Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 4, 2009

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I want to wish a very happy Fourth of July to all of you Americans out there -- and especially to my American co-bloggers (Americans make up the overwhelming bulk of The Reaction, even if I'm not one of them) and to my many American friends in the blogosphere. I hope you're having a wonderful day.

Without further ado, here's Jimi Hendrix performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock -- almost 40 years ago:

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Happy Fourth of July!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Hooray for the Red, White and Blue!

Happy Fourth of July! ... Independence Day!

The Garlic (and, The Reaction) wants to wish all a very happy, safe, enjoyable holiday, wherever, and whatever the manner in which you celebrate it.

This may be our only post of the day, as we haven't finished, what has been a burgeoning tradition the past two years, of penning a "Garlictorial" (see today's This Date ... On The Garlic, for the previous efforts).

If we don't get it up later in the day, perhaps tomorrow.

In the meantime, kick up your heels, with this well-worn classic;

Stars and Stripes Forever

If, you want something, a bit off the beaten path, we can hip you to another, that, unfortunately, almost, exists exclusively on jazz radio stations, invariably, blared out today on many a playlist.

It is the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, "Doodletown Fifers", performed, faithfully, by the Bill May Orchestra

The Doodletown Fifers

This, as it turned out, was the only big hit of the short-lived Sauter-Finegan Orchestra;
Sauter-Finegan was an extraordinary 21-piece band, the like of which has never been seen before or since. The music was so complex that it depended on first-class musicians, many of whom contributed on three or four instruments each . The exquisite music of Sauter and Finegan frolicked in every range of the band, with fife and piccolo at the top and tuba and bass trombone at the bottom.

Although never a raging success, the band was able to go on tour between 1952 and 1957 and it recorded a dozen or so albums. Its biggest hit was "The Doodletown Fifers", based on an old Civil War song. "Midnight Sleigh Ride" called for horse's hooves as an introduction and backing, and Finegan achieved this sound by stripping to the waist and beating his chest before the microphone.

You can go HERE, for the Sauter-Finegan rendition, just scroll down to "Doodletown Fifers"

(Jazz Freaks will know, that it was Eddie Sauter who arranged the Stan Getz album, "Focus")

So, once again, Happy Fourth of July!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Whither Sarah - more speculation

by Capt. Fogg

I have to say I'm grateful that Sarah Palin has somewhat abated the psychotic media obsession with a dead neurotic surgery addict. She has the media and the bloggers back to doing what we all do best: speculating. So why is she doing this? It's nearly impossible to tell from her tangled and mangled speech, which of course makes her verbal mulch the the perfect medium for hydroponic conjecture.

David Wallechinsky seems to think Fox has made her an offer she can't refuse and we'll be seeing her in their little shop of horrors before long. He offers no evidence to interfere with belief, but it's filling and very satisfying, like comfort food, so I'll go along with it.

Max Blumenthal has what I think is a more credible scenario, based around the theory that an Alaska construction company, the same one that built the huge sports complex in Wasilla ( putting the town into serious debt) built her house as an inducement to get that job and future jobs after she became Governor. Todd and she have had personal and financial ties to the company of long standing.

Blumenthal also speculates about the effect a recent Salon article might have had on her decision. Revelations about her attempts to kill the stories about Husband Todd's affiliation with that Alaska secessionist group and provide false cover stories, may be about to blow up on her. Who knows, but of course the delicious irony, considering her attempts to portray Barak Obama as a "terrorist" who hates America, makes the idea hard to resist.

There are so many possibilities to delight the palate that I may be sorry if and when we ever figure out why! In a way I would love to see her as the next Republican presidential candidate, since she's so amazingly unqualified, but to be disgraced as a hypocrite and possible felon would satisfy my taste for justice perfectly. The worst outcome, in my opinion, would be to have her take her place on the Fox News Chorus, where hypocrisy, incompetence, dishonesty, lack of intelligence, irrational hostility and incipient dementia are prime qualifications . She could be as big a threat to our country as she would be in the White House, and of course there are no term limits on Fox.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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Reactions to the Palin resignation

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Right now, most of the speculation, if not all of it, is premature, as speculation is wont to be. Still, everyone who is anyone, which is pretty much everyone, is weighing in. I checked Memeorandum a while ago, and the entirety of the "Top Items" section was given over to Palin's resignation, the first time I've ever seen such uniformity.

So let's delve into it a bit.

Bill Kristol, neocon extraordinaire and one of Palin's biggest boosters, is being predictably upbeat about it all:

After all, she's freeing herself from the duties of the governorship. Now she can do her book, give speeches, travel the country and the world, campaign for others, meet people, get more educated on the issues -- and without being criticized for neglecting her duties in Alaska. I suppose she'll take a hit for leaving the governorship early -- but how much of one? She's probably accomplished most of what she was going to get done as governor, and is leaving a sympatico lieutenant governor in charge.

And haven't conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she'll try to be that. She may not succeed. Everything rests on her talents, and on her performance. She'll be under intense and hostile scrutiny, and she'll have to perform well.

All in all, it's going to be a high-wire act. The odds are against her pulling it off. But I wouldn't bet against it.

Right, it's all proof of her outstanding courage, and Kristol's with her all the way.

Kristol presents himself as a "contrarian," but this is but the most prominent example of what is already the right's pro-Palin spin: Sure, she stepped down, and, sure, that looks bad, but it's for a good cause, a noble calling, and she may soon be our leader. Get down on your knees, our saviour has arrived.

Back in the real world, though, things look a little different.

For example, Josh Marshall offers some helpful perspective:

It seems like a colossal sulk on Palin's part, or perhaps better to say an effort on her part to ingeniously combine anti-liberal media bias agitation with Christianist politics by portraying herself as having been crucified by the liberal media.


[T]his clearly happened so quickly that Palin hasn't even had a chance to come up with a coherent cover story for her resignation. Some context is probably helpful here, however. Remember that based on the public record, Palin is a wildly unethical public official, guilty at a minimum of numerous instances of abusing her authority as governor. And a lot of very damaging information has come out about her in the last few days -- though mainly embarrassing information about her character rather than new evidence of bad acts. I would not be surprised if this latest round of revelations shook something else loose that we haven't heard about yet.

And that very well may be the case. As Think Progress is reporting, Palin may have resigned "because she was trying to avert a major, yet-to-be-disclosed corruption scandal," one involving embezzlement.

Needless to say, we shall see.

As is so often the case when a major story breaks, I turn to Slate's John Dickerson, who offers this explanation (if an explanation is even possible this early on):

The larger reason for Palin's early departure was that she was having no fun. Ever since she returned to Alaska from the national stage, being governor has been a chore. Her political opponents have launched 15 ethics charges against her. The state economy has turned sour, and she got into an ugly squabble over federal stimulus funds. It's much more enjoyable to travel the country waving to adoring crowds of GOP activists.

So Palin decided to chuck her office for the limelight.
She can now tour the country as the only superstar in a party that desperately needs one. Because she can pack bleachers, she can raise money. In addition to boosting party morale and filling its coffers (and her own), she can build relationships nationwide that will be crucial if she really is interested in running for national office again.

This is sort of what I said yesterday. If I may quote myself:

What I think is that she's come to believe all the right-wing talk about how great and wonderful she is -- from the likes of Bill Kristol, as well as from Dear Leader Rush and the movement conservatives.

It could very well be that Alaska is simply too small for her now. Don't get me wrong, she's still a parochial fool. I don't think she's become some sort of genuinely national leader, or that she really has grown beyond Alaska. But, clearly, her ambitions have outgrown Alaska, and, after her sudden rise to the big time last year, and with the talk ongoing about her potential, she may just not want to govern a relatively small and insignificant state anymore.

In other words, when the going got tough -- that is, when she actually had to be governor at a time when things weren't going well, and with her adorers and admirers calling her from across the land -- she threw in the towel and moved on, and up, to what she surely imagines are much, much greener pastures. As HuffPo suggests, she just wanted to get the hell out of Alaska while the getting was good.

Let me conclude by quoting one of Palin's most fervent critics in the blogosphere, Andrew Sullivan, who, once again, may be right on here:

I guessed right, which I suppose reflects just how much time I've spent trying to figure what goes on in her head. I think the simple truth is that, as even Alaskan Republicans told us last September, she was far from able to be governor of Alaska, let alone vice-president of the United States. Once the klieglights hit, it was only a matter of time before she imploded or exploded or some gruesome combination of the two.


In the end, I think, the one thing to say is that the Republican party is in such a total state of collapse and incoherence that it actually believed she could be a future president; and that John McCain was so reckless, so cynical and so cavalier that he was prepared to rest the national security of this country on her shoulders if he, in his seventies, were to become unable to fulfill his duties or die. In some ways, this is a moment to reflect on McCain, and his irresponsibility, not Palin and her drama.

I'm too stunned to say anything else, to tell you the truth. And yet not surprised at all.

Actually, I'm not stunned at all. It was inevitable that Palin's wildly exaggerated sense of self, blown up out of all proportion by her various enablers on the right (like Kristol), would win out, that she would give up Alaska for a full-out assault on the national scene.

Palin isn't going away, she's only going to get bigger. Even if her run for the top fails miserably, as it surely will, it won't be for lack of delusional self-righteousness on her part -- or on the part of those who form her inner circle and the bubble that shields her from reality.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Friday, July 03, 2009

The Reaction in review (July 3, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

Our Editor, Michael says it was a crazy week: First The Craziest Conservative of the Day (Thursday) is Michael Scheuer, who said, "The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the Untied States." Michael picks The Craziest Republican of the Day, Joe Barton (for his idiotic "Carbongate" Crack) on Friday. And so it goes for the rest of the week's best:


By J. Thomas Duffy: "Now only an ex-governor, with lipstick" -- Duffy pulls out all the stops to give us all the latest funnies about the resignation announcement of Governor Sarah Palin/"Mommy Moose." (Includes videos, photos, links and a transcript)

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "The Palin resignation: What gives?" -- Michael's "quick comment" is a very interesting analysis of what might actually be happening here.

By Capt Fogg: "PALIN QUITS!" -- Fogg begins with what many of us would say, "One would think such a headline would push the Michael Jackson insanity aside long enough for some news to leak through," and ends with a good roundup of pundit reactions to the Palin announcement.

By Carol Gee: "South Asia and Middle East Developments" -- This post reports on the major changes regarding the wars that have been happening this week in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Mark Sanford, mental case?" -- Michael rightly concludes, "So enough with the psychological diagnoses, enough with all the talk about his 'mental state.'"


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "The tragedy and narcissism of Mark Sanford" -- Michael explores this ever emerging story and concludes, "My feeling somewhat sorry for him aside, Sanford is hardly the Shakespearean tragic figure he is making himself out to be."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Karl Malden (1912-2009)" -- Michael's warm and insightful obituary piece is on one of my favorite actors; it includes recommendations of some of Malden's best movies.

By Capt. Fogg: "No lie too big, no mind too small" -- Fogg rolls out a very good critique of "a new and more specious attack" on President Obama from the "Our Country Deserves better PAC" .

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "And so, Minnesota's long national nightmare is over" -- This has been an ongoing story for The Reaction and Michael says, "I'm relieved . . . this outcome was not just long overdue but pretty much inevitable . . . it was just a matter of time until Coleman's legal challenge either ran out of steam or ran into a decisive decision against him."


By (O)CT(O)PUS: "A decision, a concession, a defection, an impression and a question" -- Our contributor wonders about the Democratic Party's 60-vote majority, "Will the Dems mess up a golden opportunity?" (Includes two good comments).

By Carl: "Fun for Oil" -- Carl provides a very welcome explanation of the outcomes, now and perhaps in the future, of the Iraqi government's offer to oil companies to contract to run the oil and gas fields in Iraq.


By Carl: "A Madoff man" -- Carl writes a good post on the sentencing of swindler Bernie Madoff and includes a transcript of the judge's sentencing comments that ignored Madoff's plea for leniency.

Creature Feature: By the Numbers -- "The new CBO score," "467,000" June's job losses, and Bernie Madoff's "150" year sentence.

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Now, only an ex-Governor, with lipstick

By J. Thomas Duffy

So much for a quiet, pre-holiday day.

Who woulda' thunk it?

Something actually knocked the MichaelJacksonPalooza off the air, it was was none other than Mommy Moose, The Wasilla Wiz Kid, that Hockey-Mom-with-Lipstick, Stumblin-Bumblin' John McCain's former scene-stealer, Sarah Palin.

She's not quitting, she's just ... Well ... Quitting ....

Ms. Ya'Bet'cha's is bailing out of the Alaskan Governorship, mid-way through, to go on and fight for something vague and unnamed, but with all her heart

If life is 33RPM, Mommy Moose was pitched at 78RPM, and, it must be in the new 2009 PartyofNoican's Playbook, after Governor Gaucho displayed it last week, that you must be almost frantically rambling when giving a press conference ... Cool-and-Calm is out, coked-up speed freak is in.

And, check out the way The Wasilla Whiz Kid was gulping air through out the speech;

Sarah Palin Announces Resignation as Governor, Part 1

Sarah Palin Announces Resignation as Governor, Part 2

(You can read a transcript HERE)

I half expected to see the, now-unemployed team of the Unconvicted Child Molester's docs come running on the scene, offering their services, or someone, slapping an oxygen mask on her.

And, at the end of Part 2, notice, when the camera pans, there's like, a dozen people there, perhaps only close friends and family, not a sea of torch-carrying Alaskans, ready to march into that vague, unnamed fight, with the former Hockey Mom.

Geez, ya think Mommy Moose, or someone on her staff, would have tied in a product placement with Verizon, so they could CGI in the throngs of people standing by the geeky guy, always affirming "you're covered", to avoid looking like the "before Dead Zone"

If you want, there's a zillion posts out on Memeorandum that you can click through, while we highlight a few here.

It's only Act I, of a multiple act play, so no telling what this is all about today, the sudden, abrupt ditching of the Governor digs.

The Right Wing Freak Show is beginning to rally around that this is the cannon shot for 2012.

Here, we go with the smaller number of hands raised, betting on ....

New Scandal!

On Firedoglake, bmaz was the first to hint at it, followed closely by Brad Friedman;

EXCLUSIVE: PALIN RESIGNS AS 'DAMAGE CONTROL' DUE TO 'ICEBERG SCANDAL', SAYS ALASKAN SOURCE ... UPDATE: Shannyn Moore offers The BRAD BLOG hints about reasons for Alaska Gov's resignation...
UPDATE: Alaskan Sarah Palin authority (and occasional BRAD BLOG guest blogger) Shannyn Moore, who broke the news at HuffPo today, tells me she believes, with good reason, that there is an "iceberg scandal that's about to break. She's doing damage control."

She says Palin is "resigning as part of damage control" due to a scandal this is "not of a family nature."

"The governor would not be able to continue her job when it comes out," she told me on the phone just now, before adding: "Why would Mark Sanford not resign, but Sarah Palin did? Her family didn't even know about the resignation until they were standing with her by the lake" when she made her announcement.

Yes. It seems another shoe, apparently a big one, will indeed be dropping, likely within the next week or so. Perhaps earlier now that everyone will be poking around up there.

Max Blumenthal goes into a bit of detail in his "Did a Scandal Sink the U.S.S. Palin?"
Many political observers in Alaska are fixated on rumors that federal investigators have been seizing paperwork from SBS in recent months, searching for evidence that Palin and her husband Todd steered lucrative contracts to the well-connected company in exchange for gifts like the construction of their home on pristine Lake Lucille in 2002. The home was built just two months before Palin began campaigning for governor, a job which would have provided her enhanced power to grant building contracts in the wide-open state.

SBS has close ties to the Palins. The company has not only sponsored Todd Palin's snowmobile team, according to the Village Voice's Wayne Barrett, it hired Sarah Palin to do a statewide television commercial in 2004.

Though Todd Palin told Fox News he built his Lake Lucille home with the help of a few "buddies," according to Barrett’s report, public records revealed that SBS supplied the materials for the house. While serving as mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin blocked an initiative that would have required the public filing of building permits—thus momentarily preventing the revelation of such suspicious information.

Just months before Palin left city hall to campaign for governor, she awarded a contract to SBS to help build the $13 million Wasilla Sports Complex. The most expensive building project in Wasilla history, the complex cost the city an additional $1.3 million in legal fees and threw it into severe long-term debt. For SBS, however, the bloated and bungled project was a cash cow.

And we have to give Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo points, for his headline "if the jimmy choo fits, the other one's about to drop"

With the summer here, Congress out-of-session, beaches brimming with vacationers, Mommy Moose has put down her marker, almost guaranteeing her ownership of the media (save for the on-going Jackson Family dragging things out to pump the record and video sales; H/T to Barry Crimmins).

And it's Jonathan Turley that rings up that feeling quite well;
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has announced that she will resign from office on July 26th. The news has led bloggers and comedians to breath into paper bags and use emergency dial-ins for their analysts across the country. Palin has been God’s gift to bloggers, including this blog. But fear not, this announcement may actually promise more not less Palin!

Yes, just what this country needs - More of Sarah Palin.

Hmmm ....

We do have a Poet Laureate, so, perhaps, Mommy Moose is carving out the "Jester Laureate" for herself.

Hell, by her news conference today, your guess is as good as mine ...

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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The Palin resignation: What gives?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Needless to say, we'll have a lot to say about Sarah Palin and her resignation today and in the days (and perhaps weeks and months) to come.

Stay tuned. (I'm out this evening, but I'll have something to say later.)

For now, check out Capt. Fogg's post below, as well as all the reaction over at Memeorandum.


Okay, one quick comment:

It's interesting, I think, that she didn't take questions following her announcement this afternoon. (She doesn't do well with questions generally, I know, but she was back home in Wasilla.)

She claims that she doesn't want to be a lame duck. Fair enough. But what is the next step for her?

-- Senate in '10? (Would she challenge incumbent Lisa Murkowski, a fellow Republican from a big-time Alaska political family?)

-- President in '12? (Could she really be a serious candidate, even with her popularity with the base?)

Questions, questions. As of right now, not much of us know anything firm. I'm sure much more will come out as the story unfolds.

One can always hope for some naughty scandal, but I suspect that's not the case here. And I suspect this isn't, as some are suggesting, the end of her political career. Whatever else she is, she's ambitious -- not to mention full of herself -- and she's certainly looking beyond Juneau to Washington.

What I think is that she's come to believe all the right-wing talk about how great and wonderful she is -- from the likes of Bill Kristol, as well as from Dear Leader Rush and the movement conservatives.

It could very well be that Alaska is simply too small for her now. Don't get me wrong, she's still a parochial fool. I don't think she's become some sort of genuinely national leader, or that she really has grown beyond Alaska. But, clearly, her ambitions have outgrown Alaska, and, after her sudden rise to the big time last year, and with the talk ongoing about her potential, she may just not want to govern a relatively small and insignificant state anymore.

But we'll see. A Senate run would make sense, but it would be risky. And, beyond that, a presidential run could flare up and flame out pretty quickly. She's popular, yes, but I'm just not sure establishment Republicans will ever back her enough to put her over the top.

More later.

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By Capt. Fogg

One would think such a headline would push the Michael Jackson insanity aside long enough for some news to leak through, but although Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has just announced that she will resign from office within the next few weeks, further explanation seems elusive.

It's very tempting to speculate, but perhaps we'll just have to wait for the hysteria to abate before the networks can spare any personnel to find out what's happening outside the world of Michael Jackson.


The pundits and party officials weigh in:

Either Sarah Palin is leaving the people of Alaska high and dry to pursue her long shot national political ambitions or she simply can't handle the job now that her popularity has dimmed and oil revenues are down,

said DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse.

Either way, her decision to abandon her post and the people of Alaska who elected her continues a pattern of bizarre behavior that more than anything else may explain the decision she made today.

Of course, you'd expect that from a Democrat, but even Ed Rollins thinks she looks "terribly inept" for not finishing her job and indeed if this is about a 2012 run, we can expect to hear about her being a quitter or a "runaway governor."

Only Republican Strategist Mary Matalin seems to think it was brilliant:

Her delivery was incredible, if you're a less charismatic person, you probably couldn't pull it off.

But, of course, whether she "pulled it off" at all is as much a matter of opinion as is her alleged "charisma," which at least in Alaska seems to be wearing thin.

Now back to Michael Jackson...

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South Asia and Middle East Developments

By Carol Gee

Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq. He is there for meetings with military commanders, Ambassador Chris Hill, and Iraq's President Talibani and Prime Minister Malaki. His visit comes on the heels of the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from the cities to the bases near the perimeters around metropolitan areas. Iraqis celebrated the transition to more control over their own destiny, and more risk of security breakdowns. But it was by their design and our that we are now implementing this formal Status of Forces agreement signed last December. And from the beginning of this year military operations have been refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US army says it has launched a major offensive against the Taliban in south Afghanistan's Helmand province. "Operation Strike of the Sword gets under way," according to today's BBC News. To quote further from the story:

The US military says about 4,000 marines as well as 650 Afghan troops are involved, supported by Nato planes. Brig Gen Larry Nicholson said the operation was different from previous ones because of the "massive size of the force" and its speed.

A Taliban spokesman said they would resist in various ways and that there would be no permanent US victory.

. . . It is the first such large-scale operation since US President Barack Obama authorised the deployment of 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan, as part of a new strategy for winning the conflict. Many of them are being redeployed from operations in Iraq, to help with training Afghan security forces and to tackle the insurgency.

A House Intelligence panel late last month reported out with a warning of emerging threats to the nation's security, according to a 6/29 story in CQ Politics. The report also "thinks spy agencies are behind in addressing cybersecurity, diversity and foreign language training, according to a committee report released Monday." The Democratic Intelligence Committee also approved the 2010 intel authorization bill that includes a provision that eliminated the administration's "right to control when the full intelligence panels are briefed as opposed to more limited 'Gang of Eight' briefings for panel and congressional leaders."

Countries mentioned that face security challenges include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Mexico. Today's post focuses on Middle East developments. The Intel Committee Report says that the "political and military situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to deteriorate." As an example, according to the Financial Times (6/23/09), "A tribal leader who vowed to lead an uprising against Pakistan's most notorious Taliban militants was killed, raising doubts over the success of a planned military offensive along the Afghan border." Qari Zainuddin, 26, was reportedly shot by one of his own guards in Dera Isamil Khan in northwest Pakistan. A BBC 6/24 report said, to quote:

. . . at least 43 people have died in missile strikes by a US drone aircraft in a militant stronghold of Pakistan [in South Waziristan], a Taliban spokesman said. The people killed had been attending the funeral of a military commander killed in an earlier strike.

. . . There have been more than 35 US strikes since last August - killing over 340 people - and most have landed in the North and South Waziristan tribal regions. Pakistan has been publicly critical of drone attacks, arguing that they kill civilians and fuel support for militants like Baitullah Mehsud.

NATO partner, the United Kingdom, has intensified its fight in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. Significant progress to hold territory was only made possible because of the arrival of additional U.S. troops to assist. Great Britain has lost 169 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001. Also, "three German soldiers are killed in Afghanistan when their patrol came under fire, the defence ministry in Berlin says," to quote the BBC. The attack happened in the northern city of Kunduz, where the Germans have a military base where a 3,700 member German military force is stationed. The Germans have lost 35 troops since 2002.

In an interesting aside, Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News (6/15/09), wrote that the new U.S. Afghanistan Commander did not get complete support for his appointment to the post. To quote:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal was confirmed by the Senate last week to be the new commander of U.S. (and NATO) forces in Afghanistan, a role that he assumed today. But his nomination was opposed by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) who objected to the General’s advancement on unspecified “classified” grounds.

“I oppose the nomination of LTG Stanley McChrystal to command U.S. forces in Afghanistan for two reasons,” Senator Feingold said on June 11. “The first relates to a classified matter about which I have serious concerns. I have conveyed those concerns in a letter to the President.”

The second reason cited by Sen. Feingold was McChrystal’s embrace of interrogation techniques that went beyond those authorized in the Army Field Manual on the subject.

News bites associated with the above items come from CQ Behind the Lines newsletter July 1, 2009, by David C. Morrison. To quote:

Courts and rights: The alleged shooter in the deadly Holocaust Memorial Museum assault, himself wounded, is still unfit to appear in court, CNN has a judge declaring — as Pakistan’s The Nation says a defense-hired shrink will testify in a New York courtroom today on the mental soundness of a terror-charged Pakistani neuroscientist. The foreman of the Florida jury that acquitted an Egypt-born student on terror charges is convinced that the defendant — now facing deportation on charges levied by ICE — is a victim of profiling, CNN, again, spotlights. A federal judge who authorized habeas challenges in U.S. courts for military detainees in Afghanistan ruled Monday that that right doesn’t apply to at least one Afghan prisoner, AP reports.

(Cross-posted 7/2/09, at South by Southwest.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Joe Barton (for his idiotic "Carbongate" crack)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), for suggesting that Obama has a "Carbongate" to rival Nixon's Watergate. And why? Because, if you haven't been following the story -- and it's the right that has been making much ado about nothing -- the EPA refused to release a global warming denialism study by one of its economists, one Al Carlin. Here's TPM's Pete Martin:

[Carlin's] cause has become a favorite of right-wingers, who suddenly believe science to be sacred, and are charging that the Obama administration is "suppressing" a report whose conclusions it dislikes. The anti-regulatory Competitive Enterprise Institute first publicized Carlin's report last week. Since then, Carlin has discussed his "findings" with Glenn Beck on Fox News, and on Monday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) called for a criminal investigation into the issue.

Now, Rep. Joe Barton is taking the outrage to a new level. [Yesterday] morning on America's Newsroom, the industry-friendly Texas Republican accused the EPA of suppressing the report, and declared that "just as Nixon had Watergate, Obama now has Carbongate to deal with."

(Note that Barton called Carlin "a scientist at the EPA." In fact, Carlin has worked for the agency since months after its founding in 1971, but he does not hold an advanced degree in any natural science, and he has always worked as an economist.)

So just to compare: Watergate involved the cover-up of a criminal enterprise directed from the Oval Office. "Carbongate" involves the EPA ignoring a scientific study by a non-scientist that it never commissioned and which hasn't been published in any scientific journal.

Of course, these denialists don't give a shit about science. Their industry-driven propaganda is at odds with what is a remarkable consensus among the world's leading researchers. Unable to win on the facts, they're resorting to smears, to allegations of some Obama-led cover-up, touting as science what is really just ideological deception.

It's all so predictable, and all so pathetic, and all so popular on the right, and, alas, all so prevalent, still, with an American public that in large numbers has been taken in by the propaganda.

As for Barton, it seems that Inhofe now has a challenger to his title of Most Deranged Denialist.

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Oh! The Outrage!

by Capt. Fogg

I wonder if the wingnuts have to take time out from raving about how they are insulted by intelligence reports warning ( correctly it seems) of increased militancy amongst hate groups, in order to find ever wilder ways to portray mainstream liberals and moderates as Bolshevik extremists -- or whether they can do both at the same time.

The party that told us it was ridiculous and outrageous to find anything questionable about the Palin family involvement with an Alaskan Independence Extremist group and a witch murdering religious cult, finds it absolutely outrageous that Sonia Sotomayor once, many years ago sat on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund which concerned itself with such outrages as Affirmative Action and voting rights, but far, far worse, opposed Saint Reagan's appointment of Judge Bork. Ridiculous and hypocritical you might say? Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) agrees, saying that the Republican Senate minority would find something to object to “even if the president had nominated Moses.” You remember, Moses; that bearded radical Israelite separatist, Zionist, baby killing, Jew-extremist Commie?

Anyway, despite the rash of wingnut murders and plots, they appear still ready to insist that anyone who is not a fanatic Obama Supporter is being and will be targeted by the government and not just slandered as a member of a hate group, but put in concentration camps. A far easier fate awaits a local gentleman and felon arrested today for having a garage full of explosives, guns and money. I don't know what his private gunpowder plot was about, but I'm willing to bet that he's not a liberal and like 2/3 of the residents of my red county, hates Mr. Obama.

Yes, yes, of course -- I'm just like Hitler for mentioning it, although to continue the metaphor to the point where the wingnuts start comparing themselves to the Jews may be beyond even their level of dementia and malice.

Well, at least we have our American Circus to entertain us while the "liberal" media crams that neurotic reject from Frankenstein labs up our noses 24 hours a day as though piling up teddy bears in the street is more important than blood and corpses in the roadways and Korean missiles falling from the sky and the continuing slide of our economic prospects. That's just how Hitler and the International Jewish Conspiracy took over Germany, I'm sure.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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So much Palin, so little time

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've been meaning to comment for a few days now on Sarah Palin's recent reemergence in the news, specifically on that huge, meandering, and only vaguely satisfying Todd Purdum piece in Vanity Fair, on all the Republican infighting (specifically the Kristol-Schmidt squabble and Schmidt's role in the Todd-Palin-AIP issue back during the campaign -- Palin comes out of it, as you might expect, looking like a self-absorbed moron), and on the still-ongoing Palin '12 hype (with conservatives still circling the wagon), but I'll leave it here to the usually nonsensical Charles Krauthammer, on Fox News, to serve up some common sense, and, yes, I realize that I rarely have any praise for C-Kraut, but when credit's due, credit's due. Here you go:

Contrast Krauthammer's common sense, as his usual partisan self, with Fred Barnes's Kristol-like nonsense (the two Weekly Standard-bearers are nothing if not enamored with Palin to the point of mental breakdown. Let me just be clear, though, that I do not think that the criticism (or "attacks") on Palin were or have been unfair. Given what an ignorant twit and arrogant thug she has been all along, how she handled herself during the campaign and how she has handled herself since, she has brought the negativity upon herself. If anyone deserves all the ridicule, it's Sarah Palin.

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Mark Sanford, mental case?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've written a lot already on the whole Mark Sanford saga -- click here, if you want -- and I don't intend to write much more on it this morning. Let me just say this:

Is it really necessary to delve into the man's psyche, and specifically to do so without actually examining him, and, what's more, so publicly?

He does seem to be going through some sort of adolescent mid-life crisis. And he does seem to be something of a narcissist. But what's with one of his home-state publications, The State, reporting that "mental health experts," while "reluctant to pin a diagnosis on the governor," and just observing him from afar, think his behavior "suggest[s] a chemical imbalance, narcissism and impulsive behavior"?

Really? They can tell that he has a chemical imbalance, that he's clinically narcissistic and clinically impulsive, that, that is, he's a mental case?


The man thinks he found his "soul mate." He thinks he's at the center of a tragic love story. The man is behaving, that is, like a smitten teenager who's read a few too many romantic novels.

To the extent that he's a narcissist, he may just be as narcissistic as your average teenager.

To the extent that he's impulsive, he may just be as impulsive as anyone else who has ever gone through such a "tragic" love story. (Many of us have been there, haven't we?)

To the extent that he appears to have some sort of chemical imbalance, he may just be as unbalanced as anyone else who's ever been so deeply (if delusionally) in love.

The only weirdness here, I suppose, stems from the fact that he's 49, not 19 -- well, and from the fact that he's the governor of a U.S. state, and that his mistress is Argentinian, and that he snuck around to meet up with her, and that his wife knew about it for some time, and... well, you know about it already.

So, enough with the psychological diagnoses, enough with all the talk about his "mental state." If he really does have problems, let him deal with them, and get treatment for them, in private.

As it is, though, it seems to me that Mark Sanford is quite normal.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

An ink-the-aquarium special edition: What makes (O)CT(O)PUS livid


(O) (O) MICHAEL JACKSON ON CNN (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) MICHAEL JACKSON ON MSNBC (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) ABC HAS MICHAEL JACKSON (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) CBS HAS MICHAEL JACKSON (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) BOUGHT A NEWSPAPER (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) JACKSON HERE (O) (O) (O) (O) JACKSON THERE (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) MICHAEL JACKSON EVERYWHERE (O) (O) (O) PLEASE! (O) (O) (O) (O) (O) ENOUGH ALREADY! (O) (O) (O) (O) NO MORE MICHAEL JACKSON NEWS !!!

(Cross-posted at The Swash Zone.)


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Le Tour

By Carl

In France, those two words stand for one of the most important events on the French calendar:
The Tour of France.

The 2009 Tour begins Saturday, July 4. Rather fitting, as America's hopes in this event have been given a kick in the butt by the return of
Lance Armstrong.

It's a bit over the top to say, as Mike Paterniti claims in Bicycling Magazine this month, that a victory by Lance Armstrong this year would help lift America out of its doldrums.

But Paterniti does make a pretty compelling case for Armstrong-as-hero (right down to his name). America is a bit down, and listless, and
looking for some good news. She's feeling old, and has lost some innocence. The Bush years took care of the delusion that America is somehow always in the right, that America is some sort of Superman, doing right without doing much harm.

Not only didn't we do right, we did harm.

Lance Armstrong retired in 2005 after seven Tour De France wins, the premier event of the elite cycling circuit, and while cycling as a sport in America is a very small niche (everyone rides, so everyone wonders how hard it can be), Lance's pile of victories has him among the best known men in America.

And Armstrong's very public life apart from racing (the Kate Hudsons, the Sheryl Crows, the Ashley Olsens) and his character (rumours of doping, his nasty divorce from his first wife, his rude engagement and dissolution to Sheryl Crow, his impregnating a woman who is not his wife yet) have taken some of the glow off his luster.

And then there's cancer and the Livestrong movement.

In short, Armstrong at 37 is at a crossroads in his life, just as America is sat trying to figure out which way to turn next.

Like America on 9/11, Armstrong has risen from his own devastation to greatness, to be even greater than he was before his tragedy. America looks to do that, as well. We've just been scared, brutalized into terror first by the attacks, and then by eight years of being told the other shoe was about to drop.

All this is just a backdrop now to the very real threats to our personal security, our jobs, our homes and our retirements.

America needs heroes. It's no surprise to me that, in the years since 9/11, we've turned to television programs like Smallville or Friday Night Lights or indeed Heroes, looking for our heroes, someone to swoop in and save us.

Can Armstrong be that hero? I doubt it, because America doesn't have the day-to-day attention span such that even if he were to somehow break out of the pack and chase down Alberto Contador or Carlos Sastre or Denis Menchov or any of the half-dozen other serious contenders, America would really find the story gripping and compelling.

All most Americans would do is shrug as Lance stood on the podium in Paris in three weeks.

But that doesn't mean he shouldn't try. He's accomplished some pretty incredible feats in his day:

Lance has mentioned that he's riding this race to highlight the battle against cancer, that he's content with being a domestique for one of his teammates, Alberto Contador, or Levi Leipheimer, possibly Andreas Kloden, a support rider who helps build his captain to a victory. And it's easy to see why.

At age 37, riding in a race no man over 35 has ever won and only one or two have even won a single day's racing, Lance doesn't need the weight of a team's hopes, much less a nation's hopes, on his shoulders.

And yet, by sheer dint of will, it's possible he may pick that weight up and carry it with him down the Champs d'Elyseé.

In 1980, an improbable bunch of college kids and minor league hockey players gelled together to defeat the greatest hockey team on the planet, and went on to win the gold medal in Lake Placid.

So, do you believe in miracles?

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Smearing Franken

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, it's begun in earnest.

Not that the right has ever been soft on Al Franken -- it certainly wasn't soft during the campaign or the recount (or with respect to Norm Coleman's various legal challenges) -- but, now that he's set to take his rightful seat in the Senate (you know, because he actually won the election), the smear campaign has gotten personal.

And who is leading the smear campaign? Why, Fox News, of course.

Media Matters has the details:

After Norm Coleman conceded the 2008 Minnesota Senate race to Al Franken (D), several Fox News hosts expressed bewilderment, disappointment, and denial about the outcome. For instance, Glenn Beck said of Franken's victory, "[I]t shows how crazy our country has gone." He added: "[I]t shows that we've lost our minds." Sean Hannity claimed that Franken is "not all there," and later claimed, "I, in my heart of hearts, do not believe that Al Franken won that election." And Brian Kilmeade said he's "in denial" about Franken, who he said was "barely sane." Gretchen Carlson responded to Kilmeade by again falsely claiming that Coleman "won in the original election."

As Media Matters for America has documented, Fox News personalities have repeatedly promoted baseless claims of fraud in the Minnesota race and claimed that there was a lack of impartiality in the recount process to accuse Franken of "stealing" the election. However, in its unanimous 5-0 ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court stated that "[n]o claim of fraud in the election or during the recount was made by either party" and that "Coleman's counsel confirmed at oral argument that Coleman makes no claim of fraud on the part of either voters or election officials."

Just in case you weren't quite sure, Fox News hates democracy. At least when the other side wins.


Oh, yeah, The Wall Street Journal hates it, too. (It claims that Franken only "won" because his lawyers were "creative." Which, of course, is nonsense.)

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The new CBO score

By Creature

With the news of the new and much improved CBO score of the complete healthcare package (public option and mandates included), I'm left wondering why the Dems chose to submit the incomplete plan first? If they had any strategery in them, I'd think getting these good numbers after getting the bad was all part of a devious plan to make the GOP crow about cost and then slam them once the real numbers were had. It's either that or they were fools for allowing the CBO to score an incomplete plan. I'd prefer the former, but I'd bet on the latter.

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Quote of the Day: Joe the Plumber on himself

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Asked by WingNutDaily (er, WorldNetDaily) whether he plans on running for office, Samuel Wurzelbacher said this:

I hope not. You know, I talked to God about that and he was like, 'No.'

Now that's a god I can believe in!

Seriously, though... really? Joe the Plumber talks to God? And God talks back?

And he'll "keep that door open if God ever calls him to be that leader."

I assume now that by "God" what he means is "whim of personal political opportunism." (That is, he'll run for office when the time is right, or when some leading Republican gives him the green light.)

Does it get any more hilariously stupid than Joe the Plumber?

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Dog bites man

By Creature

And John Bolton uses the Iranian uprising as an excuse to start bombing.

What took him so long?

According to Bolton, the presidential election fraud and the subsequent uprising have made the case for bombing crystal clear: since the Iranian people hate their leaders as much as we do, they won't mind so much being bombed by Israel with American made weapons. It's all so simple, really. Now bring on the flowers and candy.

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The tragedy and narcissism of Mark Sanford

By Michael J.W. Stickings

the tide is rising against him.

His Argentine mistress was his "
soul mate," he claims, but he wants to reconcile with his wife? Okay, but what does his wife think of that? "This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story. A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day." Sure, I get that. And, in a way, I feel for him -- and I feel sorry for him. It must be difficult to have all this out in the open.

He admits that there were others during his 20 years of marriage: "There were a handful of instances wherein I crossed the lines I shouldn't have crossed as a married man, but never crossed the ultimate line." This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry, George, and Elaine talk about when sex happens. Jerry says it's when the nipple makes its first appearance. That's obviously meant to be humorous, but it does seem that Sanford is pulling out a variation of the
Newt defence. If "the ultimate line" is -- what? -- vaginal intercourse, is everything else pretty much fair game?

Well, that's his business, I suppose -- his private life should remain private, and he should only be judged by what he did in his capacity as an elected official (like being a moralistic hypocrite), but it does seem that his resignation is imminent. With South Carolina Republicans turning against him, his position may be untenable.

"For the past two days, I have been speaking with Republican leaders across South Carolina," said state GOP chair Karen Floyd. "There is clearly a growing view that the time may have come for Governor Sanford to remove himself and his family from the limelight, so that he can devote his efforts full-time to repairing the damage in his personal life."

That sounds like the right thing to do. There is much damage to be repaired, if it is repairable at all. Sanford has no political future left, but perhaps, just perhaps, he can find happiness again in his personal life.


My feeling somewhat sorry for him aside, Sanford is hardly the Shakespearean tragic figure he is making himself out to be. If anything, he is proving himself to be a shameless narcissist caught up in the delusions of romantic love. As Michelle Cottle put it so well at The Plank yesterday:

It's not simply that he couldn't choose between Jenny and Maria. We're talking about a guy who repeatedly asked his wife's permission to run off for a quick visit with her competition. Sanford not only wanted to have his cake and eat it too--he wanted his legally wed cake to tell him that it's ok to keep dipping his fork into his extramarital cake--excuse me, extramarital Soul Cake. In theory, of course, he was struggling to gently disentangle everyone from the ridiculous web he had woven. But he didn't disentangle. He just kept tangling and tangling and tangling. Until he tangled so completely that the entire world found out about his situation--which, in turn, only prompted him to spin more stories on national TV about himself as the tragic slave to love. And then a few days later--even more stories, with more talk about his commitment to his family even as his poor heart is shattered. Oh, boo hoo hoo.


Now, of course, Sanford wants to be cheered, or at least pitied, for buckling down and committing to "falling back in love with" his wife -- despite having announced to the entire globe that Maria is his true love. What nobility. What self-sacrifice. What moral fortitude. What utter nonsense. What now happens within the Sanford family should be an entirely private matter (as, indeed, this entire Love Story should have remained, if only the governor could have handled it less absurdly -- and without taxpayer funding.) But however it ends, let's not kid ourselves: Mark Sanford isn't remotely special. He isn't even particularly tragic, at least not in the romantic sense. The man isn't a fool for love so much as he's just a fool. And his political future now largely depends on how gladly the voters of South Carolina will suffer having a fool as their leader.

Pity this fool as you see fit.

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By Creature

That's the number of jobs lost in June. It's a bunch worse than last month and it brings the unemployment rate to a 26-year-high of 9.5%. Thankfully, though, I worship CNBC and according to them the recession is over. So screw the jobless recovery. Screw the unemployed. Wall Street's doing better and my investment banker just got a raise. If they're willing to brush the struggling riffraff under the rug then who am I to judge?

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Craziest Conservative of the Day: Michael Scheuer

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Maybe you read about it at C&L, maybe you heard about last night on The Daily Show. Here's what Michael Scheuer told Glenn Beck, crazy meets crazy, on Tuesday (video below):

The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States. Because it's going to take a grass-roots, bottom-up pressure. Because these politicians prize their office, prize the praise of the media and the Europeans. It's an absurd situation again. Only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently, and with as much violence as necessary.

Insane. On so many levels.

First, who exactly desires the praise of Europeans? Obama? I'm sure he wants Europe to like him -- and to like America (and what's wrong with that? isn't in America's best interests to have Europe as an ally? -- but it's crazy to suggest that somehow "these politicians" (and again, who?) -- are driven primarily by a concern for Europe.

Second, who are "the media" and "the Europeans"? Are all media the same? Does "the media" include Politico, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal, three leading media outlets that also happen to lean to the right? And is Europe just some monolith of monotony? Crazy on both counts.

Third -- okay, I was just putting it off, here's the key point -- what the fuck?

You know, sometimes you just have to thank whatever god or gods you happen to believe in, or, if no god, just thank you lucky stars, when a conservative comes out and tells it like it is.

Because isn't that what Scheuer did?

Now, look, I'm not saying all conservatives are hoping for a massive terrorist attack on the U.S. I hope that most aren't -- and I'm sure the more sane among them aren't.

But what's clear is that conservatives like Scheuer -- and there are many of them (neocons, mostly, but not only), -- promote a Cheney-esque national security agenda that is, at its core, violent.

Consider how Scheuer put it: "with as much violence as necessary." What does that mean? It means, presumably, an agressive, warmongering foreign policy and an agressive, repressive domestic policy. It means war abroad but also a trampling of the Constitution at home. It means an executive branch, and a president specifically, liberated from any and all checks and balances. It means domestic surveillance without checks. It means torture. It means, essentially, a police state. Actually, what it means is fascism. And you'd be correct to find in Scheuer's words the very justification for oppression that has underpinned authoritarian and totalitarian regimes throughout history: An enemy is upon us; therefore, we crack down.

The problem is, try as they might, these conservatives can't get what they want just by scaring up an enemy. 9/11 provided the basis for the Bush Administration's crackdown, but, alas, 9/11 has receded into memory, and, well, Americans still cherish their liberties.

So what Scheuer and his ilk need, if they are to be successful in achieving their fascistic aims, is not just another attack but a major attack, an attack with "a major weapon" -- a nuclear attack, a biological or chemical attack, something much bigger than 9/11, something that would scare the people into submission.

This is clearly what they think they need, and -- yes, thank you -- Scheuer admitted it. It's rare to get such a far-reaching glimpse into the conservative mind.

And it is possible that, in the event of such an attack, the people would willingly give up their liberties and allow a fascistic cabal to rule them. Something as massive as a nuclear attack would surely turn America upside-down. I wouldn't put it past them.

I don't know, though. Sometimes I'm optimistic about the indomitable spirit of the American people -- the spirit that was on display throughout Obama's presidential campaign and on election night, sometimes not so much. It could go either way.

But back to the point at hand: Conservatives (and Republicans generally) claim that liberals (and Democrats) are weak on national security, that their policies weaken America and open her up to attack. And yet, conservatives, not liberals, are openly wishing for another attack. Which begs the question: Do these conservatives actually want to protect Americans, or, rather, do they simply want power, the unified, fascistic power of a police state?

I'll go with the latter.

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