Saturday, October 31, 2009

Quote for the Day

After nearly 11 and a half minutes of Jon Stewart's roasting of Fox News, he has some great advice for the Obama administration, whose spokesperson had just said that it was the administration's job to "speak truth to power."

It's your job to f*ck up power, and it's Fox News's job to f*ck up truth.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Death Penalty and the Jurors Who Love It

Truthout re-publishes a great piece from In These Times by Diana Novak, described as "a fall 2009 editorial intern at In These Times and a contributor to Chicago INNERVIEW [who also] moonlights as a trial lawyer assistant." Novak explains that Texas's ruling next spring on the execution of Cameron Willingham in 2004 for the murder by arson of his three children. There is reason to believe that Willingham might have been innocent:
In August, the International Association for Fire Safety Science (IAFSS) released a report that concluded none of the evidence from the fire indicated it was set intentionally and that the state fire marshal who testified the fire was arson lacked "any realistic understanding of fires."

What Willingham had going against him was a ruling by the Supreme Court on those who are eligible to hear death penalty cases:
For capital cases in which the jury will debate whether or not to sentence a convicted defendant to death, the Supreme Court mandates that jurors be "death-qualified"-that is, they must pledge during the jury selection process that they morally support capital punishment and that they would have no problem signing a sentence that will result in the death of another human being.

Litigation expert Brooke Butler's research contends that this ruling results in like-minded individuals hearing the case. And it's been shown that those who support the death penalty on moral grounds tend to be male, white, Catholic/Protestant, educated, and moderately well-educated, politically conservative, and middle-class.

In other words, Willingham, who maintained his innocence until the day he was killed, had the deck stacked against him from the start. Those who decided his fate tended to side with the prosecution and believe in the overall infallibility of the criminal justice system. It is my contention that these people also believe it is OK to execute innocent people so long as they number a small percentage of overall prisoners put to death.

"Liberty and justice for all" indeed.

Run, Joe, Run!

According to TPM, Joe Lieberman is going to run for reelection to the Senate in 2012. Given the fact that he's been campaigning on behalf of Republicans since before he became an independent, and since he's quite unpopular in his home state, I wonder: is he going to run as an independent again, or as a Republican? If he runs as an independent, his standing among independents in that state is fair at best (46%/47% fav/unfav), while it's very favorable among Republicans (78%/17%). Democrats see through his bullshit (18%/73%). Among both men and women, he has higher unfavorables.

If he jumped parties now and became the Republican most of us already assume him to be, he would sacrifice his committee chairmanships and become part of a despised minority party, but he could gamble that Republicans regain enough seats in the Senate to push back the super-majority now owned by the Democrats and campaign to be a leader in the GOP caucus. This could position him to be Senate Minority Leader (or majority leader if he lives long enough to see the Republicans regain control of the chamber).

Then again, seeing how Republicans are getting turned out of major elective offices in the northeast, Lieberman might stay put and continue his "independent" status in name only and continue to caucus with the GOP. His re-election chances, however, would be slim unless he could cobble together enough Republican votes to make up for his deficits among independents and Democrats.

Josh Marshall sees an opportunity, if it were possible, for the Connecticut Democratic Party to raise money for the eventual Democratic challenger. Lieberman would, of course, get a lot of money from the insurance industry (if only because of his filibuster of the Senate's version of health care reform). But what others? AIPAC, for sure. Wall Street? Perhaps, although Obama's stimulus plans have been mostly good for investment banks. Unions? Fuggedaboudit. Christianist groups? Likely no, since Lieberman is liberal on social issues and is going to hell because he's not a Christian. But they might hold their noses and throw their support behind him if it means keeping a progressive out of the seat.

I know it's three years off, but the events of the next 12 months are crucial in seeing how much more trouble this putz is going to be.

The Cult of Victimization

Pat Robertson sees Obama's recent signing of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as persecution of righteous Christians:
The noose has tightened around the necks of Christians to keep them from speaking out on certain moral issues. And it all was embodied in something called the Hate crimes bill that President Obama said was a major victory for America. I’m not sure if America was the beneficiary. [...] We have voted into office a group of people who are opposed to many of the fundamental Christian beliefs of our nation. And they hold to radical ideology, and they are beginning put people sharing their points of view into high office...
Considering how often white Christians lynched blacks, Jews, and other non-WASPs, I say payback's a bitch.

Seriously, however, I oppose hate crimes legislation for the most part, unless that which is termed "hate speech" is deemed to have incited others to commit violence against another person or persons of a protected class. However, this law opens the gates for all sorts of abuse of the spirit of the law. Will it be a hate crime to publish a cartoon, for instance, showing Pat Robertson dressed in KKK robes and lynching a black drag queen? Or for a redneck to proclaim loudly in a public square that he lost his job because of "Jew bankers" who control the nation's financial system? Or is it a hate crime for a straight guy to slug a gay man who hits on him? All of these scenarios are open to interpretation as hate crimes depending on the lawyers representing the victims.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ezra Klein offers an interesting point on the opt-out plan in the Senate's health care bill:
My prediction is that the public option, if it passes, will be much like that. States wouldn't be able to opt out till 2014. By 2014, we'll be arguing over all manner of things, but a public insurance option for the small sliver of the population with access to the health insurance exchanges will be one of those things. In that scenario, where there's very little controversy over the public option, I don't believe that state legislatures and governors are going to go to the trouble of rejecting it, and I don't believe that anyone will manage to reinvigorate the controversy around it. The controversy around the public option is an expression of the controversy around Barack Obama's presidency in general, and health-care reform in particular. Once those issues are essentially settled, the underlying policy isn't going to hold people's attention.
I didn't know there was a five-year waiting period for states to opt-out. This accomplishes two things: 1) it gives Obama and the Democrats enough time either to succeed or hang themselves, and 2) it takes Republican anger and political gamesmanship out of the picture to see how things develop. And in truth, this is all Obama asks for -- time to see if things work. We have sat for eight years in Afghanistan waiting for things to work (they haven't), and we took a similarly long time in Iraq (jury's still out). Seems to me that it's in the country's interest to see how things go with something that has the potential of saving American lives in a tangible way.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bruce Bartlett -- American Hero

Bartlett, as I've noted before, is the author of The Supply-Side Solution and was one of the architects of Reaganomics. He also predicted that Bush and the GOP would ruin the American economy in his book Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy and the most recent book, The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward.

In his latest column, which has inspired me to add him to Uh, Yeah Right's Link Love section, Bartlett argues that the current deficit issues we are suffering through are, first of all, not Obama's doing. The FY 2009 deficit projection from the Congressional Budget Office -- before Obama took office and excluding anything Obama might have implemented after taking office -- was $1.19 trillion. After the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, the actual deficit was $1.41 trillion. The data indicated that the additional $200 billion in the deficit was attributed to $251 billion lower revenues, not added spending. The revenue was lower to a large extent because of the tax cuts in the February fiscal stimulus. This sure makes Republicans look like idiots, doesn't it? Aren't tax cuts their one and only solution for economic stimulus (in particular, tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy)?

Secondly, Bartlett proposes more spending, including government spending, to get us out of this mess. Huh? A supply-sider advocating Keynesian economic solutions? What he says is that the problem is that the supply of money in the economy isn't turning over as fast as it has in the past, a concept known as velocity. With higher velocity, you get more revenue because everyone -- consumers, investors, exporters and the government -- is spending more. He concludes:
I think there are grounds on which to criticize the Obama administration's anti-recession actions. But spending too much is not one of them. Indeed, based on this analysis, it is pretty obvious that spending - real spending on things like public works - has been grossly inadequate. The idea that Reagan-style tax cuts would have done anything is just nuts.

Blogger Derek Thompson at The Atlantic correctly notes, however, that Bartlett's solution to increase spending will increase the deficit and add to our long-term debt. These are both negatives that make Bartlett's solution a big, jagged pill to swallow. Bartlett's solution to that idea is something that he advocated in another column: namely, a Value Added Tax (VAT). This tax hits consumption rather than income. Announcing a VAT that would take place in the future would stimulate spending and generate tons of revenue without ever implementing the tax because people would stock up on good and services ahead of the VAT implementation.

I think that it's time to start looking at the VAT as a money-making machine. It's regressive, I know, because it hits poorer people, who spend a higher percentage of their incomes for daily living, harder. But the VAT might just get enough low/moderate income Americans to start saving more. And savings is where Americans are most sorely lacking.

In May 2008 I wrote about the strength of the economy as an illustration of how we were living beyond our means, and how saving just a little of our incomes could, over the years, be highly rewarding in the long run. A VAT, by taxing consumption rather than income, could get people to spend more wisely and save more. More savings means bigger bank balances. Bigger bank balances means more low-interest capital that banks and financial institutions can use to invest in business, mortgages, etc. More business revenues, more taxes. More taxes, more government revenues. More government revenues, lower deficits, more debt reduction.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

US Senate = Cocksuckers of Business Interests

Lieberman, Nebraska's Ben Nelson, and Louisiana's Mary Landrieu are conservative senators who have indicated or made public their opposition to any healthcare reform package that contains a public option.

In his comments about his decision to oppose cloture on the healthcare reform bill, constructively preventing the Senate from ending debate and bringing the bill to a final vote, Lieberman said that he had a obligation to "the voters of Connecticut" and the people of the United States. But let's be real: fully two-thirds of the American people want a public option in the healthcare reform package. That means he does not care one little bit about the vast majority of American people.

And by no means am I singling out Lieberman, although he is a two-faced cocksucker. Nearly the entire body of the US Senate is a sycophantic parasite of US and international business, and has no concern for ordinary Americans except when the interests of American citizens intersect with the business interests that keep their campaign warchests full. Nearly all of them can go to hell, if you ask me.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Sullivan passes on a comment posted by a reader of Jonathan Chait's blog on The New Republic that speculates on what the Democratic Party ought to do with Joe Lieberman, who has already come out and said he would join the filibuster against the opt-out public option for healthcare reform. Of course, Connecticut is the US home to the insurance industry (Aetna, The Hartford), so it makes perfect sense.

Money quote:
Presumably, [his no vote on cloture] would give Lieberman the junior seats on, say, the Rules Committee, the Special Committee on Aging, and the Joint Committees on Printing and the Library. Maybe someone on Reid's staff -- or maybe Schumer's, since this is more his style -- can sort through the committee requests, run the numbers, and quietly pass on to Lieberman the list of committees he would be left with if his seniority were reset to zero as of the day of the cloture vote. Then let Joe see if the GOP is willing to kick any of its own members off of the committees he wants in order to make room for him. If he can cut that deal, fine. If not, then Holy Joe can contemplate exactly how to keep sufficient corporate money coming in to his campaign for 2012 if he has to spend the next three years sitting in the back of the room on the crappiest committees in Washington.

What the Democratic Party needs with this guy is anyone's guess. He so often sides with the GOP that he should just stop pretending to be an Independent (basically cementing the loss of his seniority). He lacks the stones to do it, though; he's no Arlen Specter.

It's Good to be King

Two Californians are being charged with felony torture and are facing life in jail for each count. They are civilians and allegedly lured two loan modification specialists to an office, tied them up, held them for hours and beat them senseless in the presence of three others, who are being charged as accessories for not trying to stop the torture.

Life in prison for these people, but seven-figure speaking fees for the former president, who with his underlings created and maintained a complex system of torture and intentional cruelty to hundreds of prisoners, nearly freezing them to death, stress positions, waterboarding, induced psychosis through sensory deprivation, denying sleep, and outright killing.

It's good to be the King. You are above the rule of law.


Looks like many Republicans I know will soon be heading for the sunny climes of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Carolinas. The congressional race in the 23rd District in New York state has turned into a Republican civil war, with wingnuts on one side and the establishment GOP on the other. The incumbent is taking heat from a hardcore candidate who is gathering endorsements from all the likely sources. Michelle Malkin calls the incumbent, who is considered on the conservative side of New York Republicans, a "radical leftist" because she supports abortion rights and marriage equality (time and again, the social agenda trumps the economic self-interests of the wingnuts).

As I have predicted in the past, numerous times, the Republican Party is heading for a deep schism, much like the Episcopalians did, over social and moral issues. What will be left, in the Northeast and West, is a collection of social moderates and fiscal conservatives who look, think, and act more like Democrats in their tolerance of diversity in their ranks; and in the South and the midwest, a Christianist* army of line-toeing theocrats who base their whole raison d'etre on guns, God, and gays. A more complete marginalization I cannot imagine happening. And what a mess it will create for the country.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Opt Out Makes Healthcare Reform As Probable As Its Gonna Get

Today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced today that the healthcare reform bill will contain "opt-out" language that gives individual states control over whether or not to offer the so-called Public Option to its residents. Josh Marshall over at TPM does some decent big-picture analysis.

Crucial for me is that, with the opt-out language, more progressive (read: intelligent) state governments will eagerly allow publicly-run healthcare insurance to be available to Americans living in their states, and conservative (read: Obama-hating) state governments will, well, opt out and decide for the millions they represent that they're better off with purely private, employer-based (or self-paid) health insurance (or no insurance) until they reach age 65 (or, if they really need health care, to go to emergency rooms and get the costliest free health care there is). Watch for some people to move into states where the Public Option is available (or at least to establish residency in those states through relatives or other means). Also watch Glenn Beck go even more ballistic and claim that the colors of the US flag are now red, red, and red.

As Marshall explains, the opt-out provision now makes it easier to overcome a Republican-led filibuster, and to make it easier for Dems who were thinking of caucusing with the GOP to vote for the healthcare reform bill.

Good news.

Tarnish Off?

Greenwald ricochets off today's NY Times editorial and presents another strong condemnation of the Obama administration's embrace of Bush/Cheney era policies around national security and executive power. He writes that it's notable that the Times, which was Obama's biggest media supporter during the campaign and since he's taken office, would lead off their editorial thusly:

The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration’s expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush’s cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama’s cover-up.
These are not idly critical words. Uh, Yeah Right has regularly touted the Bush torture and warrantless search policies as anti-Constitution, anti-American, and the biggest reason why McCain (who heartily embraced these policies) was unfit to become president.

But it's easy to be partisan, and it's easy to be on the outside being critical. Obama himself showed that. As a senator, even one with reach into certain levels of government, Obama was openly critical of Bush/Cheney and used their abuses of power as ways to mobilize millions of American voters. But now, the election is over. I'm sure that after election day, Obama's staff was immersing themselves in the difficult transition period and learning just how bad things were in the Bush Executive Branch. I'm sure that, once coming to grips with how Bush/Cheney had made a mess of things, Obama's earlier promises to open all that up and be more transparent started to feel like a bone in his throat. And while Obama's intentions are notable, he has not executed on his promises regarding Guantanamo, FISA, or possible Bush/Cheney administration war crimes prosecutions.

After nine months on the job, the time to act on these agenda items is now (or, to give him some benefit of the doubt, almost nearly now). And yet, for all my progressive leanings and strong belief that so much of what Bush and Cheney were hiding was illegal and the information worthy of being revealed to the public, I am also pragmatic enough to realize that there really might be some information collected by the Bush administration is really worthy of protecting on the grounds of national security. In other words -- gulp -- maybe they were right on a few things.

If I were president, I'd be worried if some of the information I gathered were leaked to the public in such a way as to hamper a covert operation to capture or kill a primary anti-terrorism target. We might live in a free society, but that doesn't mean we all have to be in on the planning or execution of how our government protects us. Let all that be revealed once the mission succeeds (or fails), and then let the press report it, and let the public decide, through its elected representatives, how to process that information. Maybe this means that the former president and vice president don't stand trial for what they've done. I, for one, strongly advocate that they do, along with at least half a dozen other administration operatives. But I'm not a national security expert, and neither are Glenn Greenwald or the editorial board of the NY Times.

I'm willing to hold off on my judgment; Bush had nearly eight years since 9/11 to create a near police state, with Gestapo-tested torture programs and Orwellian surveillance of its citizens. Obama deserves more time to unravel the worst of it all and carefully, carefully assess how each detail affects our national security future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"We Are Losing Our Country"

Sullivan pwns the panic-stricken rhetoric of Pat Buchanan's recent column, seen here on that bastion of racist, tin-foil-hat wearing wingnuttiness, World Net Daily. Here's Buchanan's main point: "traditional Americans" are white and Christian, and they are losing their country to illegal aliens and minorities, all led by a president of mixed race but with roots that predate Obama by many years.

Sullivan refutes Buchanan's claim that whiteness is what defines traditional America. Money quote:
From the beginning, in its very marrow, this country was forged out of that racial and cultural interaction. It fought a brutalizing, bloody, defining civil war over that interaction. Any European student of Tocqueville swiftly opens his eyes at the three races that defined America in the classic text. Has Buchanan read Tocqueville? And that's why it seems so odd to me that the election of the son of a white mother and a black father is seen as somehow a threat to American identity for some, when, in fact, Obama is the final iteration of the American identity - the oldest one and the deepest one. This newness is, in fact, ancient - or as ancient as America can be. The very names - Ann Dunham and Barack Obama. Is not their union in some ways a faint echo of the union that actually made this country what it is?

He also links to a piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates containing this brilliant observation:
Black Americans have shed blood in every American war since the Revolution. This country, even the very Capitol building in which today's legislators now demand to see the birth certificate of the first black president, was built on the sweat and sinew of slaves. Before we were people in the eyes of the law, before we had the right to vote, before we had a black president, we were here, helping make this country as it is today. We are as American as it gets. And frankly, the time of people who think otherwise is passing. If that's the country Buchanan wants to hold onto, well, he's right, he is losing it.

My italics. I love that last line.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Chronic Pain Syndrome of Republicanism

It must hurt to be so stupid.
Two Republican Party chairmen from South Carolina, in trying to defend Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) practice of not using earmarks, said DeMint "is watching our nation's pennies," just like "the Jews who are wealthy." gets better when viewed in context of the full quote. In an op-ed the two men wrote for a South Carolina newspaper, they wrote:
There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation's pennies and trying to preserve our country's wealth and our economy's viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.

This is the same Senator who identified Obama's health insurance reform efforts as "his Waterloo," a project that can bring him down politically so as to ensure Republican victories in the next two elections.

That's gonna be a little hard to do when the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that only 20 percent of Americans identify as Republicans.
Only 20 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans, the fewest in 26 years. Just 19 percent, similarly, trust the Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country's future; even among Republicans themselves just four in 10 are confident in their own party. For comparison, 49 percent overall express this confidence in Obama, steady since August albeit well below its peak.

My italics. Just 40% of Republicans actually have confidence in their own party. That's quite a fall from grace.

Inflation is Not The Bogeyman

This from Wells Fargo's research dept. (you need an account to access this material):

Interest by foreign central banks to increase their gold holdings begs a more fundamental question. Have they lost confidence in the dollar? Probably not, at least not yet. As noted above, foreign central banks have purchased $53 billion worth of Treasury securities over the past 12 months. Although the pace of purchases has slowed from its rate of a year or so ago, we think foreign central banks would have become outright net sellers of Treasury securities if they had "lost confidence" in the greenback. Foreign central banks are not dumping dollars, but they appear to be diversifying away from the greenback on a flow basis.

As we argue in a recent report, however, indications that the United States is not serious about addressing its long-run fiscal challenges could eventually lead foreign investors and central banks to reassess their willingness to continue financing U.S. government obligations. Although there is little evidence to date to suggest that that point has been reached, the price of gold could skyrocket if foreign governments do indeed lose confidence in the dollar.

Inflation is inevitable when the economy runs in cycles. The hyper-inflation of the '70s is not a big worry, however, even with gold prices currently shooting up very high. What the report states is that gold prices are surging partly because foreign central banks are diversifying their portfolios rather than relying so heavily on the dollar. We've heard a lot of talk about foreign governments' turning to other currencies or gold for their investments, which would send the dollar into the toilet and inflation into the stratosphere. But if that were true, then why are all these foreign central banks still net buyers of US Treasury securities (i.e., they buy more US debt than we buy their debt). If they had lost confidence in the dollar, then they'd be net sellers of Treasuries.

What this means for you and me is that we'll be able to finance homes and cars at very low rates, and have to find other ways besides CDs and money market accounts to earn a decent return on our money, for some time to come. Now, as the piece warns above, if the US doesn't take a serious approach to its long-term problems with fiscal responsibility soon, foreign investors may indeed lose confidence in the dollar.

Bruce Bartlett believes new taxes are in order to raise revenue. Remember him? He's one of the pioneers of supply-side economics and a hardcore Reagan conservative. Read part of his interview with Money Magazine here. Money quote:
As Larry Summers [Obama's chief economic adviser] once put it, we don't have a VAT because liberals think it's regressive and conservatives think it's a money machine. We'll get a VAT when liberals figure out it's a money machine and conservatives figure out it's regressive.

True, that. And nearly impossible to achieve.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cartoon of the Day/Month/Decade

Hat tip: Truthdig

What. An. Idiot. Cont.

A Sullivan reader digs into Wikipedia and comes up with the following contextual tidbit about Glenn Beck's tears during the clip I referenced in my last post:
According to Wikipedia, in 1979, the date of the commercial that made Glenn Beck cry, his mother drowned in a mysterious boating accident. His parents had divorced in 1977 and he then had to move to a different town to live with his father. His step-brother subsequently committed suicide. Keep those apparent facts in mind and watch the Youtube clip again.

Well, of course, if these events were in my consciousness while in the same moment Beck was experiencing, I might be crying too. And I definitely feel for anyone who's experienced the depth of loss Beck did 30-32 years ago, and understand that such loss can resurface for the rest of one's life if it was a profound loss.

But keeping in mind that Beck is first and foremost an entertainer, people like him would want to keep past trauma available for moments such as those, when tears are appropriate and would deepen the impact on the viewing audience. I would imagine that some of these viewers cry at Kodak commercials, have ceramic kitties on their end tables, and have needlepoint renderings of fresh-faced girls, wearing sailor suits, in prayer repose hanging in their foyers.

Yes, sometimes I'm a cynical bastard.

What. An. Idiot.

Complete with tears. Glenn Beck pines for simpler times by invoking the classic Coke commercial with Mean Joe Greene. Uh, did his research staff not get that the commercial was produced in 1979, during the administration of Jimmy Carter?

He also talks about making the "hard choices" and realizing that, though we may not have liked it at the time when we got grounded for partying too hard and too late into the night, "Dad was right." He wishes we could turn back the clock, but, alas (sniff), we can't.

Now, my dad was and is right about a lot of things (just ask him), but just who in Beck's metaphorical weep-fest is "Dad" supposed to be? The Republican Party, who ran up record deficits, lied us into two wars, spied on us illegally, and declared our whole country a battlefield so they could arrest any one of us and whisk us off to some torture prison because they were suspicious of our actions/phone calls/book collections? Or is it media figures like himself and/or Rush Limbaugh, who really invoke a simpler time when whites hated blacks and didn't have to hide it?

Or maybe, in my fondest wishes, it's simply us, who hear our inner voices, our instincts, our guts, tell us that we're off course, taking on water, and it's time to make some hard choices to right our listing ship of a country. This means realizing that we've allowed some companies to get too big to fail without dragging down a global economy, and that we have to print up some money and borrow from a lot of governments to bail out those companies. This also means that we take a hard look at the biggest parts of our economy and try to figure out ways to streamline it, modernize it, make it fair for all Americans, make it cheaper, even if it means that those who derived the most financial benefit from the existing system will have greatly reduced benefits in the future in order to serve the greatest number in the best way. This means clawing our way out our self-inflicted moral quicksand and asserting that we will no longer torture any prisoner or enemy combatant, because we realize that the fruits of those actions are suspect at best and completely useless at worst. This means following the rule of law, revering the US Constitution and all ratified international treaties which are also the law of our land, enforcing the Wall of Separation between church and state, and even defending the right of every idiot with a pen, a computer, a microphone, or a TV camera to say just about anything he/she wants.

Thankfully, I believe that our inner selves correctly chose the right person to lead us in these hard choices. Now, in the words of that leader, "Grab a Mop."

Quote For the Day

"The better 'conservatism' succeeds as entertainment and business, the less it succeeds at looking like a philosophy of governance. And the wider that gap grows, the longer it will take to bridge it. It will get worse before it gets better." -- Andrew Sullivan

Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity (who actually said he would have awarded GW Bush the Nobel Peace Prize), and Coulter have their audiences convinced that they are the true voices of conservatism in this country, but have so undermined the idea of what conservatism actually is that the less informed segments of our society (whatever their ages might be) will likely take their maladjusted hatred of America to their graves.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Southern Strategy

Don't tell me racism isn't alive and well in this country. From CNN:
“I’m not a racist,” Bardwell told the newspaper. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.” Bardwell, stressing he couldn’t personally endorse the marriage, referred the couple to another justice of the peace.

The bride says the case boils down to discrimination. Humphrey told the Daily Star that she called [Justice of the Peace Keith] Bardwell on October 6 to ask about getting a marriage license, and was asked by his wife if it would be an interracial marriages. Humphrey said she was told that Bardwell does not sign off on interracial marriages.

A Movement In Search of a Leader

Iran. Check out this post from Sullivan.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Conformity = Political Success?

Americans have fallen into a trap, one which was set by Republicans since the Reagan years. Bill Clinton fell into it too.

The trap is what I call the Coccoon of Conformity. In short, it means that political success can only be achieved if the message is tightly controlled, and those who stray off message are asked to resign.

In the last farce of a presidential administration, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill resigned rather than toe the line on going to war with Iraq. Others, including generals like Eric Shinseki, also paid the price for venturing out of the coccoon.

Now, VP Joe Biden is one of the voices against escalating the war in Afghanistan, which may end up on the other side of what President Obama wants. Arianna Huffington suggests that Biden, if he is going to hold to that position, should "escalate his willingness to act on those reservations."

And what, if anything, would Biden's resignation suggest? That Obama doesn't tolerate dissent in the ranks, like his infamous predecessor? Or would it suggest that Americans doesn't have the stomach for a healthy debate? Obama would look like the biggest fool if the man he selected as his running mate on the basis of his long-standing expertise in foreign policy would be allowed to leave the administration because of a disagreement over that policy.

I think there's plenty of room for debate on something as critical as a war. I do not see it as a sign of weakness that Obama allows such voices to rise to the surface and be publicly heard. As we've seen throughout the last 50 years, having a single message is bad on almost all fronts. Kennedy had that problem; Johnson and Nixon too. Reagan drove us to record deficits during his regime because he, like everyone around him, saw supply-side economics as the cure-all for America, regardless of economic conditions on the ground (and we're seeing that even die-hard fiscal conservatives like Bruce Bartlett don't really think that way). And Bush's blinders-on approach to every one of his policies left us with near-Depression-era economic woes, two foreign wars that were hopelessly unwinnable, and an aversion to facts and science that so brainwashed the Republican Party that it will take a generation to undo (and a generation before they see themselves in the White House again).

Debate is good for politics, good for policy, and ultimately good for America.

Keep Biden, keep talking, and keep the faith.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sad, but True

For most of my adult life, I've been a solid supporter of Israel's right to exist. And I've written in the past that the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians are to blame for much of what has befallen them, and that the Israeli government should not be blamed for any level of military response they employ against an enemy that believes Jews are worthy of renewed genocidal efforts. Over the years, however, it's become clear to me that criticizing the actions of the Israeli government doesn't mean the critic is an anti-Semite. There are also Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank who just want to live their lives and don't really care if Israel is there, because Israelis can be good business partners.

That being said, the comments of this Sullivan reader struck me as very true, although pathetically sad. As a 32-year resident of Los Angeles and someone who's witnessed a fair amount of horrific fires in and around this area, I can understand that the best way to put out a big fire is to surround it and let it burn itself out with the fuel that's still there. As the US and European and Russian governments continue to pump in billions of dollars in aid to both sides in this conflict, we are adding fuel. Clearly, the Israeli government and many of its citizens are more interested in beating the Arabs to a pulp to get them to give up their genocidal goals, and clearly some Arabs are more interested in fulfilling Koranic imperatives for a Muslim caliphate in the region than in acknowledging what they share in common with their enemies.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever." - – Daniel Boorstin (Former Librarian of Congress)

Go MoDo

Letterman's actions since it was disclosed that he'd had an affair with a staffer while he was still single (though in a relationship with another former staffer who is now his wife) have been honorable. Watch any of his shows since that day, and you can see that he is struggling with some heavy shit. All of it while still able to make his audience smile and laugh.

Maureen Dowd's reality check is a welcome breath of fresh air. My blog has no special HTML capability right now, so here is the link to her op-ed:

Money quote:

In an ideal world, bosses would refrain from sleeping with subordinates, so as not to cause jealousy and tension in the office. But we’re not in an ideal world. Otherwise, we’d already have health care for everyone and Glenn Beck wouldn’t have any influence over the White House.

After David Letterman acknowledged that he’d had flings with young assistants, some commentators talked about it in the same breath as Roman Polanski, who drugged and sodomized a 13-year-old. That’s outrageous.

The Nothing Party

Reihan Salam nails it on the 2010 mid-term elections.
One wonders how many young voters will return. It's possible that 2008 saw an unusually high level of youth turnout that won't be replicated any time soon. If unemployment surpasses 10 percent and stays there for a prolonged period, youth unemployment will presumably be somewhat higher. These voters might not be inclined to actively and energetically support the party in power at that point. To be sure, it's not clear that Republicans will be able to win them over. A jobs-focused agenda would help. John Harwood suggests that Republicans will emphasize jobs on the campaign trail. ... But what exactly will the G.O.P. do to revitalize the economy?
Exactly nothing is what they'll do. Even if they gain seats in both houses of Congress, they are going to be without the power to do anything without having to deal with the Democrats. In all likelihood, the Dems will retain their majorities, so all they'll really have is filibuster power in the Senate. If anyone thinks John Boehner will turn Republican electoral House gains into substantive policy gains before 2012, he's smoking some serious crack.

What Republicans have failed to address is the fact that their party no longer stands for anything. Fiscal responsibility? Not since they (and their Blue-Dog Dem cohorts) have stood in the way of any meaningful health insurance reform. Anti-terrorism? Not by the Bush/Cheney standards. Social conservatism? Well, given the fact that the GOP is now owned by the Christianists, this is really all they have to hang their hats on. But really -- America has never really given a shit about this stuff.

Remember my prediction: Republicans out of the White House for the next generation, so long as Obama has the political capital he still has. At every turn, he has masterfully allowed the Republicans to paint themselves into a corner as the Party of No. In an economy that is on its way to recovery, what better campaign rhetoric can there be than to portray one's opponents as against everyting that helped America get back on its feet?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Beautiful Expression of Faith

From a Vatican astronomer, a "Glad Scientist":
Science cannot prove God, or disprove Him. He has to be assumed. If people have no other reason to believe in God than that they can’t imagine how the human eye could have evolved by itself, then their faith is very weak.
Instead of trying to affirm his own faith in the heavens, he says it's religion that inspires him to be a scientist:
Seeing the universe as God’s creation means that getting to play in the universe - which is really what a scientist does — is a way of playing with the Creator. It’s a religious act. And it’s a very joyous act.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Could it Happen Here?

Andrew Sullivan has for years chronicled the statements of various news media, entertainment, and political figures. Some of them are brilliant and some are outrageously moronic. From these statements he has created six archetypes:

The Hewitt Award - named after the absurd partisan fanatic, Hugh Hewitt, is given for the most egregious attempts to label Barack Obama as un-American, alien, treasonous, and far out of the mainstream of American life and politics.

The Malkin Award - named after blogger, Michelle Malkin - is for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric. Ann Coulter is ineligible - to give others a chance.

The Moore Award - named after film-maker, Michael Moore - is for divisive, bitter and intemperate left-wing rhetoric.

The Poseur Alert is awarded for passages of prose that stand out for pretension, vanity and really bad writing designed to look like profundity.

The Yglesias Award is for writers, politicians, columnists or pundits who actually criticize their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe.

The Von Hoffmann Award This award is given for stunningly wrong political, social and cultural predictions.

A recent "Moore Award Nominee" was Bette Midler, for making the following statement:

If you look around at the rest of the world and what this kind of behavior has done, like in Rwanda, where the demagogues got on the radio and fomented all that hate between the Tutsis and the Hutus and the devastation that happened from that, I mean, it's terrifying. And that could happen, you know, you could turn on a dime. That could happen here.
I think Andrew's being too hard on Bette by calling her statement"divisive, bitter, and intemperate left wing rhetoric." In case he hadn't noticed, gun sales are soaring, and I heard on NPR this week that ammunition sales have had trouble keeping up with demand.

This is not a blip in the market triggered by a sudden growth in enthusiasm for target practice and sport shooting. The people buying these guns are right-wingers who are, at best, afraid that gun ownership will be restricted under the Obama administration. At worst, these people are girding themselves for something they perceive, which is far more sinister: a coming conflict in the United States between leftists/socialists/fascists/whateverists and "real Americans" over Jesus, guns, the "homosexual agenda," and the indoctrination of our youth by the Obama administration's minions across America (including ACORN).

Protestors against the Obama health care reform plan showed up at his town hall meetings armed with assault rifles (unbelievably no arrests were made). Teabaggers in DC carried placards that stated, "We are unarmed...this time." A census worker was lynched in eastern Kentucky, the word "Fed" scrawled across his body. A law-abiding physician was gunned down in his church by an anti-abortion terrorist. Another terrorist shot up a Holocaust Museum and killed a guard at point-blank range.

Are these all isolated incidents? Or do the individual actors in these horrific scenes have a real connection to a movement that seeks to undermine the Obama presidency by any means?

Perhaps it's both: no movement wants to embrace publicly a murderer who kills an innocent human being to make a political point. But you can bet that the rank and file of that movement privately praise these law-breaking terrorists and secretly wish for more. A person I know, a hard-core Fox News-watcher, has predicted Obama's impeachment after the 2010 elections, when the GOP will return to power. This person hasn't come right out and said it, but I believe no tears would be shed if Obama were assassinated. There might even be a celebration.

So I don't believe Bette is being at all divisive, bitter, or intemperate. What she's being is justifiably worried that the same mob paranoia that drove Rwandans to murder their neighbors, combined with right-wing media talk show hosts who call for the failure of the president and call him a racist, a hater of "white culture," might incite the "dim-witted and ignorant" masses in the conservative movement to commit more and more violent acts of terror to usurp power from a freely elected government.

Sullivan, who has for months been devoting a lot of his time calling out Bush/Cheney -- and now Obama -- for perpetuating a torture regime in the US -- should not think what happened in Rwanda couldn't happen in America. No one ever believed we'd become wholesale torturers of innocent people, either. But we did, and we are.