Friday, March 20, 2009

Suze Orman To Bush: "You Owe The American People Every Penny Of Your Fortune And Your Family's Fortune"

Suze Orman To Bush: "You Owe The American People Every Penny Of Your Fortune And Your Family's Fortune"

In a long profile by WWD's Jacob Bernstein, Suze Orman sounds off on George Bush and blames the ex-president for the financial crisis (near the bottom of the first page):

Sitting in a green room after her TV interviews, she lambasts everyone from Alan Greenspan to Larry Summers to the former president of the United States, who holds an especially dark place in her heart. "Commander in Chief?" she says of George W. Bush, with a mix of disbelief and scorn. "You blew up every single financial vessel we had and if you think you aren't personally responsible, well, the blame starts at the top. There is no higher top than you, SIR! If I were you, I would feel so absolutely horrific that I would take every penny I had and distribute it to anybody and everybody to help them in whatever way I could. You owe the American people every penny of your fortune and your family's fortune."

Orman also calls being impersonated by SNL's Kristen Wiig the “greatest honor of my career" and that often during her show she is forced to stop and think, "Ugh. I’m playing Kristen Wiig."

Read the full profile here at

Watch Kristen Wiig impersonate Suze Orman below:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Republicans in full whine mode because Obama is going to work around their obstructionist tactics

Republicans in full whine mode because Obama is going to work around their obstructionist tactics
Joe Sudbay (DC) ·

The Republican whining about Obama and bipartisanship is getting tiresome. To work, bipartisanship has to be a two-way street. But, the Republicans have a roadblock on their side of the street -- and they bitch every time Obama tries to get around their obstructions:
Senior members of the Obama administration are pressing lawmakers to use a shortcut to drive the president's signature initiatives on health care and energy through Congress without Republican votes, a move that many lawmakers say would fly in the face of President Obama's pledge to restore bipartisanship to Washington.

Republicans are howling about the proposal to expand health coverage and tax greenhouse gas emissions without their input, warning that it could irrevocably damage relations with the new president.

"That would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who briefly considered joining the Obama administration as commerce secretary. "You're talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You're talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River."
Obama went to the White House with a vow to change the way things are done. The Republicans are playing the same games. Obama vowed accomplishments for the American people. The Republicans on Capitol Hill are doing every thing they can to stop him. So, when Obama basically, says "Fine, I'll do it without you," the Republicans whine and run to the media. It's pathetic and it's gotten really old already.

NOTE FROM JOHN: "[W]arning that it could irrevocably damage relations with the new president." Right, those would be the relations where Obama bent over backwards, even offered the GOP 3 cabinet posts, and in return 3 of them - a whopping 3 - voted for the stimulus package. What "relations" are the Republicans talking about?

Rush Limbaugh, the leader of the GOP, has said repeatedly he wants Obama to fail. Most of the GOPers on the Hill are lemmings who follow (and fear) Rush. That's what Obama is up against. Republicans want to kill Obama's agenda. It's good that the White House has figured that out. Now, roll the Republicans. Team Obama should "Strong-arm it through." It's the only way to save the country from the economic disaster created by the Republicans.

Monday, March 16, 2009

China's last eunuch

China's last eunuch spills sex secrets

Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:01am EDT

By Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING (Reuters) - Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting's eyes in old age -- the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

China's last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the "Emperor's slave" but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of "living history."

He had stories of the tortuous rituals of the Forbidden City, Emperor Pu Yi's last moments there and the troubled puppet court run by the Japanese during the 1930s. He escaped back to the heart of a civil war, became a Communist official and then a target of radical leftists before being finally left in peace.

This turbulent life has been recorded in the "The Last Eunuch of China" by amateur historian Jia Yinghua, who over years of friendship drew out of Sun the secrets that were too painful or intimate to spill to prying journalists or state archivists.

He died in 1996, in an old temple that had become his home, and his biography was finally published in English this year.

It unveils formerly taboo subjects like the sex life of eunuchs and the emperor they served, the agonizing castrations often done at home and also often lethal, and the incontinence and shame that came with the promise of great power.

"He was conflicted over whether to tell the secrets of the emperor," said Jia, adding that Sun preserved a loyalty to the old system because he had dedicated so much of his life to it.

"I was the only person he trusted. He did not even confide in his family, after they threw away his 'treasure,'" Jia added, using traditional eunuchs' slang for their preserved genitals.

They were discarded during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when having anything from the "old society" could put lives at risk.

"He only cried about two things; when telling me about the castration and about the loss of his 'treasure'," said Jia, who works as an energy bureaucrat, but devotes all his spare time to chronicling the dying days of Imperial China after a childhood enthralled by the eunuchs and princes who were his neighbors.


Over years of painstaking research, he has gleaned arcane details about every aspect of palace life, along with secrets about the emperor's sexuality and cruelty that would look at home on the front page of tabloid newspapers.

For centuries in China, the only men from outside the imperial family who were allowed into the Forbidden City's private quarters were castrated ones. They effectively swapped their reproductive organs for a hope of exclusive access to the emperor that made some into rich and influential politicians.

Sun's impoverished family set him on this painful, risky path in hopes that he might one day be able to crush a bullying village landlord who stole their fields and burned their house.

His desperate father performed the castration on the bed of their mud-walled home, with no anesthetic and only oil-soaked paper as a bandage. A goose quill was inserted in Sun's urethra to prevent it getting blocked as the wound healed.

He was unconscious for three days and could barely move for two months. When he finally rose from his bed, history played the first of a series of cruel tricks on him -- he discovered the emperor he hoped to serve had abdicated several weeks earlier.

"He had a very tragic life. He had thought it was worthwhile for his father, but the sacrifice was in vain," Jia said, in a house stacked with old books, newspapers and photos.

"He was very smart and shrewd. If the empire had not fallen there is a high chance he would have become powerful," Jia added.

The young ex-emperor was eventually allowed to stay in the palace and Sun had risen to become an attendant to the empress when the imperial family were unceremoniously booted out of the Forbidden City, ending centuries of tradition and Sun's dreams.

"He was castrated, then the emperor abdicated. He made it into the Forbidden City then Pu Yi was evicted. He followed him north and then the puppet regime collapsed. He felt life had played a joke at his expense," Jia said.

Many eunuchs fled with palace treasures, but Sun took a crop of memories and a nose for political survival that turned out to be better tools for surviving years of civil war and ideological turbulence that followed.

"He never became rich, he never became powerful, but he became very rich in experience and secrets," Jia said.

(Editing by Nick Macfie and Bill Tarrant)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

'Truth Commission' critic accuses Leahy of 'whitewash'

'Truth Commission' critic accuses Leahy of 'whitewash'
Rachel Oswald

Passions surrounding various proposals that would investigate Bush administration wrongdoings are extremely high with interested parties not shying away from using harsh rhetoric towards fellow supporters of probes.

Speaking to Raw Story, Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a human rights attorney, says he is opposing Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy’s proposed 'Truth Commission' because it doesn’t go far enough.

"We’re talking about a whitewash with Leahy. Are we some Latin American country where we don’t have a democracy robust enough to try people?," Ratner said. “[Leahy’s] essentially diffusing the issue so there’s not as much pressure on prosecution. It’s not really going to go far. [The commission is] going to divert us for a few years and we’re never going to see something come out of it.”

Ratner said he and the Center for Constitutional Rights want to see criminal prosecutions of officials at the highest level of the Bush administration, the so-called “principals” who were the architects of controversial polices and signed off on them.

“Cheney has openly said that he approved the water boarding memo and that he would do it again,” Ratner said, adding, “My view is you absolutely have to have prosecutions to have deterrents [for future executive power abuses].”

Speaking at last Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the matter, Leahy (D-VT) said, “If criminal conduct occurred, this senator wants to know about it. “I’m trying to get the ability to find out if criminal conduct occurred so it won’t happen again. If crimes occurred, I don’t think they should be swept under the rug.”

Leahy has said he would not rule out criminal prosecutions of high-level Bush appointees as have other senators supportive of his proposal, such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Ratner said he objects to comments made by Leahy critical of people who are “fixated on prosecution.”

“That’s me,” Ratner said, adding, “Those [comments] are all basically saying ‘we’re not prosecuting.’"

Ratner said he has been unexpectedly pleased with the public support for criminal prosecutions in the country.

More than 100 organizations large and small have signed on to calls throughout the years for a special prosecutor to look into Bush administration abuses while at least 18 groups have already affirmed their support of Leahy’s Truth Commission proposal.

Approximately 40 percent of those polled by Gallup at the end of January support criminal investigations while 25 percent to 30 percent support an investigation by an independent panel. 35 percent to 25 percent of those polled don’t want any investigation at all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don Juarez on Manhattan Entertainment Spotlight Special

This is a recent clip from my interview with Don Juarez on Manhattan Entertainment Spotlight Special TV.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Ex-UN prosecutor: Bush may be next up for International Criminal Court

Ex-UN prosecutor: Bush may be next up for International Criminal Court
Stephen C. Webster

An ex-UN prosecutor has said that following the issuance of an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, former US President George W. Bush could -- and should -- be next on the International Criminal Court's list.

The former prosecutor's assessment was echoed in some respect by United Nations General Assembly chief Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, who said America's military occupation of Iraq has caused over a million deaths and should be probed by the United Nations.

"David Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University, said the principle of law used to issue an arrest warrant for [Sudanese President] Omar al-Bashir could extend to former US President Bush over claims officials from his Administration may have engaged in torture by using coercive interrogation techniques on terror suspects," reported the New Zealand Herald.

The indictment of Bashir was a landmark, said Crane, because it paved a route for the court at The Hague to pursue heads of states engaged in criminality.

"Crane also said that the [Bashir] indictment may even be extended to the former president George W. Bush, on the grounds that some officials in terms of his administration engaged in harsh interrogation techniques on terror suspects which mostly amounted to torture," said Turkish Weekly.

"All pretended justifications notwithstanding, the aggressions against Iraq and Afghanistan and their occupations constitute atrocities that must be condemned and repudiated by all who believe in the rule of law in international relations," Brockmann told the Human Rights Council. "The illegality of the use of force against Iraq cannot be doubted as it runs contrary to the prohibition of the use of force in Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. It sets a number of precedents that we cannot allow to stand."

The Bush administration boycotted the Human Rights Council. The day Brockmann made his accusations happened to be the first in which the United States had observers at the council, on orders from President Obama.

According to Iranian news network PressTV, the Iranian government called the Bashir indictment "a blow to International justice" and an "insult directed at Muslims."

Iran's plainly stated sentiment toward the court's legitimacy is similar in spirit to that of the United States. Because the US Government has refused to recognize the court by becoming a signatory in its statute, "the only other way Bush could be investigated is if the [UN] Security Council were to order it, something unlikely to happen with Washington a veto-wielding permanent member," said the Herald.

Due to the International Criminal Court's lack of any real police force, it has traditionally relied upon signatory states for enforcement of its rulings. But when the leader of one such state is indicted, the court's authority and enforcement capability is called into question. Even the arrest of Bashir is a far cry, for now. And without a UN Security Council order, former US President Bush would not go on "trial" before the court any time soon.

However, on January 26, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak insisted that the pursuit of Bush and members of his administration for the torture of terror war prisoners is crucial if justice is to be served.

Nowak added that he believes enough evidence exists currently to proceed with the prosecution of Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense who was credited as being highly influential in the crafting and push for America's invasion of Iraq and the prior administration's abusive interrogation tactics.

The following video was published to YouTube on March 6 by the non-profit, Web-based news service LinkTV.

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Harpers editor: America had a dictator for eight yearsDavid Edwards and Stephen C. Webster

Harpers editor: America had a dictator for eight years
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Friday March 6, 2009

It was a casual refrain near the dawning of former President George W. Bush's political career on the national stage. Most took as a joke.

"If this was a dictatorship it'd be a heck of a lot easier," he so memorably said. "Just so long as I'm the dictator."

His presidency now a smoldering memory, Harper's contributing editor Scott Horton thinks that perhaps he wasn't kidding after all. In a March 3 column, Horton extrapolated on "George W. Bush's Disposable Constitution," expanding on his thoughts during a Thursday broadcast of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Since the Monday release of nine previously-secret Bush administration legal memos claiming that the president has the power to ignore the Constitution when fighting terrorism, experts have almost unanimously denounced both their legal reasoning and their conclusions.

"These memos provide the very definition of tyranny," Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Tuesday. "These memos include everything that a petty despot would want."

Olbermann's Thursday guest was just as strident as Turley in his view of the prior administration.

"We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship," wrote Horton in his Harper's article.

"Bush did not order, at any point, the military seizure of part of Cleveland," said Olbermann. "He did not imprison [ founder] Markos Moulitsas. This was certainly not an active military dictatorship, or a dictatorship of any kind in anybody's tangible perception.

"So, what do you say to the idea that these [memos] were just outer parameters, in the event of true internal chaos?"

"These memoranda were crafted with specific programs and projects in mind," said Horton. "The question is, exactly what? ... There's a clear focus on the use of the commander in chief powers. On the use of the military domestically in the United States.

"John Yoo says the Fourth Amendment presents no impediment. The Fourth Amendment is of course a limitation of surveillance. It creates a requirement of warrants for listening in to people's telephone conversations, for instance.

"In this case, I think it's pretty clear that this was designed to authorize the military and military agencies to engage in a sweeping program of surveillance in the United States."

In his March 3 column, Horton remarked, "These memos suggest that John Yoo found a way to treat the Posse Comitatus Act as suspended."

Further on in his MSNBC interview, he elaborated: "The president, if he wants, can have you squirreled away in the brig in Charleston, South Carolina, and he can have you tortured there. You have no appeal from that in these OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinions.

"Of course, that's not the law. It's a ridiculous portrayal of the law. But it's what the OLC told the president he could do."

The memos were repealed with a mere five days remaining in President Bush's term. An internal Justice Department investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility has some forecasting potentially "serious consequences" for the authors, including Yoo.

Effectively, said Horton, these controversial memos saw President Bush "freed from the constraints of the Bill of Rights" during wartime "with respect to anything he chose to label as counter-terrorism operations inside the United States."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Mar. 5, 2009.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

John Dean: Bush almost became an 'unconstitutional dictator'

John Dean: Bush almost became an 'unconstitutional dictator'

David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Tuesday March 3, 2009

It was during the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln became known as a "constitutional dictator," said former Nixon White House counsel John Dean during a Monday broadcast of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Responding to the recent release of several legal justifications for President Bush's most criticized policies, Dean summarized, "Reading these memos, you've gotta almost conclude we had an unconstitutional dictator. It's pretty deadly and pretty serious, what's in these materials."

The memos, released by Obama's Justice Department on Monday, outline possible methods for the president to ignore treaties and International laws, kidnap and torture American citizens and overrule the First Amendment to the Constitution which ensures freedom of speech and of the press.

All of these things and more could be done exclusively by the president in the name of fighting terrorism.

"Who in this formula was supposed to decide that these were terrorists?" asked Olbermann.

"Well, according to these memos, that was rather limited to the President of the United States and there are no guidelines as to how he might describe who was or was not a terrorist," said Dean.

Dean also said that the repeal of several of these memos just days before the Bush administration left power, was "definitely a bit of C-Y-A," though he did not ascribe "evil intent" to anyone.

"What does this say about what we need to do now in terms of investigating this, John?" asked Olbermann. "Is this the scale-tipper for everybody?"

"It could be," said Dean, "because the public is going to be aware of a lot more than they were. There is an investigation that is ongoing that started late in the Bush administration by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

"I think that investigation, which we've heard very little about, is going to be very hard to suppress now. ... I think the Office of Professional Responsibility may make some very strong recommendations that could include prosecution."

Dean has previously warned of "serious consequences" around the world if the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are not willing to "point fingers" at Bush administration members who may be guilty of war crimes.

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Mar. 2, 2009.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Married Same-Sex Couples Sue US For Federal Benefits

DENISE LAVOIE | March 3, 2009 12:08 AM EST | AP

BOSTON — Mary Ritchie, a Massachusetts State Police trooper, has been married for almost five years and has two children. But when she files her federal income tax return, she's not allowed to check the "married filing jointly" box.

That's because Ritchie and her spouse, Kathleen Bush, are a gay couple, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act makes them ineligible to file joint tax returns.

Now Ritchie, Bush and more than a dozen others are suing the federal government, claiming the act discriminates against gay couples and is unconstitutional because it denies them access to federal benefits that other married couples receive, such as pensions and health insurance. Plaintiffs also include Dean Hara, the widower of former U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives.

In Ritchie's case, she and her spouse say they have paid nearly $15,000 more in taxes than they would have if they had been able to file joint returns.

"It saddens us because we love our country," Ritchie said. "We are taxpayers. We live just like anyone else in our community. We do everything just like every other family, like every other married couple, and we are treated like less than that."

The lawsuit was being filed Tuesday in federal court in Boston by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the anti-discrimination group that brought a successful legal challenge leading to Massachusetts becoming the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage in 2004.

Only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay marriage. Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire allow civil unions.

Californians voted in November to overturn a court ruling that allowed gay marriage, but the state still offers domestic partnerships that guarantee the same rights as marriage. Hawaii is considering a bill that will allow same-sex civil unions.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was enacted by Congress in 1996 when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize such marriages. The new lawsuit challenges only the portion of the law that prevents the federal government from affording Social Security and other benefits to same-sex couples.

President Barack Obama has pledged to work to repeal DOMA and reverse the Department of Defense policy that prevents openly gay people from serving in the military.

Mary Bonauto, GLAD's Civil Rights Project director, said the lawsuit is the first major challenge to the section of the law that denies same-sex couples access to more than 1,000 federal programs and legal protections in which marriage is a factor.

All the plaintiffs are from Massachusetts and have marriages that are recognized by the state. They include a U.S. Postal Service employee who wasn't allowed to add her spouse to her health insurance plan; a Social Security Administration retiree who was denied health insurance for his spouse; three widowers who were denied death benefits for funeral expenses; and a man who has been denied a passport bearing his married name.

"This law is an absolute intrusion into an area that states have governed for centuries _ marriage," Bonauto said.

In Hara's case, he was denied any portion of Studds' $114,000 pension after the Democratic congressman died in 2006. The two married in 2004 after being together for 14 years.

"I am not being treated the same as any other surviving spouse of any other federal employee or public servant who has served this country for 27 years, when I have been legally married," Hara said.

Defendants in the lawsuit are the United States of America and several federal agencies, which are being represented by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Obviously, we are going to take a look at it and make a determination as to how the government would ultimately respond after we review it," DOJ spokesman Charles Miller said.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, said the lawsuit is a "plausible challenge" to DOMA.

"It's a question of whether Congress oversteps its bounds and engages in irrational discrimination when it draws a line in terms of concrete benefits for individuals who are otherwise eligible simply because the marriages they have entered involve same-sex couples rather than opposite-sex couples," he said.

Opponents of same-sex marriage say those who challenge DOMA are trying to impose gay marriage on the rest of the country.

"Massachusetts has made benefits available on a state level, but Massachusetts can't force the federal government's hand or the other states to accept same-sex marriage," said Mathew Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit that says it's dedicated to advancing religious freedom and the traditional family.