The Green Miles loves those reality shows where they drop some poor bastard in the middle of nowhere and expect him to survive. I think this is in large part because if you dropped me in the middle of nowhere, I couldn't survive more than 20 minutes before starving to death, being eaten by a lion, going into shock from lack of internet access, etc. So Man vs. Wild, Survivorman, whatever -- if there's a haggard dude looking at a bug and wondering how it tastes, COUNT ME IN.
I was watching Man vs. Wild the other day and they tossed Bear Grylls out of a helicopter somewhere near Panama. He swam to an island and immediately went looking not for food or water, but for plastic. "No matter where you go in the world, you can always find plastic washed up on shore," Grylls told viewers. He then used the plastic to collect water.
Out in the Pacific, currents collect the plastic in one area of ocean now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation talked about it on an episode of The Colbert Report last week:
DocJess asked, below:
Do you think they'll give us a press pass?
The answer, surprisingly for almost all the press, is no:
It looks like the revolution will not be televised, after all.
At least not the Tea Party’s revolution.
Word from Nashville on Monday was that the First National Tea Party Convention next month will be closed to the press, other than for a limited number of “selected” journalists. No word on who or how many.
The restrictions apparently apply to the much-anticipated speeches by Sarah Palin and Minnesota’s own Michele Bachmann.
Convention spokesman Judson Phillips informs us that most of the sessions are closed “at the request” of the presenters. “Given the media interest, I don't want the sessions disrupted and overrun with the media,” he said.
While organizers are offering to help set up interviews with speakers, they said Palin will not be available.
And here's one organization's rejection letter:
Thank you for your inquiry about media coverage of the First National Tea Party Convention in Nashville.
This is a working convention and the sessions will not be open to the press. We are planning two events that the media could have access to. Neither has been finalized. One would be on Friday and the other would be on Saturday.
We have a very limited number of press passes and they have been accounted for. Press without a pass will not be allowed into the convention area.
In addition to the press, sounds like some major GOP on-line activists also won't be going. Erick Erickson from the influential right-wing blog RedState:
I think the tea party movement has largely descended into ego and quest for purpose for individuals at the expense of what the tea party movement started out to be.
That’s not to say it is in every case. I have much good to say about groups like Tea Party Patriots, but I think this national tea party convention smells scammy....
In the House/Senate negotiations, Democrats want to make three major changes to the health-care bill, all of which cost money. First, they want to weaken the excise tax, which means less revenue. Second, they want to increase the subsidies, which means more spending. And third, they want to extend some version of the Nebraska deal federalizing the Medicaid expansion to all the states. That, again, is pricey. So where does all the new money come from?
Currently, the Medicare tax applies only to wages, without any limits. The 2.9% tax is divided in half, with workers and employers each paying 1.45%. The health bill passed by the Senate would raise the worker contribution to 2.35% for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000 a year.
Under the proposal now being considered, people making more than those amounts would also pay the Medicare tax on dividends and other income from investments, the people familiar with the talks said. Income from pensions and retirement accounts, including 401(k) accounts, would be exempt.
If they prefer a "Medicare" tax on the wealthy instead of an income tax for political purposes, that works for me. However, Ezra makes a good point:
Why Democrats prefer a new Medicare tax to, say, capping the itemized deductions rate at 28% for taxpayers making more than $250,000 is, however, beyond me. And if you did that, you'd have more than $300 billion in new money to play with.
300 billion is more than 100 billion. Ezra has a strong point here.
Speaking for me only
Amid a busy news week, the indictment Wednesday of a pair of former Blackwater contractors for the alleged murder of two Afghan civilians hasn't gotten much attention. But the case has the potential to become a big problem for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and for Blackwater's future business prospects in that country.
The particulars of what happened last May 5 -- including whether the contractors had been drinking and whether they were acting in self-defense -- are under dispute, but everyone agrees the shooting occurred after a traffic accident in Kabul.
The charges have attracted attention for coming so soon after a federal judge dismissed a case against Blackwater contractors who allegedly killed 17 civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007. That shooting also unfolded after a traffic incident.
The contractors in the Kabul case, Christopher Drotleff, 29, and Justin Cannon, 27, were arrested last week in Corpus Christi, TX, and Virginia Beach, VA, respectively. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Here's what we know:
They are charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows cases against people employed by the military abroad, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In Afghanistan the pair were doing weapons training with Afghan soldiers through a Blackwater subsidiary called Paravant LLC. Paravant was a subcontractor on a large Raytheon contract.
According to interviews with the AP, the men say that the shooting occurred when two U.S. vehicles, each holding a pair of contractors, were driving in Kabul. An Afghan car slammed into the first vehicle, flipping it over, they say. Drotleff and Cannon, who were in the other car, say that when they got out to help, the Afghan car swung around and started driving at them.
At that point, the pair opened fire, Cannon with an assault rifle and Drotleff with a handgun, according to the indictment. The indictment does not offer a narrative of what allegedly happened, but the AP reports Drotleff emptied a 16-round clip.
Drotleff has said he fired in self-defense, telling the AP, "I feel comfortable firing my weapon any time I feel my life is in danger. That night, my life was 100 percent in danger." He also suggested that a political agenda is driving the case.
The two men killed were Rahib Mirza Mohammad (also known as Rahib Helaludin) and Romal Mohammad Naiem, according to the indictment. The contractors are also charged with attempted murder of Fareed Haji Ahmad (aka Sayd Kamal), who was injured.
The Los Angeles Times in August quoted an Afghan police investigator saying that one of the two slain men was walking home from prayers when he was shot in the head, 200 yards away from the traffic incident. The investigator also said the Toyota sedan that was involved in the incident did not have any weapons in it.
The Times piece, which appears to be one of the few -- if not the only -- reporting done on the Afghan men who were killed, quotes Afghan sources saying the shooting was unprovoked:
Residents say the U.S. contractors opened fire without provocation after one of their vehicles tipped over in a traffic accident. Killed along with Dost was Romal, 22, a passenger in a Toyota sedan on his way home from work. ...
Mohammed Shafi, a neighborhood elder who said he ran to the shooting scene that night, said the Toyota driver told him that the Americans ordered him to stop, then told him to move on. When the driver began pulling away, Shafi said, the Americans started shooting.
After the shooting, the contractors lost their jobs -- for violating Blackwater's drinking policy. They deny they had a drink since they arrived in Afghanistan in November 2008, according to CNN.
Drotleff has been arrested twice for DUIs in the past decade in Virginia Beach, according to the Virginia Pilot.
In the days following the shooting, Cannon and Steve McClain, a contractor who was in the other vehicle, fled Afghanistan fearing prosecution there, according to Attorney Daniel Callahan.
Callahan, who was representing the men as of last spring, said at the time that Blackwater was attempting to turn them into "scapegoats." He told the Wall Street Journal: "We believe Blackwater is trying to paint these men as out on a lark and drinking so that the company can maintain its ability to work in Afghanistan after losing its work in Iraq." Callahan did not return our call seeking comment.
Callahan also told the Journal the men were carrying captured AK-47 assault rifles, on instructions from their manager -- even though they weren't supposed to have weapons at the time
After the shooting, the dead men's families were paid by either the U.S. military or representatives of Blackwater, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“It could well be” a recipe for disaster in 2010, Trumka told a group of reporters. “I just came back from southern California. I was in five or six places out there… it is amazing the number of people that come up to you[...]
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There is a great deal of misunderstanding out there on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. A number of folks[...]
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Houston today is filled with sunshine.Above is a picture I took of the sunshine.You can’t beat a day filled with sunshine.Sunshine can come directly from the sun.Or—People in your life and the things you like in your life can provide for a kind of metaphoric sunshine.Both literal and metaphoric sunshine are of great value. [...]
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Last week, RNC chair Michael Steele angered the Republican Party’s congressional leaders when he said that he does not think the GOP can win majorities in Congress in 2010 and that the Party is not ready to lead. “You really just have to get him to stop. It?s too much,” one top Republican congressional aide said. U.S. News reports today that instead of ousting Steele, they’re planning to just ignore him:
“He’s become our Howard Dean,” says a top Republican leadership aide. Steele’s latest remarks that the party won’t take control of the House in the November midterm elections — a prediction he later backed away from — have revived talk of replacing him. But senior party officials say they plan something worse: just ignoring Steele. “It’s going to be out of sight, out of mind,” says one aide. And firing him won’t work. “That would just expedite the talk show where he bashes us all the time,” he says.
Dating back to last March, Republicans have reportedly been unhappy with Steele’s leadership at the RNC, which has included a string of gaffes, ethics problems, relentless self-promotion, and poor fundraising. However, one “influential” GOP strategist said that Steele was most likely going to stick around: “You?re not going to dump the first African-American chairman. That?s the only reason. Otherwise, he?d be gone.” Steele himself has previously said that he would resign if the GOP made him irrelevant. “If they want a figurehead chairman you can have a figurehead chairman, but it won?t be Michael Steele,” he said in May.