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commentary on Politics and a little bit of everything else

The Senate moves on the $59B Afghan war funding Bill……And Disaster Aid for the states….

The Senate can move when it wants to…

That is because this bill contains something for every state…..

The House is going to get some heat from the Democratic left….But the basic bill will be approved….

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday moved forward a $59 billion spending bill, even as some panel members expressed skepticism about pouring more funds into the Afghanistan war.

More than half the money – $33.5 billion – would fund President Barack Obama’s plan to increase U.S. troops by 30,000 in Afghanistan, as well as continuing military operations in Iraq. Much of the remainder would go toward foreign aid and assistance to Haiti and U.S. states hit by natural disasters.

The panel approved the legislation drafted by panel Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), the ranking Republican, by voice vote and with minor amendments Thursday. And it had plenty of support.

The Senate action is the first step in getting a supplemental to the president’s desk before the Memorial Day recess, a deadline set by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The vote came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai wrapped up a four-day visit to Washington, during which he met with Obama at the White House and with key lawmakers on the Hill. On Thursday, Karzai made a brief appearance in the Senate chamber, escorted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.).

The supplemental is expected to face a tougher audience in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said that passing it will be “a heavy lift,” in large part because of liberals who oppose the war.

Pelosi said Karzai’s meetings this week would weigh heavily on the war funding bill, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said lawmakers expected more from Karzai.

The war funding in the Senate bill mirrors the request made by the Obama administration.

In addition to the war spending, Inouye’s bill includes $5.1 billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund; $6.2 billion for State Department operations and foreign aid in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Haiti; and $13.4 billion for disability compensation to Vietnam War veterans affected by Agent Orange exposure.

The measure includes $400 million that wasn’t requested by the Obama administration for recent disasters, such as floods in Tennessee, a storm in Rhode Island and tornadoes in the Midwest and South.

More……..

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May 16, 2010 Posted by | Blogs, Breaking News, Government, Law, Media, Men, Military, PoliticalDog Calls, The Economy, Updates | , , | 5 Comments

New York City has just received its 100 Millionth 311 call………

311

[ Inside a 311 call center in 2007. According to a recent survey, New York ranks first in the overall number of calls, but second per capita, behind San Francisco. ]


To Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s credit…..

This was a good one….Create a city wide number to call for any needed city service…Any….

Run it 24/7 and go…..

Which is exactly what Bloomberg administration did…

There are similar systems in 15 other major cities in America…..

The $46 million service* is a hit and has become a part of the city…..

In this piece New York Times reporter Elissa Gootman get a chance to spend a week doing her story and doing a 311 operator’s job….

With her work she learns a who new world………

“We spent a day, 15 of us, figuring out who’s responsible for a dead seal floating in the water off Brighton Beach,” recalled Chenda Fruchter, who is in charge of 311 content and relationships with the other city agencies. (Answer: the Police Department’s harbor unit.)

More than half of the time callers hang up before reaching an operator, presumably after getting the information they need from the recorded greeting.

The hot line has also proved useful in unanticipated ways: last year, the city tracked the time and location of 311 complaints to trace a mysterious maple syrup smell to factories in New Jersey.

“Taking calls is like a box of chocolates,” advised Michelle Bravo, who condensed the four-week training session into two days for me. Chocolates? Really? Wasn’t this going to be about people yelling at me, or demanding the phone number for a supervisor at the Human Resources Administration?

But I came to appreciate the analogy. You never know what you’re going to get, and helping 133 strangers over the week turned out to be kind of delicious. I felt as if I was putting good karma into the world by treating callers with the respect that their landlord or that guy at the towing company had lacked. Maybe when they hung up they would be a little more forgiving of their girlfriend or their upstairs neighbor or the person who accidentally tripped them on the subway.

I wondered what people did before 311 when, say, they did not know what jail their husband was in, or needed a dermatologist in the Bronx who took Medicaid, or could not figure out why the water streaming out of their sink was suddenly brown, or wanted to file a complaint against a home health aide who had stolen from their aunt. I imagined the lives of 311’s “frequent fliers”: Streetlight Mike, who calls to report broken streetlights so often that call-takers recognize his voice; “the Mumbler” and “the Screamer,” whose motivations are unclear because they are either mumbling or screaming. I vowed to pay my parking tickets posthaste, lest my car land in the same pound as one of my least happy callers.

I had my moments of doubt: should government, for example, really be in the business of telling people when museums are open?

More……..

* Note……

The city’s 306 full-time operators (starting salary: $27,349) take an average of 90 calls per shift, consulting a database of 3,600 pieces of information — including, because so many people call to request it, the current date and time. Sometimes they transfer callers to other city or state agencies; sometimes they take down the details and file official reports. Sometimes they are stumped. It happens…..

………………………………..

In 2009, according to the survey (pdf) by the Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative, the 311 center in New York received 224 calls for each 100 residents, compared with 446 in San Francisco, 185 in Charlotte, N.C., 152 in Baltimore, 151 in Chicago, 110 in Miami and 101 in Houston.

New Yorkers complain or call about noise more than anything else, followed by maintenance by landlords, alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations, lack of heat or hot water, bus or subway service, lost property in taxis, blocked driveways, disposal of bulky items and parking ticket updates.

In San Francisco, the top categories are street cleaning, graffiti removal, public housing services, requests for other city services, abandoned vehicles and flooded sewers.

The Pew survey looked at 311 systems in 15 large cities, including New York, where the 311 call center began operating in 2003.

More……..

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Computers, Counterpoints, Government, Media, Men, Other Things, PoliticalDog Calls, Politics, Updates, Women | , | 2 Comments

Gay actors and Straight parts………

Personally I don’t care…….

If they can act…..

Let them do their craft…….

Who cares what they do in their private lives…..


Newsweek’s Ramin Setoodeh wrote an article a few weeks ago arguing that gay actors had a hard time playing straight people, and the outcry basically broke the Internet. Blogs ripped Setoodeh into confetti. Actress Kristin Chenoweth called him “horrendously homophobic.” Gleecreator Ryan Murphy called for his fans to boycott Newsweek.

Setoodeh’s argument was silly. The response was silly, too. Setoodeh saw a play called Promises, Promises starring Sean Hayes (the best friend from Will & Grace) and didn’t think Hayes was a convincing straight guy. Also, he watched an episode of Glee and thought another gay actor playing straight came off like a “theater queen.” In the real world, two unconvincing performances in a week is, you know, two unconvincing performances in a week. For Setoodeh, it was part of a larger trend: gay actors can’t play straight!

He probably should have kept the thought to himself. Or rented Return of the King. Gay actors play straight all the time: Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother; David Hyde Pierce inFrasier; Ian McKellen in Lord of the Rings, and X-Men, and everything.

Gay actors face serious challenges in film and television. The last thing they need is Newsweekknocking their chops because a couple of them weren’t sufficiently macho in musicals some guy saw last week.

More…….. on the back and forth……..

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Blogs, Counterpoints, Entertainment, Media, Men, PoliticalDog Calls, Updates, Women | | 12 Comments

DSD on the Democratic Presidential Supreme Court picks……

I’m sure it’s my own blinders, but it seems as if Democratic Presidents appoint reasonable but rather spongy moderates (Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor) while Republicans appoint true-believing ideologues (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas), with only Anthony Kennedy as more of a technical or non-ideological lawyer. I haven’t checked the sequence, but someone said that recent justices have always been replaced by someone more conservative or less liberal.

And as I’ve often said……

………..with the departure of Souter and O’Connor, there seems to be no one on the court who’s had regular experience, as a prosecutor, trial-level judge or public defender, with the way that motions are handled, testimony originally given and juries addressed at the pre-appellate level. This gives something of an unrealistic air to their theoretical expectations of (for example) what is an improper influence on a juror or an unreasonable burden on a defendant or plaintiff. A possible exception might be Thomas’s service in the Missouri Attorney General’s office, depending on what kind of work this involved (appeals or trial-level prosecutions and lawsuits).

Democratic Socialist Dave

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Blogs, Counterpoints, DSD @PoliticalDog101, Government, Law, Media, Men, Politics, Updates | , , , | 11 Comments

Talkandpolitcs……PA fight in CNN State of the Union……. Specter win.

The race is still a toss-up, but the last voice on the Sestak-Specter sequential interview at Cnn State of the Union just now – Arlen Specter might have won over most swing voters. Playing his “new” democratic base and pounding on his Stimulus and Obama support, in order to end right-wing “bickering” and saving the country from a new depression, he might have scored some points……

Ole’ Specter is a pro.

The verdict is out there tuesday..

More……..

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Blogs, Breaking News, Counterpoints, Government, Media, Men, Politics, Polls, Projections, TalkandPolitcs, Updates | , , , | 11 Comments

From Nicekicks…….What they wore…….Celebrity Sneaker's…….

From Nickicks……

Don’t call it a comeback; Celebrity Sneaker Stalker never left. This week, we spotted some celebs that are making their first appearance on Celebrity Sneaker Stalker such as Kelis, Ray J and Mick Jagger. Common returns this week as he shows love to Nike and Mister Cartoon, while Justin Timberlake rocked a fresh pair of Air Jordan 2 Retros. Also, rapper Wale rocked a fan-favorite LeBron VII. With that said, let us know who rocked the best kicks in this week’s Celebrity Sneaker Stalker.

Usher wearing a Nike Blazer Mid

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Blogs, Entertainment, Media, Men, Sneakers (Kicks), Updates | , | 1 Comment

From Nicekicks…….What they wore…….Celebrity Sneaker’s…….

From Nickicks……

Don’t call it a comeback; Celebrity Sneaker Stalker never left. This week, we spotted some celebs that are making their first appearance on Celebrity Sneaker Stalker such as Kelis, Ray J and Mick Jagger. Common returns this week as he shows love to Nike and Mister Cartoon, while Justin Timberlake rocked a fresh pair of Air Jordan 2 Retros. Also, rapper Wale rocked a fan-favorite LeBron VII. With that said, let us know who rocked the best kicks in this week’s Celebrity Sneaker Stalker.

Usher wearing a Nike Blazer Mid

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Blogs, Entertainment, Media, Men, Sneakers (Kicks), Updates | , | 1 Comment

The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on it last voyage?…….

What a beautiful picture!

As the United States moves out of the manned space business…

Hopefully the private guys will work up their spacecraft……

The space shuttle Atlantis, carrying a crew of six, a Russian docking module and critical spare parts, vaulted into orbit Friday on a 12-day space station assembly mission, the orbiter’s 32nd and final planned flight after a quarter century of service.

With NASA bracing for the looming retirement of the shuttle fleet after a final three missions, Atlantis roared to life and rocketed away from its seaside pad at 2:20 p.m. Eastern time. The eight-and-a-half-minute ascent appeared normal as the spacecraft climbed through a partly cloudy sky, putting on a familiar, soon-to-be-missed show for area residents and tourists who turned out in droves to catch a glimpse of Atlantis’s final launching.

A camera mounted on the shuttle’s external tank provided dramatic views of the climb to space with no obvious signs of foam insulation or other debris that might have caused any damage.

Strapped in on Atlantis’s flight deck were Capt. Kenneth T. Ham of the Navy, the commander; Cmdr. Dominic A. Antonelli, also of the Navy, the pilot; the flight engineer, Michael T. Good, a retired Air Force colonel; and Garrett E. Reisman, veteran of a three-month stay aboard the space station in 2008.

Seated on the shuttle’s lower deck were Capt. Stephen G. Bowen of the Navy, a former submariner, and Piers J. Sellers, a British-born astronaut who arranged to carry a piece of bark from Isaac Newton’s apple tree into the weightlessness of space. All six astronauts are shuttle veterans.

If all goes well, Captain Ham will guide Atlantis to a docking with the forward port of the International Space Station early Sunday, kicking off a busy week of assembly work.

The day after docking, Captain Bowen and Mr. Reisman plan to stage a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to install a spare Ku-band dish antenna and to mount an equipment stowage platform on a Canadian robot arm extension. The next day, Mr. Reisman, operating the station arm from inside the station’s new multiwindow cupola, will attach the 17,760-pound Rassvetmodule to the Earth-facing port of the central Russian Zarya module.

The new compartment will serve as an extended docking compartment, providing needed clearance between the Russian segment’s forward port and an American storage module scheduled for installation on the next shuttle mission later this year. The new module was loaded with 1.5 tons of American supplies and equipment for launch aboard Atlantis.

The day after the Rassvet installation, Captain Bowen and Mr. Good will stage a spacewalk to begin replacing six 375-pound batteries in the station’s far left set of solar arrays. A final spacewalk with Mr. Reisman and Mr. Good is planned to finish up the work.

Atlantis is scheduled to undock from the space station May 23 and land back at the Kennedy Space Center around 8:44 a.m. on May 26.

More……..

Note……NASA is trying to possibly wring one more flight out of Atlantis as a last supply mission for the International Space Station sometime later this year…..

Here is a quick link to a final farewell…

http://www.space.com/common/media/video/player.php?videoRef=SP_100514_AtlantisLegacy

Thanks BDog!

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Aircraft, Breaking News, Government, Media, Men, Space, Travel, Updates, Women | , | 4 Comments

The private intelligence network in Afghanistain and Pakistan is still working……..

The New York Times has been heavy on the case of a US Government program that seems to have been set up by some ex-US government good guys, and a few questionable ones…..

If you read military action novels you are very familiar with the scenario where a President…feed up with the bureaucracy involved with the CIA, Military and other agencies…..turns to a few individuals to get the job done…To find out what’s going on without regard to career building, cover your butt, or what the chief executive wants to hear…..That apperas to have  turned into contract for Lockheed….

They in turn  put together a group of former CIA operators, who hired former US special operators (SEAL’s, Deltas and other CIA special operators and natives of the two countries)

This works since the US wants to say it doesn’t have ground troops operating in Pakistan …..

The operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan seems to have morphed into that same thing…..

The names mentioned in the piece are old CIA operators and high up US Military  who left the service to retire when new improved people were brought on board….

These old hands are now running a private service that is paid by the government in a contract to the Lockheed Corporation…..

And let me mention one thing very clearly ……

THE US MILITARY IS VERY HAPPY WITH THE SET-UP!

The New York Times seems a bit indignant  …

But the Generals that run the war are NOT…

The private contractor provides valuable intel…and the while the word has gone out that the operation will not be renewed…

The US military it appears…

DOES NOT WANT IT STOPPED……THEY WANT IT TO CONTINUE….

The whole op is not under investigation by the government but

, Michael D. Furlong ,  is…….And  if my  mind set  is  right….this was the guy who set up Vice President’s  Cheney’s separate intelligence network…….

The New York Times found that Mr. Furlong’s operatives were still providing information using the same intelligence gathering methods as before and because they are using ex-US military operators…..then natural evolution of the program has occurred and those operator ……who are supervised by military people who just a few years ago ran the Iraq war and still have friends in high places and are trusted…carry out ‘wet’ work if it comes their way….

The whole thing is…..

9/11 has changed things…..

This whole story by the New York Times misses a very basic point….

Remember when  General McChrsytal was faced with a choice of what strategy to use in the war last year?

President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, went with door ‘B’…..the middle troop choice…The US will reach that strength level in Afghanistan by July….But few remember Vice President Biden’s  choice…..I do…..

‘Hunter…Killer Teams”….

That’s what the Lockheed group is doing….

So…..The Vice President got his choice also….Signed off on in 2009 by General Patreaus….

And the Commander – in Chief….

The Operation isn’t going away anytime soon….

No matter how much sunlight the New York Times* shines on it…..

Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former Central Intelligence Agency officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information — some of which was used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. Many portrayed it as a rogue operation that had been hastily shut down once an investigation began.

But interviews with more than a dozen current and former government officials and businessmen, and an examination of government documents, tell a different a story. Not only are the networks still operating, their detailed reports on subjects like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan and the movements of enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan are also submitted almost daily to top commanders and have become an important source of intelligence.

The American military is largely prohibited from operating inside Pakistan. And under Pentagon rules, the army is not allowed to hire contractors for spying.

Military officials said that when Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in the region, signed off on the operation in January 2009, there were prohibitions against intelligence gathering, including hiring agents to provide information about enemy positions in Pakistan. The contractors were supposed to provide only broad information about the political and tribal dynamics in the region, and information that could be used for “force protection,” they said.

Some Pentagon officials said that over time the operation appeared to morph into traditional spying activities. And they pointed out that the supervisor who set up the contractor network, Michael D. Furlongwas now under investigation.

But a review of the program by The New York Times found that Mr. Furlong’s operatives were still providing information using the same intelligence gathering methods as before. The contractors were still being paid under a $22 million contract, the review shows, managed by Lockheed Martin and supervised by the Pentagon office in charge of special operations policy.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said that the program “remains under investigation by multiple offices within the Defense Department,” so it would be inappropriate to answer specific questions about who approved the operation or why it continues.

“I assure you we are committed to determining if any laws were broken or policies violated,” he said. Spokesmen for General Petraeus and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, declined to comment. Mr. Furlong remains at his job, working as a senior civilian Air Force official.

A senior defense official said that the Pentagon decided just recently not to renew the contract, which expires at the end of May. While the Pentagon declined to discuss the program, it appears that commanders in the field are in no rush to shut it down because some of the information has been highly valuable, particularly in protecting troops against enemy attacks.

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the expanded role of contractors on the battlefield — from interrogating prisoners to hunting terrorism suspects — has raised questions about whether the United States has outsourced some of its most secretive and important operations to a private army many fear is largely unaccountable. The C.I.A. has relied extensively on contractors in recent years to carry out missions in war zones…….

………………………………

The exposure of the spying network also reveals tensions between the Pentagon and the C.I.A., which itself is running a covert war across the border in Pakistan. In December, a cable from the C.I.A.’s station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, to the Pentagon argued that the military’s hiring of its own spies could have disastrous consequences, with various networks possibly colliding with one another.

The memo also said that Mr. Furlong had a history of delving into outlandish intelligence schemes, including an episode in 2008, when American officials expelled him from Prague for trying to clandestinely set up computer servers for propaganda operations. Some officials say they believe that the C.I.A. is trying to scuttle the operation to protect its own turf, and that the spy agency has been embarrassed because the contractors are outperforming C.I.A. operatives.……….

More…….

Note …….One could get the idea that this piece was written by someone who set out to ‘out the operation’  from a ‘turf’ war point of view……

The author has held back sensitive information he says about the operation…..

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Aircraft, Breaking News, Counterpoints, Government, Law, Media, Men, Military, PoliticalDog Calls, Politics, September 11, Updates | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Miranda Warning and Terrorist arrests……..

For as long as I can remember people arrested in America get their Miranda warning recited to them…

Police officers and Fed’s both have the same basic rule to follow….

As soon as possible

Read them their rights……

After  9/11 a lot of people kinda got pissed off and decided to heck with their rights……

But there’s s problem with that…

When the Fed’s get to court…..The first thing the defense attorney is gonna go after is all the information obtained BEFORE said subject was read his/her rights….

Now nobody wants the bad guy/girl to lawyer up…..

But that is THEIR right if we’re trying them in a civilian court…..

I believe the government has the right to find out if the officers or anyone else is in immediate danger BEFORE giving an Miranda warning to a bad guy….

But that has a time line attached to it…

When we get down to the intelligence vs criminal prosecution argumenet….I want the intell..that’s hands down..

But in those cases……the governemenet can’t have it both ways….

Get the information…..

Then cut the deal…..

Don’t give away the process…

People are presumed innocent before convinced by a court of law

Right?

And they have the right against self incrimination…..

Right?

Here’s a Op Ed piece from the New York Times on the issue……

For nearly nine years, the threat of international terrorism has fueled a government jackhammer, cutting away at long-established protections of civil liberties. It has been used to justify warrantless wiretapping, an expansion of the state secrets privilege in federal lawsuits, the use of torture, and the indefinite detention of people labeled enemy combatants. None of these actions were necessary to fight terrorism, and neither is a dubious Obama administration proposal to loosen the Miranda rules when questioning terror suspects and to delay presenting suspects to a judge.

A change to a fundamental constitutional protection like Miranda should not be tossed out on a Sunday talk show with few details and a gauzy justification. If Attorney General Eric Holder really wants to change the rules, he owes the public a much better explanation.

At the most basic level, it is not even clear that the warning requirement can be changed, except from the bench. The Miranda warning was the creation of the Supreme Court as a way of enforcing the Fifth Amendment. Since 1966, it has reduced coerced confessions and reminded suspects that they have legal rights.

The Rehnquist court warned against meddling with the rule in a 2000 decision forbidding Congress to overrule the warnings to suspects, which over the decades became an ingrained law enforcement practice.

In 1984, the court itself added a “public safety” exception to Miranda. If there is an overriding threat to public safety and officers need information from a suspect to deal with it, the court said,the officers can get that information before administering the Miranda warnings and still use it in court. We disagreed with that decision, but in the years since, the exception has become a useful tool to deal with imminent threats.

The question now is whether the exception needs to be enlarged to deal with the threat of terrorism. Clearly an unexploded bomb or a terror conspiracy would constitute a safety threat under the existing rule. But must investigators “Mirandize” a suspect before asking about his financing sources, his experience at overseas training camps, his methods of communication? In a world that is differently dangerous than it was in 1984, these seem to fit logically under the existing exception, without requiring a fundamental change to the rule.

Miranda does not seem to be an impediment to good antiterror police work, as Mr. Holder himself noted on Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee. Investigators questioned Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the Times Square bombing attempt, for three or four hours before giving him a Miranda warning, receiving useful information both before and after the warning. He readily waived his right to a quick hearing before a judge.

More……..

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Counterpoints, Editorial, Government, Law, Media, PoliticalDog Calls, Politics, Updates | , , | 3 Comments