Saturday, June 12, 2010

Craziest Republican of the Day: Rex Duncan

Oklahoma State Senator Rex Duncan (R) is pushing for a ballot measure that would prohibit courts from considering international or sharia law when deciding cases. He says the measure is a "preemptive strike" against "liberal judges" who want to "undermine those founding principles" of America.

The "Save Our State" amendment would require Oklahoma courts to use state and federal laws only when ruling, and Duncan explained on MSNBC today that he wants to ensure "that our courts are not used to undermine those founding principles, and turn Oklahoma into something that our founding fathers and our great grandparents wouldn't recognize."

He said that "Oklahomans recognize that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles," and that his measure "is a pre-emptive strike to make sure that liberal judges don't take to the bench in an effort to use their position to undermine" those principles by considering international or sharia law.

When asked if there was a danger of judges doing this, Duncan maintained that though it hasn't happened yet, "it's not just a danger. It's a reality."

"This is a war for the survival of America," he said.

Well, America was founded on a number of different principles, some of the Judeo-Christian, some of them not. (Last time I checked, Roman republicanism was neither Jewish nor Christian.) But if there's a danger of the imposition of theocratic rule in America today, it comes not from liberals (who, last time I checked, tend to be proponents of civil liberties and the separation of church and state) but from conservatives, from those on the right who seek to impose Christian fundamentalism (akin to Islamic fundamentalism) on the country, if not on the rest of the world.

Furthermore, the opposition to international law, and the fear that America will succumb to some one-world government, stems from pure paranoia. We've heard this sort of thing from a number of crazy right-wingers, including Michele Bachmann, and it's basically one of the drivers of the Tea Party "movement" (as when the teabaggers took over the Maine GOP last month). And yet it's conservatives, not liberals, who promote the de facto rule of multi-national corporations and an international oligarchy of plutocratic insiders, and it is this corporatism that poses a threat to American sovereignty, not some make-believe international liberal cabal.

And if it's un-American activist judges you want, look no further than Republican appointees to the federal bench. They may claim to be defenders of "original intent," of the Founders' principles, but what they really want is to impose their illiberal partisan ideology on the country -- for example, by undermining civil liberties and the separation of church and state, by interpreting the Constitution as a fundamentalist Christian moral code, and by expanding executive authority at the expense of the other branches of government.

But what do you expect from an Oklahoma Republican?

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Carly's Bad Hair Day

by Distributorcap

This week, Carly Fiorina, the Sarah Palin-backed Republican candidate for Senate in California had a bad hair mic day. Carly started her campaign -- not by taking on her opponent's policies, but by criticizing Barbara Boxer's hair.

Just you wait Carly. I have this feeling in my follicles someone may also accidentally speak into an open mic - but instead of taking on split ends and beehives they will be talking about the multi-million dollar golden parachute you received from Hewlett Packard (at shareholder's expense) after you failed miserably as the CEO and nearly trashed HP into the ground.

As a note, Carly, despite her hair expertise, did not star in Steel Magnolias -- maybe because she was just another beauty school dropout.

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The Bush Legacy

The Hill: "Democrats will keep blaming George W. Bush until the problems from his administration end, according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi."

By my initial calculation, there should be enough material to last at least until 2094. Given the state of climate change, though, the problems may not end... ever.

Thanks, Dubya.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

McCain calls for regime change in Iran. Meanwhile, back in the real world...

Senator John McCain called on the United States on Thursday to support regime change in Iran, saying that the latest United Nations sanctions are "inadequate" and that it is unrealistic to expect the current government in Tehran to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, supporting terrorism and cracking down on its own people.

In a speech at the National Endowment for Democracy honoring Iran's dissident Green Movement, Mr. McCain said President Obama's attempt to talk with Tehran has been "defiantly met with a clenched fist" and that the hope that Iran's rulers will finally negotiate in good faith "seems totally at odds with the character of this Iranian regime."

"I believe that it will only be a change in the Iranian regime itself – a peaceful change, chosen by and led by the people of Iran – that could finally produce the changes we seek in Iran's policies," Mr. McCain said. The United States, he said, should "mobilize our friends and allies in like-minded countries" to help the opposition in its challenge to the Tehran government, although he did not specify how that change would be enacted.

Yes, yes, fine. I dislike the Iranian regime, too, and I wish it would be tossed into the dustbin of history. And at least he isn't calling for military action, like his neoconservative pals at The Weekly Standard. But wishing for regime change, wanting it, isn't the same as actually doing something to try to make it happen. And while McCain calls for mobilization of friends and allies and for support to be given to the Iranian opposition, he is notably short on details.

This isn't about changing a pair of pants, after all, it's about changing the regime -- which goes beyond just the current government (which is an expression of the underlying regime, which is deeply entrenched) -- of a significant country in the Middle East, of a significant regional power with an extensive reach beyond its borders, of a nation-state with a large population, a long history, and a powerful ruling establishment rooted in the country's established religion.

Yes, much of the country leans to the West, and there is a vocal opposition movement, but even the more liberal, reform-minded elements, elements that are socio-culturally and perhaps even politically and economically attracted to Americanism, tend to be deeply nationalistic and prideful. Lest we forget, as Amir Farokhi wrote here last year, "Iran's political protesters requested that the U.S. stay out of Iran's political drama," not least because of "the longstanding history of Western interference in Iran's domestic affairs." (And, too, the leader of the Green Movement, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, supports his country's nuclear program.) Pushing regime change -- openly and aggressively, as McCain seems to want -- would likely only succeed in pushing away those who will ultimately be the agents of change, the reformers whose credibility with the Iranian people would be weakened were they to be seen as agents of America.

McCain, as usual, is all talk and no substance, and, in this case, he just doesn't seem to understand Iran at all, articulating a goal without any plan to get there and making comments without any regard for what will actually bring meaningful change to a country that desperately needs it. Thankfully, the man who beat him seems to get it, and, while the Iranian regime remains an intransigent obstacle to peace and stability, Iran is being dealt with in a way that respects the reality of the situation.

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The Alvin Greene Mystery

As I mentioned yesterday, Alvin Greene, the "mystery" candidate who won the Democratic Senate primary in South Carolina on Tuesday, seems to be a bit of a nut (as well as an accused felon). Indeed, the whole thing is just so very odd. As the Post is reporting:

Alvin M. Greene never gave a speech during his campaign to become this state's Democratic nominee for Senate. He didn't start a Web site or hire consultants or plant lawn signs. There's only $114 in his campaign bank account, he says, and the only check he ever wrote from it was to cover his filing fee.

Indeed, in a three-hour interview, the unemployed military veteran could not name a single specific thing he'd done to campaign. Yet more than 100,000 South Carolinians voted for him on Tuesday, handing him nearly 60 percent of the vote and a resounding victory over Vic Rawl, a former judge who has served four terms in the state legislature.

"I'm the Democratic Party nominee," Greene says in the interview at his father's home on a lonely stretch of rural highway in central South Carolina. "The people have spoken. The people of South Carolina have spoken. The people of South Carolina have spoken. We have to be pro-South Carolina. The people of South Carolina have spoken. We have to be pro-South Carolina."

Even that statement seems odd. It's like he's not quite... there.

And yet he won. But how? Perhaps it was because his name came first on the ballot, but that doesn't seem to be an adequate explanation.

Regardless of how he won, there is now speculation that he's a Republican plan. House Majority Whip James Clyburn is even calling for an investigation:

"There were some real shenanigans going on in the South Carolina primary," Clyburn said during an appearance on the liberal Bill Press radio show. "I don't know if he was a Republican plant; he was someone's plant."

The third-ranking House Democrat said he found it strange that Greene, a relative unknown prior to Tuesday, was able to produce the money to register and run for Senate despite being unemployed.

Greene allegedly tried to pay the registation fee in cash, and Clyburn said he wondered whether an outside party might have funded both the fee and Greene's campaign, in violation of federal campaign finance laws. 

Carol Fowler, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, has called on Greene to withdraw from the race.

But the question remains: How did he win? He may be a plant, South Carolina Democrats may have been duped, and campaign finance laws may have been violated, but he still pulled off a stunning victory over a relatively established candidate. Are we supposed to believe not just that he was planted by scheming Republicans but that Republicans somehow manipulated the vote?

I'm all for an investigation, but it still appears to me as if South Carolina Democrats are desperately trying to undo a serious embarrassment, one that has handed the race to Republican incumbent Jim DeMint (who for his part has denied that Greene is a Republican plant). It's unlikely that any Democrat would beat DeMint, a formidable incumbent, but this whole ridiculous "mystery" just makes the party look bad.

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Why the Democratic Party supports anti-Democrats like Blanche Lincoln

Make sure to read this Glenn Greenwald post in full, particularly if, like me, you tend to think of yourself as a fairly loyal Democrat. Here's a chunk of it:

The run-off between Democratic Senate incumbent Blanche Lincoln and challenger Bill Halter, which culminated on Tuesday night in Lincoln's narrow victory, brightly illuminates what the Democratic Party establishment is. Lincoln is supposedly one of those "centrist"/conservative/corporatist Senators who thwarts the good-hearted progressive agenda of the President and the Party. She repeatedly joined with Republicans to support the extremist Bush/Cheney Terrorism agenda (from the the Protect America Act to the Iraq War and virtually everything in between), serves the corporate interests that run Washington as loyally as any member of Congress, and even threatened to join the GOP in filibustering health care reform if it contained the public option which Obama claimed he wanted. Obama loyalists constantly point to the Blanche Lincolns of the world to justify why the Party scorns the values of their voters: Obama can't do anything about these bad Democratic Senators; it's not his fault if he doesn't have the votes, they insist.

Lincoln's 12-year record in the Senate is so awful that she has severely alienated virtually every important Democratic constituency group -- other than the large corporate interests that fund and control the Party. That record, along with her extreme unpopularity in Arkansas, is the reason Accountability Now -- the group I co-founded and run in order, among other things, to recruit primary challengers against corporatist incumbents -- targeted Lincoln and why it expended so much effort and resources to recruit Halter into the race. We knew that most key progressive factions -- grass-roots organizations, progressive blogs, civil liberties groups, and unions -- would want to see Lincoln removed from the Senate, and that's the type of formidable coalition needed to persuade a credible challenger that a 2-term Senate incumbent can be defeated.

So what did the Democratic Party establishment do when a Senator who allegedly impedes their agenda faced a primary challenger who would be more supportive of that agenda? They engaged in full-scale efforts to support Blanche Lincoln. Bill Clinton traveled to Arkansas to urge loyal Democrats to vote for her, bashing liberal groups for good measure. Obama recorded an ad for Lincoln which, among other things, were used to tell African-American primary voters that they should vote for her because she works for their interests. The entire Party infrastructure lent its support and resources to Lincoln -- a Senator who supposedly prevents Democrats from doing all sorts of Wonderful, Progressive Things which they so wish they could do but just don't have the votes for.

I'm all for a big tent that includes centrists/conservatives, and I'm all for standing by incumbents who, for the most part, are good Democrats. But at what cost?

In the case of Blanche Lincoln, who isn't really much of a Democrat at all, it seems to me that the cost is enormous, with the party establishment, including the White House, sacrificing its self-respect and the good of the party, given Lincoln's pro-Republican tendencies, to support an incumbent who opposes much of the establishment's agenda.

It can't just be that she's electable, because she's actually quite beatable this year, and it's not like no other Democrat could hold the seat. Halter certainly would have been a strong candidate.

So why the support? Because Lincoln, in a way, is the Democratic Party:

What's going on here couldn't be clearer if the DNC produced neon signs explaining it. Blanche Lincoln and her corporatist/centrist Senate-friends aren't some unfortunate outliers in the Democratic Party. They are the Democratic Party. The outliers are the progressives. The reason the Obama White House did nothing when Lincoln sabotaged the public option isn't because they had no leverage to punish her if she was doing things they disliked. It was because she was doing exactly what the White House and the Party wanted. The same is true when she voted for Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, serves every corporate interest around, and impedes progressive legislation. Lincoln doesn't prevent the Democratic Party from doing and being what it wishes it could do and be. She enables the Party to do and be exactly what it is, what it wants to be, what serves its interests most. That's why they support her so vigorously and ensured her victory: the Blanche Lincolns of the world are the heart, soul and face of the national Democratic Party. 

I'm still a Democrat, and I'm generally less critical of the party than Glenn is, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that the opposition is so awful. Even Lincoln, after all, looks good compared to the extremists who dominate the GOP.

But Democrats -- real Democrats, Democrats who believe in the party and want it to stand for genuinely liberal-progressive values -- need to take the party back if it is be anything other than a milder version of the Republican Party. The way it is now is simply unacceptable.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sanctioning Iran, an Obama victory

The NYT:

The United Nations Security Council leveled its fourth round of sanctions against Iran's nuclear program on Wednesday, but the measures did little to overcome widespread doubts that they -- or even the additional steps pledged by American and European officials -- would accomplish the Council's longstanding goal: halting Iran's production of nuclear fuel.

The new resolution, hailed by President Obama as delivering "the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government," took months to negotiate and major concessions by American officials, but still failed to carry the symbolic weight of a unanimous decision. Twelve of the 15 nations on the Council voted for the measure, while Turkey and Brazil voted against it and Lebanon abstained.

The United States and Europe acknowledged before negotiations started that they would not get the tough sanctions they were hoping for, promising to enact harsher measures on their own once they had the imprimatur of the United Nations. Congress is expected to pass a package of unilateral sanctions against Iran, and European leaders will begin discussing possible measures at a summit meeting next week. 

Sure, the sanctions could have been tougher (and I support targeted sanctions meant to hurt the government and military, though I prefer a mutifaceted approach that combines sanctions with respect for Iran's national pride and support for its more liberal, pro-reform elements), and it's too bad the vote wasn't unanimous, but I think this is a significant victory for Obama, not least to have Russia and China on board. On this, I agree with Yglesias:

[I]t seems to me that the UN Security Council's vote to impose sanctions on Iran counts as a vindication of Barack Obama's view that taking a more conciliatory approach to the world will help get more cooperation from other world powers on American priorities. 

Obama reached out and tried to engage in serious discussions with Iran, but he was firmly rebuffed. Much to his credit, he is now in a position to lead the international community in addressing Iran's nuclear program, as well as Iran's blatant disregard for the authority of the United Nations, not through reckless military action, which the warmongering neocons desire (and which would backfire terribly), but through tough but sensible measures designed to put pressure on Iran's rogue regime.

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Quote of the Day: Anthony Romero of the ACLU on Obama

Romero's had it, and rightly so:

I'm not disgusted at President Obama personally. It's President Obama's policies on civil liberties and national security issues I'm disgusted by. It's not a personal attack.

What specifically?

It's 18 months and, if not now, when?... Guantanamo is still not closed. Military commissions are still a mess. The administration still uses state secrets to shield themselves from litigation. There's no prosecution for criminal acts of the Bush administration. Surveillance powers put in place under the Patriot Act have been renewed. If there has been change in the civil liberties context, I frankly don't see it.

Many of us don't see it, and Romero of all people is in a good position to know what's going on, and what hasn't changed since Obama took office.

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Is Harry Reid the luckiest man in Nevada?

Maybe so. Facing unpopularity and a touch re-election fight, it looked like he was done... until the Republicans breathed life back into his political career:

After years of maneuvering, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got the race he wanted.

Sharron Angle, a former Reno assemblywoman and Tea Party favorite, emerged from Tuesday’s Republican primary, lifted to a landslide by a solid base of conservative supporters but carrying political baggage that experts say gives the embattled Reid a new lease on political life.

Known as a staunch conservative, Angle now faces the challenge of appealing to the broader electorate, a task made difficult by her rigid ideology — she supports phasing out Social Security and dismantling the Education Department.

Even by Republican standards, Angle is a wacko, and Jonathan Chait already has three posts up detailing just how crazy she is -- see here, here, and here.

In the third post, via David Frum:

In the early years of [the 2000s], there were efforts in the Four Corners states to place Scientology front group programs into prisons at taxpayer’s expense. Sharron Angle, a Nevada legislator, worked very hard to convince her fellows on the legislature that a Scientology front group called Second Chance would be a good program for Nevada prisons.

That's right, she's a teabagger with connections to Scientology.

And in the first post, some helpful perspective:

How crazy is Angle? Glenn Beck -- Glenn Beck! -- warned against her. She is at least somewhat tied to the militia movement. Moreover, she has undergone little scrutiny, and it's a good bet that more will produce of further radical views. Her nomination is just a staggering failure of the party establishment.

Yes, we're bound to get more and more, as we watch the Republicans commit political suicide. I would just advise Reid not to sit down. He's obviously got a massive horseshoe up his ass.

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As goes Arizona. . .

By Capt. Fogg

I'd like to give notice. There must be someone, some registry I can add my name to as one who wishes to officially disassociate myself with the idiocy of America. Those who doubted that our experiment in including the rabble in government would fare any better than the French Revolution did would, if they could, be smiling to read Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott's campaign rhetoric and would spit up in their coffins to read the comments on his website from people responding to his appeal to "stand with Rick Scott" in pushing for an unconstitutional immigration policy. The end should justify the means in Florida and not just in Arizona.

The United States Constitution, like the Bible and the Qur'an are mirrors in which we see our thoughts justified, venal and noble. I hear from people who insist that Arizona is doing what's necessary and if immigrants are second class citizens, required to wear yellow stars and carry papers at all times, it simply doesn't bother them. Of course if the Coast Guard hails and boards their yachts and fishing boats asking for papers; asking about weapons aboard and checking registration and proof of ownership? Why that's unconstitutional!

In fact the constitution demands that the US protect our states from "invasion" by gardeners, fruit pickers, dish washers and day laborers, says one Scott supporter. And of course, it's not racism, says another. It's simply our distaste for infractions of the law, you see. If we were being "invaded" by Canadians, we'd need to do the same thing although since nobody seems to bother tallying up the number of Canadians in the US illegally and fair skinned blue-eyed, people named McKenzie or Scott aren't being stopped in Home Depot parking lots for interrogation. I frankly don't think anyone gives a damn about immigration law or quotas or visas or green cards. I think it's about an ethnically pure America, just as it always has been.

No, I don't deny the need to control immigration. I don't deny that there is a problem with porous borders. I do deny that the problems need to be dealt with by taking away yet another bit of American freedom.

I don't notice much damn being given at all about US agents shooting a Mexican 14 year old on Mexican soil for throwing rocks either. Fox News of course assured us that it was all OK, since the kid was "known to authorities," although in Fox Fashion, no actually authorities were identified or quoted and more than likely weren't actually consulted. Why bother, why care? Something needs to be done and so anything can be done and let's just be done with it.

Will Florida join the Arizona Confederacy and force people with Spanish accents and other unspecified characteristics to stop and furnish papers or be arrested? Will we fire teachers with accents and punish schools that mention Cesar Chavez or that the Seminoles were hunted down like animals and killed and tortured or that an entire Florida town was murdered and no one was prosecuted for it or that (yes, it's true) our fair state tolerated de facto slavery until the 1940's?

If I'm looking at the future when I look at Arizona and listen to Rick Scott, if the near unanimous opinion of my peers is that we have a disaster in the Gulf because of "too much government regulation" I want no part of the insanity, the stupidity, the animal rage, the drooling masses yearning to bring back what my parents' generation and my generation fought to free us from.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Nice felon you got there, South Carolina Dems

I don't think any Dem can beat Republican Sen. Jim DeMint this year -- he's an extremist, but this is South Carolina we're talking about -- but you think the party could have picked a better candidate than the felon-charges-facing Alvin Greene.

That's right, the unknown Greene is an "unemployed 32-year-old black Army veteran with no campaign funds, no signs, and no website" who lives with his parents and "shocked South Carolina on Tuesday night by winning the Democratic Senate primary." He's basically an enormous "mystery," and it was expected that the well-funded Vic Rawl, a former judge and state legislator, would get the nod.

So what happened? According to Mother Jones (link above):

The oddity of Greene's candidacy has already prompted speculation from local media about whether he might be a Republican plant. But Greene denies that Republicans or anyone else had approached him about running. "No, no -- no one approached me. This is my decision," he said. A 13-year military veteran, he says he had originally gotten the idea in 2008 when he was serving in Korea. "I just saw the country was in bad shape two years ago... the country was declining," he says. "I wanted to make sure we continue to go up on the right track." But when asked whether there was a specific person or circumstance that precipitated his decision to jump into politics, Greene simply replied: "nothing in particular... it's just, uh, nothing in particular." South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler speculated that Greene won because his name appeared first on the ballot, and voters unfamiliar with both candidates chose alphabetically.

Greene has yet to speak to any Democratic officials, either. After filing to run, his campaign went dark. According to this report, he didn't show up to the South Carolina Democratic Party convention in April and didn't file any of the required paperwork for candidates with the state or Federal Election Commission. When I spoke to him, the state’s Democrats had yet to contact him after his victory was announced.

Greene insists that he's planning to work with state and national officials to ramp up his campaign and raise money "as soon as I can."

Very, very odd. And he won because he name came first on the ballot? Really? It just seems impossible that an unknown candidate like Greene could win such a prominent vote. Was the party establishment in the state really that clueless?

Well, it's not done yet. As The Hill is reporting:

Less than 24 hours after Alvin Greene's surprise win in the South Carolina Democratic Senate primary, the state party has asked him to withdraw from the race because of a pending felony charge.

"Today I spoke with Alvin Greene, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, and asked him to withdraw from the race," Carol Fowler, chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said in a statement.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Greene is facing felony charges for displaying pornographic pictures to a University of South Carolina student.

Fowler said she didn’t take her decision "lightly."

"I believe strongly that the Democratic voters of this state have the right to select our nominee," she said.

"But this new information about Mr. Greene would certainly have affected the decisions of many of those voters."

That's a serious charge, to be sure, but it's also a convenient one for the party, which appears to be trying to undo a serious embarrassment. 

I almost hope Greene stays in the race, if only because the party deserves the embarrassment of running, and endorsing, an accused felon who seems to be a nut. Besides, it's not like it'll matter either way. DeMint will win in a landslide. In Greene, he just gets his dream candidate, making it all the more easy for him.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Quote of the Day

By Creature

"My name is Eddie Vale of the AFL-CIO and I'm proud to fight for working families and I don't hide behind anonymous quotes." -- in response to the anonymous White House official who (stupidly) bashed the unions for spending money on Halter.

If the White House does one thing well, it's alienating the people they'll need come November.

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Lincoln wins in AR, Whitman and Fiorina win in CA, and more from Primary Night in America

Honestly, I just can't get too worked up about today's primary votes. Given how few people actually vote in these elections, I just don't think they mean nearly as much as the the chattering class of the 24/7 news cycle would have us believe, and I don't think we can learn all that much from them.

Does Sen. Blanche Lincoln's win in Arkansas against a union-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, suggest a broad rejection of efforts to unseat conservative elements of the Democratic establishment? Hardly. Lincoln had the distinct advantage of incumbency, Arkansas is a conservative state, Halter isn't exactly a progressive, the race was ultimately decided by a small group of committed electors (those who bother to vote in primaries), and, as tends to be the case everywhere, politics is as much about personality as about policy. It is certainly disappointing that she won, but perhaps her win will help Democrats hold onto the seat. Better Lincoln than a Republican, after all, regardless of how Republican she often seems to be.

Otherwise, on the other side, the California GOP apparently likes female ex-CEOs, eBay's Meg Whitman for governor (against Jerry Brown) and Hewlett-Packard's Carly Fiorina for senator (against Barbara Boxer); Nevada Republicans chose between two crazies, Sharron "Tea Party" Angle and Sue "chicken bartering" Lowden, to go up against Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid; and, in South Carolina, accused marital cheater and target of intra-party racial/religious abuse Nikki Haley (the now-Methodist daughter of Punjabi Sikhs), backed by Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Jenny Sanford, now heads into a gubernatorial nominee run-off against a four-term Congressman.

Ho-hum. What I take from these and other Republican contests is that the GOP is entrenching itself as a party of rigid ideological extremism, much of it related to teabagging. As if we didn't know that already.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sing Out Barack....

by Distributorcap

The oil "spill" (this ain't no spill, it is a gusher) in the Gulf of Mexico is an ecological debacle unseen in recent times (say the last 2,000 years). The effects of the pollution on wildlife, wetlands, beaches, the fisheries and the natural food chain will be felt for decades.

And the media - are they spending the countless hours they have to fill on discussing and eliciting solutions? No, they are more consumed with chastising:
  • the Obama Administration for being slow to react (they weren't - they were slow to fill the media's endless need for talking heads)
  • President Obama himself for not "reacting" or getting " mad" enough.
So instead of talking about fixing this disaster, hounding BP into doing more, or what the government is doing - the endless hours of chit chat on cable news has been totally focused on Obama's reaction to this tragedy. Not only do they expect the Commander-in-Chief to be an expert in Petroleum Engineering and Marine Biology, the pundits have gone as far as saying it is a requirement for the President perform for the cable shows show emotion. The President is NOT permitted to analyze and manage (those sort of boring actions just simply do not generate ratings), Obama has to perform, emote and ENTERTAIN.

So in honor of the "journalists" on cable TV who require the President of the United States to also be Marlon Brando, the nominees for the Best Performance by a President in a leading role are:
  • George W. Bush for A Streetcar Named Katrina
  • William Clinton for Guys and Interns
  • Gerald Ford for Last Tango in Saigon
  • Richard Nixon* for Teahouse of the August Resignations
  • Barack Obama for On The Oilfront
  • Ronald Reagan for Mutiny on the Challenger
You want to know why the country is full of people ready to vote back the very political party who got us into this mess to begin with - just watch 15 minutes of any cable "news" show and you will quickly see why. There is never a discussion on solutions to the problem, or ways to prevent future disasters - it is always about how awful someone is doing. It is hours and hours of a trashing-fest.

Criticism for ratings criticisms sake. Constructive - no way. Destructive - the conversations from this so called pundits are actually probably more destructive to this country than the oil plumes on the Gulf floor.

Oh and the winner is....

*special write-in nominee from Nonnie

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Torture, human experimentation, and Bush-Cheney war crimes

More disturbing details are emerging about the torture regime of the Bush-Cheney years:

High-value detainees captured during the Bush administration's "war on terror," who were subjected to brutal torture techniques, were used as "guinea pigs" to gauge the effectiveness of various torture techniques, a practice that has raised troubling comparisons to Nazi-era human experimentation, according to a disturbing new report released by Physicians for Human Rights, an international doctors' organization.

PHR, based in Massachusetts, called on President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and the US Congress to launch investigations into the role of physicians and psychiatric experts in the monitoring and assessments of the brutal interrogations.

"Health professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA monitored the interrogations of detainees, collected and analyzed the results of [the] interrogations, and sought to derive generalizable inferences to be applied to subsequent interrogations," said the 27-page report, entitled "Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the 'Enhanced' Interrogation Program." "Such acts may be seen as the conduct of research and experimentation by health professionals on prisoners, which could violate accepted standards of medical ethics, as well as domestic and international law. These practices could, in some cases, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Americans don't seem to want to know about the darker side of what was done in their name, about all the brutality behind the stars and stripes, but all those responsible for these atrocities, including those at the top who signed off on this torture regime, deserve nothing less than to be punished as the war criminals they are.

Meanwhile, despite Obama's efforts, America's purported ideals still lie in tatters.

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Pyongyang politics

North Korea has reshuffled its top leadership at a rare second session of its parliament, state media says.

Top leader Kim Jong-il attended the session, KCNA news agency said, after missing the previous one on 9 April.

Choe Yong-rim replaced Kim Yong-il as premier -- the official responsible for the communist state's economic policy.

State media also said that Mr Kim's brother-in-law, Chang Song-taek, was promoted to a powerful military post on the National Defence Commission.

Mr Chang is thought to be a backer of a hereditary succession involving Mr Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

Fascinating, in a way, insofar as it possibly has to so with succession plans, that is, with Kim planning for the post-Kim era by making sure his own people are in the right places.

Obviously, though, it would be for the best, not least for the brutalized North Korean people, if Kim's awful regime were to be obliterated, wiped off the face of the earth, somehow.

In the meantime, here's hoping North Korea gets crushed at the World Cup. (Though I'm sure the state-run media will find some excuse to explain away the crushing.)

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Craziest Conservative of the Day: Robert Knight

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

As I've mentioned here before, one of the interesting (and sometimes unpleasant) things about being a blogger (and member of the political commentariat) with a public e-mail address is that I find myself on many different mailing lists. Like, for example, those of a number of (mostly Democratic) Sens and Reps on Capitol Hill.

And of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington.

And of the theocratic right-wing Coral Ridge Ministries, founded by D. James Kennedy. Which the other day sent me this:

Dear Media:

In this Washington Times opinion piece, Coral Ridge Ministries Senior Writer Robert Knight challenges the moral relativism of columnist George Will and others who support allowing open homosexuals to serve in the military.

Please let me know if you would like to speak with Mr. Knight about this column.

Andrew Scott [e-mail address] or [phone number]

The "opinion piece" is pretty much what you'd expect, a conservative religious rant against gays in the military, and against homosexuality generally, and in support of right-wing Christian theocracy:

And what about the Creator of the Universe? It is God's moral code that has undergirded Western society for more than 3,500 years. God's intelligent design – marriage – is the glue that holds it together.

It's just more of the same old biblical bigotry that we've come to expect from the religious right, and it hardly deserves a response.

But what's amusing, in a way, is that Knight calls Will, one of America's leading conservative commentators (and, in Knight's words, "one of the smartest men in Washington"), a moral relativist for suggesting (rightly, I would add) that "homosexuality will soon be a non-issue in the military," that is, for not being a fellow bigot. Similarly, Knight accuses Charles Krauthammer, another die-hard conservative, of being "aboard the gay express" (whatever that is), before ignorantly claiming that "the myth persists that science has established that people are 'born gay.'"

All those who do not agree with the biblical bigotry of Knight and his ilk, you see, a bigotry that is common in Knight's Christian circles (as well as in Republican circles), are moral relativists -- including some of America's leading conservatives. But this is where the religious right is, well to the right of the more establishment, more secular conservatism of Will and Krauthammer.

How truly enjoyable it is to sit back and watch conservatives, however extreme, however crazy, attempt to commit fratricide.

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Thoughts on Helen Thomas

While I suppose I often admired the now-retired Helen Thomas for speaking truth to power (or at least for asking tough questions of presidents and their mouthpieces), I must admit that I found much of the liberal enthusiasm for her somewhat overdone. She has long been, after all, a crank, with a knack not so much for asking probing questions but for making superficial political observations from a blunt ideological perspective. I generally share that perspective, yes, but there was something uncomfortably unprofessional about her tired shtick. (Which is not to say that her generally weak-kneed colleagues were/are any more professional or any better at their jobs. They weren't, and aren't.)

Her recent comment that Israeli Jews should just "go home" to Poland or Germany (or the U.S.) was indeed "reprehensible," as Robert Gibbs said, not to mention ignorant, insensitive, and downright stupid. And it does seem that her position was really no longer tenable and that she made the right decision to retire, though it is a shame that her long and distinguished career ended on such a sour note.

I must note, though, as others have (including Libby, Taylor, and Steve), that what Thomas said was hardly all that much worse than what many on the right say day after day, whether it's Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Pat Buchanan or, or, or -- the list goes on and on and on. They, for some reason, can get away with spewing their bigotry while Thomas is vilified, including by the White House, for a single "reprehensible" comment, one that he actually apologized for. When has one of these conservative bigots ever apologized for anything? They continue to pollute the airwaves (and in some cases to make millions), but Thomas is the one forced out of her job and dragged through the mud? I'd say that's a pretty blatant double standard -- though, to be sure, liberals can usually be held to much higher standards than conservatives, and more and better ought to be expected of them.

Anyway, there really isn't much more to say. One ugly remark should not define a career, and there was much more to admire than to object to.

Farewell, Helen Thomas.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

The Chosen People

By Distributorcap

from her blog....

Karen Hanretty is a political and communications strategist who specializes in strategic communications, issue advocacy and political campaigns. Over the past decade, Hanretty has developed a strong reputation for taking complex issues and creating news coverage that explains the underlying political motivations that drive public policy.

On The Ed Show - Monday, June 7, 2010, Karen Hanretty and Laura Flanders were "discussing" (someone like Hanretty does not discuss - she talks over, yells and simply lies) Helen Thomas' remarks about Israel and her resignation. Hanretty, who nastiness just oozes from each pore, only had to say one line to demonstrate her strong reputation for taking complex issues and creating news coverage.

Hanretty (to Flanders): "Only a liberal would defend anti-semitism." 

Let's take a look at some of those "liberal" anti-semites and/or people who have said some incredibly horrendous things about Jews.

Richard Nixon, disgraced President
Prescott Bush, grandfather of a President
Father Coughlin, radio announcer
Charles Lindbergh, hero pilot
Henry Ford, car manker
H L Mencken, writer
Theodore Dreiser, writer
Elizabeth Dilling, writer
Bamberg County, SC GOP Chairman Edwin Merwin
Orangeburg County, SC GOP Chairman James Ulmer
Tennessee Republican Chairman Robin Smith
Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson
Fred Malek, Richard Nixon's "Jew Counter" (who was just hired by Gov. McDonnell of VA)
Ann "Jews should be perfected" Coulter

(please add some more)

so a little editing...

Karen Hanretty is a political and communications hack who specializes in strategic idiocy, anger advocacy, and political lies. Over the past decade, Hanretty has developed a strong reputation for taking complex issues and creating over-simplified sound bites that explains the underlying psychological motivations that drive Republicans, greed and selfishness.

There are certain words to describe someone like Hanretty... I leave it one's imagination.

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Steven Chu, gamma rays, and the triumph of science

The Obama Administration may not be home to the best, but it certainly includes some of the brightest. Take, for example, Energy Secretary (and Nobel laureate) Steven Chu, who is actually rather brilliant. the WaPo, via Ezra Klein:

Obama has also called in some of the many scientists on the federal payroll, led by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Chu at one point pushed the unusual idea of using gamma rays to peer into the blowout preventer to determine if its valves were closed, a technique he experimented with in graduate school while studying radioactive decay.

The suggestion at first elicited snickering and "Incredible Hulk" jokes. Then they tried it, and it worked. "They weren't hot on his ideas," a senior White House official said of BP's initial reaction to Chu's suggestions. "Now they are."

Whatever else we may say about Obama, one thing that distinguishes him clearly from his predecessor is his respect for science (and therefore for the search for truth). Where Bush and his administration undermined it (for example, with respect to climate change), turning instead to theocratic Christian moralism, Obama, who (admirably) lacks Bush's self-righteous sense of absolute certitude, seems more than willing (perhaps often to a fault) to reach out to those who have a sense of what's actually going on and who can, with their expertise, propose meaningful solutions to the challenges of the real world, such as the disaster in the Gulf.

Lest we forget, we've come a long way from the Dark Ages of Dubya.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Haley Barbour

I think we can all agree that it doesn't get much crazier, or blowhardian, than Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a man who is as Republican as they come (and who therefore really ought to be the GOP presidential candidate in '12). On Fox News yesterday, Barbour said that "we have had virtually no oil" along the coast of his state, other than the usual "tar balls":

The average viewer to this show thinks that the whole coast from Florida to Texas is ankle-deep in oil... So it may be hard for the viewer to understand, but the worst thing for us has been how our tourist season has been hurt by the misperception of what is going on down here. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is beautiful. As I tell people, the coast is clear. Come on down!

I'm not sure what the "average viewer" thinks, but I think it's fair to say that most people who are paying any attention to the disaster in the Gulf are seized of its severity. No, the oil isn't "ankle-deep," but there still a lot of oil coming ashore, mostly (thus far) in Louisiana. Barbour is right that Mississippi has been spared, for the most part, but his comments are ignorant, insensitive, and misleading.

Simply put, the coast isn't clear, and it's only going to get worse over the summer and into fall as BP works to fix the leak. And the impact on wildlife, the environment, the fishing industry, tourism, and the economy, not to mention on the millions and millions of people affected by the disaster in one way or another, is immense. This is the reality of the horribly bleak situation along the Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, as Think Progress notes:

Barbour has consistently refused to accept the gravity of the situation in the Gulf, and blamed the media for supposedly over-hyping the disaster. He's compared oil to tooth paste, said all the oil on Mississippi's beaches could barely "fill up a milk jug," and handed out gas cards to encourage tourists to "[c]ome on down here and play golf, enjoy the beach, catch a fish." Meanwhile, dead dolphins have washed ashore on Mississippi's beaches.

Barbour went on to suggest that President Obama was "destroying himself" by not adequately responding to the spill, but he had nothing negative to say of BP. Barbour -- who received $1.8 million from oil and gas companies for his gubernatorial campaign -- explained, "When we ask BP for something, they try to do it." The lobbying firm Barbour founded relied highly on oil industry clients, with Barbour personally lobbying for regulation changes to the Bush White House. 

Come on down? Please. I certainly don't wish harm on the people of Mississippi, who need their tourism and fishing dollars, but their governor's an idiot. (They need a real leader to help steer them through this crisis, not a right-wing cheerleader.)

Haley Barbour: a hyper-partisan, reality-denying ignoramus backed by the oil industry. He's a crazy blowhard, but he's pretty much your perfect Republican.

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Truth in Comics

By Creature

If it's Sunday, it's Truth in Comics.

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