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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

Talking Heads - (Nothing but) Flowers

News and Opinion

Activists say Congress most hostile to environment it’s been in 40 years

The last Congress was the most hostile to environmental causes in 40 years, the League of Conservation Voters said on Wednesday in its annual report card on members’ voting patterns.

The findings follow dozens of votes in the House to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority, defund climate science education, weaken drinking water standards, open up the Arctic for drilling, remove protections for endangered sea turtles and fast-track theKeystone XL pipeline project, among other issues.

The House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans and taking its lead from Tea Party conservatives, hit a new low of 42% on the group’s rating system.

The Senate, where Democrats cling to a slim majority, did better with a 56% score.

But in a conference call with reporters, the League was scathing about voting patterns in the House, accusing Republicans of systematically blocking action on climate change or other environmental concerns, even during last year’s extreme storms and record drought.

“The best that can be said about this session of the 112th Congress is that it’s over,” the group’s president, Gene Karpinski, said on the conference call.

Kind of hilarious.
MSNBC’s Axelrod And Gibbs Deny ‘Pro-Obama’ Allegations, Claim Mantle Of ‘Independent’ Analysis

But speaking with Kurtz this morning, the Obama confidantes said they plan to act as “independent” analysts for the network.

“I don’t see it either as being a cheerleader for the president or as a spokesman for the administration’s point of view,” Gibbs said.

“My role is not that of a surrogate, but an analyst and commentator,” Axelrod told the CNN media reporter. “I’m proud of my work for and with the president. But in this role, I will offer observations, based on my experience over 35 years in journalism and politics.”

White House Tactic for C.I.A. Bid Holds Back Drone Memos

The White House is refusing to share fully with Congress the legal opinions that justify targeted killings, while maneuvering to make sure its stance does not do anything to endanger the confirmation of John O. Brennan as C.I.A. director.

Rather than agreeing to some Democratic senators’ demands for full access to the classified legal memos on the targeted killing program, Obama administration officials are negotiating with Republicans to provide more information on the lethal attack last year on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, according to three Congressional staff members.

The strategy is intended to produce a bipartisan majority vote for Mr. Brennan in the Senate Intelligence Committee without giving its members seven additional legal opinions on targeted killing sought by senators and while protecting what the White House views as the confidentiality of the Justice Department’s legal advice to the president. It would allow Mr. Brennan’s nomination to go to the Senate floor even if one or two Democrats vote no to protest the refusal to share more legal memos.

State of My Union

An Interrogation Center at Yale? Proposed Pentagon Special Ops Training Facility Sparks Protests
Wait, did he just leak classified info?
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham: Drone strikes have killed 4,700 people

A US senator has said an estimated 4,700 people, including some civilians, have been killed in bombing raids conducted under America’s secretive drone war, local media reported Wednesday.

The toll from hundreds of drone-launched missile strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere has remained a mystery, as US officials refuse to publicly discuss any details of the covert campaign.

But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch supporter of drone use, openly cited a number that exceeds some independent estimates of the toll.

“We’ve killed 4,700,” Graham was quoted as saying by the Easley Patch, a local website covering the small town of Easley in South Carolina.

“Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda,” Graham reportedly told the Easley Rotary Club.

End Endless War and Stop Becoming “the Evil That We Deplore”

Congress waited six years to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution after it opened the bloody floodgates for the Vietnam War in August 1964.

If that seems slow, consider the continuing failure of Congress to repeal the “war on terror” resolution—the Authorization for Use of Military Force—that sailed through, with just one dissenting vote, three days after 9/11.

Prior to casting the only “no” vote, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke on the House floor. “As we act,” she said, “let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

We have. That’s why, more than 11 years later, Lee’s prophetic one-minute speech is so painful to watch. The “war on terror” has inflicted carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere as a matter of routine. Targets change, but the assumed prerogative to kill with impunity remains.

Now, Rep. Lee has introduced H.R. 198, a measure to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force. (This week, several thousand people have already used a RootsAction.org special webpage to email their Senators and House members about repealing that “authorization” for endless war.) Opposed to repeal, the Obama administration is pleased to keep claiming that the 137-month-old resolution justifies everything from on-the-ground troops in combat to drone strikes and kill lists to flagrant abrogation of civil liberties.

Understanding the Sequester

The URL indicates that the title was "The Outlaw in the Oval"

This is what happens when you elect someone -- anyone -- to the presidency as that office is presently constituted. Of all the various Washington mystery cults, the one at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue is the most impenetrable. This is why the argument many liberals are making -- that the drone program is acceptable both morally and as a matter of practical politics because of the faith you have in the guy who happens to be presiding over it at the moment -- is criminally naive, intellectually empty, and as false as blue money to the future. The powers we have allowed to leach away from their constitutional points of origin into that office have created in the presidency a foul strain of outlawry that (worse) is now seen as the proper order of things. If that is the case, and I believe it is, then the very nature of the presidency of the United States at its core has become the vehicle for permanently unlawful behavior. Every four years, we elect a new criminal because that's become the precise job description.

Read more: A Bad Idea Gets Worse - Esquire http://www.esquire.com/...

Lessig's lecture from the other night.
Lessig on "Aaron's Laws - Law and Justice in a Digital Age"

Published on Feb 20, 2013
Lawrence Lessig marked his appointment as Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School with a lecture titled "Aaron's Laws: Law and Justice in a Digital Age." The lecture honored the memory and work of Aaron Swartz, the programmer and activist who took his own life on Jan. 11, 2013 at the age of 26.

How H-1B Visas Are Screwing Tech Workers

A few years ago, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer informed hundreds of tech workers in its Connecticut R&D facilities that they'd soon be laid off. Before getting their final paychecks, however, they'd need to train their replacements: guest workers from India who'd come to the United States on H-1B visas. "It's a very, very stressful work environment," one soon-to-be-axed worker told Connecticut's The Day newspaper. "I haven't been able to sleep in weeks."
Of course, the big tech companies claim H-1B workers are their last resort, and that they can't find qualified Americans to fill jobs. Pressing to raise the visa cap last year, Microsoft pointed to 6,000 job openings at the company.

Yet if tech workers are in such short supply, why are so many of them unemployed or underpaid? According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), tech employment rates still haven't rebounded to pre-recession levels. And from 2001 to 2011, the mean hourly wage for computer programmers didn't even increase enough to beat inflation.


End the AUMF - Repeal the "War on Terror"

After more than 11 years the Authorization for Use of Military Force -- the congressional resolution that launched the "war on terror" -- has not been repealed.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced a bill (HR 198) to repeal it.

Click here to ask your Representative to co-sponsor and your Senators to do the same.

Tell Obama: Reject Keystone XL & Stop Golfing With Big Oil!

Obama Golfed With Oil Men As Climate Protesters Descended On White House

On the same weekend that 40,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington to protest construction of the Keystone Pipeline -- to its critics, a monument to carbon-based folly -- President Obama was golfing in Florida with a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players. ...

But on his first “guys weekend" away since he was reelected, the president chose to spend his free time with Jim Crane and Milton Carroll, leading figures in the Texas oil and gas industry, along with other men who run companies that deal in the same kinds of carbon-based services that Keystone would enlarge. They hit the links at the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club, which is owned by Crane and located on the Treasure Coast in Palm City, Fla.

Send President Obama A Letter

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues

Explosive Bloomberg Editorial: Bank Profits are "almost entirely" Taxpayer Money

"The presidency of the U.S. has become at its core the vehicle for permanently unlawful behavior"

Poets in Prison

Aaron Swartz, R.I.P.

Gov't Is Going Batshit Crazy Over John Kiriakou's Posh Prison Send-Off

Initial jobless benefit claims rise to 362,000, the same as a year ago. Inflation nicks consumers

Talking Heads "Burning Down the House"
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