Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Meet the Future President of the ACLU

From the “Things that would have gotten me killed by my parents if I did it when I was a kid” file, a 10-year-old boy in Arkansas is refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance until gays and lesbians have the right to marry.

That little item aside, the community organizer seedling admits to saying something in class that would have rendered me in even more serious trouble back in the day:

ROBERTS: All right. So, your teacher, who is a substitute teacher at the time, was giving you grief about not standing up. This went on for a few days. What did you eventually say to that teacher?

WILL PHILLIPS: I eventually very solemnly with a little bit of malice in my voice said, “Ma’am, with all due respect, you can go jump off a bridge.”

The kid should still be busy trying to remove his dad’s boot from his ass for being so insolent in class, but instead ends up on CNN. But if you watch the father in the interview, you’ll find out this wasn’t garden variety insolence and lack of respect for authority — it was an “atypical act of juvenile delinquency.”

At the end of the interview, the boy’s father channeled Balloon-Boy’s dad a little bit when asked what his first thought was when he heard about what his son had done: “Before we heard from anybody, my first thought was oh, my God, this is the type of thing you see on CNN.”

Least surprising fact: The boy wants to be a lawyer.

Most surprising fact: CNN’s John Roberts claims to have never heard the term “Gaywad” before:

FBI Tracked Legendary Chicago Author Studs Terkel for Decades

It’s no surprise that legendary author and Windy City legend Studs Terkel was on the radar of the FBI for decades. After all, he was a civil rights advocate and suspected of being a communist.

The New York City News Service reported that it had obtained 147 pages of FBI documents showing that the bureau tracked Terkel from 1945 to 1990. He died last year at age 96.

The News Service reported that Terkel applied for an FBI job handling fingerprints in the 1930s. By 1945, the agency suspected him of being a communist.

To read more click here.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed On Trial

Victor Davis Hanson, writing on The Corner on National Review Online, asks,

Why the assumption that KSM and others will be found guilty?

This got me thinking about a recurring theme in articles written over past decade by George Jonas (a sample of which is here). Mr. Jonas was examining (in part) a central problem of high profile show trials, being that there never really is a presumption of innocence in cases involving the trials of men who commit (or aspire to commit) genocide; as a result, trials like this are actually inconsistent with modern Western traditions of criminal justice. In Jonas’ words, these are kangaroo courts.

There are numerous reasons why giving KSM a civilian trial is wrong. It treats the leadership of an organised, international, terrorist group, with legions of fanatics willing to die to achieve broad socio-political goals, as a mere criminal conspiracy. It exposes classified information and the techniques used to obtain it* to examination by a known terrorist and public review in an open court. It proposes that any number of activities committed on foreign soil, tantamount to acts of war, should ultimately be treated as domestic criminal matters within the American civilian court system.

What it does not do is further the cause of criminal justice. It is absolutely unthinkable, absolutely impossible, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will leave the courtroom in New York a free man. The Supreme Court finding that some of the techniques used in his interrogation constitute torture will surely come up, and in a normal case this would sink the prosecution. It will not have a bearing on the outcome of this case. There can be no other outcome but a finding of guilt and a sentence of death. As it was for Saddam Hussein, so too shall it be for KSM.

What President Obama and AG Holder have set in motion is not justice; it is a showy revenge plot, with the added “bonus” of exposing the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war on terror to unlimited public scrutiny and criticism.

Heaven help us all if this pointless piece of Kabuki theatre goes sideways.

(*Let’s not forget that beyond waterboarding lie techniques such as infiltration that may still be ongoing and valuable; if such operations are at risk of being exposed by the trial they will have to be wound down before lives are put at risk; valuable information in the struggle to protect ourselves against those who would have us all dead might therefore be lost or compromised for the sake of defending the indefensible.)

Madoff lieutenant released from jail: officials

Bernard Madoff's right-hand man during decades of massive fraud on Wall Street has been released despite having previously been denied bail, according to prison officials.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons database shows that Frank DiPascali, 53, was released on November 12. No reason was given for the release, which went largely unnoticed by the public.

DiPascali pleaded guilty in a New York federal court on August 11 to conspiracy and multiple counts of fraud related to Madoff's multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

The judge ordered him immediately jailed though he has agreed to help the government investigate the Madoff fraud and was backed by prosecutors in his application for bail.

DiPascali was chief financial officer in Madoff's company, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. He faces a maximum penalty of 125 years in prison.

Madoff is serving a 150 year sentence after pleading guilty to the scam.

Costco nixes Coke products over pricing dispute

Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent takes a drink of a Coca-Cola Zero during an address to investors at a meeting Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Costco customers may have to look elsewhere for Coca-Cola products now that the retailer has stopped carrying them because the pair are fighting over prices.

The public squabble between one of the nation's largest wholesale club operators and the world's largest soft drink maker is likely to fizzle quickly. But it reveals real tensions as retailers and product makers square off on prices.

As shoppers continue to grapple with the recession, retailers want to win their favor by giving them low prices. But that has been creating tension between product makers like Coca-Cola Co., who are working hard to maintain profit margins while meeting retailer demands.

Typically such negotiations take place behind the scenes, but once in awhile, a public dispute erupts.

"Beneath this surface of harmony, it's a dogfight out there," Gerry Khermouch, editor of Beverage Business Insights, said Tuesday at an investor meeting held by the soft drink maker at its hometown of Atlanta.

Retailers want to wield more power in determining pricing with product makers, who they depend on to stock their customers' favorite brands, Khermouch said.

Costco has been aggressive in putting up signs on store shelves and notices on its Web site.

"Costco is committed to carrying name brand merchandise at the best possible prices. At this time, Coca-Cola has not provided Costco with competitive pricing so that we may pass along the value our members deserve," said a message on the company's Web site labeled "Price Alert!"

A Costco executive confirmed the move Monday but would not discuss the matter further.

The wholesale club operator, based in Issaquah, Wash., is not removing products like Coke and Diet Coke from store shelves, but it does not plan to restock them "until the matter is resolved," according to the message on its site.

Coca-Cola said in a statement late Monday it won't comment on ongoing negotiations but said Costco is an important customer and that it is committed to working with it "in a spirit of fairness."

This dispute is notable given the size and visibility of both companies, said Jim Hertel, managing partner at retail consulting firm Willard Bishop.

"It's not unprecedented, but it doesn't happen every day," Hertel said.

Earlier this year grocer Delhaize SA in Belgium said it would no longer stock at least 250 Unilever products because the food and consumer products maker was making "unprecedented" demands that would force retail prices up 30 percent, the two companies reached an agreement within months.

But the pricing pressure is more intense at Costco, whose business model is designed around offering lower prices than traditional retailers.

Hertel said most likely, the companies will recognize there is a mutual interest and will find a way to resolve it.

"These are complex relationships and hugely valuable," he said.

Who will win? Beverage analysts said don't bet against that famous logo.

"This is not going to bully Coke into changing its pricing strategy," said John Sicher, editor of trade publication Beverage Insights. "I think Coke is going to basically be focused on the right price and right market for its products, no matter the cost."

Special Inspector General: NY Fed Screwed Up AIG Bailout

No surprise here: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in a desperate headlong rush to rescue American International Group, screwed the pooch. Despite holding all of the cards, cash and power, they still managed to manuver themselves into a corner with “little negotiating room.”

So says the most recent audit from the Office of the Special Inspector General (SIG) for the TARP program (full embed here) :

“SIGTARP concludes that: (1) the original terms of federal assistance to AIG, including the high interest rate it adopted from the private bank’s initial term sheet, inadequately addressed AIG’s long term liquidity concerns, thus requiring further Government support; (2) FRBNY’s negotiating strategy to pursue concessions from counterparties offered little opportunity for success, even in light of the willingness of one counterparty to agree to concessions; (3) the structure and effect of FRBNY’s assistance to AIG, both initially through loans to AIG, and through asset purchases in connection with Maiden Lane III effectively transferred tens of billions of dollars of cash from the Government to AIG’s counterparties, even though senior policy makers contend that assistance to AIG’s counterparties was not a relevant consideration in fashioning the assistance to AIG; and (4) while FRBNY may eventually be made whole on its loan to Maiden Lane III, it is difficult to assess the true costs of the Federal
Reserve’s actions until there is more clarity as to AIG’s ability to repay all of its assistance from the Government. SIGTARP also draws lessons that should be learned regarding the importance of transparency andratings agencies had on the AIG bailout.”

In other words, the deal that was cut in November 2008 with AIGs counter-party banks resulted in those banks being paid off in full for high risk credit-market bets.

Had AIG gone bankrupt, these firms would have recieved pennies on the dollar. The banks that benefited the most included Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Merrill Lynch and large French banks Société Générale and Calyon. (See table below)

The New York Fed said its goal was to “prevent a system-wide collapse” and not obtain the best deal possible. So they got played for patsies.

Here’s the WSJ:

The “SIGTARP” audit provides a window into a bailout effort that has been shrouded by a lack of disclosure — acknowledged in the report — and questions over why the U.S. government in effect funneled tens of billions of dollars to U.S. and European banks that were AIG’s trading partners.

In November 2008, less than two months after the New York Fed first bailed out AIG with an $85 billion credit line, the government restructured its aid to AIG as the insurer’s cash needs mounted amid the market downturn. The revamped package included a company called Maiden Lane III buying complex mortgage-linked securities from U.S. and European banks to cancel insurance contracts that AIG’s financial–products division had written on the securities. The banks were effectively paid par, or 100 cents on the dollar, for those securities, which had declined significantly in value due to rising home-loan defaults.

The report acknowledged challenges the regulators faced, including insistence by most of the banks and a French bank regulator that they be paid in full. But the report said the “refusal” of the Federal Reserve and New York Fed “to use their considerable leverage,” in negotiations with the trading partners “made the possibility of obtaining concessions from those counterparties extremely remote.”

Its simply embarrassing and pathetic . . .

Bernanke Predicts 2010

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is spoke today in a speech to the Economic Club of New York which gives the bulls and the bears plenty of ammunition to support their ongoing cases.

Bernanke told the audience that the economy will continue to grow in 2010, but he also noted that the underlying economic strength should support the US Dollar. The sad notion here is that Bernanke is effectively talking about a jobless recovery, or at least one where unemployment will remain high.

Bernanke’s notion of the recovery is hindered by the fact that credit remains tight and is expected to for some time, yet he noted that it takes about 2.5% GDP growth to create the 100,000 jobs required each month just to absorb the new entrants on the job market.

Bernanke also noted asset bubbles, and said he does not see any new asset bubbles in the economy today. On that notion, he noted that inflation still remain subdued for some time. And along the same notion, he reiterated that the FOMC sees low rates for an extended period.

On the banking system, Bernanke feels that too-big-to-fail is a critical issue. He does not want any single institution to be able to take down the system. What is interesting is that he did not say that smaller banks were the answer to this, but broader and proper regulation is the answer.

The only real new issue here is that Bernanke did address our deficits as noting that the current deficits are unsustainable. He thinks the government needs to lay out a plan for sustainable deficits.

We were hoping to hear some new key insight, but today was not any new revelation.


Body of missing NC girl found; 2 facing charges

SANFORD, N.C. — When 5-year-old Shaniya Davis of North Carolina went missing, suspicion turned to a man described as her mother's boyfriend. As he was let go, police targeted another man spotted on hotel surveillance footage holding the child. Then, authorities arrested the girl's mother and accused her of offering her daughter for prostitution.

The arrests offered a glimmer of hope Shaniya would be found alive, but searchers discovered the girl's body Monday off a rural road, nearly a week after her mother reported her missing from a mobile home park.

Hundreds of volunteers who helped look for Shaniya left the search area dejected, unable to bring her home to her father, 7-year-old brother and the dolls she so loved.

"I still feel kind of sick to my stomach," said Angela Jackson, 27, from nearby Sanford, who has a two-month-old daughter but searched for consecutive days.

Particularly disturbing were the accusations against Shaniya's mother, 25-year-old Antoinette Davis. Police charged Davis with human trafficking and felony child abuse, saying Shaniya was offered for sex.

Davis was calm and quiet during a court appearance. She provided one-word answers to the judge's questions. She requested a court-appointed attorney and did not enter a plea.

Her sister, Brenda Davis, 20, said she does not believe the charges.

"I don't believe she could hurt her children," said Brenda Davis, who spoke with her sister at the jail Sunday. Davis' aunt, Yvonne Mitchell, said the mother had two jobs and would never harm the child.

The Full Story

Clayton County teacher accused of threatening student after questioning his sexuality

Randolph Forde, a teacher at Mundy's Mill High School, is accused of putting a hit on a student after asking him if he was gay. He was charged last month (how did this slip through the news cracks?) with making terroristic threats. AJC reports:

According to the student's attorney, Forde pulled the 16-year-old student out of class and asked him if he was gay.

"A child’s sexuality is never a teacher’s business," said Marcia Killebrew, the student's mother. "I feel like the man was being extremely inappropriate."

The next day, the teacher got into a verbal altercation in an algebra class, said Madden.

“The teacher threatened to hit him in his ‘f-ing mouth,’” Madden said.

A few days later, Forde asked another student to “put a hit” on the teenager, according to a police report.

"The suspect advised to the witness that he would pay him to kill the victim," the report states.

The teacher wrote the victim's name on a note and showed it to another student on the school bus, the report says.

“I have no idea why teacher would want to hurt my son," Killebrew said. "But all it came after the teachers asked my son if he was gay. For the teacher to ask that, he had to have a motive. That’s not a random question."

Forde told police he "had no interaction with the witness or the victim, and he never made a statement regarding the victim," according to the report.

Forde's attorney, Borquaye Thomas, said the 16-year-old only complained after he got in trouble for another incident.

"The allegation is he made a hit on him, but that was not what was said nor what was intended," Thomas said. "The student only complained after he was getting suspended."

Forde asked the student about being gay after he saw the boy dancing inappropriately with another male student in class, Thomas said.

"All of the students knew Mr. Forde was joking," Thomas said. "The other students said Mr. Forde always plays around with them like that."

UPDATE: Larry Johnson signs contract, reportedly gets veteran minimum

8 days ago: FILE -- This is an Oct. 18, 2009, file photo showing Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson carrying the ball during an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins, in Landover, Md. The Chiefs have released troubled running back Larry Johnson. A two-paragraph statement from the team Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, simply listed Johnson's statistics and announced his release.

The Cincinnati Bengals and running back Larry Johnson have agreed to terms and the "deal is done", writes Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk. As of this posting, neither the Bengals nor Johnson's agent Peter Schaffer had announced anything official. But we're sure a nice morning announcement will be scheduled, maybe even with the introduction of Johnson to the press and fans.

The initial thought was that the Bengals were concerned enough about Cedric Benson's injury that they contacted and invited Johnson for a workout. However, Marvin Lewis said during the press conference Monday afternoon, that he "spoke to Larry Johnson last Thursday, and I wanted to visit with him about his future." ESPN's Michael Smith wrote that the Bengals were one of several teams to express interest before Sunday.

Which means the Bengals were interested before Benson's injury on Sunday.

Johnson's legal troubles are well documented. He's been arrested four times since 2003. The charges include felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor domestic battery when he waved a gun at his girlfriend at the time. Charges were later dropped. A woman made an accusation that Johnson pushed her to the ground. The case was dropped because the accuser didn't appear in the hearings. In 2008, he allegedly pushed a woman's head and his fourth arrest came when he spit a drink in a woman's face. He pled guilty to both and sentenced to two years of probation.


Johnson's career peaked, so far, between 2005 and 2006 when he rushed for 3,539 yards and recorded 37 rushing touchdowns. He was a threat out of the backfield in the passing game too, catching 74 passes in that time frame.

I understand the points against signing Johnson. I've made them myself.

From a purely football perspective, Johnson does bring something to the table. Even though he only carried the football seven times on Sunday, Benson is still the league leader with 205 rushing attempts. He's nine rushing attempts from reaching a career-high 214 attempts in 2008. Furthermore, Benson is hurt. What better scenario than to give give Benson a game or two off to rest and recover, allowing a healthier and stronger Benson during the stretch run towards the playoffs.

I know what you're saying. What about the Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard committee. I wondered that myself. But we honestly don't know whether either running back can be a 20-carry feature back. Scott said he felt great after a 13-carry performance against a hard-hitting Steelers defense. And, as Lewis said, this potential signing is merely an insurance policy.

UPDATE: Contract Signed and Benson responds. Joe Reedy tweets that the contract is signed and that we're just waiting for the official announcement. Reedy also tweets a Cedric Benson comment, "It’s good for him. I was once in that position and he’s getting his opportunity again."

UPDATE: Schefter provides contract situation.
ESPN's Adam Schefter writes that "Larry Johnson gets $4 million Chiefs owed him AND veteran minimum Bengals will pay him AND chance to play for contender." This is Johnson's seventh season, so he's accrued six seasons. Estimates are that he should get between $630,000-$730,000.

The Allen Iverson in Memphis Era

The Allen Iverson in Memphis Era


Sadly. I feel the depths of the unintentional awkwardness were only just touched. There was a vast reserve of painful that we are all denied the pleasure of viewing. That’s a global loss. We need to stand together and mourn as a collective human consciousness.

At least the four remaining Grizzlies fans can remember the Iverson era together in the burn ward, having set themselves on fire after Brandon Jennings dropping 55 over the weekend for Milwaukee. Thankfully, the Grizzlies denied themselves a talented point guard because they already had Mike Conley and wanted to get them some Thabeet. Because nothing says progress like the commitement to Mike Conley at point guard. He’s Brevin Knight. Only not as good. The awful. It burns.

And when the remaining Grizzlies fans recall the Iverson era, they can fondly recall that one game. And the other one. And that last one. So they got that going for them…

New York Governor Rips Obama Administration On Terror Trials

by Doug Mataconis

David Paterson is among those New York politicians who aren’t too happy about the Obama Administrations to try 9/11 suspects in New York City:

Gov. David A. Paterson on Monday criticized the Obama administration’s decision to try five men linked to the Sept. 11 attacks in a civilian court in Manhattan.

His comments made him one of a few Democrats to take that stand and underscored his schism with the White House.

“This is not a decision that I would have made,” the governor said. “New York was very much the epicenter of that attack; over 2,700 lives were lost.”

“It’s very painful,” he added. “We’re still having trouble getting over it. We still have been unable to rebuild that site, and having those terrorists tried so close to the attack is going to be an encumbrance on all New Yorkers.”

The decision to try the men in New York rather than in a military tribunal, made public on Friday by the United States attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., drew mixed reactions from lawmakers and victims’ families. Some have questioned why the five terrorism suspects, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the attacks, are being afforded civilian trials.

A number of Republicans have assailed the move, including former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is weighing a run for governor next year, while Democrats have been largely supportive and have defended the president.

Mr. Paterson is not the only Democrat to raise questions about the move: Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, has said that military commissions were a more appropriate venue.

Duane Reasoner Jr., Fort Hood and African-American Muslims

On Good Morning America this am, I watched as they aired a short segment probing an 18 year old friend named Duane Reasoner of Nidal Hasan, the alleged shooter at Fort Hood. There’s a sensational, almost exploitative quality to the coverage of this young man. He apparently was hanging out with Hasan and his Imam over regular dinners, discussing Islam, and was with Hasan the night before the murders.

Duane has said some crazy, extremist sounding stuff to Gavin Lee of the BBC (listen above) that leaving everyone a little concerned including:

Reasoner: “I’m not going to condemn him for what he did. I don’t know why he did it. I will not, absolutely not, condemn him for what he had done though. If he had done it for selfish reasons I still will not condemn him. He’s my brother in the end. I will never condemn him.”

Lee: “There might be a lot of people shocked to hear you say that.”

Reasoner: “Well, that’s the way it is. I don’t speak for the community here but me personally I will not condemn him.”

Lee: “What are your thoughts towards those that were victims in this?”

Reasoner: “They were, in the end, they were troops who were going to Afghanistan and Iraq to kill Muslims. I honestly have no pity for them. It’s just like the majority of the people that will hear this, after five or six minutes they’ll be shocked, after that they’ll forget about them and go on their day.”

Reasoner clearly should be interrogated to better understand what he knew about Hasan’s plans before the shootings occurred. We need to know how extensive Reasoner’s relationships with others who advocate or tolerate violence are. Yet I think it’s important to ensure that African-American Muslims do not generally come under suspicion nor discrimination due to one young man’s troubling, confused & just plain wrong rantings. Conservative bloggers and Muslim bashers including this person here are trying to link this guy to Obama:

Why are these Muslim invaders allowed to carry on freely in this country – protected by outreach, Obama, and PC mental illness.

which is also just completely wack.

Indigenous African-American Muslims comprise about 25% of American Muslims today and, prior to the surge in immigration over the past couple of decades, used to account for a larger percentage. They were often seen as a vocal & act minority within a minority with the most famous being Malcolm X & later Louis Farrakhan — men seen as alternative black leaders. Farrakhan, for example, was invited to the State of the Black World Conference last year in the wake of Obama’s election — it’s a diverse who’s who of African-American scholars, orators, church leaders and organizers including Rev. Al Sharpton; U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and dean of the Congressional Black Caucus; Susan Taylor, former editorial director of Essence magazine; Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa; economist Julianne Malveaux; hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Mele Mel and Kool Moe Dee; and poets Sonia Sanchez and Haki Madhubuti.

My own experience with Black Muslims has taught me that they are as patriotic as any American while expressing frustration at the inequalities and indignities African-Americans endure in this society. Their response generally speaking has not been violence at all but rather an emphasis on self-reliance with a somewhat self-segregationist bent. They seem willing to withdraw from what they see as a racist society and often endeavor to create safe, independent, economically sound, family-friendly enclaves rather than actively engaging in American society to push for change. Above all, their philosophy is non-violent and anti-crime while preserving the human right to self-defense if attacked.

Farrakhan has said some unwise, uncool things over the years and I disagree vehemently with his support for Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, etc. yet there’s no question that his work on the Million Man March, black community safety and police brutality for example reflect more mainstream African-American viewpoints.

Duane stands apart from those types of Black Muslims that I’ve met and whose communities I’ve passed through. My hope is that the media focuses on this young man rather than extending his words to cover an entire religion and ethnic sub-culture. I’d advise the Nation of Islam and other African-American Muslim leaders to get on the good foot and issue a statement that condemns Reasoner. Now is the time to draw a bright line between Reasoner’s sick statements of support for Hasan’s terrible acts and the views of the majority of African-American Muslims who, I believe, would not support a American Muslim soldier shooting his fellow unarmed soldiers on base.

I agree with TheGrio.com:

The military has historically been a great vehicle for integration and inclusion of diverse people regardless of religion, race, gender or economic status. Blacks have found a rite of passage in the military and have served honorably. Colin Powell rose to the highest rank there, but Powell was not a Muslim. Being Muslim is a likely barrier to advancement now.

There is no question regarding the competency of many African-American Muslims in the military, but there is a question of loyalty. Muslims in the military will now have to deal with the spillover of the recent massacre and the perceptions that fellow soldiers will have of them.

Robert Salaam served as a Marine in this country and illustrates his concerns at his blog The American Muslim, where he writes, “To have served this country honorably as many other Muslims in uniform have over the years, I don’t think there is a word to describe my heartache, pain, and sheer disgust I have concerning this madman and the actions he carried out. Even as I make extra prayers and give Dua, I know that my fellow non-Muslim Americans would love to see me leave my country. To go where I wonder…”

That is the question: Where would he go and where would others suggest he go? Our country consists of diverse faiths and ethnicities. We have to educate ourselves about radicalization and not think in terms of race or religion.

New Poll Shows Public Still Divided On Health Care Reform

by Doug Mataconis

As the Democrats in Congress continue to move forward, the American public remains deeply divided on health care reform:
As the Senate prepares to take up legislation aimed at overhauling the nation’s health-care system, President Obama and the Democrats are still struggling to win the battle for public opinion. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Americans deeply divided over the proposals under consideration and majorities predicting higher costs ahead.

But Republican opponents have done little better in rallying the public opposition to kill the reform effort. Americans continue to support key elements of the legislation, including a mandate that employers provide health insurance to their workers and access to a government-sponsored insurance plan for those people without insurance.

Over the past few months, public opinion has solidified, leaving Obama and the Democrats with the political challenge of enacting one of the most ambitious pieces of domestic legislation in decades in the face of a nation split over the wisdom of doing so. In the new poll, 48 percent say they support the proposed changes; 49 percent are opposed.

This is largely consistent with other polls on the topic:

If the Democrats do manage to pass one of the health care reform bills currently pending before Congress, they’ll be doing in a sharply divided country, and that’s an immense political risk.

Pro-aborts pull out stops opposing Stupak Amendment in healthcare

Didn't pro-aborts spend an inordinate amount of time claiming public funding of abortion wasn't included in any of the healthcare bills before House pro-lifers added an amendment specifying there would be no public funding in its healthcare bill?

Yet the hornet's nest that said abortion wasn't in healthcare has been stirred into a frenzy because abortion has been aborted from healthcare....

For instance, the National Organization for Women is planning a "Strip Stupak National Lobby Day" on December 2. I think it would be grand for pro-lifers to organize a "Stay Stupak National Rally Day" on December 2 and completely confuse the messaging.

And Young Feminists has listed 7 anti-Stupak petitions out there, sponsored by Alternet, Bold Progressives, Center for Reproductive Rights, Daily Kos, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood.

Finally, according to ABC News, the Center for Reproductive Rights is launching the following anti-Stupak ad tomorrow in the DC cable market and online...

Yuck. As I said only yesterday, abortion isn't funny. There you go. Pro-life response, from the USA Today blog:

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, says the CRR "ought to also be candid enough to come out and acknowledge that what they are really fighting for is unlimited funding of abortion under the new programs that the new healthcare bill would create."

Johnson also added that the amendment does not prevent a person, even those under the new proposed federal exchange, from purchasing a supplemental policy to cover abortions.

The Family Research Council added in an email alert today:

Planned Parenthood is already predicting an end to the amendment at the hands of the President, who President Cecile Richards calls her "strongest weapon."

Meanwhile, her allies still insist on spinning the debate not as a denial of federal funding for abortion, but as a denial of the "right" to abortion - which is absurd. Under the Stupak amendment, women can get as many elective abortions as they want. But taxpayers have no more obligations to pay for that elective procedure than they do for a woman's elective plastic surgery.

American Food Insecurity

by Charles Lemos,

It is the bleakest of news. In this country of plenty and nearly at the eve of our national celebration of thanks and remembrance, the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reported that 49 million Americans, or one in six, face food insecurity. The number represents a 36 percent rise year over year. Food stamps are now at all time record use with some 36 million Americans receiving a monthly assistance. Over the past two years, the rolls of those on food stamps have increased by 40 percent.

From the New York Times:

The number of Americans who lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year, to 49 million, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls "food insecurity" 14 years ago, the Department of Agriculture reported Monday.

The increase, of 13 million Americans, was much larger than even the most pessimistic observers of hunger trends had expected and cast an alarming light on the daily hardships caused by the recession's punishing effect on jobs and wages.

About a third of these struggling households had what the researchers called "very low food security," meaning lack of money forced members to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year.

The other two-thirds typically had enough to eat, but only by eating cheaper or less varied foods, relying on government aid like food stamps, or visiting food pantries and soup kitchens.

"These numbers are a wake-up call for the country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Twenty-nince percent of Hispanic households reported food insecurity, compared with 27 percent of black households and 12 percent of white households. Serious problems were most prevalent in the South, then followed by the West and Midwest. Households headed by single mothers were the highest category among those facing food insecurity. About 37 percent of these reported some form of food insecurity compared with 14 percent of married households with children. Comprising the 49 food insecure Americans are 32.4 million adults (14.4 percent of all adults) and 16.7 million children (22.5 percent of all children).

The terms used in the DOA survey to describe food security are:

* High Food Security: These are households that did not answer `yes' to any of the food insecurity questions.

* Marginal Food Security: This term captures families that answered `yes' to one or two of the food security questions, meaning they have has some difficulties with securing enough food.

* Low Food Security: Generally, people that fall into this category have had to make changes in the quality or the quantity of their food in order to deal with a limited budget.

* Very Low Food Security: People that fall into this category have struggled with having enough food for the household, including cutting back or skipping meals on a frequent basis for both adults and children.

Conservatives were quick to dismiss the findings. "Very few of these people are hungry," said Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "When they lose jobs, they constrain the kind of food they buy. That is regrettable, but it's a far cry from a hunger crisis."

Learn more on hunger in the United States from the Food Research and Action Center, a non-profit working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States.

Sarah Palin Oprah Video (Open Talk)

Here is the video of Sarah Palin on Oprah Winfrey’s show. The Oprah interview was conducted on November 16th 2009 as part of the Sarah Palin book tour. Tell us what you think in the comments as the liberal talk show host struggles to recover lost ratings due to her partisan involvement in the presidential election of 2008.

Going Rogue: An American Life debuts in stores over the weekend and is already the number one best seller on the New York Times list. That means it has been bought unseen via backorders on online sites like amazon.com. Sensing a chance to redeem herself to fans, Oprah finally interviewed Palin for her TV show.

Oprah begins self-indulgingly by talking about the snub and trying to get Sarah Palin to agree that she was not snubbed by her refusal to interview Palin in 2008. Oprah’s skin is too thin to let bygones be bygones so she spins. Or could it be that given the sorry state of affairs in our nation, she finally believes that she backed the wrong girl?

Read more reactions to the Oprah interview from conservative sites here and here and here.

And this from The Anchoress:

I have suspected that Palin does know who she is, but she’s been rattled, and it shows. And so, she is talking about media mistreatment; her charges are not untrue, but tonguing the wounds will not help her with the people she needs to win over. They will see it merely as an unattractive, vindictive quality, rather ala Obama. Who wants more of that?

You can get a typically shallow reaction from the left here.

The Sarah Palin Oprah video is below. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Will Khalid Sheikh Mohammed call Charlie Sheen as a Witness?

Andy McCarthy, who led the 1995 prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, recently wrote the following regarding the Obama Justice Department decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in a civilian court in New York City.

The decision to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other top al-Qaeda terrorists to New York City for a civilian trial is one of the most irresponsible ever made by a presidential administration. That it is motivated by politics could not be more obvious. That it spells unprecedented danger for our security will soon become obvious.
McCarthy and others have cited many reasons the decision is unwise including security concerns and the possibility (even if remote) of acquittal. What I have not been able to keep from wondering since hearing the decision is what kind of defense KSM will employ and how closely it will resemble the rhetoric I've heard so many times over the past eight years from those on the left.

Rush Limbaugh has been talking about how a jury of KSM's peers can be assembled from a pool of US citizens and has made some suggestions. What I want to know is who KSM's defense team is going to be quoting and asking for testimony.

One of my first thoughts was that Charlie Sheen could be called. Sheen made news this year when he requested a meeting with Barack Obama to discuss his theories on the subject of the 911 attacks.

Sheen, 44, argues that "the official 9/11 story is a fraud" and claims the attacks served as "the pretext for the systematic dismantling of our Constitution and Bill of Rights." Moreover, he charges that the Bush/Cheney "regime" was behind the attacks as a prelude to justify an invasion of Iraq. Sheen also insinuates that Usama bin Laden is working for the U.S. government.

Sheen is certainly not the only high profile liberal KSM could call to testify. When I suggested to fellow blogger John Hawkins that KSM could call Rosie O'Donnell to testify for his defense, John commented that she would make a great expert witness on the scientific properties of steel.

High profile "truthers" are not the only ones in the pool of potential KSM defense witnesses. What about all those politicians who argued that the Bush/Cheney sanctioned waterboarding of KSM was cruel and unusual punishment? There are enough of them to drag the trial out for many, many months. Considering CIA claims that information obtained as a result of waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed thwarted terrorist attacks on the West coast, maybe that would not be the strongest defense argument to make.

Obama bow “sign of respect” for Japan Emperor

President Obama has bowed his way into controversy yet again.

Pictures of the U.S. president bowing deeply to Japanese Emperor Akihito during a state visit to Japan have incensed some commentators, who say the U.S. head of state should not lower his head before foreign crowned heads.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, hit with questions about the bow at a regular news briefing, appeared stumped.

“I saw I’m sure for what it was intended, which is a sign of respect to the emperor. But I don’t have anything from the State Department on it,” Kelly told a news briefing.

Kelly dismissed reports that some critics have gone so far as to call the bow a sign of treason as “a bit extreme,” but said he would check into exactly what sort of protocol briefing the president gets before meeting foreign leaders overseas.

Obama has sparked critical comment with a bow before — there was some harrumphing after Obama lowered his head before Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at a G20 meeting in April.

Ken Ober, MTV's 'Remote Control' host, dies

At first blush it looked like the latest fake death rumor on the Internet: According to sketchily sourced reports, Ken Ober, the comedian best-known for hosting MTV's late-'80s game show "Remote Control," had died.

Sadly, though, this rumor turns out to be true. Ober's reps confirm that he passed away over the weekend at the age of 52. No other details were available late Monday morning.

Ober had worked as writer and producer on Comedy Central's "Mind of Mencia" in recent years and also did a stint as a consulting producer on "The New Adventures of Old Christine" in 2006. He also worked behind the camera (and occasionally in front of it) on his friend and "Remote Control" announcer Colin Quinn's show "Tough Crowd" earlier in the decade.

To legions of Gen-X'ers, though -- people like me -- he'll be remembered as the host of "Remote Control," the TV-obsessed game show that aired on MTV from 1987-89 and featured such categories as "Brady Physics" and "Dead or Canadian." It also helped introduce Adam Sandler to the world; he worked as a writer on the show (so did Denis Leary) and played the recurring on-screen characters Trivia Delinquent and Stud Boy.

Take a look at Ober in his "Remote Control" element from 1988 (footnote: Contestant Zachary is, at least according to the person who uploaded the YouTube video, future "X2" and "Incredible Hulk" screenwriter Zak Penn).