Saturday, November 28, 2009

American journalist held at Canadian border over fear of negative Vancouver Olympics comments

The Vancouver Olympics haven't even happened yet and I'm already sick of them. Seriously, I wish this entire country would just shut up about them. I'll watch, yes, and I'll cheer on the Canadians, but the nationalism and self-glorification annoy me.

And this -- this is embarrassing, appalling, and telling of what this country has become:

U.S. journalist Amy Goodman said she was stopped at a Canadian border crossing south of Vancouver on Wednesday and questioned for 90 minutes by authorities concerned she was coming to Canada to speak against the Olympics.

Goodman says Canadian Border Services Agency officials ultimately allowed her to enter Canada but returned her passport with a document demanding she leave the country within 48 hours.

Goodman, 52, known for her views opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CBC News on Thursday that Canadian border agents asked her repeatedly what subjects she would cover at scheduled speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria.

Goodman said she told them she planned to speak about the debate over U.S. health care reform and the wars in Asia.

After much questioning, Goodman said the officials finally asked if she would be speaking about the 2010 Olympics.

"He made it clear by saying, 'What about the Olympics?'" said Goodman. "And I said, 'You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics in Chicago?'"

"He said, 'No. I am talking about the Olympics here in 2010.' I said, 'Oh I hadn't thought of that,'" said Goodman.

"He said, 'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'"

"He was clearly incredulous that I wasn't going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn't believe me," Goodman said.


Goodman said her car was searched and the officials demanded to look at her notes and her computer.

What the hell's wrong with us -- with Canada? Are we really so scared that someone might say something bad about us and our oh-so-freakin'-important Olympics that we'll go to these oppressive lengths? Honestly, I really don't give a shit about the Olympics in terms of what they mean for this country. (I want our athletes to do well, but, beyond that, whatever.) Indeed, I hope that reporters -- both Canadian and international -- do apply a critical eye to the Vancouver Olympics. (The authorities are clearly worried about something getting out, aren't they?)

Sure, I realize that probably most, if not all, Olympic host countries do this sort of thing. The crackdown in Beijing, for example, must have been far worse, if fully expected from the brutal totalitarians who run China. But this doesn't excuse Canada one bit, and if this is what we're doing to foreign reporters, including to good ones like Goodman, we should be ashamed of ourselves. The Olympics are no excuse for jingoism, bullying, and crackdowns on the freedom of the press -- or on freedom at all, for that matter -- even if they so often are. And we -- we Canadians -- should get over ourselves. If this is how insecure we are, and if this is how pathetically we respond when the international spotlight is upon us, then we deserve, at the very least, to be ridiculed, and to be exposed.

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Cheney 2012? (run, Dick, run!)


A new group wants former Vice President Dick Cheney back in the White House.

The organization -- "Draft Dick Cheney 2012" -- launched on Friday, and unveiled their new Web site. Their aim: To convince the former vice president to seek the Republican presidential nomination in the next race for the White House.

How good would that be? I realize he'd be a more formidable opponent than, say, Sarah Palin, but there's no way he could actually win -- not with his long record of evil, not with how bad he'd be on the stump, not with his poor health, not with all the questions he'd have to answer.

Or could he? I think Obama is pretty much a lock to win re-election (not least given how good a campaigner he is), but, were he to run (and he almost certainly won't), could Cheney scare enough people into voting for him?

Are the American people that simultaneously bloodthirsty and masochistic?

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Erin McCarley

Among my various musical preferences, I tend to like female singer-songwriters, and I recently discovered a great one in Erin McCarley, whose debut album, Love, Save the Empty, is simply wonderful. (For more on McCarley, see her Wikipedia entry.)

All too often, debut albums by new singer-songwriters are weak, top-heavy with one or two catchy singles and little else beyond mediocrity. McCarley is clearly an exception. Her album is strong from beginning to end. In fact, it's quite startling just how good it is. I recommend it, and her, highly.

Here she is on Letterman performing the title track to her album (as good as it is, there are several songs on the album that are even better -- check out YouTube for more, including some excellent accoustic versions, especially "Pony (It's OK)," "Pitter-Pat," and "Lovesick Mistake."):

Oh, here's "Pony (It's OK)":

And here's the beautiful "Pitter-Pat," my favourite song on the album:


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Friday, November 27, 2009

Kick a Jew Day

By Capt. Fogg

I hesitate to make more of this than it really is. Middle School students aren't deep thinkers, if they're thinkers at all and if some idiot kid in a Naples, Florida school thought "Kick a Jew Day" would be a blast, it doesn't necessarily mean that they've even heard of anti-Semitism or that their parents are Aryan Nation followers. The misbegotten event wherein Jewish kids were subject to being kicked last week was a "funny" take-off on "Kick a Ginger Day," which in turn derived from the supremely idiotic "South Park," the show that features a talking turd as part of the cast.

I think it may be a bit much at this point, to tie it to some sinister neo-Nazi or other anti-Semitic group. Still, some boys and girls were kicked and at that age, when peer approval is everything, the humiliation can be expected to matter a lot in their lives.

Although Fox News did comment on the kicking of redheads, I haven't seen any mention of the Naples story so far and so it's not fair and balanced to comment on what they might use the story for. I'm sure that there are people who will haul out the old PC straw man and grumble about Jews looking for pity and I'm more sure that some Jewish parents will overreact and call for more than the one-day suspension handed out to 10 pre -teens. For my part, I think the Jewish kids have learned a valuable lesson about living in a self-styled Christian Nation: Kick Back!

I had some idle thoughts about printing up some T-shirts and sending them over to Naples, but it's been done.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Hacking reality: "Climategate," denialist propaganda, and the truth about climate change

I've been meaning to post for a while now on the whole "climategate" thing, the supposed scandal uncovered in those hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climactic Research Unit. Global warming skeptics/denialists on the right are obviously making a big deal of those e-mails. What they seem to think is that they reveal some sort of grand conspiracy to cover up the truth, to fix the evidence around what amounts to a massive hoax, a scandal that undermines the entirety of climate change science. But to me, all they reveal is that there isn't any conspiracy at all, that it's all much ado about very little. Here's TNR's Brad Plumer:

From what I've gathered, the stolen e-mails reveal that climatologists are: a) engaged in a lot of boring and dry data-crunching, b) extremely hostile toward global-warming skeptics like Cato's Pat Michaels, and c) not always nice people.

I think that's exactly right. As is this:

One major question is whether any of the stolen e-mails show that climate scientists are somehow fudging data. And the answer, as best I can tell, is "certainly not."

Some of the e-mails may be "unseemly" -- or, rather, what is contained in some of them is -- and they do at the very least create the impression of impropriety on the part of some climate change scientists, but that's it. What they show is that these scientists are all-too-human, that there is politics within the scientific community, and that the scientific community isn't a monolith of unitary thought. There is disagreement, there is bitterness, and there is pettiness, but there is no overriding "fraud" -- and there is no scandal. (Make sure to read Brad's post in full for context.)

Skeptics/denialists are making so much of this, and predictably so, and they will no doubt continue to select decontextualized points to back up their indefensible case. It is essential, as always, to push back. Here's an excellent post on "climategate," quoted in full, by Alan Colmes:

Climate scientists who just released "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" say ice sheets are melting at an increased rate, and future sea-level rise will be higher than previously forecast. But scientific evidence means nothing to those with an anti-global warming agenda, who point to illegally hacked mails to try to prove that global warming is a hoax. Sadly for them, the anti-global-warming hysteria isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The ugly part of this has more to do with scientists jockeying for position and arguing over how to best put forth their theories in a contentious political climate. The uglier part is those who are distorting this for the purpose of advancing anti-environmental theories. RealClimate puts it in perspective.

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to 'get rid of the MWP', no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no 'marching orders' from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in 'robust' discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

Out-of-context cherry-picking is the furthest thing from science.

But, then, so is global warming denialism, and so is the right's manufactured "climategate" scandal. In the real world, where science trumps propaganda, or at least where science reveals the truth and propaganda seeks to obscure it with lies, the struggle to address the most pressing crisis of our time, a crisis that could very well lead to massive global destabilization and genocide, continues. And it is the scientific community, occasional unseemliness and all, that leads the way.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

(American) Thanksgiving 2009

To my American friends and family, to all of you Americans out there (the overwhelming majority of traffic to this blog comes from the U.S.), and especially to my American editors, co-bloggers and contributors here at The Reaction, as well as to my many American friends and acquaintances throughout the blogosphere, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you're all having a wonderful day.

-- Michael

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Looking ahead to 2012: Dobbs, Beck, and Palin

Two quick notes:

-- I'm all for Lou Dobbs running in 2012. As Rasmussen finds, "early polling shows he could attract up to 14% of the vote." Not surprisingly, much of that is "almost certainly a generic protest vote." What is clear, though, is that Dobbs would take much more support away from any Republican nominee than from Obama.

-- I'm also all for a Beck-Palin (or Palin-Beck?) ticket. As Politico reports, she's not ruling out the possibility. She seems to want to run, or is at least considering it, while he has his "plan" for 100 years of anger, paranoia, and resentment, and I can think of no better act of self-destruction for conservatism than having Beck and Palin front and center on the right, preferably as insurgents challenging the GOP.

Alas, we probably won't get either Dobbs or Beck-Palin, but that's no reason to give up hope.

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The truth about health-care reform: the public option (2)

Here's a third Q&A from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee's Citizens Forum. I posted one on affordability on Monday and one on the public option on Tuesday.

Curtis Macchioni (Livermore, CA): Why can't we have a public option?

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH): Public option will compete with private insurance companies, help cut costs, and be available anywhere.

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Palin, Netanyahu, and Israel's West Bank settlements

Sarah Palin recently suggested that "the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon." (I blogged about her comments, from an interview with Barbara Walters, here.) Evidently, this extremist position puts her to the right even of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called for a 10-month freeze on settlement construction in order to show, so he says, Israel's commitment to peace.

The freeze will only go so far:

Netanyahu said the "far-reaching and painful" move would not be implemented in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, which is viewed by Israel as a separate issue to be discussed in a final status agreement with the Palestinians.

"We do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital," the premier said.

The freeze applies only to new construction, meaning housing already underway will continue. Also, Netanyahu said, only new homes are included.

"We will not halt existing construction and we will continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential for normal life in the settlements," he said.

As for any sort of "normal life" for Palestinians, and specifically for those whose land has been taken or those who otherwise are being impacted by the settlements and, until now, the expansion thereof, well, no matter. It seems that Netanyahu cares about as much the Palestinians as Palin does.

No, that's not fair. Netanyahu at least seems to be genuine about his efforts to achieve a lasting peace:

Now is the time to begin negotiations, now is the time to move forward towards peace. Israel today has taken a far-reaching step toward peace, it is time for the Palestinians to do the same.

This isn't entirely fair either, given that Israel will continue to colonize an occupied territory -- construction will continue, after all -- and it is rather disingenuous of Netanyahu to suggest that Israeli is now fully committed to peace and that the Palestinians must now, backed into a corner, prove themselves similarly committed. All this means is that, should negotiations fail, he'll be able to blame the Palestinians for not stepping up in response to this "far-reaching and painful" move. In giving up so little while claiming to give up so much, Netanyahu proves to be nothing if not a Machiavellian manipulator. (Too bad for him that this is all so transparent.)

Still, compared to Palin, Netanyahu deserves the Nobel Peace Prize (which I once thought he would win one day as a co-architect of peace, as it will probably take a conservative to make the necessary concessions and to persuade the Israeli people of the need for compromise). At least this is something, after all, and something, even this, is better than nothing, and certainly much better than dismissing the Palestinians entirely and pushing for even more Israeli expansion, as Palin and many on the American right are doing.

She really is clueless and really is dangerous and should never be allowed anywhere near U.S. foreign policy, or anything having to do with the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular. While it is easy to laugh at her ignorance, though, her views are hardly uncommon among American conservatives. What Netanyahu's move shows is not just Israel's supposed commitment to peace, if we take him at his word, but just how extreme people like Sarah Palin really are.

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Thank yous

By Carl

There's not much to be thankful for this year, and maybe that's the thing to be thankful for. It throws years like 2008 into sharp relief when the comedown off the high, and the hangover, are as fierce as 2009.

Before I get to the maudlin bits, let me thank you, my readers and friends, for putting up with my crap for yet another year. My blog has grown surprisingly so that I am now considered by the ranking service Technorati to be a "large blog," meaning a lot of people read this stuff.

Oddly enough, this comes on the heels of my vow for this year to
specifically not pursue the popular stories.

And ThumbPer, who has been my faithful companion and blogging partner (he's sitting on my lap, paws on my computer stand, as I type this).

I'm sure I'm giving short shrift to a lot of people, places and things, and as they occur to me, I'll note them at the end of this piece. I refuse to turn this into one of those treacly columns where Mom, apple pie and the Boy Scouts feature prominently.

I'm thankful that I'm safe, for one more year, from the ravages of this horrible economic crisis. I sit insulated and isolated safely in a warm house, with at least two turkey meals ahead of me, and warm clothes to put on. And I sit here, I remember that I'm safe but others are not.

Brother, don't you walk away. Food pantries are bare nationwide. Hunger is creeping across the land like a dark plague, picking off the weakest, poorest among us. People who can only afford a candy bar because the local grocer charges $1.50 for an apple, a browned, bruised battered one at that, are dizzy with need, aching for a real meal. They need comfort and food and comfort food.

More and more people sleep on grates and subway benches. It's hard to tell if they are derelict or destitute, but this is America and they deserve the dignity of our compassion and assumption of destitution. We cheer heroes in sport despite their cheats and crude behavior, so why cannot we not find it in our hearts to look past a drinking or drug problem and reach out to cheer these folks on as well?

Right now, today, there are millions of people working too hard at jobs that pay too little. I think of this woman in my neighborhood, she looks Mayan or Incan. Her features are sharp, as if they were chiseled onto the head of an axe, her long black hair kempt under a woolen cap. She could be forty. She could be eighty. Sometimes on the weekends, I see her with two young children. She stands just under five feet tall.

She pushes a shopping cart through my neighborhood each and every morning. She's done this for years, picking up deposit bottles, going through the trash and recycling bins. I make a point of it to neatly bundle my beer and soda bottles for her in plastic bags and leave them by the bins. I've probably made her a hundred bucks a year.

The cart overflows with her currency: huge plastic bags filled with empties, standing sometimes six and a half feet high. Seven days a week, which means that seven days a week, she has to go to a store and exchange them. I once estimated that this probably pays her twenty bucks a day. A hundred dollars a week for digging through stuff everyone else has discarded, the nasty smelly stuff. I don't know how many hours she logs doing this, how big a family she's struggling to assist, and if she even has a husband or other adults.

I don't have to know that. I see her dedication, and think to myself, there are people in this nation who would gladly have her arrested and put on a boat home. It wouldn't matter to them if she was legally here or not.

Worse for her, there are sharks in the water now. I've seen them: angry men who come by in the afternoons, turning over garbage can lids, looking for bottles to return. Angry white men, frustrated by the sparse pickings (she is thorough). This is a post-apocalyptic world for them, and their fear manifests to anger, and anger to rage, and rage to violence.

I only pray to God I can be there to protect her when these guys get the hint they'll have to roll out of bed early. Hell, they scare me and I'm bigger than they are. But they have anger, which makes them dangerous, but brother, don't you walk away!

Where are our
Steinbecks, our balladeers? I pondered that question as my head lay on a soft pillow under a warm blanket. Who will write our Grapes of Wrath? You? Me? Who will be our Dorothea Lange? Our James Baldwin? Who will record this generation lost, so that the starkness of existence as most Americans live it can be contrasted with the moneybags of Goldman Sachs, so that accounting can be made and responsibility assessed?

Things to be thankful for:
Reunion. Old friends new once more. Life. Art. Courage. Wit. Compassion. Spirit. That I'm not Glenn Beck. Michael Stickings.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sarah Palin attacks Canada's health-care system, exposes bottomless well of ignorance and stupidity

I'm sorry, I just can't put this delicately. I'm a Canadian, after all, and our universal health-care system is a key component of our national identity, of our just society, and of what makes this country great.

Sarah Palin, spewing bullshit (as usual) as she promotes her book, should just shut the fuck up. Because she hasn't got a fucking clue. All she's got is her right-wing propaganda, the nonsense she passes off as common sense, and an astonishing capacity to expose her ignorance at every turn.

Confronted by Mary Walsh (playing "Marg Delahunty"), a Canadian comedian from the popular show This Hour Has 22 Minutes, who asked if she had "any words of encouragement for the Canadian conservatives who have worked so hard to try to diminish that kind of socialized medicine we have up there," Palin issued this nugget of anti-wisdom:

Well, my answer was too keep the faith. My answer was to keep the faith. Cause that common sense conservatism can be plugged-in there in Canada too. In fact Canada needs to reform its health care system and let the private sector take over some of what the government has absorbed. So thank you, keep the faith.

As I have noted here before, our single-payer public system is supplemented by extensive private coverage and care. What the public system -- the government -- provides is basic coverage for all Canadians. This is actually done on a province-by-province basis. Many Canadians then either get additional coverage through their employer (as I do) or buy supplemental private insurance, which is generally affordable. This additional coverage reduces out-of-pocket costs and secures access to more substantial care. For example, what I get through work covers almost the full cost of prescription drugs and provides me (and my dependents) access to extensive eye and dental care, among other things. And there is choice. I chose my family doctor, and the government does not restrict my access to the excellent care we have, contrary to what dishonest American conservatives would have everyone believe.

Here's Think Progress with more:

In Canada, "the private sector" is already "a crucial part" of the Canadian health care system. The federal government finances the basic health care plan, (through a "Medicaid-like arrangement in which Canada's 10 provinces and 2 territories jointly fund" the system), but care is independently organized and managed by each province or territory. Canadians spend billions on private supplemental coverage and physicians work in private practices. Everyone has access to care, and patients "can see any doctor they want anywhere in the country with no copays or deductibles."

While the system has longer waiting periods for certain elective surgeries, research suggests that Canadians do enjoy better access to care and "superior" health outcomes compared to Americans. According to a Commonwealth Fund of deaths that could have been prevented "with access to quality medical care in the leading 19 industrialized countries," the United States ranked last and Canada came in sixth.

In other words, our system is extremely good and Palin, like her right-wing ilk, is extremely wrong.

Here's the Palin-Walsh clip:

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Feats of clay

By Carl

your mouth to God's ear, Lou:

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs is seriously considering running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey as "an intermediary step" that could lead to a run for the White House.

Dobbs told former Sen. Fred Thompson's radio program on Monday that he had been urged to run for president and would talk to some people about it.

Ironic, isn't it, that Dobbs would make this rather curious statement on the radio program of a fellow dragged into a Presidential primary season he was neither enthusiastic or prepared for.

But I digress...

We speak often of politics as a bubble in this country, that people who run for office and particularly incumbents, are out of touch with the common man and the common problems we face.

You'd think this would not be the case for a man who just spent his entire adult life covering news stories. Three years ago, I might have agreed with you.

I think the downfall of Dobbs from CNN was less a matter of his instigating commentary on his program, in particular with regards to immigration reform, and
more about hubris.

Some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN," Dobbs told viewers, "and to engage in constructive problem-solving, as well as to contribute positively to a better understanding of the great issues of our day.

Pho, as they say. That's quite the load Dobbs is asking us to swallow.

Dobbs has lived in an echo chamber these past few years, I suspect. He's had his ego stroked, pampered and inflated because, well, yes, he brought in ratings.

But he brought in ratings based on anger and hate, not because he proposed solutions to problems that either made sense or could be enacted. Rounding up 23 million people (rough estimate) and sending them on their merry way, then shutting the door behind them would not be easy, and indeed, would be economically disastrous for American workers.

Anyone who watched or read Dobbs' articles would have been struck by the intense anger this man feels towards people who, admittedly, are here illegally. It's almost as if his wife had an affair with one of his gardeners or something.

But here's Dobbs, willingly naive about the popularity he enjoys beyond his insular and insulated bubble.

Good for him, I say! Let him run, and be a shining example to the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world. It's easy to sit on your fat ass and postulate, pundulate, and prognosticate from the comfort of your Herman Miller Aeron chair, but to actually get up and go out and meet people and try to explain your hatred to an audience sitting sober and in a formal setting....meh, not so much!

Dobbs will have his lunch eaten and his hat handed to him, and that will be the end of advocacy journalism as we know it. Good riddance, says I.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Palining around with Terrorists

By Capt. Fogg

I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is, is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead,

said Miss Maverick to Barbara Walters, thinking as she does in lock step with the PsychoChristian Book of Revelation terrorist Church. At least this time she's speaking in almost understandable English rather than in tongues. Of course, that's not happening or is it likely ever to be.

Like many euphemism addicts, she seems as well to avoid the use or the word Jew as though it were a socially offensive term, which it is not, but neither is it surprising that she has problems with Judaism, with seeing Jews as anything but pawns or with the notion of a government that derives from the will of the governed.

I have to ask myself how we get a maverick, a renegade, or anything but a victim of another sort of politico-religious correctness in Sarah Palin. I have to ask myself how many Americans really want our foreign policy derived from John of Patmos or even Billy "The Jews are ruining the country" Graham, currently suffering from Alzheimer's, who she recently visited to get some guidance about what the Bible commands our country to do in Iraq, Iran, and Israel.

I actually get a lot of amusement out of this breathless 2000 year "any minute now" wait, although horrors like Jonestown do put a damper on it. But face it, Palin is a rogue only in the sense of being an unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal. She hasn't separated herself from the herd of regimented thinking, she's embraced myth as truth, defined a demented dogma as independent thinking and yearns for absolute theocratic rule as much as any medieval pope -- and lower taxes for the rich who are more favored by God, of course. Most and worst of all, she is part of and is informed by a cult anticipating the greatest act of terrorism since Noah's Flood.

Sorry Sarah, Jesus has been here and gone. I'm not interested in your ambition to promote a war in the Middle East, I think Israel should stop building settlements in occupied land and that people should live in peace. I'm not converting to your hare-brained death cult and I'll be damned if I'm going to let you throw away two centuries of secular democracy. I'm not "flocking" to Israel, nor is anyone else and if there is some damned god who wants a war there, he'll have to start it himself.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Too much like Bush: The fall of Greg Craig and the rise of Rahm Emanuel's Obama

Yesterday, quoting Andrew Sullivan, I noted that I remain bullish on Obama -- though I also noted my own rather significant reservations.

Well, those reservations deepened when I read Time's excellent piece on the fall of Greg Craig, Obama's ex-counsel. Craig, a Clintonite turned Obama advisor, was the man tasked with undoing the dark side of Bush's war on terror, including torture and Gitmo. At first, he and Obama were pretty much on the same side. In time, with partisan politics trumping principle, Obama moved away from some of the commitments he made during the campaign and sided increasingly with Rahm Emanuel and his political, as opposed to legal, advisors. Here's a key passage:

Obama needed to regain control quickly, and he started by jettisoning liberal positions he had been prepared to accept — and had even okayed — just weeks earlier. First to go was the release of the pictures of detainee abuse. Days later, Obama sided against Craig again, ending the suspension of Bush's extrajudicial military commissions. The following week, Obama pre-empted an ongoing debate among his national-security team and embraced one of the most controversial of Bush's positions: the holding of detainees without charges or trial, something he had promised during the campaign to reject.

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Dana Perino and Junkyard Wars

So Dana Perino still isn't bowing out of her mission to defame the president who employs her. It's too breathlessly important to talk down the America that pays her salary; pays her excellent medical and dental plan that she would deny us, to bother to be consistent with what she just finished saying or with objective reality. Why should she, after all? She's preaching to her own demented and dishonest choir, none of whom is any smarter or more honest than she is.

A few days ago, it was wrong for President Obama to play golf because "there's a war on." Yesterday it was just fine to call him to task for not calling a shooting "terrorism" even though "there's a war on." Criticizing the President in time of "war" is only treason when the President is of their tribe, you know and it's never treason when Fox does it. Anything goes, you see, when you're blond and perky. Anything -- even forgetting that the 9/11 attacks were not only on George W. Bush's watch, but that George W. Bush wasn't actually watching and had effectively shot down those who were. But hey, that was history and history is a junkyard from which you take parts and assemble your own truth.

We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during president Bush's term,

Perino said to Sean "Insanity" Hannity on Fox last night. The old Fox with the botox face didn't even flinch. She went on to politicize the shootings at Fort Hood by accusing Barack Obama of "politicizing" the shootings at Fort Hood by not calling the act of an American officer "terrorism" in advance of any evidence to back that up other than the man's religion.

So why is it so important, other than for reasons of creating a religious war, to label the Fort Hood murders terrorism? So that she can pretend Bush was a protector and Obama is not. She needs a "terrorist" attack to create a false equivalence no matter how outrageously unequal it may be. In her little mind, your little mind will accept that the billions of dollars of destruction and the 3000 or so lives is equivalent to an American officer going wacko and shooting up his fellow soldiers and therefore Barack Obama is a failure.

What's in a name? Everything, it seems. The difference between death by friendly fire and terrorism is all in the politics of the beholder, whether or not the fire is friendly. If someone "fragged" his commanding officer, it's not terrorism and if Pat Tillman was shot by his own men, that's not terrorism either. Charles Manson isn't a terrorist, even though his mission was to strike terror into the hearts of white people and start a war. David Berkowitz wasn't a terrorist although he terrorized New York -- and why? A political football is not a football until someone kicks it and the Grand Old Fox has no interest in doing so unless it serves their need of supporting Republicans and toppling Democrats.

I've seen famous comedians booed off the stage for making mild jokes about George Bush, I've had death threats for saying Reagan had serious flaws. Where is the outrage now? Where is the response to such amateurish, clumsy and wildly dishonest propaganda coming, like foul breath, out of the mouths of Fox?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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What's the point of the Afghan War?

It is being reported that President Obama will send an additional 34,000 troops to Afghanistan as part of his soon-to-be-announced Afghan War plan.

He has called the Afghan War "a war of necessity," in contrast to the war of choice that was, and is, the Iraq War, and he wants now to "finish the job" in Afghanistan.

Which begs the question, what exactly is the job to be finished?

Here's how I put it back in May, when McChrystal replaced McKiernan and Obama, in replacing the old guard with the new, moved the war decidedly in the direction of counterinsurgency:

I'm not sure what to make of the move. The war has certainly been in desperate need of refocus, and perhaps a renewed focus on counterinsurgency objectives will get it back on track, or just on a track. The problem all along has been the utter lack of clarity. Has the war been about defeating the Taliban and hunting down al Qaeda? Has it been about nation-building? Has it been about bringing freedom and democracy to the Afghan people? Has it been about regional stability and security? Or has it been about something murkier, about American hegemony in the region, and perhaps about American access to oil and gas?

This lack of clarity has led many of the war's early supporters, including me, to turn against it -- or, I should say, it is one of the reasons I have turned against it. And while a counter-insurgency war may be no more defensible, and no more worthy of support, than the war without clarity, the war as it has been waged thus far, but at least a focused war, a war with a clearly defined purpose (and perhaps also with clearly defined victory), will allow for an honest and open debate about American objectives and about the possibility for success.

Obama is likely to announce his new plan in a prime-time address next week. Calling the eight-year-old war a war of necessity and defending the troop increase won't be enough. He needs to explain clearly what the goal is, how progress will be measured, and when the U.S. and its allies can pull out for good.

It's not enough just to send more troops, after all. The key questions to be answered are what those and other U.S. troops will do there, what the focus of ongoing U.S. and allied military engagement will be, and what will constitute, if not quite victory, reasonable success.

Otherwise, we can only hope that Obama opts for a middle course that emphasizes realistic expectations and achievable goals.


As for the troop increase, I think my friend Steve Hynd is right:

[34,000, including 23,000 actual troops, 7,000 members of a command HQ in southern Afghanistan, and 4,000 military trainers] is just about the number everyone was expecting and exactly enough to keep both the pro-war and anti-occupation camps dissatisfied. Obama must have decided he'd just piss everyone off equally.


So Obama has apparently split the difference, not just on troop numbers but on opposing domestic viewpoints. Those troops already on the ground are there to hold the domestic political line with their blood while Obama sets up the conditions both in Afghanistan and at home for a proper phased withdrawal. It's what he should have done in the first place and doesn't need extra troops to do so -- but extra troops are seen as a domestic political necessity because Obama and his administration are wusses afraid of the electoral effects of being called wusses by Republicans and their own neoliberal hawks. They're going to be called wusses anyway. As is too often the case, foreign policy is domestic politics that gets inflicted on foreigners.

Very well put.

Obama's policy will be meant to show strength, resolve, and determination. In reality, it just shows fear and cowardice.

I understand the demands of domestic political considerations, and that for political reasons -- and perhaps also for personal ones, as he may believe the whole "war of necessity" nonsense -- Obama doesn't want to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously, but it is disturbing, if predictable, that such short-term electoral concerns are allowed to guide foreign and military policy.

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Glenn Beck's puppet, Doug Hoffman, concedes... again

It's over. The mentor/puppeteer may not agree with his decision, but Conservative insurgent candidate and Republican favourite Doug Hoffman has un-unconceded, or re-conceded, in NY-23.

The gap between Hoffman and Democrat (and winner) Bill Owens narrowed due to an undercount in some counties, with Hoffman pulling to within about 3,000 votes, but absentee ballots expanded Owens's lead.

Hoffman's second concession runs in sharp contrast to his rhetoric last week. Even as he trailed Owens by a near-insurmountable margin, Hoffman alleged that labor unions and ACORN were responsible for electoral fraud and urged his supporters to donate money to help him contest the results of the election.

Hoffman has toned down the blame game, playing the role of victim of a nefarious plot -- as conservatives do so well (see Palin, Sarah) -- but he remains aggressively defiant. When he unconceded, he called the election "stolen." He is now saying that there were "problems" but that a recount "would most likely not change the election outcome."

So what is it? Were the problems so insignificant as to change nothing if rectified? Or were there no problems at all, just simple human error that was addressed and excuses that continue to be spun, including by Hoffman himself? It's like he wants to have it both ways: continue to present himself as the victim while acknowledging that he lost fair and square.

Hoffman -- who mentions "the government chambers and boardrooms that shape America," as if government and business are all that mean anything -- clearly intends to run again next year as the candidate of "common-sense conservative values" (i.e., extremist right-wing ideology). In the meantime, Glenn Beck will have to find another willing puppet to manipulate.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Did we blow up today?

By Carl



The CERN collaboration's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) sent beams of protons flying around its 27 km length in each direction over the weekend, and Monday saw them run two beams simultaneously and slam them into one another, producing the collider's first ever particle collisions. It would appear that any time-traveling quantum bird sent by the Higgs boson was unable to disrupt yesterday's run.

Last fall, the LHC team came close to reaching this same milestone, but fell short when a massive quench failure damaged a number of the superconducting magnets that are used to help guide, accelerate, and squeeze the beams of particles as they move around the tunnel. This failure occurred only nine days after the first particles were circulated, but was only one in a series of setbacks that the collider would experience. Broken support structures, helium leaks, and frayed wiring all required that the equipment be warmed up from the frosty operating conditions of 1.8 Kelvin. The most recent mishap involved a bird dropping bread into an electrical transformer. All of this has caused some to speculate that the Higgs boson — the elusive particle that is the basis of mass — is actually causing these failures to occur from the future. Presumably from its fortress of doom and solitude.

OK, there's some "inside baseball" that needs to be explained here. The Higgs boson is a theoretical particle... OK, it's a particle that's predicted to exist but has never been seen (and this is the easy stuff to explain!)... and is a key particle to many cosmologic theories. Indeed, the Higgs boson has been linked to the origin of mass in the universe, it's that fundamental a piece of the subatomic picture.

Without it, in other words, Jonah Goldberg wouldn't be fat. Under the theory, the Higgs works like molasses through which one might drag, say, a pearl necklace, to which the molasses now sticks adding weight and mass.

The Higgs is also called the God Particle, because of this mechanism, distorted by the media, of course. No one has seen a Higgs, just as no one has seen God.

Naturally, in a semi-serious paper, a couple of scientists postulated that to create a Higgs would so endanger the planet that the
Higgs itself would reach back and destroy the attempt.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Of course, the beauty of this prediction is that it can only be disproven if in fact a Higgs is produced, and of course, the world ends or Cthulhu shows up.

But I digress...

The implications of the appearance of a Higgs are so wide ranging, it would be next to impossible to even begin to list them here. Suffice it to say that, indeed, it would account for nearly every aspect of why (not just how) you are sitting there, reading this blog.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)


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Quote of the Day: Andrew Sullivan on Obama

Like Andrew Sullivan, I remain fairly "bullish" on Obama, despite my own rather significant reservations. He makes a good case:

I think Obama's handling of the economic crisis has been about as good as it reasonably gets; I think his handling of Iran is equally adroit; I find his relentless emphasis on reality in Afghanistan a good sign; I suspect the only way to get health insurance reform is the way he has attempted; I think the stimulus was necessary and sufficient; and I think unemployment will be coming down when he runs for re-election. On those issues I differ with him on -- accountability for war crimes and civil rights -- I can see the cool and cunning logic of his moves so far. The depth and complexity of the problems he faces remain immense. Perhaps he will prove incapable of surmounting them. But his persistence matters here. And we are not yet a year in.

Well, it's not all that good -- his failure adequately to address "accountability for war crimes and civil [and specifically gay] rights" continues to be a major blight on his record, and I'm not terribly happy with a Wall Street bailout run by some of the very people (Geithner, Summers) who caused the problem, and profited from the disease, in the first place, and I think he could do more on climate change, among other issues, but, overall, I tend to agree with Andrew that, for the most part, "he is on the right path." I'm just not "absurdly confident" about it.

Obama has done remarkably well, all things considered, but there's a lot more to be done.

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The truth about health-care reform: the public option

Here's a second Q&A from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee's Citizens Forum. I posted one on affordability yesterday.

Geoffrey Pettingill (Hamburg, MI): Why is the public option better than private insurance?

Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT): The public option is there to do its best to provide health care to people.

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Rogue numbers

By Capt. Fogg

Would it really surprise anyone these days to see Fox News using stock footage from the Oklahoma land rush to show how many people "spontaneously" show up at a Fox planned and organized rally? It certainly doesn't surprise me when they fail to check out stories that appear on web sites or refuse to apologize when caught inventing stories like some city in Michigan "banning" Christmas. They know we're gullible and they know that if feels good to believe, it will be believed.

Still I'm ever amazed at their confidence in our gullibility and unquestioning belief. How many Fox friends looked at this and bothered to do the arithmetic? How many just saw it and thought, "Hey, that Sarah's gonna be our next President!"


(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Bolshevism at the GOP

And so the Great Republican Purge of 2009, soon to be 2010, continues to narrow the party down to a right-wing fringe, now reaching a new level of Bolshevik fervor. The Caucus's Adam Nagourney has the details:

Republican leaders are circulating a resolution listing 10 positions Republican candidates should support to demonstrate that they "espouse conservative principles and public policies" that are in opposition to "Obama's socialist agenda." According to the resolution, any Republican candidate who broke with the party on three or more of these issues – in votes cast, public statements made or answering a questionnaire – would be penalized by being denied party funds or the party endorsement.

Why is 8 of 10 acceptable?

The resolution invokes Ronald Reagan, and noted that Mr. Reagan had said the Republican Party should be devoted to conservative principles but also be open to diverse views. President Reagan believed, the resolution notes, "that someone who agreed with him 8 out of 10 times was his friend, not his opponent."

Reagan, of course, is the GOP's Lenin, the revolutionary who is now the entrenched establishment. And, clearly, diversity is only tolerated to a point. For the most part, what rules is strict orthodoxy, even more, perhaps, than Reagan himself ever desired.

Click on the link above for the list of positions.

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How 'bout them ethics violations, Mark Sanford?

Think what you will of the whole "hiking the Appalachian Trail" thing. What bothered me about it was not so much what Mark Sanford did -- I'm no moralist -- but how he did it, and how he broke the public trust, and how he was such a hypocrite, a "family values" Republican whose own values were less than admirable.

And how did he do it? Well, by using state property, and by lying, and by sneaking off without telling anyone. When he did all that, it wasn't just personal anymore, it was public, and against the public interest. Governors and elected officials generally simply should not do what he did in the way he did it -- at the public's expense, without his security detail, while he was on the job.

And it goes much deeper than that. Sanford has been charged by the South Carolina Ethics Commission with 37 ethics violations. Some involve his Argentinian mistress, but all show him benefitting personally, in one way or another, from the use of state funds or resources -- or, rather, all show him using state funds and resources for personal gain or otherwise for non-official purposes.

Whether Sanford will be charged criminally is up to the state attorney general. Whether he is or isn't, though, I think we can safely conclude, without presuming guilt, that he hasn't exactly lived up to his oath.

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Lou Dobbs 2012

Feel the Nativist Resentment!

Scapegoating His Way to the White House!

Hating Immigration in a Nation of Immigrants!

You know, honestly, I hope Lou Dobbs does run for president in 2012. Like Glenn Beck, he'd only cut into Republican support, and that, of course, would be good for Obama.

Yes, let him defend his nativist fears out on the stump. Let him scapegoat Mexicans and other outsiders. Let him reveal to all, and not just to a handful of CNN viewers, just what sort of a bigot he is.

He'll have his supporters, sure, but I suspect the overwhelming majority of Americans, even in this economic climate, will be turned off by his vindictive, us-versus-them protectionism.

I'm sure there's room for him in the Republican Party. But if he prefers to wage an independent campaign, so be it. I don't think he will, but it wouldn't be "crazy," and he'd be a welcome right-wing thorn in the side of the Republican nominee, bleeding support and votes, whoever that turns out to be.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Fox in the henhouse

By Capt. Fogg  

What the hell Barack Obama was thinking when he appointed Dana Perino to anything at all, I don't know. The Raw Story says, with a bit of mockery, that she's staying true to her convictions but although that sort of thing is so often described as virtue, I have to remember that never changing one's mind and never changing the subject is the mark of the fanatic -- to put it politely. What was he thinking when he appointed a hostile and professional anti-regulatory, anti-government propagandist to the Broadcasting Board of Governors? She may cackle like a biddy, but she's a Fox in the henhouse for sure.

I haven't heard the hortatory
"there's a war on" trope for a while now, but here she is again on Fox News trying to use it to generate that same community spirit we had 65 years ago when there really was a war on that had something to do with national security and not another illegitimate, unnecessary and degenerating quagmire having little to do with anything but the ego of a president who never won anything fairly in his life. I have to wonder if the obscenely perky Ms. Perino actually knows enough about WWII to make a valid comparison. You'll remember, of course, that last year as White House deputy press secretary, it came out that she'd never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but with the arrogance only someone with the strength of conviction of the ignorant can have, she's chastising her boss by saying he shouldn't play golf "when there's a war on" and when unemployment is up -- like it was under St. Reagan the Infallible.

He shouldn't keep the generals waiting she says, not remembering that if Kennedy hadn't keep his generals waiting, Florida might still be radioactive.
Funny stuff anyway, coming from a mouth that used so recently to tell us not to criticize the president when there's a war on. Disgusting stuff when that particular president set and still holds the U.S. record for number of vacation days taken, morning runs, weeks accumulating into months of brush cutting, and evenings passing out on the couch -- war or no war. Was Obama hoping to plant an ally of some sort in the Fox den? Sorry, you can feed it like a dog, but a Fox is a Fox.

In fact, I think President Obama has already played golf more than President Bush did in eight years. I don't begrudge him for playing golf but you have to understand when you have the B roll of the video that shows the president playing golf while there is a 10.2% unemployment rate, while his senators are basically having to twist arms in order to get this party line vote, while KSM is headed to New York City for trials, while we have the Gitmo detainees possibly coming to Illinois — they have to understand that people could look at that and say, "Oh, and by the way General McChrystal has been waiting 86 days for a decision about Afghanistan."

She twittered to Steve Doocy of Fox and Friends infamy. This, from someone who told us that global warming would be good because fewer people would get colds. No, it was OK for Bush to bicycle, jog, cut brush and pass out in front of the TV while hundreds of thousands died and millions were made homeless, It wasn't golf, that elitist game. It was OK for Ronald to sleep all afternoon when unemployment was 10.5% and there was "a war on" in Granada but Obama should not have a break, or get a break either -- because he's Obama.

For someone who clearly remembers the way the warhawks went after Dwight Eisenhower for dithering and playing golf instead of addressing the missile gap that never really was, it's amusing and infuriating at the same time, since his greatest strength, in my opinion, was his resistance to being rushed or bullied by the generals. It's also amusing to remember that Lyndon Johnson played golf when a far bigger and deadlier war was "on" and you didn't hear much about it from the support-any war-Republicans. All and all, she's just another yipping Fox Friend, with the annoying self confidence of those born yesterday. She belongs with Fox and along with Malkin and Coulter and giggling Glenn, not working for a government she hates.

What the hell was he thinking?

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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One step closer

By Carl

one step farther beyond:
WASHINGTON -- The Senate is ready to begin a volatile, high-stakes healthcare debate that's sure to be punctuated by tense and unpredictable battles over some of the most incendiary issues in American politics today.
Debate on the $848 billion bill to overhaul the nation's healthcare system is expected to start next week, after the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving recess, and many lawmakers already consider it a golden opportunity to win long-sought projects and local aid for their constituents.
The flashpoints will be familiar -- abortion, federal deficits, government involvement in healthcare decisions and other hot topics -- and many Democrats already have said they want to see, and are well-positioned to seek, changes in the bill.
In fact, the legislation is moving ahead only because it got 60 votes Saturday night to proceed -- the minimum needed -- two weeks after the House of Representatives' version squeaked through by five votes.

I had a feeling that Lieberman, nor any of the other shills for the insurance industry operating under the sham of "protecting the American people from Big Government" would hold true to their promise of filibustering this bill to death.

Seriously, how hard is this to do?

If anything, the Democratic Senators who have come out and stated opposition to the bill, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu and Bob Nelson, all stand to see hundreds of millions of dollars funneled into their states with the introduction of a public option.

Contrast that with the $223 million dollars Alaska tried to rip off the US taxpayers for that "Bridge to Nowhere". At least these hundreds of thousands of dollars give us tens of millions of healthier, happier and more productive Americans, not a slightly easier access to an island for a few thousand tourists each year.

77% or so of Americans WANT some form of the public option. That's all you three need to know (I drop Lieberman off the list because he's so far up the asses of the insurance companies, they're lending him out to do colonoscopies).

So what to do to bring our little ducklings back into line? After all, this is all about getting the re-elected, and the millions in campaign contributions they can garner by holding Americans hostage.

Threatening them with primary opponents might work, except it didn't do much with Lieberman except make him a little more likely to play the "leave the caucus" card. And it would be difficult to keep three senators in line like that.

There's a deal to be made here that doesn't involve taking the public option off the table. Unfortunately, I do not know what that deal is, and there's a kicker: it has to be structured such that these three jackasses can save face (even tho you and I will know they folded cynically). I find it hard to believe that they would either turn their backs on hundreds of millions in pork OR on tens of millions of Americans.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)


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