Friday, March 29, 2013

President Obama Speaks 100 Days After Sandy Hook

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Story from CNN
"We need everybody to remember how we felt 100 days ago and make sure that what we said at that time wasn't just a bunch of platitudes, that we meant it," Obama said at a White House event on a national day of action by supporters of tougher gun laws.
His voice both somber and angry, Obama told the audience, which included family members of Newtown victims, that "we've cried enough" and it is time now for Americans to pressure their elected leaders to pass a package of laws proposed by Senate Democrats.

. . . Obama noted the political challenge as well as the poll numbers.

"There are some powerful voices on the other side who are interested in running out the clock, or changing the subject," the president said, adding that "their assumption is that people will just forget about it."

If that happens, Obama said, then "shame on us if we've forgotten."

In trying to rally further public outcry, he declared that "nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change."

. . . "What we're proposing is not radical. It's not taking away anyone's guns rights," the president said in warning legislators against getting "squishy because time has passed and maybe it's not on the news every day."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Adam Lanza Warrants for Newtown Killings Released

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Today shocking details were released about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, including specifics about the warrants for the Lanza home.

From Gawker
Adam Lanza spent only five minutes at Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of December 14—from the moment he "shot his way into the school" to the minute he took his own life. But police found 154 spent casings from his Bushmaster rifle—and over a thousand rounds more at his home, authorities announced today.

According to search warrants newly made public, Lanza, who killed 20 children and seven adults before turning the gun on himself, had over 1,000 rounds of ammunition at his home, in addition to an arsenal of firearms and other weapons, including knives and a samurai sword. Also at the home and confiscated by police were journals, video games and computers, photographs of an unknown dead person "covered in plastic and blood"—and a holiday card made out to Lanza from his mother, including a check for "the purchase of a C183 (firearm)."

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Happy Place Diversion ~ What if God was One of Us?

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The new Pope Francis from Venezuela is considered a "man of the people" who said the other day he wants a "Poor Church to Feed the Poor." And he is trying harder than any Pope within living memory to prove that early in his Papacy.

From USA Today - the Pope on Palm Sunday
The square overflowed with some 250,000 pilgrims, tourists and Romans eager to join the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies, which lead up to Easter, Christianity's most important day.

. . . Francis even climbed down from the vehicle, kissed a woman in the crowd and chatted briefly with her, and another man in the crowd leaned over a barrier to squeeze the pontiff on a shoulder — an unheard of familiarity in the previous pontificate of the reserved Benedict XVI.

. . . Francis said Jesus "awakened so many hopes in the heart, above all among humble, simple, poor, forgotten people, those who don't matter in the eyes of the world."
Francis then told an off-the-cuff story from his childhood in Argentina. "My grandmother used to say, 'children, burial shrouds don't have' pockets'" the pope said, in a variation of "you can't take it with you."

So lately I've been thinking about Joan Osborne's hit "What if God was One of Us?" When the song came out many people thought it was somehow sacrilegious, but I never understood that criticism. She is asking age-old questions about faith and belief that all real Christians consider. She sings about Jesus being a human, which according to scripture he was, which is the whole point of the New Testament and all his sermons. Jesus experienced human life and let his disciples ask him questions. He was a man of the people and went out amongst the sinners. He didn't shun the poor, the unwell, or the prostitutes (which the GOP would call "sluts"). He led by example. He never said a single thing about hating gay people, or black people, or anyone with a different religion. Yes, the Church has unfortunately had leaders who felt that way over the centuries, but that is not the message of Jesus or a reason to hate all Christians.

Gandhi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Exactly. Many so-called Christians have forgotten the actual teachings of Christ, just as many denominations that consider themselves Protestant have drifted away from the simplicity of Martin Luther. Some churches have became more and more ostentatious and outrageous as they try to out-do the churches down the street instead of using their tithes to help the indigent and feed poor children. Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the Temple, and I think he would have the same reaction to all the politics in the church today. For instance, the Tea Partiers are so focused on what they think is "right" about abortion and the unborn that they want to sacrifice those who have been born, who are already existing and need our help: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden.

Many so-called Christians have spent the last ten years preparing for Armageddon, or the Rapture, or the Mayan Apocalypse. And because they consider themselves to be "The Chosen" because of which church they followed, they became so self-absorbed with either death or survival that they just didn't care about anyone else. That is not what the church teaches at all.

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They even made fun of it on the Simpsons several times: once in "Bart's Comet", when Ned Flanders builds a Bunker just large enough to save his family and his neighbors, but then the whole town shows up; and in Thank God It's Doomsday in which Homer is scared by the Left Behind movies and believes the Rapture is coming soon, but discovers he isn't much of a Prophet after all. Unfortunately for modern Christianity, Homer-as-Everyman isn't far from reality. And throughout history the church has dealt with "false prophets." An aunt of mine who recently died said people would frighten children with the same stories back in the 1920s, and my Grandmother told me years ago that Haley's Comet caused the same fear at the turn of the century. Human nature just doesn't change very much.

But I still think it's much more sacrilegious to pretend to be a Catholic, Protestant, Jew - whatever - and ask "What would Ayn Rand do?" Or even worse, "What would Grover Norquist do?" Ugh. The GOP cynicism they spout while expecting us to believe they are devoutly religious has nothing to do with God or Jesus. They are NOT "one of us," nor do they care anything about the slobs on the bus. Christianity did not "create" the Congress we have right now, but I'm happy to say the elections last year when the "people" spoke are a good first step in getting the hypocrite Pharisees out of our government.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

President Obama in Israel

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If you can overlook Chuck Todd's stupid questions - and of course we can, and should - this has been a fantastic historical trip for President Obama. And goodness knows it has been more successful than Mitt's #Romneyshambles when he tried to declare war on Iran even though he held no elected office and was just a guy from Michigan.

This is a speech of hope. Blessed are the Peacemakers, as Jesus said. I am so proud today I voted for this President.
Full Speech Transcript Here on Daily Beast
First, peace is necessary. Indeed, it is the only path to true security. You can be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. Given the frustration in the international community, Israel must reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people is through the absence of war – because no wall is high enough, and no Iron Dome is strong enough, to stop every enemy from inflicting harm.

This truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab World. I recognize that with the uncertainty in the region – people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics –it is tempting to turn inward. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve for peace. As more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace with a handful of autocratic leaders are over. Peace must be made among peoples, not just governments. No one step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions. But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and division.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scott Prouty, 47% Cameraman, Comes Out of the Shadows

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Last week Scott Prouty finally came out of the shadows to do a major interview on MSNBC's Ed Show. Prouty is the man who infamously filmed Mitt Romney at a fundraiser in Florida bad-mouthing the 47% of people whom he said "wouldn't take responsibility for their lives" and who want a free ride in society. Prouty says his first reaction was that the important part of Romney's remarks were the ones concerning forced labor of young women in China, and it bothered him so much he couldn't sleep at night. Finally he faced himself in the mirror and decided to release the video.

But it was a long strange trip:

From Huffington Post:
. . . On May 31, under "Romney Exposed," he began posting audio snippets to YouTube. Soon he started hitting the comment sections of The Huffington Post -- not the best way to stand out among all the reader debates.

Prouty said he later posted it to Daily Kos with mixed results. The Daily Kos readers ended up bouncing him from the site, suspecting his footage was bogus. He threw up clips on Pastebin. He did it in the comments of The Washington Post's stories. "Just trying to go build a little head of steam and get people talking about it," he said.

By late August, he said there were a few sites, including BuzzFeed, that had picked up at least one of his Romney videos. He said he had some success when he posted videos as the MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on YouTube. "She came out and denied having any knowledge of it," he said. "But she linked to the video and left it on her site all weekend long."

The filmmaker said that before the Republican National Convention, he contacted the Romney campaign directly. "I sent it to the Romney people ad nauseum," he said. "They knew about it." When he saw Romney give his acceptance speech in Tampa, he wondered what the candidate knew about his videos. He says he never got a response from the campaign.

. . . He found James Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, who had discovered a talent for opposition research and finding gotcha videos deep in the C-Span archives. Prouty had followed Carter's work on YouTube. "He had good sense enough to follow me back when he saw my videos after I followed him," Prouty said. "Then he had the good sense enough to contact me after that."

Prouty said he wanted Carter to help him get in touch with Mother Jones' David Corn. He had been a big admirer of Corn's work -- especially his investigative pieces on Romney and the Hong Kong-based Global-Tech Appliances, a firm that sought to profit from U.S. outsourcing. He saw Corn on television all the time, he said. Maybe the veteran journalist could get his little film on the air. "They were picked," he said of Carter and Corn.
The one thing that now rankles Prouty is the idea that Corn uncovered anything. It was already out there. "Corn sort of -- he's capitalized on this for all it's worth and that's what the goal was," he said. "I don't want to say it the wrong way. He didn't uncover."

Later Corn wrote a book which I highly recommend ~ 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video That Rocked the 2012 Election ~
which recently won Corn the prestigious Polk Award for journalism.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if David Corn next wins a Pulitzer for this reporting, but Prouty is correct - he is the real power behind the story, and he's the one who took the video and shopped it around. If undercover reporters get Pulitzers, then perhaps he should share the honors with Corn.

The Ed Show is losing the 8 p.m. time slot on MSNBC and moving to the weekend, so this interview really helped him go out with a bang.

Complete Transcript of The Ed Show, March 13 ~ Interview with Scott Prouty

"My name is Scott Prouty. I'm a working-class regular guy. I'd like to think I have a good moral compass and a core, and I think I have a little more empathy than Mitt Romney had."

. . . PROUTY: We got there, you know, it was a -- you know, a political
fund-raiser. We did our usual thing. We set up. And you know, it went
off without a hitch.
I work high end parties from all over for extra money. And, you know,
it was really just another typical party that I have done plenty of them
just like it.

SCHULTZ: Did you know you were going to record him?

PROUTY: You know, I did -- I brought the camera. A lot of other people brought cameras, you know, like I said thinking he would come back and take pictures. Clinton in the past did come back with the staff and taking pictures. That was really my thought. You know, I hadn`t made up my mind. You know, I was willing to listen to what he had to say. I was interested to hear what he had to say.

. . . SCHULTZ: All right. Let`s look at the 47 percent comment which you admit and I think we all know, got the most play out of all of this.

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent were with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care to them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it.

SCHULTZ: What was your response, initially?

PROUTY: You know, I knew where he came from. He was born with all the advantages -- you know, advantages that few people have, the son of a governor, CEO. You know, prep school educated, Harvard educated, you know?

And I don`t think he has any clue what a regular American goes through on a daily basis. I don`t think he has any idea what a single mom, you know, taking a bus to work, dropping her kid off at day care that she can barely afford, hopping on another bus -- you know, the day in, day out struggles of every day Americans. That guy has no idea, no idea.

I don`t think he`ll ever have an idea.

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Senator Warren: The Minimum Wage Should be $22/hour

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When I first started seeing this headline the other day, I thought whoa, that's not possible. Doesn't Elizabeth Warren know that many people work for 20 years and never make $22 per hour? There are people who have never made more than $10 per hour in their entire lives!

Yes - yes, she knows. And she is making the case that asking Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10 and hour is perfectly reasonable, given inflation and the fact that it should actually be double that much if we lived in a fair society.

Will it happen? Maybe or maybe not, but at least Warren is there raising the right questions and using the right data.

Huffington Post:
"If we started in 1960 and we said that as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more, then the minimum wage is going to go up the same. And if that were the case then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour," she said, speaking to Dr. Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor who has studied the economic impacts of minimum wage. "So my question is Mr. Dube, with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn't go to the worker."

And here she grills a restaurant owner who objects to any raise in the minimum wage, saying it would hurt sales. She points out that he would only have to raise prices on his menu 4-8 cents to make up the difference.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Senate Grills JP Morgan Bank

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The saga of the JP Morgan Bank "London Whale" disaster continued last week with the release of a major Senate report and public hearings on Capital Hill.

Previous Related Posts:
Economic News Round-Up ~ The London Whale
JP Morgan Fall-Out Continues
Dimon Cozies Up to Senate Banking Committee
Economic News Round-Up ~ London Whale Leaving JP Morgan

Cnn Money
During a press briefing Thursday, Levin said the investigation of 90,000 documents, and more than 200 phone conversation and instant messages, showed how the bank "ignored limits on risk taking, dodged oversight and misinformed the public."
But the report also criticized regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for not following up on red flags.

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From AFP, via Google
Senator Carl Levin, at a hearing on JPMorgan's ill-fated "whale" trades, slammed the bank's trading operation that lost $6.2 billion over just a few months in 2012 as a "runaway train barreling through every risk limit."

"Derivative values that can't be trusted are a serious risk to our financial system," said Levin, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on investigations.

The incident is a "reminder you just can't rely on a major bank... without a strong regulator looking over," Levin added.

A 300-page report by the subcommittee said that JPMorgan kept adding risky bets on top of earlier ones, hid losses, disregarded its own rules for risk limits, avoided oversight by its regulator and "misinformed" investors, regulators and the public.

Former and current JPMorgan executives testifying at the Senate hearing painted a picture of confusion and disbelief over the scale of the losses, which blindsided the Wall Street powerhouse in the first quarter of last year.

Ina Drew, JPMorgan's chief investment officer at the time with responsibility for the London trading operation which racked up the losses, admitted errors even as she pointed the finger at others.

"I was, and I remain, deeply disappointed and saddened that such significant losses occurred in the business unit I oversaw," said Drew, who resigned last year to take responsibility for the debacle, according to her prepared testimony.

But Drew also pointed a finger at London employees that she said misled her on the scale of the problem and "let me, and the company, down."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Warren and Feinstein on Fire Against Guns

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We may never get the comprehensive gun reform that Progressives want in this country, but it's not due to lack of trying on the part of Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Dianne Feinstein, D-California.

Warren gave a speech to the Consumer Federation of America in which she slammed the NRA for not allowing basic research on Gun violence so we can study just how far-reaching an epidemic it is.

Via Alternet:
“If as many people were dying of a mysterious disease as innocent bystanders are dying from firearms, a cure would be our top priority,” Warren said. “But we don’t even have good data on gun violence. Why? Because the NRA and the gun industry lobby made it their goal to prevent any serious effort to document the violence."

Feinstein had it out with Texas Tea Partier and NRA proponent Ted Cruz this week when he began lecturing her about the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX) The question that I would pose to the senior Senator from California is would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment, namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?

Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Let me just make a couple of points in response. One, I'm not a sixth grader. Senator, I've been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot. I've looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons. I've seen the bullets that implode. In Sandy Hook, youngsters were dismembered.

Look, there are other weapons. I'm not a lawyer, but after 20 years I've been up close and personal to the Constitution. I have great respect for it. This doesn't mean that weapons of war and the Heller decision clearly points out three exceptions, two of which are pertinent here.

You know, it's fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I've been here for a long time. I've passed on a number of bills. I've studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well educated, and I thank you for the lecture.

Incidentally, this does not prohibit — you use the word prohibit — it exempts 2,271 weapons. Isn’t that enough for the people in the United States? Do they need a bazooka?

Do they need other high-powered weapons that military people use to kill in close combat? I don’t think so. So I come from a different place then you do. I respect your views. I ask you to respect my views

Dianne Feinstein to CNN's Wolf Blitzer

FEINSTEIN: I just felt patronized. I felt he was somewhat arrogant about it. And, you know, when you've come from where I've come from and what you've seen, and when you found a dead body and you put your finger in bullet holes, you really realize the impact of weapons. And then as you go up the technical ladder with these weapons, and they become more sophisticated, and more the product of a battlefield, and you've got these huge clips or drums of 100 bullets out there that people can buy.

When you see these weapons becoming attractive to grievance killers, people who take them into schools, into theaters, into malls, you wonder, does America really need these weapons? My answer to that is no. And so it's based on my experience. And I think -- well, the bottom line is, we passed the bill out of committee by a vote of 10-8. The president has issued a very strong statement in support of it.

. . . BLITZER: Did you have a chance to speak to Senator Cruz after that public exchange?

FEINSTEIN: No, I needed to cool down.

BLITZER: Have you cooled down yet?

FEINSTEIN: I've cooled down.

BLITZER: So when you see him the next time, what will you say?

FEINSTEIN: Yes. Yes. Well, I did say, look, I'm sorry. But, you know, this is one thing that I feel very passionately about. And I appreciate the lecture, but -- that's all I'm going to say.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis Meets the World

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The first Latin American Pope was chosen in the Vatican City in Rome yesterday, Pope Francis I from Venezuela.

From NBC News
Pope Francis is unique not just for being the first Latin American pope. He's also the first Jesuit pope, possibly signaling a renewed emphasis on traditional Catholic theology by the church.

The Society of Jesus, as the Jesuits are formally known, observes a vow of poverty, and as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was known for his accessibility and simplicity, said Michael Sheeran, president-elect of the American Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
"Pope Francis took the bus to work every day," Sheeran said in a live online discussion of Bergoglio's election. "He sold the cardinal's residence and lived in a small apartment where he cooked for himself."

. . . "I'm amazed (Francis) was selected," Sheeran said, because "the Jesuits steer clear of getting high-ranking jobs like this."
The society was founded in Rome in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier as a movement devoted to living in the imitation of Jesus.

Monday, March 11, 2013

One Amazing Protestor Spins a Yarn

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I found these amazing pictures of a super-knitting activist sitting in front of the White House via reporter Jennifer Bendery of Huffington Post. Knitted into her hat are the words "Stop XL" - referring to the Tar Sands Pipeline, no doubt, and on her afghan it says "Occupy Grandparents, Pay It Forward." Her umbrella is a pie chart! Amazing!

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Snark in Pictures

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Elizabeth Warren Pushes Back on Bank Prosecution

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Ah, Elizabeth Warren - a true hero for the Left! Remember that during a hearing recently she said she worried that "too big to fail had become too big for trial."

See Previous Post:
Snark Lane: Elizabeth Warren Shames Bank Regulators

Then last week, Att. General Eric Holder basically confirmed her worst fear by making one of his usual matter-of-fact milquetoast statement that in actuality was a bit scary, explaining why he just couldn't let prosecutors go after Banks that had destroyed our economy and ripped people off for millions of dollars. Well, if he can't do it, who can?

From Huff Post
...Eric Holder made this rather startling confession in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, The Hill reports. It could be a key moment in the debate over whether to do something about the size and complexity of our biggest banks, which have only gotten bigger and more systemically important since the financial crisis.

"I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy," Holder said, according to The Hill. "And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."

Holder's comments don't come as a total surprise. His underlings had already made similar confessions to The New York Times last year, after they declined to prosecute HSBC for flagrant, years-long violations of money-laundering laws, out of fear that doing so would hurt the global economy. Lanny Breuer, formerly in charge of doling out the Justice Department's wrist slaps to banks, told Frontline as much in the documentary "The Untouchables," which aired in January.

Which made Elizabeth Warren came back swinging:

From Talking Points Memo
Warren demanded answers from a panel of federal regulators as to why the multinational bank HSBC got off with a fine for money laundering for Mexican drug cartels — along with violating international sanctions against several countries, including Iran and Libya — when people caught with drugs go to jail for life.

“No one individual went to trial, no individual was banned from banking and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC’s activities here in the United States,” Warren said. “So … what does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?”

When her questions were repeatedly dodged by Treasury’s overseer of financial crimes David Cohen and Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell, it set her off.

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life,” Warren said. “But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night — every single individual associated with this. I just — I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

Oh yeah!!!!!!!!! More of this, please, thanks! <3