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The End of Insanity

They say that insanity is when you keep doing the same thing, hoping for a different result. Well, we’ve had an embargo against Cuba for 53 years, hoping that would change Cuba. It hasn’t worked.

So I am overjoyed that Obama has decided to change our relationship with Cuba. We are going to open an embassy in Cuba and chart a course toward normalizing relations. For those who say that is a bad idea, we normalized relations with many of our former enemies, including Russia, China, and Vietnam, and the world didn’t end. Our dysfunctional relationship with Cuba is the last relic of the cold war and this change is long overdue.

I support this move not because I am in any way a fan of the Castro regime in Cuba. In fact, quite the opposite. It has become apparent that our embargo of Cuba is just about the only thing that has kept the Castro brothers in power, as they have often used the embargo as an excuse to exercise dictatorial power. Opening up relations between the two countries is probably the best thing we could do to end Cuba’s siege mentality and bring about a more open government there.

I have visited Cuba on more than one occasion, and I can say that the Cuba people are capable of moving toward democracy. Even Alan Gross, the American who had been held in jail in Cuba for aiding Cuban dissidents and whose release prompted this change, has nothing but good things to say about the Cuban people. They are ready for change, and by ending the embargo, we will give them the opportunity to create their own change. This is good news for everyone.

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Cheney Doubles Down on Torture

In addition, Cheney claimed that our waterboarding wasn’t torture because we elevated the victim’s feet so that they wouldn’t drown. The Fact Checker reviews Cheney’s statements and finds him completely full of bullshit. He has lied to us repeatedly, with absolutely no remorse, and he doesn’t dare stop lying now. He would do anything and say anything to save his own lying ass.

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Bush v Clinton Redux

Jeb Bush announced that he will “actively explore” running for president, and has even formed a Political Action Committee. Does this mean that the 2016 election will be the ultimate political dynasty deja vu?

Well, yes. Barring any unforeseen catastrophe, that’s almost certainly going to be the lineup. In fact, just a few hours after the Bush announcement, Senator Rand Paul started running ads against Bush.

The presidential election season is upon us. It is going to be a long two years.

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Late Night Political Humor

“Time magazine has named ‘Ebola Fighters’ the 2014 Person of the Year. The Ebola fighters said they were honored to be chosen and look forward to the ceremony. Then Time said, ‘Oh no, we’ll just mail them to you.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Time magazine announced its person of the year. It’s health workers who treat Ebola. That’s a person of the year. Time magazine told the health workers, ‘No need to pick up your award, we’ll mail it to you.'” – Conan O’Brien

“This year, the person — it’s persons, and those persons are the Ebola fighters. The people who were on the front lines, working to keep Ebola contained. I think it’s a very good choice. Congratulations, guys. I’d love to shake your hands, but you know…” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Facebook revealed that Ebola was the most popular Facebook topic in the U.S. this year, with the World Cup coming in sixth. So welcome to America, where even Ebola is more popular than soccer.” – Jimmy Fallon

“This will be the first time an acceptance speech has included the phrase, ‘We couldn’t have done it without Ebola.'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Time magazine has named Ebola healthcare workers as their person of the year. The Ebola workers were very excited when Time magazine gave them the news – via Skype.” – Seth Meyers

“Time magazine named their person of the year today. It was not a member of Congress.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Congress goes on recess starting tomorrow night. By the way, that’s all you need to know about Congress. They get recess. A bunch of middle-aged adults get three weeks off to play kickball?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama was talking about the new report on CIA interrogation techniques and praised our country’s ability to quote, ‘face our imperfections, make changes, and do better.’ Which sounds less like a speech on torture and more like the comments on a kindergartner’s report card.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The new CIA torture report is 6 million pages long. It’s almost as long as a George Clooney pre-nup.” – David Letterman

“Jeb Bush’s brother Neil said that their mother has ‘come around’ to the idea of Jeb running for president in 2016. Because if there’s anything that says you’re qualified to be president, it’s your own mom saying, ‘I guess you could do it.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“A woman on a Southwest Airlines flight gave birth to a baby. As soon as he was born, the baby said, ‘I had more leg room in the womb.'” – Conan O’Brien

“Today Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi received the Nobel Peace Prize. And they’re giving an honorable mention to whoever has to announce them.” – Seth Meyers

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Tortured Logic

Matt Davies
© Matt Davies

We have admitted that we used “enhanced” interrogation techniques, the same techniques that we prosecuted as torture when our enemies used them. Are we willing to take the next step, or do we really believe that something like this is only illegal if you lose a war?

UPDATE: The Guardian points out that Cheney (and Michael Hayden) shouldn’t be allowed to go on TV anymore. They should both be in jail.

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Late Night Political Humor

“At the White House yesterday, they kicked off Computer Science Education Week. Students gave tutorials on computer code and President Obama sat down and wrote one. All his program does is draw a box, which he’s hoping he can crawl into and hide in for the rest of his term.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“This week Apple stores are holding free computer programming classes for children. Or as that’s called in China, a job fair.” – Conan O’Brien

“Scientists say they’re getting closer to developing a pill to replace exercising. Americans heard this and said that it better come in cool ranch flavor.” – Conan O’Brien

“A flight headed from San Francisco to Phoenix had to make an emergency landing in L.A. today after a passenger gave birth midflight. The parents called the birth a miracle while the airline called it a second carry-on.” – Seth Meyers

“The woman gave birth in the middle of a flight. I’m happy to report that the mother and child are doing fine, while the guy who was sitting next to her is not.” – Seth Meyers

“Every year Americans spend millions of dollars on Christmas gifts for their pets, which makes no sense to me. Your pet doesn’t know it’s Christmas. In fact, your pet doesn’t even know it’s a pet, so giving your cat a sweater is about as useful as giving your microwave a hat.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Umpire Dale Scott recently became the first major league umpire to come out as gay. Well, he says he’s out, but another ump said he was safe, so now we have to wait to see what the replay says.” – Jimmy Fallon

“McDonald’s released a new video showing how it makes their Chicken McNuggets. Apparently it turns out that McNuggets aren’t made out of chicken. They’re made out of people who ask too many questions.” – Conan O’Brien

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What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Goat!

How ironic is it to have Satanists play Devil’s advocate?

A few months ago, the Supreme Court allowed Hobby Lobby to be exempt from the law of the land because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs”. It is not clear to me how a corporation can have any beliefs at all (let alone sincerely held religious ones), nor how having such a belief (if they could) might give them the right to impose those beliefs on their employees. (I guess that’s why I’m not on the Supreme Court.)

The Satanic Temple, which is a recognized religious organization, says that “informed consent” state laws violate their sincerely held beliefs. These are laws promoted by pro-life groups, requiring that before women can get an abortion they have to listen to state-approved information about the procedure, information that may be inaccurate or misleading. The Satanic Temple has created a form letter that is intended to let women who share their beliefs opt out of the informed consent laws. They say that if their religious beliefs are violated, they will sue.

This isn’t the first time the Satanic Temple has fought for religious freedom (which seems to be their main reason for existing). A month ago they won the right to create a religious display for the Florida State Capitol, alongside displays created by Christians, atheists, and even Pastafarians (from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster).

After all, the Constitution clearly states that the government cannot give preference to any valid religion. By allowing one religion into the state capitol, or giving them the right to exempt themselves from a law, they are opening the door to all religions to do the same thing.

One hopes that eventually the Supreme Court will realize that the only workable solution, and the one most likely in accord with the wishes of the founding fathers, was for the government to keep completely out of the religion game.

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Colbert interviews Smaug

See also the photos of Colbert dressing up like various characters from the movie.

What does this have to do with politics? I have absolutely no idea.

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No Regrets

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blasted his Democratic colleagues in the Senate on Thursday, telling reporters, “I’m sick and tired of people blaming George W. Bush for things he did.”

In the aftermath of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture, Cruz said, “Democrats have been busy with their favorite game again: bringing up catastrophic things that President Bush did and then blaming him for them.”

The Texas Senator raised the invasion of Iraq as an example of something that “Bush gets blamed for simply because he did it.”

“Just because President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, costing thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, does that mean he should bear the blame for it?” he asked.

“America is not a place where you get blamed for things simply because they never would have happened unless you did them.”

He urged each of his Democratic colleagues “to look in the mirror and ask yourselves whether you want to be blamed for disasters you have personally created? In my case, the answer is a resounding ‘no’.”

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Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama went to the hospital because of a sore throat, but it turned out to be acid reflux. Some say it was an overreaction, but then Obama said, ‘Uh, did YOU have to spend the last few months hugging Ebola people? Call me when that happens and we’ll see if I over-reacted.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Apparently the president had a sore threat. His doctor said he needs Zantac. Sadly, that’s actually the best news President Obama’s gotten in a very long time.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“It turns out that President Obama has acid reflux. He had a sore throat, went to the hospital, and they diagnosed it as acid reflux. Talk about irony — it’s not covered by Obamacare.” – David Letterman

“Obama went to the hospital this weekend because of a sore throat. Everything is fine, but it was a little awkward when they asked what insurance he uses, and he said, ‘Blue Cross. No, I mean Obamacare.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama was diagnosed with acid reflux. His approval rating is so low that he’s starting to get pushback from his esophagus.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“So now, Joe Biden is just a heartburn away from the Oval Office.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“This morning President Obama met with Britain’s Prince William in the Oval Office. It was a meeting between a symbolic ruler with no real power and the future king of England.” – Conan O’Brien

“Prince William and Kate Middleton are in New York City. We have got to do something about immigration.” – David Letterman

“Today Prince William went to Washington, D.C., and he met with President Obama. He said, ‘It feels weird being in the White House because I’m not an American.’ And then Prince William said, ‘Yeah, me too.'” – Craig Ferguson

“The meeting with Prince William took place at the White House because Prince William wanted to see where the president spent his days, but the golf course was covered in snow.” – Craig Ferguson

“People say we need royalty. We have royalty in the United States — the Kardashians.” – David Letterman

“The birthrate in the United States is at an all-time low. Whereas our death rate is still holding strong at 100 percent.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“This is official today. China has surpassed the U.S. and now has the No. 1 economy in the world. After hearing this, China’s children asked, ‘So now can we take a lunch break?'” – Conan O’Brien

“There is a new student loan calculator app that can determine how long students will be in debt based on their major. For example, if you’re a creative arts major, you can’t afford the app.” – Seth Meyers

“Facebook revamped its search feature. Now you can search for any post that has ever appeared on your page. It’s helpful if you want to waste time this year remembering exactly how you wasted time last year.” – Conan O’Brien

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Obamacare Saves 50,000 Lives and $12 Billion

A little known part of the ACA has saved a significant number of lives and money.

In 1999, several studies came out that showed that a significant cause of death in the US were simple mistakes made by hospitals. Things like giving people the wrong medicines or the wrong dosage. Or from people getting preventable infections while in hospital, like developing pneumonia from being on a ventilator. Conservative estimates were that 98,000 people died every year due to preventable mistakes. The government estimated that poor care in hospitals contributed to the deaths of 180,000 patients covered by Medicare every year.

The healthcare reform law changed Medicare to improve safety in hospitals and provided financial incentives to do so. The results are amazing. According to the government, in 2013 hospital-acquired conditions affected 1.3 million fewer patients than in 2010 (the law went into effect over several years). This produced savings of around $12 billion dollars (the cost of treating these preventable conditions), and saved around 50,000 lives, in just one year.

That’s in addition to the lives saved by people getting health insurance who previously couldn’t afford it.

My only question is, what took us so long?

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Evil for No Reason

The Senate Intelligence committee finally released their report (10 years late) about the use of torture (the CIA called it “harsh interrogation”) after 9/11 and even though it was heavily redacted, it confirms what this blog and many others said at the time. It didn’t provide us with any information we couldn’t have gotten by other (legal) methods. It didn’t prevent any terrorist attacks (there was no “ticking time bomb” information). And it produced floods of “fabricated” information because people being tortured will just make shit up in order to appease their torturers.

And not only that, but it shows that the CIA lied to us about the harshness of the techniques. What was done would be considered torture by any reasonable person, and thus should be considered war crimes. Prisoners actually died from the torture.

Even people inside the CIA knew that the program was a train wreck. According to their own people, the CIA bungled the job of interrogating Al Qaeda suspects and then lied about the results. Internally, CIA officers regularly questioned whether the use of harsh methods (torture) was producing accurate intelligence, but higher-ups ordered that the techniques continue and told Congress, the White House, and journalists that they were having great success.

And finally, the use of torture hurt us more than it helped us, as it became an effective recruiting tool for terrorists and deeply hurt our country’s standing in the world. We became a monster and we will pay the price. Imagine what we would have done if any other country had committed such crimes against us.

You can read the whole report here. Although it is very long and detailed, and just reading a few pages selected at random made me ill.

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Presidential Decree

Obama appears on The Colbert Report, and hilarity ensues:

Or you can watch the whole episode.

And remember, The Colbert Report goes away forever in less than two weeks.

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Existing While Black

Ruben Bolling
© Ruben Bolling

While this comic might take some liberties for comic effect, it is scary how many people view behaviors far differently depending on the skin color of the person doing the behavior. Even people who aren’t particularly racist. For example, if you saw a black person carrying a hunting rifle around in an urban environment, would it make you more concerned that if a white person was doing the same thing?

Heck, even the NRA supported gun control (and even wrote some of the federal gun control laws) when the Black Panthers started packing.

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United States of Jeesus

The small town of Kennesaw, Georgia voted last week to ban an Islamic group from opening a temporary mosque, even though the landlord of the space they wanted to rent agreed to the deal and the city planning commission and other city staff recommended approval. Many local residents openly voiced concerns about Sharia law and terrorism. To give you an idea of the tone of the discussion, a man who recorded the City Council’s vote said “The scumbag lawyer for the terrorist org. says he will sue… good luck with that.”

Well, not really. Faced with a possible federal investigation and the threat of a lawsuit, city officials are reconsidering their decision. The feds have intervened in many similar cases across the country, including two other cities in Georgia, and ultimately reversed the decisions.

What part of freedom of religion don’t these people understand? Many of the original European settlers of North America were fleeing religious persecution. They are probably rolling in their holy graves.

What makes this even more hypocritical is that the people opposed to the mosque were not allowed to mention religion at all at the City Council meeting where the vote was taken, but instead opposed it on the grounds of the mosque’s hours of operation, attendance, and parking. However, a newspaper pointed out that in July the city allowed a Pentecostal church to rent a space for exactly the same purpose. Meanwhile, anti-Muslim protestors carried signs outside the meeting, saying “Ban Islam” and “Islam Wants No Peace!”

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