Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Satire

  This is more than likely going to be the only thing that I post on this day because of  “ technical difficulties “ with my self. Being a type-1 diabetic has its very bad days at times, and the early morning hours was one of mine.

  So I am just putting up some jokes, not necessarily political, in order to give you something to laugh about today.

Governmentium: the heaviest element known to Science.

Queens University researchers have discovered the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (symbol=Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called pillocks. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.

A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2 to 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that
Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium (symbol=Ad), an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium, since it has half as many pillocks but twice as many morons.

Balance on earth joke
Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Heaven, God went missing for Six days. Eventually, Michael the Archangel found him, resting on the seventh day. He inquired of God, "Where have you been?"
God sighed a deep sigh of satisfaction and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, "Look Michael, look what I've made." Archangel Michael looked puzzled and said, "What is it?"
"It's a planet, replied God, "and I've put LIFE on it. I'm going to call it Earth and it's going to be a great place of balance".
"Balance?" inquired Michael, still confused.
God explained, pointing to different parts of Earth.
"For example, Northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth while Southern Europe is going to be poor; the Middle East over there will be a hot spot."
"Over there I've placed a continent of white people and over there is a continent of black people" God continued, pointing to different countries. "And over there, I call this place America.
North America will be rich and powerful and cold, while South America will be poor, and hot and friendly. And the little spot in the middle is Central America which is a Hot spot. Can you see the balance?"
"Yes" said the Archangel, impressed by Gods work, then he pointed to a smallish land mass and asked, "What's that one?"
"Ah" said God. "That's New Zealand, the most glorious place on Earth. There are beautiful mountains, rainforests, rivers, streams and an exquisite coast line. The people are good looking, intelligent and humorous and they're going to be found traveling the world. They'll be extremely sociable, hard-working and high-achieving, and they will be known throughout the world as diplomats and carriers of peace. I'm also going to give them super- human, undefeatable, strong in character citizens who will be admired and feared by all who come across them".
Michael gasped in wonder and admiration but then exclaimed, "You said there will be BALANCE!"
God replied wisely. "Wait until you see the buggers I'm putting next to them"

Psalm 129
A priest offered a Nun a lift. She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg. The priest nearly had an accident. After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg. The nun said, "Father, remember Psalm 129?"
The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.
The nun once again said, "Father, remember Psalm 129?"
The priest apologized "Sorry sister but the flesh is weak."
Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.
On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129 It said, "Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory."
Moral of the story
If you are not well informed in your job,
you might miss a great opportunity.

5 Levels of Sex
The first is Smurf Sex.
This happens during the Honeymoon, you keep doing it until you're blue in the face.
The second is the Kitchen Sex.
This is at the beginning of the marriage, where you'll have sex anywhere, anytime, even in the kitchen.
The third kind is Bedroom Sex.
You've calmed down a bit, perhaps because you have kids, so you gotta do it in the bedroom.
The fourth kind is the Hallway Sex.
This is where you pass each other in the hallway and say, "F**k You!"
There is also a fifth kind of sex: Courtroom Sex.
This is when you get divorced and your wife screws you in front of everyone in the courtroom.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Funnies": Trump Edition

  Another wacky week with the crazies spouting off about this and that, led by comedian Donald Trump. So, in honor of Trumps Tea Party leanings, here are some Trump jokes.

"Donald Trump is still threatening to run for President. NBC said if Trump runs for President they will not renew 'The Apprentice.' So some good may still come out of all this." —Conan O'Brien

"Stupid presidents, smart presidents, white presidents, black presidents — doesn't work! What this country needs is a crazy Third World dictator. And Donald Trump has what it takes to be that. He's already got a plane with his name on it, solid gold buildings, a harem. ... This is what I've been waiting for my whole life. A President who's not afraid to tell the truth about being a lying a**hole." —Lewis Black

"Trump is a little tone-deaf to the average American. He unveiled his slogan this week: 'Are you better off than you were four wives ago?'" —Bill Maher

"Donald Trump is attacking President Obama's background. And I said, 'Wait a minute, Trump also is from a mixed background. He's half jack and half ass.'" –David Letterman

“Family Values “ GOP Member Sen. John Ensign Resigns…

   …after it was discovered that he is not much of a “ family values “ kind of guy after all. Mr. Ensign has been investigated for the last 2 years over ethics violations and a few other goodies. He did admit to having an extramarital affair with a former staffer.    Source

  It has always made me laugh at these clowns since it seems as if the majority of these “ family values “ Republican clowns seem to not practice what they preach to everyone else.

Ensign announced in June 2009 that he had an extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton, a former member of his campaign staff, and that he had helped her husband, Doug Hampton, a member of his Senate staff, obtain lobbying work with two Nevada companies.

Doug Hampton has been indicted for illegally lobbying the senator's staff. Federal law prohibits a former senior Senate aide from lobbying the Senate for one year after terminating employment.

Koch Watch: The Stunning Implications Of Citizens United

   Yes, even more on how the Republican Party American Taliban and their corporate hoods are making the attempt to usurp the United States government, and you also.

Original Article by kalich for Progressive Policy Zone

Everybody's favorite progressive weekly, The Nation, just released a leaked internal "election packet" from—you guessed it—Koch Industries. This packet included many "helpful items," including (for most Koch employees) a list of who to vote for in the November 2010 election. Also enclosed was a large amount of corporate propaganda, extolling the virtues of a free-market system, & enumerating the ways in which Koch Industries is entangled in a struggle for liberty against Big Government. Courtesy to the pro-businessCitizens United Supreme Court ruling, all this is possible. In fact, the cover memo from David Robertson, COO, sort of acknowledges this, noting that for the very first time, all 50,000 US employees would receive this propaganda. Below the fold, I try to break down some of the propaganda, drawing upon both the Kochs' disinformation and the revealing companion article in The Nation co-written by Mark Ames and Mike Elk.

The Cogs of a Corporate Propaganda Machine

And the facts are that the overwhelming majority of the American people will be much worse off if government overspending is allowed to bankrupt the country.

On the cover of Discovery, the quarterly newsletter produced by Koch Industries, an editorial makes a claim that is, in essence, wrong. Again we see a classic example of the false neoliberal assertion that government spending is bad butting its head into political discourse. (As an earlier, particularly well-thought-out Nation article noted, the government cannot run out of money, since it is the sole creator of its currency. Therefore, we should not be concerned about ballooning deficits, nor should we be so scared as to have to borrow billions of dollars from other countries.)

After a page of letters exalting the Koch Empire for "what [it] is doing for all Americans," and some corporate updates from around the world, we find the gears of the Koch propaganda machine. In a piece entitled "What's a business to do?", 'real world' examples (from Koch Industries' own companies) develop the idea that private business is unequivocally better than the government, because its usage of resources apparently does not create value. To me, the most striking proposal in this editorial is that minimum wage laws distort the labor market, therefore "[causing] unemployment." Where is the logic behind this? In the last part of this article, the unnamed author claims Americans who are critical of the "out-of-control government of the United States are being shouted down" by those in power. He then states,

Too many government elites think they know what's best for citizens and ignore the wishes of the citizens themselves.

Unfortunately, (s)he does not provide an example of this. But I can, although I'm sure it wouldn't appear in Discovery: what about the recent Medicare proposal in the Ryan budget? An overwhelming majority of Americans are firmly opposed to turning Medicare into a voucher system, but yet the Koch-funded politicians in D.C. are ignoring "the wishes of the citizens themselves." I'll bet that most of the employees of Koch Industries would not support these politicians if they voted for privatization of Medicare.

The most bizarre part of the newsletter is an editorial by Charles Koch: a history lesson in which Koch grades presidents of the past. He gives a solid A+ to both Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge; to Hoover, he gives a failing mark. It is strange that these Great Depression-era presidents are given different markings. It is fairly well-known that Harding and Coolidge's policies of lower taxes coupled with union-busting and an overall "free-market romp" were the among the many factors that caused the Great Depression, according to Ames. It seems that Koch likes them simply because they lowered corporate taxes—exactly what the far-right and the candidates endorsed by Koch in the mailing are now proposing.


Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, a corporation like Koch Industries can now impose its political will upon all employees (whereas before, only management could share among themselves endorsed candidates). The solution is to get the Department of Justice to purse a reversal of the Supreme Court decision. Until that happens, employees of any company can be coerced into supporting candidates who may be in favor of helping out Big Business, but certainly not helping them.

Download the leaked mailing. Read it over. What are your thoughts about this?

Originally posted to Progressive Policy Zone on Wed Apr 20, 2011


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Republicans Release HealthCare Plan…

….and boy is it pretty straight forward and simple. I will let Rep. Alan Grayson explain it all to you.


Mitch McConnell Wets His Panty’s Over Obama Executive Order

  Yes indeed! When one wants to do something that would actually be good for the American people and bad for the Republican’s American Taliban and their corporate masters, Senator McConnell is usually the first Taliban member to pitch a bitch about it.

   So,what is the “ executive order “ that Obama may issue that has Bitch McConnell so upset? DailyKos   diarist

Pluto has the details. 

I like this breaking story so much, I decided to Diary it. It's sort of "a tale of two commonwealths," in my opinion.

I think the headline may be misleading, but here's how it appears in the Washington Post:

McConnell slams executive order to allow White House to demand political records before awarding contracts

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday strongly criticized a proposed executive order that would require companies seeking federal contracts to disclose political contributions that would otherwise have been secret under current law, calling the move an “outrageous and anti-Democratic abuse of executive branch authority.”

Yeah. Right.

The Corporatist Republican Point of View:

Mitch McConnell claims that this Executive Order has nothing to do with transparency. He insists that it is a device for the Obama administration to block Republican donors from receiving lucrative government contracts.

He paints the scenario this way:

“Under the guise of ‘transparency,’ the Obama administration reportedly wants to know the political leanings of any company or small business, including those of their officers and directors, before the government decides if they’ll award them federal contracts.”

“Let me be clear: No White House should be able to review your political party affiliation before deciding if you’re worthy of a government contract,” McConnell added. “And no one should have to worry about whether their political support will determine their ability to get or keep a federal contract or keep their job.”

Today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that an Executive Order was, indeed, in the works.

Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation acquired a draft copy and have started their spin about this "sinister" White House scheme. They note that: "The executive order would require any company bidding for a federal contract, including its directors and officers, to reveal any political contributions it has made over the past two years that amount to more than $5,000 annually."

First of all, citizen contributions are already a matter of public record. So are corporate lobbying contributions. There are no secrets there. So, what has the Republicans so alarmed? The stinger is that the EO includes language that is a significant "work around" to the corrupt Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which gives corporations the ability to anonymously bribe elected officials by passing money through a third party.

The Executive Order would bring transparency to corporate contributions made to outside groups who are currently allowed to make anonymous "gifts" to Senators and Congressmen.

Normally -- when there is a conflict of interest -- those Senators and Congressmen, who have accepted corporate bribes through third-parties, will vote for a specific corporation's interests and vote against the best interests of the people and the American commonwealth.

And, since this indirect bribery is anomyous -- the taxpayers will never have a paper trail to find out who paid how much to buy whose vote.

The Populist Democratic Point of View:

Jay Carney, when confronted with this epic political conspiracy theory, firmly dismissed the idea that there were partisan motivations behind this Executive Order -- which he says will be announced over the next few days. He did not elaborate on any details of the EO, but explained the motivation for its writing:

“President Obama believes very strongly that taxpayers deserve to know whether or not the contractors that their money is being used — how they’re spending their money, and how they’re spending [taxpayer contract money] in terms of political campaigns. And his goal is transparency and accountability. That’s the responsible thing to do when you’re handling taxpayer dollars.”

Did you get that?

(Thanks to Citizens United, taxpayer money that corporations receive for government contracts can be anonymously kicked back to Senators and Congressmen, to buy their votes for future lucrative contracts (or legislation) on that corporation's behalf -- whether or not it actually benefits the American commonwealth.)

Ugh, transparency.

I hate it when that happens!

McConnell whined earlier today that it was his "sincere hope that recent reports of a draft Executive Order were simply the work of a partisan within the Obama administration and not the position taken by the president himself."

"But he should make that clear," he whimpered.

Moar Executive Orders!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Conservatives Vote To Keep Getting Screwed

My first video post with Keith Olbermann since he departed from MSNBC only to go out and start his new enterprise. The video comes to you by way of Sorry once again, but the damned link will not post. Anyway, Keith will explain to you, as if you did not know already, why the conservative workers in America continue to vote for those Republican shit-heads even though they are getting screwed just like all of the rest of us are. If you happen to be here by some freak- of- nature accident and you are a conservative, listen to Keith very carefully. There will be a test.

Maddow Omits A Few Facts On The Benton Harbor, Michigan Story…

   ….and I would certainly hope that the facts that she missed were just an oversight or just something that was not discovered instead of  being deliberately omitted.  I am referring  to this on the take over of pretty much all of the government functions in Benton Harbor under a new order signed by Taliban Governor Rick Snyder.

   Though I do not care for anything Republican when it comes to their idea’s of government, one must get the facts complete on a story before airing it, even of it somewhat takes the blame off of the Republican Taliban.

   Watch Maddox's video, and then read what she omitted  below it.



Tue Apr 19, 2011 at 10:25 PM PDT

If Only the Benton Harbor Story Were So Simple

by Muskegon Critic

First off...a hat tip to WizardKitten for info and to Eclectablog for some long term and holistic reporting on the Benton Harbor issue.

My friends...

...we need to talk about Benton Harbor, Michigan. The city we've heard a lot about lately in terms of Michigan Republican Governor Snyder's new "Financial martial law" because of the latest actions of an Emergency Financial Manager.

Back in May 2010, Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, on the recommendation of a committee,appointed an Emergency Financial Manager for the city of Benton Harbor. His name was Joseph L. Harris.

He's been the Emergency Financial Manager ever since.

He still is today.

As for the now notorious golf course development planned for St. Joseph and Benton Harbor according to Rachel Maddow...that's been an idea on the burner for a very long time. Years before Snyder and the Teahadists were even a twinkle in old man Koch's eye. Which old man Koch? Take your pick.

From an article in 2010 about the Harbor Shores golf resort in Benton Harbor

"What the Harbor Shores development does is help redefine the area in terms of the word 'vacation,' " says Marcus Robinson, president of the Consortium for Community Development. "This is a non-profit effort. The basis for this was to use this economic enabler to drive real change in the neighborhoods and communities. All the net gain from the development effort goes into a community chest that is reinvested into the community."

Successful example

Benton Harbor hopes to mirror the success of its neighbor. St. Joseph, a city of 9,000, is now a retirement community and a tourist destination with its beachfront property. Property values have increased 28% in the last five years, according to city manager Frank Walsh. Unemployment, he says, has fallen to 3%. A decade ago, the downtown vacancy rate was 22%. Today, it is 0%.

"What Benton Harbor and Harbor Shores have done is only going to enhance both communities," Walsh says. "This can only be beneficial for the entire (Berrien) county and area. This just doesn't happen very often in Small Town, America, but it's happening here."

One may find the grasping onto a private-public partnership and use of prized public land by the lakeshore for much needed city revenue as horribly desperate...possibly even foolhardy.

But one thing it is NOT is a new concoction of the Snyder administration.

I'm behind the recall of Rick Snyder.

But this whole thing from Rachel Maddow about a State takeover of the City of Benton Harbor to procure public lands to make a golf course for the rich...'s simply not true.

It's just not.

The sad fact is, Benton Harbor has been in dire straits for over two decades...and because of that, the city itself was party to this golf course thing.

In 2003 the city was literally on FIRE with race riots.

June 20, 2003

It's been called the longest bridge in the world. Not that the St. Joseph River is particularly wide, but the gulf of status, stereotypes, and distrust it represents needs more than steel and cable to cross it.

On one side lies St. Joseph, an Eden-like beach town, brimming with barbered lawns, boutique coffee shops, and summer art festivals. Cross to Benton Harbor, and everything changes. White becomes black, and affluence turns to poverty. Frustrated residents sit on sagging stoops and walk by boarded-up businesses.

When Benton Harbor erupted in violence this week, the trigger was ostensibly a high-speed police chase through a residential neighborhood. It was the second such pursuit in three years, and the second to result in the death of a young black.

Just 7 years later, Governor Granholm would appoint an Emergency Financial Manager for the city.

Benton Harbor is not a convenient story of 2011 Teapublican overreach.

It's an ongoing, long term story of deindustrialization, racism, injustice, desperation, white flight...

It is not a story about how Rick Snyder is handing public land over to some golf course developer.

I wish it were that simple.

But it's not.

Here's a sad fact about the Western Michigan Lakeshore...closer to the Lake it's white and more prosperous, and on the other side of US-31 is African American and significantly less so.

In Muskegon, it's:

Norton Shores near the lake: white people and money.

Muskegon Heights seperated from the lake by a highway: African American people and very little money.

And I can't count on my fingers how many public-private partnerships of questionable nature the cities have taken up to save themselves.

This isn't a easy story...I'm hoping Maddow will do a more intensive investigation about it.

Hat tip to WizardKitten again for some information on the history of Emergency Financial Manager and other great info

And a hat top to Eclectablog for a holistic and ongoing reporting of this Benton Harbor issue.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

!0 Failures Of Bush/Obama Tax Cuts

   I added President Obama to the Bush tax cuts because Obama did extend those cuts to the wealthy for another 2 years. Barack Obama now owns those tax cuts.


10 Epic Failures of the Bush Tax Cuts:

(Click a link below to jump to the details and charts for each.)

1.  Dismal Economic Growth
2.  A Decade of Budget Deficits
3.  Red Ink as Far as the Eye Can See
4.  Disastrous Job Creation
5.  Declining Incomes
6.  Increasing Poverty
7.  A Massive Windfall for the Wealthy
8.  Record Income Inequality
9.  A Sagging Stock Market
10.  Jeopardizing Future Economic Growth

1.  Dismal Economic Growth
While Democrats in Congress are getting weak n the knees, the American people consistently voice their support for ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%.

And with good reason.  As David Leonhardt documented in the New York Times last week:

Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.

   Go HERE to read more

   If Obama has any kind of balls, he and the rest of the Democrats will let his tax-cuts expire in 2012. Then again, he was against those cuts before he was for them, so who knows.

Arizona Governor Shows Some Sense

...What are the odds of an American Taliban governor doing the right thing? While still not to high, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed not one, but two highly controversial bills on Monday, going against the general conservative idea's in the state. The first bill would have mandated that one have proof of United States citizenship in order to run for president, and the other bill would have allowed students, and everyone else, to carry guns on college campuses.

The so-called "birther bill," would have made Arizona the first state in the nation to require presidential candidates prove U.S. citizenship by providing a long form birth certificate, and other forms of proof including baptismal or circumcision certificates, to be placed on the state ballot.
"I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on earth to submit their 'early baptism or circumcision certificates' ... This is a bridge too far," she said..
Brewer also vetoed a bill that would have made Arizona the second state in the nation to allow an individual to carry a firearm -- either concealed or not -- in the public rights of way on higher education campuses, because it was "so poorly written." Brewer said shortcomings in the bill included a failure to define "public rights of way" and the inclusion of state schools, where firearms are prohibited by federal and state laws.
Brewer vetoed the gun bill only because she did not like the way that it was written, so you can expect that bill to come around at a later date, when it will pass. Currently, Utah is the only state in the country allowing handguns inside campus buildings.

Donald Trump: Asshole Birther

   With the exception of the Tea Party idiots and the other conservative morons, Donald Trump has lost any credibility with the “ real Americans “ in the United States especially with the “ birther’s “ idea of President Obama having not been born in the U.S.

   But just where does “ the Donald “ get most of this bullshit information from?

   In an article published at News Corpse, Mr. Trump gets much info from the WorldNetDaily website. You should check the site out if you want to kill some time reading about all of the conspiracies taking place in America and elsewhere. Or, visit the site when you wish to hear the latest bullshit article that bashes President Obama. If it is anti-Obama, you will find it there, somewhere.

Kendra Marr of Politico reports that Joseph Farah has been “on the phone with Donald Trump every day this week.” Farah is the publisher of WorldNetDaily, a fantastical compendium of demented disinformation and conspiracy theories. They are major sponsors of the Birther movement. They believe that Obama’s biography was ghostwritten by Bill Ayers.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Those Lovely Income Taxes

  For all of you who put off filing your taxes until the last minute ( myself included ) you have today left to get with the program. Today, Monday, April 18, is the last day to get that return postmarked.

   Speaking of taxes. Why don’t we take a look at how much of a tax break those really wealthy folks have received over the years?

Yahoo News

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation's tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

  Both side of the money equation are pretty much paying nothing or close to it in federal taxes. Is it any wonder that the United States government has a deficit problem?  The sad thing is that the wealthy, when they do owe some tax cash, are paying no more in many cases than someone making less than $50,00 per year. That is not right.

More than half of the nation's tax revenue came from the top 10 percent of earners in 2007. More than 44 percent came from the top 5 percent. Still, the wealthy have access to much more lucrative tax breaks than people with lower incomes.

   Drop the Bush/Obama tax cuts, get rid of the loopholes for the wealthy and a few of the credits for the average payer, and then the budget deficit starts to get smaller.

   Deficit? What deficit?

“Face The Nation” Bob Scheffer Gets Tough With Paul Ryan

  It is about damned time that at least one of the Sunday morning news hosts had the nerve to ask questions which were not fluff trash. Of course, the talk was about the deficit and the budget. Ryan got a little spanking.



Sunday, April 17, 2011

National Security State vs. Free Speech - Rounds 1 and 2

Sat Apr 16, 2011   by  Skitters   The Article

My Country Tis of Thee sweet land of Secrecy of thee I sing

I’m no fan of the Patriot Act, but there is one small section of it that even I assumed would be non-controversial; the prohibition of material support for terrorism.  Of course this does raise the question of how our enemies’ acts of violence tend to get labeled as terrorism, while similar acts of violence by our government and its allies never seem to earn that label.  But, leaving that aside for the moment, it’s fair to say that most of us would probably share some general common-sense assumptions about the kinds of goods and services that might constitute material support for terrorism. That list might include things like providing weapons, explosives, money, training, or logistical help to a terrorist group. 

Most of us will probably be surprised to learn that our government’s own interpretation of “material support” is far less intuitive, and, in fact, goes way beyond these things to include non-violent political speech by U. S. Citizens.  This was the crux of the government’s case in its 2010 prosecution of the Humanitarian Law Project, a U.S. non-profit organization that works to promote human rights around the world.  The Law Project worked with a Kurdish group that had been engaged in a decades-long violent conflict with Turkey, a key U.S. ally.  This Kurdish group was included on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

(A side note about the designation of Foreign Terrorist Organizations:  this list tends to be made up of official enemies and typically excludes equally-violent groups and governments who are partners or allies of the U.S.   Once the State Department designates a group as an FTO, there is no way for the group to challenge or appeal that designation.  It is a highly-political, and highly-subjective designation, and one that obviously carries extremely serious consequences.)

So the Humanitarian Law Project was working with a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization – which, admittedly, sounds pretty bad on its face.   A closer look at the nature of that work, however, reveals that the Law Project was actually teaching the Kurdish group non-violent methods of addressing their grievances under Turkish and international law – essentially showing them a pathway out of armed struggle and into the peaceful political arena.

Still, the U.S. government maintained that this work amounted to material support for a terrorist organization and took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the government in June of 2010.   The thing to remember about this ruling is that there were no accusations of arms shipments, or training in explosives, or financing by the Humanitarian Law Project that would have helped the Kurdish group carry out violent acts.  Our government’s case hinged on the idea that non-violent speech, when coordinated with a designated Terrorist group, amounts to material support.  The Supreme Court went further, and justified the denial of first amendment rights based on the mere concern that this non-violent political speech might somehow help to legitimize a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.  This is where the real danger lies.

Now that this door has been opened, it’s hard to see any clear limits—if there are any—on the government’s ability to criminalize dissent merely by claiming that dissent could possibly –even inadvertently—help legitimize an official enemy.  It’s not hard to imagine where this is likely to lead.

Like many others of my generation, I first became politically aware in the 1980s, during the surge of activism that swept through American college campuses in opposition to the Apartheid system in South Africa. If this law—or the government’s particular interpretation of this law—had been in effect 25 years ago, myself and tens of thousands of other Americans who participated in the Anti-Apartheid movement could have been subject to prosecution for material support of terrorism (it’s easy to forget that Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was also designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization at that time).   Also liable for prosecution would be former President Jimmy Carter, due to his efforts to foster peace processes in different parts of the world, which has necessarily involved his communication with the different parties to those conflicts.

It shouldn’t be surprising that, once the Supreme Court put its stamp of approval on the prosecution of the Humanitarian Law Project, the government immediately turned around and started to use the same law against elements of the U.S. anti-war movement.   In September of 2010, three months after the Supreme Court ruling, federal agents carried out a series of seven coordinated raids on the homes of activists in Minneapolis and Chicago.   They confiscated computers, cell phones, and loads of documents (political and personal), along with books and artwork – even seizing a poetry journal from an activist’s teenage child.

It was at this point that the government revealed that a Grand Jury had been convened in Chicago for the purpose of investigating whether these activists or their associates were guilty of violating the material support law.

(A side note about Grand Juries: they meet in secret, considering evidence provided by a government prosecutor.  People targeted by these investigations don’t have the opportunity to see or respond to this evidence.  Those targeted by these investigations are also required to appear before the prosecutor and Grand Jury without an attorney to represent them.  The government can also decide to unilaterally “grant” a form of immunity that eclipses a person’s right to remain silent, which means they can be jailed for contempt if they refuse to answer the prosecutor’s questions.)

At the time of the September raids, FBI agents issued subpoenas ordering 14 activists to appear before the Grand Jury.   By Christmas, the number of subpoena’d activists grew to 23.  All of these people may end up being forced to make a choice between answering questions about their own political beliefs and activities, or the beliefs and activities of their friends and family members (who could then be drawn into the investigation) or face being jailed for refusing to speak.

And exactly who are these activists on whom the government is so keen to spend tax dollars investigating?   They are a mix of young and older people – many are parents with families of their own.  About half of them are active members or leaders within their Unions.  Several of them are teachers.  They have been involved in community organizing around police brutality, the rights of poor people and immigrants, and in opposition to U.S. wars in Latin America and the Middle East for many years.  A number of them played key roles in organizing large, high-profile protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention.  Each one of them is passionate about peace and justice, and they all have deep roots in their communities.  None of them have done anything significantly different from what thousands of other activists around the country have been doing.  So the short answer is; they’re not exactly Al Queda.

We don’t have to agree with their specific views, but we all have a responsibility to defend their right to express those views peacefully.  If you would like to find out about ways to support these activists or learn more about this situation, you’ll find the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website helpful.

Here and hereare two useful articles about the September raids.

Over 225 Unions and Community groups have passed resolutions or issued statements of supports for these activists. Here is onefrom a coalition of Chicago-are faith-based organizations:
And finally, I recommend reading the Supreme Court’s
Holder Vs. Humanitarian Law Project decision– especially the dissent by Justice Breyer.
(Cross-posted at


Congress Not Doing Well With The Public

Democracy Corps

Confidence in Washington is at a low. This new survey shows an electorate increasingly doubtful about the economy and country’s direction, the performance of the president and particularly the ‘Republicans in Congress.’ They are also pretty negative about the Democrats in Congress, the Tea Party movement and above all, the ‘Tea Party Republicans.’

The Republican deficit reduction plan does not even win majority support, but when voters learn almost anything about it, they turn sharply and intensely against it. They have particularly grave concerns about the plan to end Medicare and slash Medicaid spending, pushing seniors into the private insurance market and costing them thousands of dollars more in out-of-pocket expenses.

Sally Kohn:  

It would be one thing if Republicans were negotiating in good faith, recognizing that reasonable minds can disagree on the matters at hand and that each will have to bend. But the GOP has become so extremist that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) made clear after the 2010 elections that his party’s agenda for the next two years was not governing but ensuring Obama’s defeat in 2012. Meanwhile, as they have for years, Republicans have openly shared their desire to shrink government so much that they can, as anti-tax activist Grover Norquist once promised, “drown it in a bathtub.” Democrats’ tolerance of such destructive positions is a sign not of nobility but of pathetic self-loathing.

  The even funnier side of elections.

Kathleen Parker:

As the number of Republicans declaring themselves potential presidential candidates has begun to look like a conga line without music, hope lingered that somewhere unnoticed was a brilliant dark horse biding his sweet time.

Wherever pundits and pinots merged, a mantra materialized. Surely, a miracle would occur, and The Candidate would emerge at just the right moment to rescue an ennui-stricken electorate from establishmentarians and their Tea-Partying ankle-biters. Cymbals would sound; angels would succumb to arias; Democrats would quake. And prosperity, world peace and well-adjusted children would follow. But who?

Turns out: The Candidate would be tall and rich and sport a coif that defies party identification. He would be a reality TV star. And his name would be known to all, such that even jaded veterans would slap their foreheads as the obvious became clear. But of course!

The Donald.