with that? LINK, LINK

  The Bush-Cheney administration discussed using predator drones to reign death from above on suspected drug kingpins in Mexico. The Obama administration is considering using the deadly devices on militants in Somalia and Yemen, and against pirates who attack commercial ships. It's morally repulsive, probably illegal if international law matters, and yet there it is.

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

(from our sticker collection)
"Yee-haw" remains America's foreign policy.

Are you OK with that? LINK

  Closing Guantanamo continues to be pushed back and back and backward. Are you OK with that? LINK

  From our comments page:
    TSA plans to x-ray 2 of every 3 air passengers even though millimeter wave scanners are equivalent in cost and results. Risks of x-raying entire population of country: incalculable over the long term. But the US government never did *do* long term -- just political expediency and try not to get fired before collecting juicy pensions...

    · 5% of population is genetically vulnerable to DNA damage.

    · not scanning head and neck areas would reduce basal melanomas, most likely cancers from x-raying, but TSA claims that would be inconvenient to them.

    · scanning is "optional". now. but eventually that could turn into mandatory (because after all, flying isn't a "right", and there are no rights, just whatever they say today for whatever reason suits their "careers"). LINK   —Theo Lipschitz
  The Supreme Court has ruled that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates considered "sexually dangerous" after their prison terms are complete.

The high court in a 7-2 judgment reversed a lower court decision that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of considered "sexually dangerous."

So a sentence of, say, five years can become a sentence of ten or twenty years, or life, just like that? Explain to me please, the constitutional basis for sentencing that extends beyond the term of the sentencing, and how this isn't Congress and the Supreme Court overstepping their respective authorities. LINK (Use our Washington Post login as "unknownnews@inbox.com" with password "unknown")

from recent readers' comments

We welcome readers' comments, questions, or criticisms sent to unknownnews@inbox.com, and on our comments page we publish any emails that (in our subjective opinion) add to the discourse.

  Millions of Americans arrested for but not convicted of crimes will likely have their DNA forcibly extracted and added to a national database, according to a bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.

By a 357 to 32 vote, the House approved legislation that will pay state governments to require DNA samples, which could mean drawing blood with a needle, from adults "arrested for" certain serious crimes. Not one Democrat voted against the database measure, which would hand out about $75 million to states that agree to make such testing mandatory. LINK

  A 19-year-old Pennsylvania woman sued her former high school Thursday, claiming school officials invaded her privacy and violated her free-speech rights when they confiscated her cell phone, found semi-nude photos stored inside and turned the phone over to authorities. LINK

  From our comments page:
    Prostitution is everywhere. It will never go away, ever. That's like trying to outlaw dogs chasing cats, or cats chasing mice.

    Gambling is legal in many states now because the tax revenues are impossible to ignore, morality be damned. The biggest casino of all is Wall Street. Gambling used to be illegal, now it is legal some places, illegal in others.

    Alcohol is legal but it used to be illegal, and before that it was legal.

    Pot was legal for almost 200 years in the U.S. The Founding Fathers grew it, for fuck's sake.

    Hugo Chavez just outlawed currency trading. No more buying and selling money. He vows to punish these "criminals".

    The list just goes on and on and on and on. It isn't nuts to oppose wasting valuable tax resources and making permanent "criminals" out of millions of people, people who will forever find it difficult to find good-paying honest employment.

    Most of these laws are passed and enforced by people who have, are and will continue to enjoy the pleasures they seek to punish in others. Elliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, George Bush, etc., etc., all enjoyed themselves some "illegal" goodies while enthusiastically punishing others.

    Bah. Control Freaks: control yourselves, leave the rest of us alone.   —Drew Farmington
  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) says "I don't have any doubt that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will be a memory by the end of this year." I'll believe it when I see it, but that line, in a long interview with The Hill, makes it sound like Obama and Pelosi will have an election-time surprise for gays and lesbians.

Good news, I guess, if you think it's appropriate to hold out basic civil rights as an election trinket. LINK

  The National Association of Realtors has quietly changed its rules to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. So your local Century 21 broker is in the 21st century, while your military remains in the 18th. LINK


  Here's what the American "family values" crowd wants — in Malawi it's a federal offense to be gay and in love. LINK

  Gay rights activist Mariela Castro — a daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro — led a gay rights protest in Havana last week. LINK

  Seems to me something godawful happened in Haiti not too long ago, but it's been completely forgotten in western media.

  Portugal has become the sixth European country to legalize same-sex marriage. President Anibal Cavaco Silva said today he had decided to ratify the legislation that passed Parliament in January. LINK

North Korea   South Korea
  South Korea tells North Korea, you sank my battleship!

  To protect Australia from the evils of pornography, computers are scanned at the border for porn. LINK

  The American war and occupation and endless, senseless US-sponsored death continues in Afghanistan.

  The American war and occupation and endless, senseless US-sponsored death is coming soon in Iran.

  The American war and occupation and endless, senseless US-sponsored death continues in Iraq.

  The American drone attacks, "secret" CIA murders, and other senseless US-sponsored death continues in Pakistan.
global climate change


  The latest guesstimate is that the BP oil eruption in the Gulf of Mexico is spewing 95,000 barrels of crude into the ocean every day. That's about 2,000,000 gallons every day. That's about two and a half Exxon Valdezes every week. It's much farther from shore than the Alaskan spill, so it's taking much longer to get the gory photos of ruined beaches, but the damage will be much, much worse. LINK

  The two types of dispersants BP is spraying in the Gulf of Mexico are banned for use on oil spills in the UK. As EPA-approved products, BP has been using them in greater quantities than dispersants have ever been used in the history of US oil spills. LINK

  BP skipped a safety step that might have been important. D'ya think? LINK

  Again it's uncertain who's in charge, as BP tells the Coast Guard to block reporters' access to the oily beach. LINK

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

(from our sticker collection)

  Louisiana shrimpers and fishermen are reportedly devastated and suicidal, as the oil disaster continues. And as the disaster continues, perhaps the media will eventually talk with these shrimpers and fishermen? LINK

  The federal agency responsible for ensuring that an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that inspections be done at least monthly, an Associated Press investigation found.

Since January 2005, the federal Minerals Management Service conducted at least 16 fewer inspections aboard the Deepwater Horizon than it should have under the policy, a dramatic fall from the frequency of previous years, according to the agency's records. LINK

  In its 2009 exploration plan for the Deepwater Horizon well, BP PLC states that the company could handle a spill involving as much as 12.6 million gallons of oil per day, a number 60 times higher than its current estimate of the ongoing Gulf disaster.LINK

  Transocean, Ltd., the giant oil contractor that leased its Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, held a “closed-door meeting” with shareholders Friday, “just days after” executives appeared before Congress to explain the company’s role in the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. As ThinkProgress noted, the meeting took place at the company’s headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, where Transocean relocated two years ago to avoid paying taxes. Though CEO Steven Newman “ignored questions from reporters,” the company said in a statement that it would distribute $1 billion in dividends to shareholders LINK

  BP and the US Coast Guard plan to test Kevin Costner's oil clean-up machine, which is apparently a serious and real thing. LINK, LINK

And in other environmental disasters ...

  Two separate sources of temperature data – the National Climatic Data Center and NASA – report that, through April, 2010 is the warmest year ever recorded. LINK

  The world faces the nightmare possibility of fishless oceans by 2050 without fundamental restructuring of the fishing industry, UN experts said Monday. "If the various estimates we have received... come true, then we are in the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of fish," Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Environment Program's green economy initiative, told journalists in New York. LINK

For at least decades, America's leadership has argued ferociously — Democrats vs Republicans in an eternal smackdown — but argued only about the minor details of a whole lot of seriously retarded precepts that they've unanimously agreed are sacrosanct and never to be questioned.

Democrats and Republicans argue about gays in the military but cheerfully agree on foreign policy based on war and threat of war.

Democrats and Republicans argue about a few weeks of meager unemployment extensions but agree on industrial policy that seems designed to encourage the dismantling of industry.

Democrats and Republicans argue about whether pot smokers and cokeheads should get long prison terms or mandated, heavy-handed counseling, but agree on drug policies that put utterly harmless or even entrepreneurial Americans in prison.

Democrats and Republicans argue about walls and round-ups and draconian civil rights violations to snag illegal immigrants, but agree to never seriously fund enforcement of laws that might punish the employers of illegal immigrants.

Democrats and Republicans argue about the imagined economic repercussions of raising the minimum wage by a dime once a decade, but agree about the wondrous goodness of "free trade" and foreign outsourcing and utterly fake derivatives and other economic policies that any fool can see are ruinous.

Yeah, Democrats and Republicans argue about everything except the things they all agree on, all this and more, much, much more. I could spend all day typing such conundrums but I have to get to my job mopping floors... Ah, but ain't that America for you and me, ain't that America something to see ...

  Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, should have never been Secretary of the Interior. He's a big fan of Big Oil, basically a cheerleader for off-shore drilling. His bureaucracy bent and broke the law in handing out off-short oil drilling permits before, including, and after the ongoing and ever-widening BP disaster in the Gulf. Salazar needs to be removed from office in handcuffs and prosecuted. LINK (Use our New York Times login as "unknownnews" with password "unknown"), LINK

  The politics of this oily disaster is way, way down the list of things that matter, but politics always matters. And President Obama is making the mistake of a lifetime by basically snuggling in bed with BP.

BP's people are doing the toxicity testing — conflict of interest much? Animal rescue volunteers aren't allowed to help oil-soaked birds, because that work can only be done by a BP subcontractor. That just stinks. The whole mess stinks.

Mr President, you've made a million mistakes and your presidency already only looks good compared to George W Bush, but if you don't pull your head out of your presidential seal and take command in the Gulf, and soon, the oil will wash up on your administration as surely as it's going to wash up on the shores of Louisiana and Florida. LINK (Use our New York Times login as "unknownnews" with password "unknown")

  Today, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) introduced bipartisan legislation called the “War Is Making You Poor Act,” which aims to call attention to a) how much money is being spent to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and b) how budget gimmicks are used to pay for them. Grayson’s legislation would slash the $159 billion request for supplemental war funding and use that money to deliver a tax break for all Americans.

Sounds like a brilliant idea, and thus it's going to be drowned out by the roar of stupidity and corruption in Washington DC. I'm dead serious when I say, what Grayson is proposing is a common sense solution — let people see the stupidity of what's going on, and the people won't stand for it. But just as seriously, that's why Grayson's proposal doesn't have a shadow of a chance — the powers that run the government and the media are all about making sure people never see the stupidity of what's going on. LINK

  Organizing for America, Obama’s arm of the Democratic National Committee, sent about two dozen paid employees to work on the losing Senate primary campaign of Republican turned quasi-Democrat Arlen Specter. Another good reason (but did you really need another?) to never, never, never ever give money to the Democratic Party.

Joe Sestak is not a Russ Feingold or Dennis Kucinich Democrat, but he's also not an Arlen Specter "Democrat", and he has a good chance to defeat Pat Toomey, the cro magnon Republican running against him. LINK, LINK

  President Obama personally recorded a robocall, lying about Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) and urging Democrats to support her, as she was challenged by a genuine Democrat, Bill Halter. Halter finished a close enough second that there will be a run-off against Lincoln before the general election against some Republican suit. LINK (Use our Washington Post login as "unknownnews@inbox.com" with password "unknown")

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  All the pundits' poop aside, the five big elections of last week's primaries in several states went in the Democrats' favor, five for five. At least, if you count the Blue Dog Democrat Mark Critz's victory in Pennsylvania, where he took dead Blue Dog Jack Murtha's seat. Of course, like other Blue Dogs, Critz will work aggressively against any hint of a progressive agenda, so his victory means mext-to-nada to the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. LINK (Use our Washington Post login as "unknownnews@inbox.com" with password "unknown")

  In Kentucky, the Democratic Party's primary winner, Jack Conway, and the Democrats' runner-up, Dan Mongiardo, each had more votes than the Republican primary's winner, Rand Paul, but it's Paul who's been crowned winner by the media. He's apparently more headline-worthy than the oil disaster in the Gulf or anything else in the world.

Rand Paul is every preppy schmuck at every Libertarian Party meeting I attended so many years ago when I was a libertarian. He has the same assumption that his principles will solve every problem. He offers the same solutions that sound swell but disintegrate if they're brought into real world daylight. He has the same knee-jerk affection for any giant corporation, the same confidence that government has no standing to do much of anything, and the same righteous stand against racism in theory but in practice other principles come first.

I swear, it's like I know the guy. He was at every supper speech and every tax protest, with Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard books under his arm. If I met Rand Paul in person I'm sure he'd clumsily hit on me all over again. Only two things have changed — he's apparently solved his dandruff and pimple problem, and we haven't yet heard his extended speech on the wisdom of investing in gold (to most libertarians, gold is more important than freedom). But he makes up for the latter by believing in the mythical Amero.

Rand Paul is principled but woefully sheltered, and so naïve he's never stopped to think past his libertarian platitudes. Like, what happens if the government doesn't ban discrimination at gas stations and restaurants? When racist owners of these businesses say "No Blacks", "No Jews", "No Mexicans", then what happens when a Black Jewish Mexican walks in? In Rand Paul's libertarian state, the owner points to his "No shirts, no shoes, no Blacks, no Jews, no Mexicans" sign and demands that the Black Jewish Mexican leave — and if the Black Jewish Mexican doesn't leave quickly enough, what then? Presumably, tax-paid cops are supposed to arrest this Black Jewish Mexican fellow for trespassing, and tax-paid county prosecutors are supposed to bring him to trial, and tax-paid jailers are supposed to house him for a year as he serves his imagined debt to society.

In my perspective, if a business is open for business then a customer's right to buy a meal or use the toilet trumps a bigoted business owner's property rights to kick out Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, or whomever else he hates. In Rand Paul's world a businessman's right to hate you is more important than your right to eat or pee. Sounds very libertarian, she said snidely. Which is another reason I'm no longer a libertarian. LINK, LINK (Use our Washington Post login as "unknownnews@inbox.com" with password "unknown"), LINK

  The Senate has passed Wall Street reform that, despite being watered down by Republicans and Republicrats, seems to be a notch about the half-assed level that I was expecting. Call it three-quarters-assed. I am particularly smitten with this excerpt:
    In response to the huge bailouts in 2008, the bill seeks to ensure that troubled companies, no matter how big or complex, can be liquidated at no cost to taxpayers. It would empower regulators to seize failing companies, break them apart and sell off the assets, potentially wiping out shareholders and creditors.
I'll believe it when I see it actually happen, but I'll raise a toast — clink! — just seeing the words.

In another section, the bill includes an amendment by Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota), which seems to counteract the profit motive that tends to make ratings agencies falsify their ratings. Which also sounds good.

But, limited applause here. Near as I can ascertain the included audit of the Fed is fake and one-time only, and the derivatives reform here is shallow and hollow. Bottom line, I don't hear Goldman Sachs screaming, so it's nowhere near what's needed. LINK, LINK, LINK

  From our comments page:
    The Obama administration won't punish the obvious criminality of the Bush-Cheney administration, won't punish the obvious criminality in the finance industry, won't punish the obvious criminality of BP in cahoots with the Interior Department, won't end the wars, won't put his ass on the line for anything that matters. Is this guy a superputz or what?   —Angry Annie
  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, and this week they got something right.

Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu didn't wait long before booting Jonathan Katz from the team of scientific headscratchers trying to figure out what to do about the ongoing BP-Halliburton catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Katz is an astrophysicist who's more famous as a homophobe, and his absence means that any proposal the Egghead Gang comes up with will be taken more seriously. LINK

  In Arizona, 75-year-old Bill Macumber has been in prison for decades for a murder he almost certainly didn't commit. He had no prior criminal record. He has always denied the crime. Someone else has confessed to the killings. The state's Board of Executive Clemency has unanimously recommended that he be released from prison because of "substantial doubt" about his guilt. Seems fairly cut-and-dried, unless you're a "tough on crime" Governor running for re-election, like Governor Jan Brewer (R-Arizona), who won't sign off on the release, and won't even say why. LINK

  Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) says he's not in favor of enforcing laws prohibiting employers from hiring undocumented workers. Instead, he would “secure the borders” before holding Arizona businesses accountable to the law.

That's McCain, as usual, being part of the problem. Employers, especially giant and very corporate employers, love hiring illegal immigrants, because the wages are low and the workers work hard and never complain as safety and workplace regulations are routinely violated. Employers want illegal immigrants, and politicians want big employers to be happy, and American workers get screwed, as all the raids and walls and deportations in the world accomplish nothing beyond another round of musical chairs, as new immigrants are always willing to queue up for the jobs.

That's why illegal immigration is a big problem and always will be, until the employers are punished. McCain and everyone else in DC knows this. Illegal immigrants know this. It's only TeaBaggers and other dim bulbs who don't get it, and they're the stupid voters McCain is counting on. LINK

  I've seen a lot of lefty bloggers and commentators laughing their dang fool asses off over this TV ad for Alabama Ag Commission candidate Dale Peterson. The ad is brilliant, and the left's condescension about it is more than a little bit annoying. So what if Dale's carrying a rifle and riding a horse and wearing a cowboy hat? It's Alabama — to a large extent that's the electorate, and the commercial will win him the election unless he turns out to be gay or Mexican or some other 'Bama dealbreaker.

Seriously, I've watched the ad half a dozen times, and of course I'd want to know more about the candidate before casting my ballot. For all I know he's a bigot and a birther, but based on his ad I'd at least consider voting for him. He certainly says nothing in the ad that I find offensive, stupid, or worth snickering at. He comes across as a tough, no-nonsense guy, not stupid, not dry, and he has a sense of humor, which never hurts. I don't have any hostility toward the candidate, not based on the commercial, so all you oh-so superior Ivory Tower lefties can stuff it — I only wish Democrats had a few candidates like Dale Peterson. LINK

  They're hellbent on raising the next generation of goobers in Texas, still tweaking the state's eddikatshun standurds so the youngins learn to praise the Lord and hate the homos. It's scary to think that in twenty or thirty years, if the USA or Texas is still standing — a mighty big if — your average Texan might be more misinformed than he or she is today.

But I ain't gonna futz about it too much. We're past the time (if it was ever true) when schoolbook printers had to cater to Texas standards in books they sold in New Hampshire and New Mexico. There's plenty of profit to be made from publishing separate books for better-educating kids outside Texas. LINK

  But stupid ain't just for Texas. The wife of Congressman Lee Terry (R-Nebraska) is demanding that her local school board remove material that treats global climate change as science. LINK

  Lots of mainstream media coverage for the resignation of another anti-gay, anti-sex, anti-freedom but pro-"family values" politician, Congressman Mark Souder (R-Indiana). You definitely heard about it. But you might not have heard the punchline, which got a lot less media attention — the guy made videos with his mistress, touting abstinence-only education. LINK

  Here's another snapshot of the Serious Stupid that's achieved stardom in the Republican Party, and yeah, Sarah Palin is involved. It's Raul Labrador vs Vaughn Ward in the Republican primary for Congress in Idaho, and these two Republicans are asked about statehood for Puerto Rico. Ward makes it clear that he doesn't know Puerto Rico is part of America. Labrador is Puerto Rican so he does know, and offers this fact. Ward replies, "I really don't care what it is. I mean, it doesn't matter. I don't care." And Sarah Palin is there to endorse Ward, the guy who doesn't know the first thing about an issue but has strong opinions about it. But wait, there's more — Labrador brags that he has the endorsement of the Tea Party crowd.

It's all a chuckleworthy sight, sure, ignorance so thick you can't even think through it. Chuckle with me, but we both know these fools will be the death of us all, and soon. The dumber than dirt crowd drives the national discourse, and even when alleged Democrats hold substantial majorities of Congress and control the White House, it's always Republicans elected by the dumber-than-dirts who effectively control the federal government. LINK

  This item was a month old before I saw it, so the opening few paragraphs at this link are time-specific to an earlier time, but it's a fun link. J. L. Bell did some quick math analysis of the politically-based rumors debunked at Snopes, and found that "This evidence accumulated over ten years shows a shameful but undeniable fact of American politics: our right wing now contains a lot more liars, and a lot more folks who spread lies out of gullibility or wishfulness, than our left wing." LINK

  Local Republicans have re-nominated former Congressman and double family values guy Vito Fossella (R-New York). You might remember, he's the Congressman who resigned in 2008 when it was discovered he had two homes and families, one with his wife and one with his mistress. LINK

  The unanswered questions involving Florida Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio's mis-use of Party credit cards are interesting. More interesting to me is that I never see mainstream reporters asking these questions. LINK

  Former New York City Police Commissioner and GW Bush's man for Homeland Security, Bernard Kerik began serving his 4-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland last week. LINK

  In last week's fake Republican outrage, we saw the right-wing take great phony umbrage over the dame who won a beauty pageant. ... Can't wait to see what next week's fake Republican outrage will be about. It's always something.

  Noted smart guy Craig Venter says he's made synthetic life, and President Obama wants an investigation. LINK, LINK


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

  Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and 11 other banks routinely rigged auctions on billions of dollars in guaranteed investment contracts, says the US Justice Department. The surprise here isn't the rigging, or the brazen but utterly ordinary crookedness of the American finance system, and it certainly won't be a surprise when these organized crime outfits pay a small fine to make the scandal disappear. What's news is merely that it made the news at all, however briefly.

From our comments page:
    The key takeaway here is that the banks -- ALL of the biggies -- were caught, red-handed, in a conspiratorial ripoff scheme, AGAIN.... A big conspiratorial ripoff scheme.

    They were all in on Enron. Deeply involved. Partners.

    They were all involved in bogus subprime lending scheme, among other mortgage-related things, such as passing crap mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They we all involved in the internet stock bubble. They were all involved in every major financial ripoff scheme. Caught in the act. These is RICO stuff. Thousands of employees at these banks should be headed to prison and their assets seized under the RICO laws. The banks shouldn't have been bailed out, they should have been told to call a bail bondsman!   —Mick Caffeine LINK
  Standard & Poor’s looks less and less like an independent ratings agency and more and more like they're in on the perpetual swindle. S&P has re-evaluated a fat flock of mortgage bonds, previously rated AAA, and now says they're junk bonds. Only this isn't news from 2005 or 2007 — these are mortgage bonds bundled together just last year, after the economic collapse, but now deemed junk. LINK

  In the past year, Bank of America has spent more the $16-million lobbying to block financial reform. BofA, of course, is just one of the giant banks that basically own Congress, and the other giant banks and Wall Street financial institutions have made similar colossal "investments" in lobbying. How can you compete with that, for lawmakers' attention? How much have you spent lobbying for financial reform? LINK

  Sure is eye-opening to me, to see how openly hostile Facebook is to simple privacy. I'd never use such a "service". LINK

  The Warner Bros movie studio is alleged to have pirated its anti-piracy software. LINK

  Wal-Mart and General Electric have teamed up to sell 900,000 coffee makers that could burn customers' houses down. LINK

  The Vatican's defense in the never-ending child-rape scandal and Pope-ordered cover-up: Bishops are not church employees. Seriously. LINK, LINK

  A jury has billed Allergan $15-million for botulism poisoning from Botox. Of course, Botox is short for botulinum toxin, so the botulism poisoning can't be too big a surprise. And Allergan? What kind of brain-dead company picks a name that's going to be pronounced exactly like allergen? LINK

Is this journalism?

  On the front page of the New York Times, with a color photo and a headline blatantly calling him a liar, we're told that Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal lied about his military service. Now, I don't know Richard Blumenthal from any other white guy in a suit, but this sure seems like a fairly trivial lie to get the front page, screaming headlines treatment, especially as BP turns the Gulf into a cesspool and especially remembering that the New York Times is the newspaper that helped George Bush lie America to war and never called him on his flood of daily lies.

But they sure caught Blumenthal, didn't they? Well, apparently, no, they didn't. The claim that Blumenthal lied is pretty much crap, and it smells like this "news" was fed to the Times by the campaign of Republican opponent Linda McMahon. This is the kind of blatant smear that demands a quick and thorough apology from the Times, especially as they start asking people to pay for such hogwash. LINK, LINK (Use our Washington Post login as "unknownnews@inbox.com" with password "unknown")

  Times ombuddy Clark Hoyt offers his take on the above for what it's worth, and it's not worth much. LINK (Use our New York Times login as "unknownnews" with password "unknown")

  The Associated Press is doing some journalism of late. They're assigning actual reporters to check the actual facts of politicians' claims, and to AP's surprise, getting facts reliably checked is popular with readers. I am not nice enough to simply pat AP on the back and say thanks, without also asking, where the hell was AP and what the hell was AP doing during the eight utterly un-factchecked years of the Bush-Cheney administration? LINK (Use our Washington Post login as "unknownnews@inbox.com" with password "unknown")

  Frontline, by far the best journalism appearing regularly on American television, just got a $6-million grant that will allow the program to air year-round instead of taking summers off. LINK (Use our New York Times login as "unknownnews" with password "unknown")

  There was a slight terrorist attack in America last week, but it got next to no media attention because the intended dead were Muslims.

It's my opinion that this attack got about the right amount of attention — what's really twisted is the enormous and un-ending attention given one nutball with a poorly constructed car bomb in an SUV, an "attack" that merits about three paragraphs on the deep inside pages in the New York papers and virtually no coverage beyond the city. In overhyping the hell out of such half-assed terror attempts, the American media does nobody any favors — except the terrorists, of course, who have their mission and our terror accomplished by Associated Press and CNN. LINK

  You perhaps got a chuckle out of the widely-circulated story of Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota), who canceled an interview with a Newsweek reporter because he had fact-checked her wacky tweets. And sure, it's an amusing story, but the part that matters is, the story will never appear in Newsweek, the real magazine. It's only on the web. It got spiked from the print edition specifically because Bachmann canceled the interview.

Which, in a nutshell, is why Newsweek doesn't matter and won't be missed. LINK

  We mentioned last week a rather silly story of a lawmaker at the capitol in Tennessee who collapsed on the floor, and the reporter who was criticized for taking a photo of said lawmaker. Well, not content to merely be moderate idiots, several of the lawmakers proposed a resolution urging that the reporter lose his credentials — basically, lose his permission to cover politics at the capitol. This bad idea was spiked shortly after word of it hit the media, but Jeebus Cripes, I'm weary of what these right-wing neanderthals are doing to America.

It ain't a Tennessee thing, but it sure as hell is a Republican thing. Are they just stupid? Why do these people take an oath of office when they're so clearly opposed to every American principle, on principle, from freedom of the press to liberty and justice for all? LINK, LINK

  Wikileaks honcho Julian Assange says Aussie authorities have told him his passport will be cancelled. Aussie officials say "huh?" LINK


  Descendant of slave-owner has dinner with descendant of slave. Get weepy. I did. LINK

  Good old American ingenuity, in Indian menstrual products. LINK

  So the Supreme Court dithered on whether a giant cross could be tolerated on federal land in the middle of nowhere. Try a land swap with the VFW, said the Supreme Court in sending the case back to a lower court.

So persons unknown simply stole the cross.

So other persons unknown put up a new cross.

So Parks Service employees took it down.

And by the time you read this another new cross will no doubt have been erected, on federal land in the middle of nowhere.

Dang me, Americans don't take their religion or constitution very seriously, but they take their symbols very, very seriously indeed. LINK

  Sci-fi master Norman Spinrad has undergone surgery for cancer, and might appreciate a note of appreciation at normanspinrad [at] hotmail [dot] com. LINK

  Another great writer, Bruce Sterling, is chipper and cheerful 'cuz his wife got her green card. Another new American making this country a better place, and that's usually the way it woirks. It's the already Americans, by and large, who are dragging the joint down. LINK

  Martin Gardner has died at the age of 95. He made math seem like fun, which in my experience is a mighty rare talent. LINK

  Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, is Broadway-bound. He had his terrific TV show quickly cancelled when he was caught in an adult movie theater doing what a lot of men do in an adult movie theater. His crime has always seemed to me to be exactly no crime at all, so I'm pleased to see that he's finally getting some of the success he's long deserved. LINK


  For two months I've been receiving what I thought was spam from someone mimicking Joe Sespak's Senate campaign in Pennsylvania, calling himself "Rick Sestak". Nigerian scammers can't even get the guy's name straight as they troll for phony campaign donations, I thought, so I never even opened those emails ... until the emails continued with a celebratory headline after Sestak's victory in the primary election. Scratching my head I click and find that Rick Sestak is Joe's brother and campaign manager. Oh.

  An appeals court says Judge Robert Gettleman (appointed by Clinton in 1994) can't punish TV con man Kevin Trudeau for flooding his email with spam pleadings for leniency. LINK

  Reverend Jeremiah Wright is complaining that Barack Obama doesn't return his calls. I couldn't care less, but thought it was hilarious that Wright says Obama didn't just throw him under the bus, but "threw me under the bus literally!" Either the Reverend doesn't know the meaning of "literally" or he needs prompt medical attention. LINK

  It's theorized by some that murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner has chosen to be executed by firing squad because of an old-time Mormon teaching that by shedding his own blood he might gain redemption. I can respect that. Hope it works out for you, Mr Gardner. LINK

  And lastly, a quick recap of some of the news we don't give a damn about, and don't even think is "news" — a rodent in the White House, Google's annoying "PacMan" branding, anything Chris Matthews says or does ... and much, much more nonsense and non-news. See ya next week with what we hope is real news instead.

Readers' comments

We welcome readers' comments, questions, or criticisms sent to unknownnews@inbox.com, and on our comments page we publish any emails that (in our subjective opinion) add to the discourse.

  Unknown News is updated once weekly, usually on Mondays. It's our attempt to spotlight news that was underplayed, ignored, or simply lost in the non-stop news cycle. Here's the why and why not of it all, and if any of our links require a password, please let us know and we'll share ours.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

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