Saturday, April 18, 2009

Consider this a public service

By J. Thomas Duffy

And in more than 140 characters.

It's a Twitter-Kind-of-World these days.

You can't watch a news program (cable or other) without being badgered to go to Blathering Anchor #1's, or Sad Sack Sidekick #2's Twitter, to catch their self-promoting dribble.

And, now, the education pitches start, so you can be cool, and have proper etiquette out on Twitter ... You know, play nice in the sandbox with the other Twits ...

That brings us to Sean Ludwig, over on, and his recent post, "Top 13 Twitter Don'ts":

If you're one of those new users, you may be baffled by Twitter's peculiar culture, or nervous that you'll commit some kind of microblogging faux pas.

Don't worry, we're here to help. While there aren't specific rules for how to use Twitter, avoiding these 13 Don'ts will help you fit right in—and may even gain you some adoring new followers.

Yeah, with blogging, it all about "links," and, now, with Twitter, it's all about "followers."

If you don't have eight-hundred-gillion followers, well, you're just in Loserville.

You can go over to Ludwig's post to read the all 13, but there was one that stood out:

13. Don't tweet your bathroom habits. Seriously. Just don't do it.

I'm not sure this one needed to be articulated, yet, I suppose, for the 1% of users that may be inclined to think that such a tweet would be interesting, I guess it needed to be stated ...

Hey, and don't forget, FOLLOW ME!

Bonus Twitter Tweeps

Elise Ackerman: More than 140 characters from Biz Stone of Twitter

Henry Blodget: Twitter Business Model Found!

Simon Dumenco: The Real Meaning of Ashton Kutcher's 1M Twitter Followers ...If This Dude's at the Pinnacle of the Attention Economy, the Attention Economy Needs a Bailout

Rio Palof: Twitter switch for Guardian, after 188 years of ink

Roland Hedley, Star Journalist

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)


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OLC torture memos revealed -- an overview

By Carol Gee

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder should be given a great deal of credit for releasing the latest memos produced by the Bush Office of Legal Counsel, to the American Civil Liberties Union. Glenn Greenwald makes this point strongly in his first post following the release of the mostly unredacted material. It contains a number of excerpts from the memos with interesting points about each. He and many others were unsure at the start of the day what the President would do, given the huge fight going on within the administration. Greenwald is sharply critical of the administration's decision not to prosecute however, pointing to an inability to reconcile certain basic principles of the rule of law, treaty obligations, etc.

President Obama's written statement upon the release of the memos, is included in Firedoglake blogger emptywheel's post, which adds to the discussion and reflections on the lack of accountability for the wrong-doing. She makes a couple of useful points about the release: "The ICRC report may have made a difference in this fight. . . No mention of who wrote these memos. . ." And Wheeler closes with this: "If we're a nation of laws, then we cannot let those who have broken the laws to go unpunished. That's not retribution. That's what 'nation of laws' means."

More from emptywheel -- A further point made by this outstanding investigative writer, who labels the OLC memos "erroneous and inflammatory assumptions, and John Rizzo's lies," is that the OLC memos should not be taken as authoritative regarding the events surrounding the interrogation program. For example, the section on the supposed mental health of Abu Zubaydah is patently wrong. Also the ICRC report contradicts the section on the frequency and harshness of the use of sleep deprivation. Another post links to the ACLU website that has the original memos (in pdf) posted, and reminds us that the ACLU lawsuit was what freed up the memos from the DOJ in the first place.

Here is the latest on the torture memos from the investigative journalism organization ProPublica:

1) Newly Released Memo Inadvertently Reveals CIA Held and Abused Missing Prisoner.
2) Obama Promises to Defend Interrogators, But No Promise on the Bush Lawyers Who Signed Off.
3) Resource: The Missing Memos

References: Following are several authoritative and complete articles on the story of the release of these OLC memos:

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Friday, April 17, 2009

The Reaction in Review (April 17, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By Mustang Bobby: "
Tying his hands" -- Bobby writes a brilliant piece in defense of President Obama's decisions surrounding the torture issue and the ability of the administration to continue do its job.

By Capt. Fogg: "
Ban the Assault weapons!" -- Fogg writes a thoughtfully provocative piece on some of the issues that surround the current conversation about "assault weapons."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "T
he New Secessionists; or, conservative teabagging gone wild" -- Related to his 1860-61 post below, Michael reports on several recent radical actions in state legislatures that could be dangerous to the well-being of the nation as a whole.


By Carl: "To be or not to be" -- Carl's New York residency forms the opening of his great post on the future pitfalls or possibilities of passage of a same-sex marriage law in his state.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "
It's 1860-61 all over again (or, why Rick Perry is our Craziest Republican of the Day) -- Michael adds to the "tea party" merriment with a post laying out Texas' secession options, in obvious contrast to my governor's failed-history-class-take on fake big government "right-wing claptrap." (See also 4/17/09.)


By Carl: "
Havana wonderful time, wish you were here" -- In this very clever and sensible post, Carl invites all Americans to celebrate President Obama's foreign policy changes toward Cuba.

By Boatboy: "
Green or not" -- This well written guest post compares and contrasts a couple of stories about promoting a responsible U.S. energy policy, ending with a bit of his own personal experience.

By Mustang Bobby: "Of taxes and teabags" -- Bobby's great piece of writing concludes, "I wonder if there will be anyone at the Tea Parties holding up a sign saying that they're being used and then tossed -- just like a tea bag -- by the people who put them up to this?

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "The GOP, full of bad ideas" -- Regarding Eric Cantor's brainchild, the Internet "Solutions Center," Michael's post says, "it isn't that Republicans don't have any ideas but rather that the ideas they do have are bad and have been soundly rejected by the American people."

By J. Thomas Duffy: "
Obsolete" -- Duffy's post brilliantly exposes right-wing outrage over DHS surveillance as deserved shoe-on-the-other-foot stuff.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Obama vs. the pirates" -- This post explores what options the Obama administration might face regarding Somali piracy escalation.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Here we go: Fox News actively promoting tea parties" -- Michael takes away the Fox News' pretense of "fair and balanced" coverage of the April 15 right-wing "Tea parties." See also, on the same subject:
April 13, 2009.

By J. Thomas Duffy: "
You were cool, Mark Fidrych ... You were way cool ..." -- Duffy's great post pays homage to one of our favorite pitchers, who was popularly known as "The Bird."


By Carol Gee: "
Tales of torture" -- This digest begins with the Red Cross report on the torture of detainees and ends with the NYT article introducing the release of Bush's OLC memos.

By Creature: "
71" -- Creature opens, "That's the percentage of American people who"have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in President Obama to do or recommend the right thing for the economy."

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Roland Hedley, star journalist

By J. Thomas Duffy

Good treat today, as Garry Trudeau has an article in The New Yorker this week, on one of his Doonesbury characters, the intrepid journalist Roland Hedley (take your pick, of a bevy of dwarfs, finks, phonies, and frauds, of whom Roland is a composite -- hint for at least one of them: Al Capone's vault).

The Tweets Of Roland Hedley

It's hysterical!

Here's a snip:

Ankara. Bought chunk of hash for my oldest. Press bus went ape-shit. What the heck is “Midnight Express”? 10:17 A.M. Apr 6th

Oh, THAT “Midnight Express.” 10:19 A.M. Apr 6th

O.K., ditched hash, planted it on Le Monde reporter. Thanks for caring, Tweeps, never got 80 direct messages before. 11:23 A.M. Apr 6th

There are more, including some tremendous riffs of Roland in England with the Queen.

Go check out The Tweets Of Roland Hedley.

h/t to

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Tying his hands

By Mustang Bobby

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former CIA Director Michael Hayden -- both formerly in the former Bush administration -- came out this morning in The Wall Street Journal with what John Cole at Balloon Juice calls the Republican talking points on the release of the torture memos.

The effect of this disclosure on the morale and effectiveness of many in the intelligence community is not hard to predict. Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits. Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself.

Beyond that, anyone in government who seeks an opinion from the OLC as to the propriety of any action, or who authors an opinion for the OLC, is on notice henceforth that such a request for advice, and the advice itself, is now more likely than before to be subject after the fact to public and partisan criticism. It is hard to see how that will promote candor either from those who should be encouraged to ask for advice before they act, or from those who must give it.

Aside from the fact that this sounds a lot like the opening argument of a defense lawyer in a criminal trial, Mr. Mukasey and Mr. Hayden are saying that the techniques that were employed by the Bush administration and the justifications they got from the Department of Justice won't work any more, in effect tying the president's hands.

They say that as if that is a bad thing. As President Obama said last night:

The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.

Andrew Sullivan notes: "What Obama understands is that what is truly vital is that this dark and shameful period not become a workable precedent. It must be repudiated at the very heart of the American political system, and removed like the cancer it is."

What's especially ironic is that after ten days or so of right-wing tea-bag protests about how oppressive the federal government is and how -- now -- we shouldn't blindly trust the president to do the right thing, the loyal Bushies and their Wormtongues like William Kristol (who, speaking of tea-bagging, is still pitching a tent for war) are saying that it was very important for the president -- the previous one, that is -- to be granted the full power and immunity to conduct war and interrogation the way he saw fit and without any oversight whatsoever, and that any restrictions on that power were a sign of weakness and cowardice.

What escapes their understanding is that power without discipline is a lot more dangerous and more terrifying than anything the jihadists can throw at us.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Poor Burris

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I think it's hilarious that Roland Burris, the illegitimate senator from Illinois (and massive egotist), raised only $845 between January and March of this year -- and that he has "$111,032 in debts from defending himself in ongoing ethics and perjury probes and travel."

Maybe he needs to find a corporate naming sponsor for his mausoleum.

Or maybe, and more likely, he'll just sell whatever is left of his soul to some cash-happy lobbyists, trading access, or whatever they want, for enough money to make a killing.


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Ban the Assault weapons!

by Capt. Fogg

If the movement spreads, we may be faced with a movement to ban Jedi-style "assault flashlights" in the United States. After all with some 400,000 or more people in the UK declaring themselves to be Jedi we just have to ban something.

Meanwhile Barak Obama has re-affirmed his support of banning "military style" weapons, which are ordinary rifles that look like the real military rifles that have been banned since 1934 but are not. The plan is to keep Americans from the lookalikes so that Mexico won't have a problem with the real thing. Doesn't make sense to me, but I haven't had my morning loco-weed yet. Perhaps we have to evoke the scary drug-war straw man once again to obscure the lack of evidence that the previous ban had any effect whatever on crime in the US. Evidence to the convinced, after all, is like garlic to a vampire and so must not be talked about.

"The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons--anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun--can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons."
-Josh Sugarmann, Assault Weapons and Accessories in America, 1988-

Sugarman, although he is a licensed gun dealer himself and should know better, seems to have pioneered the tautological term " assault weapon" and admits to using it solely for it's ability to deceive the public, not for reasons of honesty. The concern that police departments are "outgunned" can only be seen as fictitious propaganda (I'm trying not to call it a lie, since I'm such a nice person) when we note that even the tiny town of Jasper, Florida, population 1795, with its seven man police force equips every police car with top of the line fully automatic military weapons: machine guns.

Yesterday, in the affluent nearby community of Palm City, Florida, a woman home alone was assaulted by a man who used a shotgun to blow open her back door. Somehow she managed to use the family .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol to wound and drive off the assailant, who is now in custody. That pistol of course fires a more powerful bullet than the semi-auto 9mm Uzi "assault weapon" the banners would like to ban and has the same rate of fire. Still, we don't call it an "assault weapon" since it doesn't look like one. Pass me the loco-weed please.

Even better: we don't call a shotgun an assault weapon either even though it was used in an assault. Any way, the woman is alive, thanks to her "defense weapon" and the "shoot the Avon lady law" that was passed in 2006 over the hysterical objections of the anti-gun lobby. So far, none of our Avon ladies are missing and Mrs. Russo is still alive.

What's in a name? asked Juliet. In magic-thinking America: apparently a great deal, and unlike the immutable rose, the same firearm can be different things. Whether it's an assault weapon or a self-defense weapon has nothing to do with the weapon or its use, yet we think of one as much deadlier because people are spending a great deal of money making us think that way. Too bad our president has given them his large ear.

Cross posted from Human Voices


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The New Secessionists; or, conservative teabagging gone wild

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It isn't just Texas Gov. Rick Perry hinting at possible secession. No, as the AJC's Jay Bookman reports, it's a far more substantial, and far more nefarious, right-wing movement than most realize:

[O]n April 1, your Georgia Senate did threaten by a vote of 43-1 to secede from and even disband the United States.


[Among other things,] the resolution states that if Congress, the president or federal courts take any action that exceeds their constitutional powers, the Constitution is rendered null and void and the United States of America is officially disbanded. As an example, the resolution specifically states that if the federal government enacts “prohibitions of type or quantity of arms or ammunition,” the country is disbanded.

In other words, if Congress votes to restore the ban on sale of assault rifles, the United States is deemed to no longer exist.

This, your Georgia state Senate voted 43-1 to endorse.

And it's not just Georgia:

The resolution they sponsored is part of a radical right-wing national movement -- a similar resolution was introduced in the Georgia House but not voted on. It has been introduced in legislatures all over the nation, and has passed in both chambers in Oklahoma and one in South Dakota.

And while the Georgia resolution is legally meaningless and was passed without debate or even knowledge of most senators, it has had an impact. It has been hailed by, among others, those fighting the conspiracy to create a single North American country, by the Confederate States Militia, by the John Birch Society, and the League of the South, which still pines for the cause of an "independent South" and believes that "Southern society is radically different from the society impressed upon it by an alien occupier."

That's fine, fine company these secessionist Republicans are keeping. And it doesn't end there. As TPMDC's Brian Beutler notes, the Texas House of Representatives, with Gov. Perry's support, recently passed a "resolution affirming the state's claim of sovereignty under the 10th Amendment. 'I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,' Gov. Perry said." More:

This isn't your garden-variety conservative rhetoric. It's actually considerably more radical than that. The Civil War (and, if that's not enough, a subsequent Supreme Court decision) makes clear that secession is illegal.

Beyond that, the Texas resolution (though silent on secession per se) appears to buy into the similarly discredited theory of 'nullification' -- the idea that states are sovereign and can pick and choose which federal laws apply to them.

More and more, conservatives -- a lot of them, those who adhere to this radical strain -- are proving to be not a loyal opposition with the Republicans out of power in Washington but the proponents of a sort of anti-democratic anti-Americanism. Unhappy with the results of recent elections, unhappy not to be in control, they are pushing for the dismantling of the United States, or at least threatening it.

They may hide behind some warped interpretation of federalism, but their rhetoric smacks of treason.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Mark Kirk

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, is, apparently, a rabble-rousing nut:

"I think that the decision to raise taxes by 50 percent in Illinois is political suicide," Kirk said of Quinn's proposal to raise the tax rate to 4.5 percent from 3 percent, coupled with an increase in the personal deduction. "I think the people of Illinois are ready to shoot anyone who is going to raise taxes by that degree."

In other words, the people of Illinois are ready to -- and should? -- shoot Gov. Quinn. I get that Kirk may have been exaggerating, that his rhetoric may have gotten the better of him, but it's awfully irresponsible of a politician, of anyone, to say such a thing. Regardless of whether he meant it, and he probably didn't, there are far too many wackos on the right who do take such rhetorical incitements to violence seriously, and who may very well resort to violence, perhaps even to homicide.

But this is what the Republican Party has become: an anti-American, anti-democratic party of fear, loathing, and hatred, all with a violent core. That was on full display yesterday, at the Fox-hyped "tea tantrums," and Kirk is a fine example of its manifestation in Washington.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

To be or not to be

By Carl

Item 1:

CONCORD, N.H. — A committee of the New Hampshire State Senate plunged Wednesday into the escalating debate over same-sex marriage, hearing hours of discordant testimony on whether the state should become the fifth to allow it.

The state’s House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill last month that would legalize marriage for same-sex couples, and the public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee came on the heels of victories for same-sex marriage in Iowa and Vermont. But with the full Senate preparing to vote on the measure as soon as next week, its chances remain uncertain.

Item 2:

With Gov. David A. Paterson set to introduce a same-sex marriage bill to state lawmakers Thursday, activists differ on whether the effort from an unpopular executive will help the cause of marriage equality.

The issue will hinge on whether Paterson and his allies can win the votes of enough Republican state senators to offset opposition from conservative Democrats such as Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx.

Alan Van Cappelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay-rights group, didn't directly answer questions about whether failure in the Senate following Paterson's high-profile support would constitute a setback for the same-sex marriage movement. "We are closer than people think, but we're not there yet," Van Cappelle said.

After Vermont and Iowa legalized gay marriage this month, New York could add to the momentum or halt it, said Suffolk County Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor).

"It doesn't make sense to bring it to a vote and have it fail," said Cooper, who has plans to marry his longtime partner in Connecticut on April 29. "It could potentially have national implications - the opponents of same-sex marriage could say even in liberal New York, this couldn't pass."

Make no mistake, Legislator Cooper. New York is not as liberal as you would like to believe. Parts of upstate and the North Country are redder than the reddest parts of Alabama.

I have long supported gay marriage on the theory that misery loves company, and why should gays have all the fun? Indeed, I suspect once gay marriage is legalized across the nation, the descriptor will be changed to "miserable" (insert Victor Hugo joke here).

In a nation ruled by law, as the United States claims to be and certainly as the Founding Fathers intended, gay marriage has its place. There is no good legal reason why marriage should be limited to anything beyond two consenting adults. Period. End of discussion.

One could, on a very conservative platform, make a moral issue with respect to marriage, but so what? Laws are made not to enforce morality and behavior, but to protect people from other people. Period. Two men or two women marrying impacts no one outside of their families.

It is not my business. It is not your business. It is not society's business. It is the business of the two adults, men, women, man & woman, and that's the end of it.

And if it were as simple as that, the issue would be resolved. Here's where it gets sticky. Laws may be objective and impartial, and justice may be blind, but lawmakers are not, and there's the rub.

You see, this isn't about the law itself. Any Constitutional lawyer (and the Congress and the state houses are packed to the brim with ConLawyers) will tell you that gay marriage ought to be legal.

The problem is, they have to be elected and that's where things get dicey. In order for gay marriage to obtain legal status, politicians must be able to override the fear of being ousted by their constituents, who don't always want to listen to reasoned legal arguments, who's opinion can be summed up as "they are fags and abominations", who's own fears are preyed upon daily by talk show hosts and televangelists and absurd manipulative hatemongers who, having lost the ability to stir up hate against racial and ethnic minorities (altho they still try, trust me), have shifted their focus on to less identifiable, more ephemeral biases: gays, liberals, Muslims.

Substitute "negroes, Commies, Jews" and you can see how the entire monologue of the haters isn't new, it's just been repackaged.

The way I see it, it's going to take one of two things to make gay marriage acceptable in this atmosphere: either a slow change in the atmosphere, or a radical event that presents a rationale that makes opposition to gay marriage pale in comparison. Likely it will take a little of both, altho more evolution than revolution: after all, if Jackie Robinson (who broke the baseball color barrier 62 years ago yesterday) hadn't been Jackie Robinson, the Civil Rights Act couldn't have followed 17 years later. That's a combination of breakthrough and evolution, and that's what it is going to take.

There's an awful lot of fear surrounding this issue: an awful lot of the "ick factor" surrounding gays (sorry, but there's no other way to frame part of the trouble many people have in accepting gay marriage), and an awful lot of fear on the part of gays to be out and proud about who they are.

The fortunate signs are, both of these fears seem to be melting away, glacially. Certainly, more gay men and lesbians can come out into the sunshine now, and that four states have overcome the fears of married men and married women is a positive step. Amen for both of those. We need more courage these days.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Alaska Senate Saga: The psychopathic egotism of Sarah Palin

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If you haven't been following the bizarre saga of the effort to name a replacement for departed Alaska State Senator Kim Elton, who took a job with the Obama Administration at the Interior Department, make sure to read this overview by TNR's Chris Orr.


-- Elton is a Democrat. His replacement must be a Democrat.

-- Senate Democrats sent a name to Gov. Sarah Palin.

-- Palin rejected that candidate and came back with the name of an unacceptable quasi-Democrat (a registered Republican, but perhaps by mistake).

-- Senate Democrats proposed three new names.

-- Palin, after trying unsuccessfully to change the rules so that Senate Republicans could vote on the replacement as well, rejected those candidates and came back, once again, with an unacceptable name.

-- Senate Democrats and Republicans proposed former Juneau Mayor Dennis Egan, a suitable compromise.

-- Palin rejected Egan and came back with not one but three candidates, including the first two she proposed and a non-Democrat (and hence someone who by law can't be tapped to fill the position) to whom Palin is somehow connected.

Crazy, crazy, crazy.

Not the Democrats, who are doing what they are supposed to be doing and acting in nothing but good faith, and not the Republicans, who are working with Democrats to achieve bipartisan consensus, but Palin, who is being -- as you might expect -- a self-interested partisan obstructionist and who has been conducting herself with nothing but shameless indignity throughout this entire process, essentially giving Democrats (and even Republicans, those working with the Democrats) the finger.

The latest development is that Senate Democrats are, quite rightly refusing to accept Palin's three unacceptable candidates: "'There is nothing for us to vote on, there is no appointment,' said Senate Judiciary Chairman Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat. 'The governor has taken an unusual course which is outside the law and leaves us no choice but to ignore what she's done.'"

That's the key here: Palin is acting outside the law.

And what she's doing, and how she's doing it, isn't just "unusual," it's almost psychopathic in its fuck-you egotism. Maybe she's being partisan, maybe she just wants to make a point, maybe she's trying to enhance her authority -- whatever the case, this is yet more evidence not just of how irresponsible she is as a governor but of what kind of arrogant thug and ignorant twit she really is.

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It's 1860-61 all over again (or, why Rick Perry is our Craziest Republican of the Day)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't have much to say about yesterday's right-wing Fox News-promoted taxpayer "tea tantrums" that I, and many others, haven't said already.

For what I've written about them recently, see here and here. In brief, they are nothing more than expressions of corporate greed and ideological extremism. They're not expressions of some populist grassroots uprising, they're partisan political events supported by right-wing media outlets, think tanks, and other such organizations.

What's clear, too, is that they are platforms for all sorts of right-wing claptrap. Take, for example, what the neo-secessionist governor of Texas, Rick Perry, had to say:

Texas is a unique place. When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.

We got a great Union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it, but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that.

Perry is wrong about Texas (which could be divided into up to five states, not secede), but, more to the point, what he is actually saying here is that there is justification for the dissolution of the United States of America -- and that a neo-Confederacy, of sorts, may secede from the Union, with Obama as the new Lincoln, much like the 11 states of the Confederacy seceded in 1860-61. (Such a view is, among other things, both anti-American and anti-democratic, a clear rejection of the popular will given that Obama and the Democrats were elected by the American people.)

This is the sort of craziness that the tea partiers just can't get enough of. And perhaps it is fitting that Gov. Perry, wittingly or otherwise, connected their current anti-government revolt back to the slave-owning Confederacy of America's past.

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Dear Leader Rush defends the pirates

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It seems Rush Limbaugh has a problem with how, at Obama's order, the U.S. rescued the captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, from the clutches of the pirates.

Snipers, you see, shot three of the pirates who were holding Phillips. But who were those pirates? "Muslim kids," notes Rush, "three teenagers shot on the high seas at the order of President Obama."

Oh. Really.

Since when does Rush give a shit about Muslim teenagers? Obviously, he doesn't. And if it had been Bush giving the order, Rush would have applauded heartily, huge grin on his face, cigar dangling from his mouth, as per usual. Three more dead Muslims? So what? In Rush's world, the world of the radical right, the world of the Republican base, such lives have little meaning, if any meaning at all. To Rush and his ilk, Muslims are the Other, the enemy. And as for Muslim pirates, well, they're not much different than Muslim jihadists. If the U.S. should be out there killing jihadists, which is what Rush and his ilk enthusiastically promote, it should be out there killing pirates, too. And so what if they're under 18? That's never stopped them before.

In other words, this is naked partisan hypocrisy. It's just so amusing to hear Rush showing such obviously fake compassion for a few Muslim teenagers. It would be like Dick Cheney weeping over the deaths of a few Gitmo inmates, or of a few Pakistanis caught in the crossfire of Bush's war on terror.

I don't like the killing, but, in this case, I'm not sure what else could have been done -- and I'm sure that Obama considered a number of different options before settling on the one he chose. And it troubles me, as it no doubt troubles the president, that the three dead pirates were teenagers (Muslim or otherwise).

As for Rush, he's just full of shit, as usual, and his playing of the "Muslim" card to attack Obama, which is all he really cares about here, proves once more what an absolutely shameless partisan he is.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Havana wonderful time, wish you were here

By Carl

I think I speak for anyone with a lick of sense when I say, At last!

HAVANA, April 15 (Xinhua) -- The decision by the U.S. government to change its strategy and lift some restrictions on Cuba have aroused multiple reactions in the island, among which there are hopes of a start to the end of the decades-old economic blockade.

On Easter Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba, opening a crack in a 47-year-old embargo against Havana.

Obama also authorized U.S. telecommunication firms to open up investments in Cuba, as well as to hire radio and television satellite services for people in the Caribbean nation.

The new measures overturned the policy imposed in 2004 by the Bush White House. The "Transition Plan toward a Free Cuba," also know as Plan Bush, limited money remittances from Cuban Americans to their families to 300 U.S. dollars every quarter, and visits to the island once every three years with each lasting no longer than14 days.

The blockade and embargo of Cuba made sense when it was a close ally and satellite of the long-defunct Soviet Union. After all, it was only 90 miles from the shores of America, and the Soviets had already shown a propensity for dangling that fact in front of our faces. Even the retention of a foothold on the island (Guantanamo Bay) has become a bit of an anachronism and even a sore spot for American foreign policy.

I've flown over Cuba. Looking down from 35,000 feet, it looks absolutely beautiful, unlike nearly every other Caribbean island I've ever been to or flown over. Hardly like this massive threat to American security and interests that Republicans and Cuban-American partisans have painted it to be.

Which highlights the narrowness of American policy towards Cuba. A lot of what we've done recently has been to placate a bunch of people who are 50 years beyond ownership of land and property on the island, whose families now have stronger ties to Nebraska than to Havana. The pitiful "reforms" accomplished under Plan Bush were nearly meaningless and paid lip service to the greatest weapon America has in transforming Cuba back to our greatest ally: economic strength and generosity.

You say you want a revolution? Free the minds of the people. Right now, every European nation has visa exchanges with Cuba, including our strongest allies. The average Cuban gets American culture second- or third-hand. Why not give it to them, straight up?

Once Cubans see images that aren't Elian Gonzalez-ised, once they see that America is a great and good land filled with great and good people, once they see that the vast majority of Americans would love nothing more than to point a boat south and hit the tropics rather than stand around government offices in Miami, shouting "Death To Castro", they'll get it.

They'll see us. We'll see them. And we'll understand that these people, these resilient and stoic people who for fifty years have lived in fear and hatred of a nation that truly means them no harm-- save for a bunch of arrogant assholes and their political operatives who have all been marginalized now-- have much to teach us.

After all, they've lived in a northern umbra of fear and hatred and assumed it was universally shared in the lands above them on the globe. We need to free these people, both of their fears of us, but also of their fears of freedom. This will not require guns or weapons or armies or even money.

It will require me with a camera, and you with a passport, and him with some scuba equipment, and her with a phrasebook. Shiny happy people. Real Americans.

Wherever I go in the islands, I am struck by how negative the image is of Americans "except for you guys, of course". It could be the Caymans or Bahamas or Bonaire or Aruba or Jamaica. It doesn't matter. There is this amorphous image of Americans as fat, lazy, stupid and arrogant people.

Here, in Cuba, we have a chance to work with a fresh slate. In the course of this rollback of the embargo and blockade, I urge President Obama to encourage Americans to become involved in Cuba and with Cuban lives. We're all of us responsible for the tragic policies of the past fifty years, even if at times they were deemed necessary evils.

We have voices. We did not use them. We let others with an agenda speak for us, and they said the wrong things in our names.

We need to show the Cuban people that we want to help bring them up to speed, to enjoy the bounties of our friendship and good relations with among neighbors.

After all, there's only so many Cuban cigars I can smoke! You guys are going to have to help pick up the slack a bit.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Oh, those Dead!

By J. Thomas Duffy


For a minute there, when I first espied this headline ("Obama Meets Privately With the Dead"), I thought, "Wow, Obama is really doing things differently," and was meeting with some of the RWFS Flying Monkeys before one of their Iced Tea gatherings.

Mary Ann Akers, in her WaPo Sleuth Column, has the details:

The president welcomed all the members of The Dead, who are performing tonight at the Verizon Center in Washington, to the Oval Office just before dinner last night. They didn't talk music as much as they did history - history about the Oval Office, and the president's desk.

Apparently the band was quite taken with how tidy the president keeps his desk. And how down-to-earth he seemed, according a source who was there.


The entourage included the four surviving members of the Grateful Dead - Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann - plus keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (from Weir's Ratdog) and Warren Haynes, who is joining the Dead on their 2009 spring tour as lead vocalist and guitarist. Some of them had their wives in tow.

As if chatting with the president in the Oval Office weren't cool enough, something remarkable happened on their way out. Just outside the Oval Office, Phil and his wife, Jill Lesh, spotted a vase full of Scarlet Begonias sitting on a table.

For the uninitiated, "Scarlet Begonias" is one of the late Grateful Dead band leader Jerry Garcia's most famous songs. (Check out a youthful looking Jerry Garcia singing "Scarlet Begonias" in this 1977 video, and be sure you have a tissue.)

After admiring the Scarlet Begonias, the band went next door to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to meet with the most prominent Deadheads in the Obama White House: senior advisors David Axelrod and Pete Rouse, and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina. All three are planning to go to tonight's one and only Dead show in Washington, we're told.

Who knew?

A "Wall of Sound" that they believe in ...

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Green or not

Guest post by Boatboy

Boatboy is the author of the blog The View from the Docks.

Two recent stories highlight how difficult it is to promote responsible energy policy in the US.

The first is from the Los Angeles Times, describing how the hybrid car market more or less collapsed in the first quarter of 2009.

I'm curious why there is no mention of how the entire automobile market crashed at about the same time, that the hybrid market was hindered by dealer markup of perhaps $10,000 on the vehicles (the Prius I looked last year at had an MSRP of $24,000 and a sticker of $33,000), that the "hybrid" market includes such laughable examples as the Lexus RX400H and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid which aren't all that attractive economically in the first place, or that nobody's buying anything right now due at least in part to the fact that credit for autos is almost harder to find than a decent mortgage. According to the LAT, it's all about the price of gas, which admittedly has dropped from the $4/gal mark it hit in 08 and has only recently started climbing again.

On the other hand, this item from Washington Monthly gives one hope. It seems there's a growing market for solar power, centred in Gainesville, Florida, and poised to be one of the next great growth industries. ECS Solar, one of the vendors listed in the article, has a fairly extensive Website, and lists that the local power utility has agreed to a Feed In Tariff of $0.32/kwh. A Feed In Tariff, as the Washington Monthly article states, is a premium paid to alternate energy producers that feed the utility's power grid, and is scaled to create an incentive for wind and solar projects.

I'm struck by the two entirely different flavors of the articles. On the one hand, what's essentially a household consumer durable good - the automobile -- while experiencing the same catastrophic drop in demand as has all its peers (refrigerators, plasma TVs, etc), is treated as a special case just because "consumers refuse to pay a premium for a fuel-efficient vehicle now that the average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally has slipped below $2." On the other, we have major property owners -- condo associations, businesses and apartment complexes -- either ponying up wads of cash themselves or making sweetheart arrangements with solar proprietors to get panels on their roofs, because unlike the here-and-gone-again income tax credit for the hybrid car the FITs being touted are perhaps double the actual cost of the energy if those installing solar were to purchase it instead of producing it.

There's a great deal to be said for cost-effectiveness. It's true that for a hybrid vehicle to match the cost per mile values for its conventional counterpart it has to be kept and used for a substantial amount of time (something like five years or 75,000 or so miles). The up-front expenditure is substantial, and in the current market climate a working vehicle that is either owned outright or on manageable terms is considerably more attractive than the headaches and additional burdens of purchasing something newer and more fuel-efficient - assuming you're approved for the purchase at all. But if upfront costs were such a hurdle, then the solar industry would be in deep trouble.

I investigated a solar array for my building a year ago. We learned that our building could support a 1Mw array, but it would cost about $2.2 million to purchase and install. TECO, our electric provider, as of today does not offer a FIT, though it does buy back at retail rates and accepts inputs up to 2Mw (the previous limit was 25kw). One vendor offered to lease the equipment to us, taking our lease payments in terms of our electric consumption. Essentially, the building could lock in its electrical rate for the duration of the lease. So far, though, I cannot persuade the board to go further with this than additional study. However, each member I have spoken to has been intensely interested in the project: the hesitation comes from each's assumption that it will be difficult to persuade the others.

It boils down to costs, and to the understanding of costs incurred. The solar initiatives are gaining traction because they have a clear and measurable payback schedule; the hybrid car does not, and MPGs can be misleading. There is a growing respect for the Gallons Per Mile computation as a more accurate indicator of efficiency: you can read a fairly clear analysis here.

It also boils down to costs incurred by whom. Mid-sized industries (those large enough to own their own premises), housing complexes and the like are better placed to make large-scale leases or purchases of this sort than the average household. Indeed, the average household isn't in much of a position these days to lease or purchase anything not absolutely necessary.

The bottom line is that there remains a solid and growing market for energy-efficient and energy-alternate products. The trick is making them attractive - in any economic environment - for their respective consumers. It also helps if we can avoid bewailing how the US isn't interested in being efficient in a cheap-energy environment without considering other factors at all seriously.

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Of taxes and teabags

By Mustang Bobby

So this is the day that federal income tax returns are due. Not to get all smug or anything, but I did mine back at the end of January. My return is so simple -- single, one income, no mortgage, no business deductions, etc. -- that the longest time I spend doing it is waiting for Turbo Tax to update. But I'm also the kind of person who, even if I owed additional taxes, I wouldn't put it off. I blame my distaste for having to work up against a deadline... and the fact that I always get a refund.

So, having nothing better to do, I've been enjoying watching the big build-up for the "Tea Party" protests taking place today, which are about as spontaneous as a parade at Disneyland. Even though it's hard to keep a straight face with all the unfortunate metaphors going around about tea-bagging, turning otherwise serious commentators into giggling twelve-year-olds, there is something odd about people being ginned up to protest against the president's tax policy that has resulted in a tax cut for most of the people who are taking part in the demonstrations. (It wasn't a lot, but my last two paychecks were larger thanks to the changes in the tax rates made possible by the stimulus package passed by Congress.) Joan Walsh at notices the irony:
Of course, the real irony, maybe even tragedy, of the Tea Party movement is the fact that it's Obama who kept a campaign promise and lowered taxes on roughly 95 percent of American taxpayers. How many folks attending the protests do you expect will know that? There may even be a significant percentage of Tea Partiers who could be penalized by high-balance fees by the credit card companies or who might ultimately need help with their mortgages. Sucks to be those guys! Expect the president to spend much of April 15 talking about his tax cuts and other assistance for struggling, middle-income Americans. Let's hope his message gets through, even to some of the Tea Party attendees. There's still so much class-unconsciousness going on.

The other element of this story is the people who are running the show.
To me the most laughable aspect of the Tax Day protests is the leadership role taken by has-beens like Newt Gingrich and the ever-creepy Dick Armey. (No teabagging jokes, please!) Let's remember when Armey insisted President Clinton's minor tax increases in the mid-'90s would destroy the economy; of course the Clinton years turned out to be an economic golden age. Why does being wrong never hurt guys like Dick? As Joe Conason notes, when Armey left Congress for his banking- and tobacco-funded golden parachute Freedom Works, his first failed project was to try to organize Astroturf groups supporting Social Security privatization. I expect Armey's Tea Party movement to be just as effective.

Not to be a complete cynic, but I doubt that either Mr. Gingrich or Mr. Armey are in this because they actually care about the people who think they're getting screwed on their taxes. Both of them are in it for their own interests -- I know; I'm shocked, too -- and their knee-jerk negative reaction to anything put up by the Democrats. The thrice-married Mr. Gingrich is making plans to run for president in 2012 as the candidate of moral purity, and Mr. Armey is in it because he has nothing better to do than put his mug on cable TV.

I wonder if there will be anyone at the Tea Parties holding up a sign saying that they're being used and then tossed -- just like a tea bag -- by the people who put them up to this?

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Will New York legalize same-sex marriage?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Governor David Paterson's handling of the Kennedy-Gillibrand drama (the protracted silliness surrounding his appointment to fill Hillary's vacated Senate seat) left much to be desired, but this is certainly very admirable -- and very welcome:

Gov. David A. Paterson on Thursday will announce plans to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, according to people with knowledge of the governor's plans.

Mr. Paterson’s move, which he first signaled last week after Vermont became the fourth state to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, reflects the governor's desire to press the issue with lawmakers in Albany as other states move ahead with efforts to grant more civil rights to homosexuals.

There may not be the votes, yet, to pass same-sex marriage legislation -- New York is not exactly Vermont -- but it seems to me there is no good reason not to begin the legislative-legalization process, even if the first effort falls short. I understand that there may be some desire to wait until passage is a fait accompli, that is, until there are the votes to legalize, but preparing for the right time could take too long, and, in any event, there will always be some reason to delay, some excuse not to proceed.

As fantastic as it was that Vermont legalized same-sex marriage through the legislative, as opposed to the judicial, process, it would be far more significant for a major state like New York to take a leadership position on the issue -- a big push for the dominoes to start falling, and for justice to be achieved, all across the country. It's a risk, to be sure, and there may be rounds of failure before success, but Paterson is doing the right thing here.

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The GOP, full of bad ideas

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I love this headline from the generally Republican-friendly Politico:

Uh-huh. Ideas.

It's the brainchild of the whippish Eric Cantor, one of the leaders of the right-wing mob in the House.

Cantor, who has personal aspirations to go along with his partisan agenda, is setting up a so-called "Solutions Center" on the Internet to "address simple questions Americans are asking themselves in the face of economic calamity... The goal is to answer the questions with Republican proposals that contrast starkly with legislation offered by President Barack Obama and his congressional allies."

In other words, the goal is to score political points by getting the GOP's "message" out -- to show that it, too, and not just Obama and the Democrats, has a plan to deal with the economic crisis, that it, too, is relevant and ought to be taken seriously, that it has a viable alternative.

Fine. Whatever.

The problem, though, isn't that Republicans don't have any ideas but rather that the ideas they do have are bad and have been soundly rejected by the American people. Take some of the questions that the "Solutions Center" will answer:

-- How will I keep my job?

-- How will I keep my house?

-- How will I grow my savings?

We already know the answers, don't we? How, how, how? By electing Republicans, of course. Isn't that what the "message" will be, along with predictably anti-Obama and anti-Democratic rhetoric?

In policy terms, we know the answers, too. How, how, how? By the Republicans getting back into power and slashing taxes, gutting the regulatory state, and imposing their neo-liberal extremism on America.

These are the core Republican ideas, along with various elements of moral theocracy. There won't be anything new on the website, just more of the same old tired policies thrown up with a smile.

The Republicans are desperate. I get that. And they'll try anything, I suppose. But, again, the problem isn't getting the message out, it's the message itself. What Republicans need to do is change the message, that is, change their core values, change what they're all about. They're not about to do that, though, not with the extremists they have running the show both in and out of office, and, without such change, some voter-friendly engagement on the 'Net won't do much to overcome their stink of failure.

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By J. Thomas Duffy

That ear-splitting screeching you heard through most of the day was that of the Flying Monkeys, of the Right-Wing Freak Show, flinging their own feces around, aghast at the prospects that the Obama Administration's Department of Homeland Security is (or has already started) looking into Right Wing Extremists, the prospects of the raising of violence, you know, from all those calls for revolution, and stockpiling of weapons due to Obama coming in and taking them all away.

And, as I read through a bevy of posts, particularly those that question, why would, say, an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, conservative get their panties in a bunch, automatically associating themselves with gun-toting, bomb-making freaks?

And, that led me to think about Fritz Weaver, and his appearance in one of the many classic Twilight Zones, in this case (as he was in many), "The Obsolete Man."

Here's the IMDb plot summary:

In a totalitarian society, Romney Wordsworth is condemned to death for the crime of being a librarian, and he is subjected to the harangues of the state's Chancellor and his lectures about Wordsworth's obsolescence. Wordsworth, however, makes one final request -- that he be allowed to choose his method of execution and that it be televised live to the society. The Chancellor agrees and later visits Wordsworth at his house, where he learns that Wordsworth has had tons of explosives rigged under the house to go off at midnight in full view of national television cameras. But as The Chancellor begins to leave, he finds he has been double-crossed by Wordsworth, and suddenly he must face Romney Wordsworth's terrifying vigil as the clock ticks down to the fateful period of midnight.

Weaver plays the Chancellor, and the great Burgess Meredith is the Romney Wordsworth character.

And, the Chancellor is, oh so, haughty, carrying out the State's business, much with the crispness of Donald Rumsfeld.

While the plot episode is not quite the same circumstances, our little Flying Monkeys -- Michelle "Stalkin" Malkin, Glenn Reynolds, the whole lot of them -- all played out the "Chancellor's" role these past eight-years, cheerleading The Bush Grindhouse chopping up the Constitution, infringing on and violating our rights, wiretapping us, Extraordinary Rendtioning others, torture, and these little Flying Monkeys set up the proverbial gaunlet, beating down, smearing, anyone who, let alone criticized The Commander Guy, but even questioned it.

So, today, they all break down, all the little Flying Monkeys, sweaty and trembling, much, like Fritz Weaver's "Chancellor" character, panicking that, like the Chancellor, they, too, will be dubbed "obsolete," or, in this case, they get roped in with a bunch of violent nutjobs.

Glenn Greenwald summed it up rather nicely:

When you cheer on a Surveillance State, you have no grounds to complain when it turns its eyes on you. If you create a massive and wildly empowered domestic surveillance apparatus, it's going to monitor and investigate domestic political activity. That's its nature. I'd love to know how many of the participants in today's right-wing self-victim orgy uttered a peep of protest about any of this, from 2005.

And, Steve Hynd, in his "From The Shoe on Other Foot Files":

What I find unpleasant but nonetheless poetic justice is that the 30% who were all for illegal warrantless wiretapping and internet surveillance sweeps when Muslims and environmentalist hippies were the prime targets might be feeling a whole lot different now that they themselves may well be the subject of such spying.

Like Fritz Weaver's Chancellor, in the end;

"Chancellor: [becoming hysterical] You're making a mistake! *I'm not obsolete!* I BELIEVE in the State! I WORK for the State! I help give the State STRENGTH! How can you call ME obsolete? HOW CAN YOU?"

Flail away there, Fly Monkeys ...

Go to sleep tonight, thinking about, knowing, perhaps, your name is in a DHS file.

Bonus Flying Monkey Riffs

Tbogg: It’s all fun and games until they start looking at the white man

Ali Frick: Fox host wonders if Obama administration will send ‘spies’ to tea parties

Attytood: There's a right way and a wrong way to combat right wing violence

Tim F: The Point (You’re Never Gonna Get It)

Bonus Bonus

Watch 'The Twilight Zone' episode, "The Obsolete Man" HERE

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Another pirate attack...

By Michael J.W. Stickings

...on a U.S. cargo ship, this one the Liberty Sun, en route to Mombasa, Kenya. According to CNN, the pirates, who may have been "based on a mother ship somewhere in the area," didn't succeed in boarding the ship, which is "now being escorted by a coalition ship."

Yes, Obama needs to address this obviously very serious problem.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Porno for tyros

By Carl

There was a time, in the dark recesses of the '70s and into the early '80s, when porn was cool.

There was a time, before AIDS (then known as the Gay Cancer), before even herpes, when porn was about as mainstream as professional wrestling or professional bass fishing. Perhaps even more so, since anyone could participate and often did.

There was a time when birth control and abortion made sexual liberation and exploration inevitable and even palatable.

There was a time when the forces of morality... you know, the guys who later exposed themselves as serial adulterers and pedophiles... were waned behind the onslaught of popularity some porn produced.

I'm reminded of this by this sad story on the wires today:

Marilyn Chambers, the angelic-looking, blue-eyed blond who symbolized purity while selling laundry detergent then went on to become one of the first mainstream porn superstars, died Sunday in her Los Angeles home. She was 56.

The Westport, Conn.-born actress was found by her 17-year-old daughter, McKenna Marie Taylor.

An autopsy will be done but no foul play is suspected.

This is Marilyn Chambers. This is not a fake.

She was a mainstream model and actress, even appearing briefly in the Barbra Streisand film, The Owl and the Pussycat.

Her big break, so to speak, was a film called Behind The Green Door, the first porn film released to mainstream theatres. It paved the way for later films like Deep Throat, and actresses from Linda Lovelace to Tracy Lords to Jenna Jameson to have legitimate superstar credentials both in porn and in Hollywood.

In fact, so big an impact had she had in American culture that the city of San Francisco declared a "Marilyn Chambers Day" in 1998, some 25 years after her film.

I knew her indirectly. Al Goldstein of Screw magazine lived in my neighborhood, and we'd speak on occasion (the man wouldn't stop talking, in point of fact, so it was more me listening), and her name came up in conversation a few times, always with respect for what she did for his industry.

Marilyn Chambers represented a difficult crossroads for the burgeoning feminist movement of the '70s. On the one hand, some feminists thought all porn was to be shunned as exploitive. On the other, here was a woman who was taking control of her career in porn, who was strong and could dictate how and where her body was to be used, who was also exploring the First Amendment boundaries, very strong feminist values.

I do not judge the woman beyond this: She lived her life as she saw fit, and made her way as best as she could. She broke ground, and whether we are the better for it is for history to judge. But she was a human being, and for that she is accorded my respect and compassion.

Godspeed, Marilyn. Godspeed.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Sarah Palin and the KKK-supporting, gay-hating, rape-defending bigot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Last month, Sarah Palin nominated Wayne Anthony Ross (WAR) to be Alaska's new attorney general. Turns out, he's a rather despicable fellow. As Max Blumenthal reports in a post at The Daily Beast, "Palin's New Disaster":

Ross, a colorful far-right lawyer and longtime Palin ally who sports his initials, W.A.R., on his Hummer's vanity plates, was once considered a shoo-in for confirmation. However, his nomination was thrown into grave peril when his opponents presented evidence that he called homosexuals "degenerates," leveled invective against an African-American student offended by a statue of a Klansman, vowed to undermine the sovereignty of Native American tribes, and allegedly defended men who rape their wives.

That's probably extreme even by Republican standards -- even by Alaska Republican standards -- even by Palin's standards. And she may dump him "before his appointment comes to a vote."

Here's the thing, though: How did Palin's people miss this? How did they think Ross was the right man for the job? Did they -- did Palin -- really know nothing of his past, nothing of his views? Hard to believe.

After all, Palin is only backing down (if she backs down at all) because the story got out, because Ross's past and views came to light. At some point, and until just recently, she did think he was the right man for the job. It seems unlikely, assuming that she knew about some of his past and some of his views before the story came to light, that she would have asked him to withdraw (if she actually does) if the story had never gotten out.

In Palin's world, bigotry is fine in private, and perhaps also in public, if to a lesser degree, and only becomes a problem if Palin's political career is threatened by it.

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