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The digital story of the Nativity

The Christmas tree

Back by popular demand:

‘Associated forces’

The NY Times editorial board on President Obama’s power grab:

Nearly every top American official with knowledge and experience spoke out against the provisions, including the attorney general, the defense secretary, the chief of the F.B.I., the secretary of state, and the leaders of intelligence agencies. And, for weeks, the White House vowed that Mr. Obama would veto the military budget if the provisions were left in. On Wednesday, the White House reversed field, declaring that the bill had been improved enough for the president to sign it now that it had passed the Senate.

This is a complete political cave-in, one that reinforces the impression of a fumbling presidency. To start with, this bill was utterly unnecessary. Civilian prosecutors and federal courts have jailed hundreds of convicted terrorists, while the tribunals have convicted a half-dozen.

And the modifications are nowhere near enough. Mr. Obama, his spokesman said, is prepared to sign this law because it allows the executive to grant a waiver for a particular prisoner to be brought to trial in a civilian court. But the legislation’s ban on spending any money for civilian trials for any accused terrorist would make that waiver largely meaningless.
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Securities fraud

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. What, you thought they’d indict REAL bankers? LOL

‘Impoverished’

John Aravosis with a great story about how Mitt Romney’s lower-middle-class home in Paris was actually a palace, and until recently was the home of the embassy for the United Arab Emirates:

To hear Mitt Romney tell it, his two and a half years as a Mormon missionary in France in the late 1960s were tough times. The places he was staying often had no working toilet, and certainly no baths or showers, he said just this past Sunday (in an effort to divert attention from the $10,000 bet he made Rick Perry). He lived, he said, just like lower-middle income Frenchmen lived.

The truth is slightly different. According to the Telegraph, for nearly a year during his time in France, Romney lived in a “palace” in Paris’ richest neighborhood, known as “the 16th.”

Although he spent time in other French cities, for most of 1968, Mr Romney lived in the Mission Home, a 19th century neoclassical building in the French capital’s chic 16th arrondissement. “It was a house built by and for rich people,” said Richard Anderson, the son of the mission president at the time of Mr Romney’s stay. “I would describe it as a palace”.

It had chandeliers, stained glass windows, its own art collection and servants. I found a photo of one of the windows, via the Mormon Paris mission’s Web site:

Until just recently the building housed the embassy of the United Arab Emirates, a government known for its impoverished lower-middle class lifestyle.

[…]Oh, but the Telegraph has more:

In his remarks this week, Mr Romney said of his French lodgings: “I don’t recall any of them having a refrigerator. We shopped before every meal”. Mr Anderson said that as well as a refrigerator, the mansion had “a Spanish chef called Pardo and a house boy, who prepared lunch and supper five days a week”.

The home in fact had several baths and showers.

You get the picture.

Barack Obama, the human cave-in

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that Obama, if he signs what is being called the National Defense Authorization Act, “will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.” More here.

SOPA

The unholy alliance between Congress and media corporations will most likely result in the passage of SOPA, and could mean the end of blogging as we know it:

Some of the original engineers of the Internet called Thursday for lawmakers to scrap anti-piracy bills, saying the proposals would pose major technological barriers for the Web and stifle new innovations.

The letter comes as House Judiciary committee members on Thursday debate the Stop Online Piracy Act introduced by Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) that has drawn impassioned support from media firms but opposition by Web firms and some public interest groups.

At the hearing, California Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D) and Darrell Issa (R) have asked the committee to reconsider the bill and amendments to it in a hearing.

But many lawmakers of both parties are in support of the legislation.
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Jeb!

I wonder who’s behind this? Via Cannonfire, some very intriguing news:

Someone has paid for a poll designed to see if there is any enthusiasm for a Jeb Bush run against Barack Obama in 2012.

Here’s more:

After all, it would be too late for Bush to enter the race, right? Everyone has been told that the field is set. And indeed, in several primary states qualifying has closed. But New Hampshire allows voters to write-in any name they choose. And most party caucuses either don’t have a ballot or have a pretty open write-in policy. Don’t forget, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. won a surprise write-in victory in New Hampshire without ever declaring himself a candidate for President in 1964.

There is still time. In fact, if Jeb was interested in seeking the party’s nomination, this might be his smoothest path to victory.

I can see why some in the GOP leadership might be intrigued by this idea. The base simply does not care for Romney. Newt probably can’t win in the general. Ron Paul is a sincere libertarian — no TARP for him, thank you — and thus will never be allowed to get near the nomination.

The Bush name appeals to the Tea Party cranks and to the Establishment — in other words, to the third of the country who remained stalwart Dubya supporters to the very end. However, I don’t think the name has much appeal to anyone outside that 33 percent.

Jeb’s spokesperson has denied that he has anything to do with the poll. However, there was a Florida poll in April matching Obama against Jeb Bush. Bush won handily, and even attracted a surprising amount of Democratic support.

Water cutoff

This is simply horrifying. And you’ll notice the real culprits:

The facility, which has been under construction since 1996, was meant to cost about $300m.

But the bill soared to $3.1bn after construction problems and a series of bond and derivatives deals that went sour in the financial meltdown of 2008.

Investment bank JP Morgan Securities and two of its former directors have been fined for offering bribes to Jefferson County workers and politicians to win business financing the sewer upgrade.

Six of Jefferson County’s former commissioners have been found guilty of corruption for accepting the bribes, along with 15 other officials.

R.I.P.

Christopher Hitchens, 62.

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