Saturday, August 07, 2010

Arcade Remedies

by Distributorcap

You have to hand it to the right and the teabaggers - they bring the definition of fickle to a new level. While one side of their recti mouths talk about being "strict constitutionalists" and how "activist jurists" are ruining the country, the other side talks about changing (or rather just getting rid of) amendments that do not fit their vision of 21st century lebensraum.

We can make this easy for the teabaggers. Lets take the Amendments that they find problematic like:
  • 1st - with that pesky freedom of religion clause allowing a terrorist shrine mosque to be built in lower Manhattan
  • 14th - with the annoying definition of citizenship clause allowing all those illegals to give birth here
  • 17th - with the anachronistic law that gives the people direct election of their Senators
  • Commerce Clause - with that ridiculous law that gives Congress power to regulate the economy
and line them up in the Constitutional Shooting Gallery. The we can have the absolute, cannot-be-touched, well-defined and non-negotiable 2nd Amendment "get rid of" the ones they don't like - using Sharron Angle's 2nd Amendment Remedy as the game plan.

If you take out all four with four shots, you win a Grizzly Mama.

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Outbidding of a different sort in Iraq

By Peter Henne

The concept of outbidding has become popular among scholars, most significantly in
Jack Snyder's influential book on the connection between democratization and war, From Voting to Violence. Basically, these studies argue that two groups competing for power will adopt increasingly dramatic rhetoric and tactics--like bidders driving prices higher in an auction--a process that can lead to severe violence.

A recent article in this vein from the San Francisco Chronicle caught my attention. Apparently, the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) are offering cash to members of the "Sunni Awakening"--Sunni militias who turned against AQI and cooperated with US forces--to rejoin the militant movement. The Iraqi government is currently in charge of paying the militias' salaries; it has fallen woefully behind, so some may turn to other employment. This is outbidding in a literal sense: whoever pays the most gets the fighters.

There are two take-aways from this story. The first is the importance of ensuring the Iraqi government functions properly, as frustrated Sunnis may join AQI if they see little sign of support from the government. The second, though, is the weakness this demonstrates on the part of AQI. Back when Osama bin Ladin first appeared on the international scene, he expected his calls for Islamic revival and opposition to the West to mobilize Muslims worldwide. Now, little over a decade after he declared "war" on the "West," what many thought would be AQ's strongest affiliate is reduced to buying supporters, like a kid making friends through a steady stream of ice cream from his mom's freezer.

The story says AQI is offering $100 more a month than the militias currently receive. I'm sure the United Nations or other relevant international bodies could scrape together $100/fighter. This might even spark more outbidding, forcing AQI to raise its offers until it prices itself out of the market. I'm not one to be optimistic, but it's worth a shot.

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Never forget 9/11

Unless it might cost offshore corporations some taxes, that is.

By Capt. Fogg

Well, industry self regulation has been a great thing for America, hasn't it? We've all become prosperous and freedom is ringing everywhere here in Utopia now that industries we depend on can write laws and make national policy in secret. Now that they can write their own permission slips to embark on dangerous and ill advised policies and of course give unlimited financial support to politicians who handle the paperwork for them. Of course it's not government intrusion - it's not even government, at least not a government elected by or responsible to the American people. Private security companies can fight our wars for us without having to tell us what they do or how they do it - they're private, after all. Responsibility and accountability are, of course, COMMUNISM, as some Republicans have told us. Paying for the damage you've done is a shameful thing to ask of a Corporate Lord - the very kind of government intrusion that might take a burden off the taxpayer and place it on the corporate elite. That damned Obama!

It's all worked out so very well that there's hardly anything left to privatize, except perhaps justice itself. Now that the BP leak seems to have been plugged, it's time to figure out what went wrong and why it went wrong and who allowed it to go wrong. Who better to examine the evidence but BP, Transocean and Halliburton? We can't have our enemy, the government we elected, mucking about and trying to place blame on the guilty instead of Barack Obama, the "enviros" and the customary straw men. Offshore based companies in the business of exploiting American resources for their own profit must always be protected from the consequences of their actions and from the wrath of fish hugging liberals.

So important is that, that our own Whorehouse of Representatives is willing to sacrifice the 9/11 responders suffering from serious illnesses resulting from their efforts on behalf of our country, and why? Because of a rider that attempted to disadvantage Corporations like our beloved master Halliburton that has moved to Dubai so as not to pay takes on the windfall profits we've given them and perhaps to be out of reach when we notice how many billions they have let disappear without explanation.

It's OK, we don't want or ask for an explanation because nothing matters but taxes and if we're really nice, Baron BP and Lord Halliburton will cut taxes and we'll all be rich!

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone!

With Roger Waters's permission, and with half the proceeds going to Amnesty International, an Iranian-Canadian Toronto duo called Blurred Vision has recorded a version of "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" (the "We don't need no education" part) that changes the line "Hey teacher, leave those kids alone!" to "Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone!"

As some of you know, I love Pink Floyd (and I'll be at the Air Canada Center on Sept. 15 for the first show of Waters's Wall tour). And I'm a purist. I generally dislike covers of Floyd songs. But this one's pretty good, respectful of the original, and of course it's for a good cause.

Or, rather, two good causes: for Amnesty International and against Iran's oppressive and unjust theocratic regime, which really ought to be obliterated. (No, no, not necessarily through American military intervention, which I oppose and which would likely fail, but preferably through reform from within.)

Here's the video:

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President Bullshit

While I have been sharply critical of much of what President Obama has done in his first year and a half in office, such as on the Afghan War, I have often given him the benefit of the doubt even as he has consistently governed far more as an establishmentarian centrist than as a transformational progressive, repelling his base by often being overly cautious, overly friendly to Republican interests, and far too much like his predecessor.

On same-sex marriage, though, I do not give him the benefit of the doubt and find his position reprehensible at a time when his leadership on the issue would be welcome:

President Obama remains opposed to same-sex marriage despite a federal judge's decision to strike down a ban on such marriages, a top White House adviser said Thursday.

Senior adviser David Axelrod said the president supports "equality" for gay and lesbian couples, but did not address directly Obama's position on Wednesday's court ruling, which struck down as unconstitutional California's Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in the state.

"The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples, and benefits and other issues, and that has been effectuated in federal agencies under his control," Axelrod said on MSNBC.  

It's not entirely clear to me whether Obama's opposition to same-sex marriage is moral/personal or cynically political, but I suspect it's more the latter than the former. Either way, there's no excuse for it, particularly in the wake of Judge Vaughn Walker's clear and decisive ruling yesterday striking down California's bigoted Proposition 8.

How exactly do you support equality but oppose same-sex marriage? By supporting separate-but-equal civil unions? Please. To me, that's hair-splitting for political purposes.

Obama has been slow to do anything to support gay and lesbian Americans, including with respect to getting rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military, but his continued opposition to allowing homosexual couples to marry -- as if that would be such a terrible thing, as if homosexual couples are inferior to heterosexual ones, as if civilization itself would collapse if the institution of marriage were extended beyond divorce-prone straights, arguments thoroughly rejected by Judge Walker -- is pure cowardice. Unless, of course, he really does think that marriage should be reserved exclusively for heterosexuals, in which case he's an idiot and a bigot.

Yes, I just said that, and I mean it. On this issue, one that speaks directly to the heart of American liberty and equality, there is simply no excuse. I still think very highly of the president, and I still think he can do a great deal of good in office, but it's time for him to be the genuinely historic figure so many of us hoped he would be.

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Stuff to read (8/6/10): Madden NFL

Sorry, haven't done this in quite some time -- quick recommendations for what to read today. Here you go:

-- ESPN: "The Franchise: The inside story of how 'Madden NFL' became a video game dynasty," by Patrick Hruby. The latest "Outside the Lines" feature at "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" is a fascinating look at the history of EA's Madden video game, going right back to EA founder Trip Hawkins' boyhood dreams. I don't play Madden other than occasionally on my iPod. I suspect that I'd become obsessed with it and that it would take up far too much of my time as I tried to perfect it, time I just don't have, but there's no denying the game's massive popularity and influence. And it's come an awfully long way, as technology has generally, since Hawkins and Joe Ybarra pitched it to John Madden himself on an Amtrak ride in 1984, and then since it was released as "John Madden Football" for the Apple II in 1988. And of course it continues to evolve, year after year. Even if you don't play it, this fairly long piece is definitely worth checking out.

Actually, that's it for today -- I've been too tired the past few days to do much reading other than what I do normally for the blog -- but keep checking back here for more to read, too. There'll be most posts, and I'll have a music video for your Friday afternoon enjoyment, too.

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Kagan confirmed

In case you missed it yesterday:

The Senate confirmed Elena Kagan to a seat on the Supreme Court on Thursday, giving President Obama his second appointment to the court in a year and a victory over Republicans who sharply challenged her credentials and record.

Ms. Kagan, who is set to be sworn in Saturday as the newest member of the court, was approved by a vote of 63 to 37 after hearings and floor debate that showcased the competing views of Democrats and Republicans about the court but exposed no significant stumbling blocks to her confirmation.

She wouldn't have been my pick, but, then, I would have preferred it if Obama had nominated a genuinely progressive jurist and not someone whose major accomplishment seems to have been to have gotten along with conservatives at Harvard.

But, alas...

Still, it's a big victory, if an expected one, for Obama and the Democrats, and perhaps, just perhaps, Kagan will surprise for the better. It is certainly worrying that she seems to have reached the Supreme Court without holding strong views on anything -- she seems almost to be defined by her wishy-washiness -- but she might just find her liberal voice now that she's there.

Here's hoping, anyway. What else can we do?

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Dan Maes

Chait's right: "Another Day, Another Whackjob." (That's what we help keep track of here at The Reaction with our ongoing Craziest Republican series.) The mind is boggled:

Today it's Colorado gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are "converting Denver into a United Nations community.

"This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed," Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor's efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes "that's exactly the attitude they want you to have."

"This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms," Maes said.

You have to be wary of selective anecdotes, but it sure seems that instances of non-marginal Republican candidates or elected officials saying crazy things are on the upswing. It's a barometer of the Republican Party's descent into madness.

Got that? This guy isn't some fringe player in the GOP, he's quite possibly the Republican candidate for governor of Colorado -- the primary is on Aug. 10, and he has a good shot at winning it.

And this very mainstream Republican thinks that bike riding is part of some anti-American plot to subvert freedom and destroy America.

Paranoia? Craziness? You betcha... but pretty much par for the course in today's GOP.

The Republican descent into madness seems to be taking place in a bottomless pit.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mobile email and its discontents

By Peter Henne

I had half-expected the UAE and Saudi ban on some BlackBerry services to be an esoteric topic; the details of telecommunications policy in Gulf states is hardly a regular conversation point. As a DC resident, however, I daily wade through seas of people made oblivious to the world around them by these devices. For better or worse, mobile access to the internet and email is the lifeblood of many, so this story is of concern to both the business and human rights communities.

Two aspects of the story stand out. The first is the rather technical justification put forward by Saudi and UAE authorities. The UAE has claimed they want only the "same regulatory compliance" that other states demand from telecommunications companies, while the Saudis talk of "regulatory requirements." Most agree this is blatant censorship, but it is useful to compare it to Pakistan's blasphemy-based justifications for recent limitations on internet access. This hardly endeared the Pakistani government to international opinion, but it did generate support among some religious conservatives. That the Gulf states--especially Saudi Arabia--seem to be avoiding religious appeals demonstrates the balancing act involved in their attempt to be an integral part of the global economy.

The second interesting element is how widespread moves to censor BlackBerry seem to be. Both India and Lebanon have been moving towards similar controls. And Indonesia apparently considered limitations on email access, but recently claimed there would be no ban on the services. That relatively open countries like India and Indonesia are concerned about BlackBerry access shows these policies are not tied to the peculiarities of the Gulf states.

The efforts to limit BlackBerry access are part of the tension between states benefiting from the free flow and ideas and resources in the modern international system, and their desire to limit their vulnerability from these flows. The problem is not that these states have a limited understanding of the Internet--as some have argued--but that they understand it all too well.

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It's all opinion

By Capt. Fogg

And thus spake Fox:

"The Ninth Circuit court as a record of being overturned" said one voice at the table.
"Obviously it deserves to be" said another. "This judge just doesn't understand the situation."
"Well she's famous for making rulings based on her opinion. What we need are decisions based on law!"

Of course, like most clubs, mine has a policy discouraging political talk at the dinner table, but in practice, that means "Liberals shut up, Fox is talking here."

Wednesday evening at the would have been a good time to start a diet, my appetite fading as my gorge rose. Yet I said nothing. Nothing would have mattered or could have stood up to the wave of regurgitated Fox propaganda. None of those present had any background in constitutional law and like virtually all Americans have a very hazy view of what it says: indeed a hazy view of the entire Arizona Immigration law in general. But they have opinions to support any inchoate anger -- the anger and the opinions furnished by Fox News and all it costs is your freedom.

Opinion? What is a judicial decision but an opinion of what the law says? Yes, of course Article 1 section 8, clause 4 of the constitution gives all power over naturalization to the US congress, but does that grant exclusive power to regulate immigration? Perhaps there is a valid discrimination to be made, but if so, the conservative one would be that the Constitution does give the Federal Government sole power to determine who will require a visa, have a visa and what the terms thereof shall be and so it's reserved to the Federal Government to enforce those rules and no to some small town Sheriff or small minded Arizona governor buying votes from the hysterical mob.

Yes, sure, that's an opinion. As I said, any court decision is the opinion of the court and to any intelligent person, the law is open to interpretation and always will be - that's why we have the ninth circuit court in the first place. Should I be impressed that my dining companions are so knowledgeable about the history of that court? Not at all, since their rhetorical unanimity shows them to be a conduit leading from Roger Ailes's rectum to my ears. It's all opinion, but not reasoned opinion based on the law. It's based as Ailes has asserted publicly, about ratings and the sales value of anger.

My nausea having begun to subside, I was formulating a polite reply, but the rush to get home in time to watch Hannity and Beck preempted the effort. I haven't been back.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Come Here Often, H8r?

By Carl
Sanity rules, in the form of Judge Vaughan Walker.
In the event you slept through yesterday and by some miraculous turn of fate, this is the first news source you turn to each morning, Proposition 8 was struck down in California yesterday. The ruling, based heavily on Article 8 and Article 14 of the Constitution, basically says that it is illegal to ban marriage based on a moral repugnance.
"The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote.
Equal treatment under the law. Homosexuals are no less (or no more) human than heterosexuals (or "opposite lovers"). Since the law is based solely on opinion and not scientific, factual evidence, this ruling should likely stand up to appeal. Until the SCOTUS, where who knows what will happen.
A side note: expect a similar challenge to be raised to Arizona's odious "illegal brown people" law.
American history is full of examples that show you cannot legislate morality. Some may oppose gay marriage on moral grounds, but their truly is no factual, legal basis to prevent two adults from marrying. Period. End of discussion.
Our President may oppose gay marriage on moral grounds and he's entitled to that opinion, as wrong-headed as it is. I support the right of any two people to be as miserable as any married couple. Other noted liberals have held abortion to be morally repugnant, yet have supported Roe v. Wade, most notably Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York and perennial Presidential Hamlet. 
That's not to say that morals have no basis in legislation or governance. We ban killing someone for its criminal act, but also for the moral force of our beliefs. Morality also plays into deciding what punishment the killer should receive: were their mitigating circumstances, does the evidence suggest a homicide rather than murder, and so on.
Where it has to stop is depriving someone of a common civil right based solely on how you judge them to be, morally. A murderer who is serving his sentence may legally be deprived of his freedom to wander the streets-- his behavior has warranted that-- but not his civil right to an attorney. An innocent person may not be deprived of ANY right, whether to an attorney, to wander the streets or to express his devotion to another adult before the law. 
You may find that morally repugnant. I do not. If you do, you are free to socially deny that couple what you personally could offer them: friendship, your assistance, what have you. Your church may deny them the permission to hold a wedding in their facilities. That's still allowed after this ruling.
The state, however, is supposed to be above moral judgements in these matters. Judge Walker has ruled correctly.
The delicious ironies of this case?
Judge Walker was originally nominated to the Federal bench by Ronald Reagan. His nomination was stalled at that time because he was lead counsel on a suit brought by the US Olympic Committee to prevent the "Gay Olympics" from using the word "Olympics" (it's referred to now as the "Gay Games" for that reason).
And...Judge Walker is gay.  
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Federal judge strikes down California's anti-gay Proposition 8

Surely by now you've heard the great news:

Saying that it discriminates against gay men and women, a federal judge in San Francisco struck down California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday, handing supporters of such unions at least a temporary victory in a legal battle that seems all but certain to be settled by the Supreme Court.

Wednesday's decision is just the latest chapter in what is expected to be a long battle over the ban — Proposition 8, which was passed in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. Indeed, while striking down Proposition 8, the decision will not immediately lead to any new same-sex marriages being performed in California. Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, immediately stayed his own decision, pending appeals by proponents of Proposition 8, who seem confident that higher courts would hear and favor their position.

But on Wednesday the winds seemed to be at the back of those who feel that marriage is not, as the voters of California and many other states have said, solely the province of a man and a woman.

"Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause," wrote Judge Walker. "Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest."

Those of you familiar with this blog will know that we are staunch supporters of same-sex marriage, and we write about it frequently. All I'll add here -- as I have very little time to blog tonight, with work demanding my attention -- is that this is a huge step in the right direction that, in the end, may not mean much at all, given that the Supreme Court, with its current 4-4-1 divide, will undoubtedly end up ruling on the (un)constitutionality of Prop 8.

Still, there is good reason to celebrate, and we should not let this victory mean nothing -- instead, we should build on it, and keep fighting, riding the momentum to push for the legalization of same-sex marriage not just in California but across the land, as it is here in Canada, and for the full recognition of gays and lesbians as equal citizens with the same rights as everyone else.

As I tweeted a while ago: "With Prop 8 overturned and Muslim comm. center near Ground Zero going ahead, these are good days for liberty and the liberals who defend it."

Stay tuned for more from us on this issue, as on so many others. In the meantime, make sure to check out the reaction over at Memeorandum.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Allawi: Still our safest bet in Iraq?

Before I launch into the blogging, I'd like to introduce myself. I've appeared several times on The Reaction as a guest contributor, and was fortunate enough to be asked to contribute more frequently. I am a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University, where my research focuses on the foreign policy of Muslim states and terrorism; I am also a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project. I have contributed to The Moderate Voice and Huffington Post, and my pieces have appeared in Real Clear World, GOOD, The Duck of Minerva, and the Washington Post/Newsweek's "On Faith" feature. I will be writing primarily on US foreign policy, and international issues.


Now to today's topic: Iraq.

Despite being an aspiring foreign policy wonk, I at first failed to realize the significance of August 31st, 2010. That is the date the US combat mission in Iraq will end. It is not that I was unaware of this date, or forgot. Instead, it was the near-absence of Iraq from much public discourse, despite continuing tension over the fallout of the spring's parliamentary elections. As I have been arguing since the elections, however, that contest's winner -- Iyad Allawi -- is the safest bet for US efforts to stabilize Iraq, a bet that has only become safer since the elections. The domestic political climate in the United States makes an increased focus on Iraq unlikely, but it could prove valuable for Democrats' political prospects in November.

Shortly after the election, I pointed out the potential for Allawi to stabilize Iraq, and later highlighted the dangers posed by US inaction and al-Maliki returning to power. This latest phase in Iraq's struggle began with March's parliamentary elections. Allawi, a secular Shiite and former Prime Minister who was initially placed in power by the United States, won a slim majority over the incumbent Nouri al-Maliki. Allawi won in part through support from secular-minded Iraqis, but also through the votes of many Sunnis -- who were wary of al-Maliki -- and divisions between al-Maliki and some of the religious parties who had been his partners. The vote was too close to call, however, and al-Maliki refused to relinquish power. The ensuing stalemate continues -- despite intervention by Vice President Biden -- resulting in sectarian tensions and degraded government capabilities.

My arguments about the danger al-Maliki poses still hold true. Al-Maliki proved willing to stir up sectarian sentiment when it benefited him politically, then re-framed himself as an Iraqi nationalist when facing opposition among some Shiites. His attempts after the election to hold on to power, which included threatening comments about his role as commander of the military and a move to disqualify some candidates in Allawi's bloc due to reputed Baathist ties, demonstrate he is still likely to place personal advancement over Iraq's stability.

Yet, there is also much going for Allawi besides not being al-Maliki. Allawi proved a responsible and effective leader, albeit one undone by his U.S. ties. Moreover, his Shiite identity and secular tendencies make him legitimate to a majority of Iraqis and less threatening to its Sunni and Kurdish minorities than the more Islamist al-Maliki. Finally, his Sunni-Shia coalition gives him cross-cutting appeal. This provides Sunnis a stake in the system and Allawi a disincentive to draw on sectarian tensions to increase his political standing, as this would alienate many of his supporters.

This has only become clearer in the months since the election. Al-Maliki continued his dangerous posturing, and Iraq's fragile political system is coming under increasing stress. But there are signs al-Maliki is losing ground to Allawi. The Shiite religious bloc al-Maliki was counting on to deliver a majority recently indicated they may negotiate with Allawi. If these two were to merge, this would give Allawi a clear majority and further dampen sectarian tension, as it would unite secular Shiites, religious Shiites, and Sunnis in one governing coalition.

This is where August 31st comes in. U.S. officials are hoping for a stable political system in Iraq to ensure fighting does not erupt as our troops leave. Despite Biden's admirable efforts, there has been little else in terms of U.S. assistance in resolving Iraq's political impasse, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Democrats are trying to paint this as a success in terms of removing the United States from the conflict and are unlikely to advocate enhanced involvement in the country. Republicans, meanwhile, have little to offer in terms of positive policy suggestions, counting on opposition and denunciation to carry them to victory in November.

It would be a grave mistake, however, if Democrats let the potential posed by Allawi to pass by. This is partly about Iraq; absent U.S. assistance, it is very likely al-Maliki will manage to hold on to power, which would only exacerbate the rising violence in that country. It is also about November. A decisive victory by Allawi would help stabilize the country, which can allow Obama to withdraw from Iraq without being accused of leaving mid-mission. And by actively supporting Allawi - -the winner in a relatively fair election -- Democrats can signal their commitment to progressive ideals like freedom and democracy (remember?) as well as their sophisticated approach to international issues. Finally, and most importantly, these moves would show continued commitment to the troops who have served their country in Iraq, even as many Americans -- including Republicans -- seem to want to forget this conflict. If the current trend continues, however, Iraq may turn out to be yet another tragic footnote in the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

(Previously posted at The Huffington Post.)

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More South Carolina Republicans censure Lindsey Graham

Poor Lindsey Graham -- I say facetiously. Other than best pal John McCain, and maybe a few other senators, no one seems to like him, including in his solidly red home state of South Carolina, where he has been censured yet again by his own party:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who often finds himself out of step with the most conservative elements of his party, was censured by yet another GOP county party committee Monday night.

In recent months, Graham has been censured by GOP party committees in Lexington and Charleston counties. On Monday, the Greenville GOP Executive Committee passed a censure resolution by a vote of 61-2.

"THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Greenville County Republican Party hereby issues this formal rebuke of Senator Graham for his cooperation and support of President Obama and the Democratic Party's liberal agenda for the United States," the resolution reads.

The resolution says Graham will no longer be invited to participate in meetings or other events sponsored by the Greenville County Republican Party, and alleges Graham has "abandoned the Republican platform."

As evidence, the resolution cites Graham's votes in favor of TARP, his stance on immigration and his vote in favor of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Graham has said he will also vote for Elena Kagan, President Obama's second nominee to the high court.

Yes, but Graham also pulled back on immigration, as well as on the comprehensive energy/climate bill he was co-sponsoring with Kerry and Lieberman, and it takes a great leap of stupidity (common among Republicans everywhere these days) to accuse him of supporting any sort of "liberal agenda."

Not that I'm defending him, mind you (even if I'm a bit sympathetic, given the vicious heat he's taken from the right with respect to his sexuality). He can be a bit mavericky now and then, but he usually tows the GOP line and is for the most part reliably conservative -- where was he on health-care reform, for example?

If there's anything wrong with him from a right-wing Republican perspective, it's not that he's a Democrat in Republican clothing (as, perhaps, one could say of Charlie Crist), it's that he seems to lack a principled core, an unwavering commitment to the increasingly extremist positions of the new right-wing "mainstream" of the party, the mainstream of Dear Leader Rush, the teabaggers, Fox News, and radicals on Capitol Hill. In that, perhaps he deserves to be censured, and perhaps censure is a sign that he's doing something right, or at least that he's not as bad as the rest of his party is. One just wishes that he actually had the courage and conviction to stand up to, and against, his increasingly extremist party on a more regular basis instead of succumbing to egotism and political opportunism.

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Michael Bloomberg on religious freedom and the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy

Yesterday on Governor's Island, just off Manhattan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, responding to the controversy surrounding the planned Islamic community center near Ground Zero, a silly controversy drummed up by conservative bigots, most of whom are not New Yorkers and yet who want to tell New York what to do (e.g., Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich), gave what I can only describe as a truly brilliant speech on the freedom of religion, the acceptance of cultural difference, and the diversity of American pluralism. It is worth reading in full, not least as an invaluable reminder of what America is supposed to be all about, contrary to prevailing conservative ideology, but here, in light of the controversy, is the key section (bold added):

The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.

On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, 'What God do you pray to?' (Bloomberg's voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) 'What beliefs do you hold?'

The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

The conservatives attacking the "Ground Zero mosque" -- which is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque -- do not honour those who died on 9/11, nor the Constitution, nor America itself. Rather, they spew bigotry, anti-Muslim bigotry, and seek to divide the country into "us" and "them," in so doing playing right into the hands of those who question America's commitment to its long-held values, proving America's enemies right. And in opposing the construction of the community center, these conservatives are proving to be a lot like al Qaeda and bin Laden, intolerant religious extremists who reject religious conciliation and understanding.

America should be better than that, and better than its enemies, and Michael Bloomberg clearly wants it to be. Ground Zero will remain what it has become, sacred ground, no matter what surrounds it, but the Islamic cultural center will be proof that America actually lives up to its values and principles -- to freedom -- even in the face of uncompromising adversity.

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How Noble Of You!

By Carl
I want to start with a quote from 1839:

We have not only the most numerous nobility of any country in the world, but perhaps the most powerful. The privileges of the nobility of other lands are limited by laws, and the King on the one hand, and the people on the other, sec that these laws are not transcended. Laws made to restrain our American nobles, have hitherto been found to be but little belter than cobwebs. If a case comes before a Court involving any of the fundamental principles of this system, the boasted " independence of the Judiciary" is soon found to be mere independence of common sense and common justice. And when infractions of the law by any great number of banks are so glaring that even "judicial blindness" can be blind no longer, the State Legislatures are forthwith convened to shelter the transgressors from the penalties they have incurred.

-- The United States Democratic Review, Volume 6, issue 23, p. 459.

That paragraph could be just as easily written today.

If a baseball player slides into home and hands the umpire a hundred dollars before the ump makes his call, we'd call it bribery. But if a businessman sitting in a skybox at the same game sidles up to a congressman and hands him a hundred dollars as that legislator contemplates a bill that might regulate said business, that's a campaign contribution.

Next, take a look at a more contemporary piece, from Amitai Etzioni:

You may not wonder why the auto dealers won exemptions in Congress from the new financial regulations. But the behind-the-scene deals the White House has made are enough to make you sick.

These include deals with private hospitals to drop the public option in exchange for their support of the health care bill and with the pharmaceutical industry to block Americans from purchasing low-cost drugs from other countries.

Some of us have learned to live with these maneuvers as long as something comes out at the other end.

However, many Americans are busy working or looking for a job, taking care of their families and trying to find some spare time to follow their favorite sports team and have a beer. But when they are made aware of these shenanigans, they are nauseated. As they should be.

I choose my words carefully. I suggest that the sense of the tea partiers that they have been had is largely a valid one. At the same time, their ideas of what ought to be done are very much off the mark.

The desire to gut the government ignores the fact that there are many important missions that the government is best-suited to accomplish. However, before those of us who do not belong to this movement can carry this message to the tea partiers, we first need to validate their feelings, rather than dismiss them.

And we must be honest: Reforming the government so that it will be less captured by special interests and more responsive to the public interest is a difficult road to navigate.

(emphasis added)

If there is anything about the Teabagging movement that pisses me off most, it is that they are SO close to having the right answer, yet cannot get past this last gasp to the truth of this nation.

America has a nobility. It is a plutocracy-- more correctly, an oligarchy-- run by an aristocracy that did not gain its power by force (altho they will not hesitate to use it. Ask any early union member.) but by fraud and luck.
The con that the nobility maintains on the rest of the nation is simple: You, too, can become a member of this club.
See, a titled nobility, such as they have in Europe or Japan, is near impossible to become a member of. You can marry into it, of course, but you cannot, thru the myth of hard work and thrift, earn yuor way in. You might buy a title, and all the trappings that come with it, but you will soon find the cost to you is greater than the initial price. And even there, you still would not be noble. Your children might be, perhaps. Maybe.
A monied nobility, such as we have in America, is just slightly easier to get into. It's a lottery, to be sure, one that costs dearly. But you know most of the names: Kennedy, Bush, Cabot, Lodge, Penn, Adams. And there are others who have, thru hard work and luck, earned a place in nobility: Gates, Clinton, Perot, and now Obama.
Indeed, one of the reasons our right wing compatriots are so angry with Obama is he opened the door wide to the possibility of minorities entering the club. This is disguised, of course, as "they're taking our jobs," as if somehow being a wage slave would make you wealthy and charismatic enough to become a member.
In fact, even hitting the largest lottery jackpot in American history would not make you a member of this club. Accomplishment might, which is why actor George Clooney is a pro-tem member, but if Clooney's influence dies with him, if it is not passed onto another generation, he will lose his nobility.
It is this nobility-- less the more visible ones, who consider themselves accountable to public opinion but the private ones, who shield themselves behind boardroom doors and show little regard for the public weal-- that control things around you. They buy politicians with campaign funds and contributions to their private charitable organizations. They engage in the quid pro quo of co-opting our political and judicial process, right up to the Supreme Court and its recent decision that corporations (and as a sop to the working man, labor unions) can directly fund advertising that effectively endorses a candidate for office. They effectively wrote legislation for the Bush administration, manned the various regulatory agencies that oversaw their industries, and lobbied in Congress to the exclusion of any private citizens.
Here's the kicker: there's no reason to believe that any of this has changed under Obama, except our faith in his good heart and nature. And to be frank, anyone who believed that going in has probably had cause to doubt themselves by now. What Enron was to Bush, Goldman Sachs may end up being to Obama. 
Let's focus for a moment on banks, since I've brought up Goldman. Thirty years ago or so, President Carter abandoned Regulation Q, which essentially prevented savings and loans from engaging in any behavior more risky than lending mortgage money. Banks were running red ink, and needed a boost. President Reagan in 1982, took deregulation of the S&Ls and ran with it, and ever since, every President, EVERY President, has gone one step beyond. 
In those thirty odd years, we have had no less than six major banking crises: the S&L scandal, the 1987 junk bond market collapse, the Mexican, Argentinian and Russian foreign exchange crises, and now we have the mortgage collapse. Who knows what other crises could have happened without someone pulling a brake in time?
Banks used to be a place where you could be reasonably assured you could put your money for safekeeping. Bank stocks used to be among the most stable (only utilities were more stable, but that's changed too). The prices rarely fluctuated and you could count on a quarterly dividend. 
In the 2008 Congressional campaign, banks, insurers and real estate interests donated a half billion dollars to candidates. Five. Hundred. Million.
No doubt most of that came before, you know, September. I'd hate to think that TARP money flowed right back into the pockets of the people who gave it away.
I said, "I'd HATE to think that." 
It's not the government, altho it's hard not to blame them for their own greed. Campaigns cost money and the irony is, if we could take the money out of politics, we could take the politics out of money. Right now, it's impossible to raise funds without kowtowing to some nobleman or other.
Maybe that's what we need to do, change the language. Maybe, instead of "special interests", call them what they are.
Maybe then the Teabaggers will get it.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)  

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Just how crazy is Sharron Angle? (6)

Crazy enough to say this:

We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported.

It was the Quote of the Day yesterday over at Mustang Bobby's place, and it fits right in with our ongoing series on the bottomless well of craziness that is Sharron Angle, insurgent Republican Senate candidate in Nevada.

It also follows #5, which looked at how her campaign won't let her answer any questions, keeping her from embarrassing herself, from actually having to engage in a meaningful way in the democratic process, keeping the voters of Nevada from actually getting to know her and learning what she stands for -- just as McCain's campaign did with Palin. In Angle's case, as with Palin's (though Palin was obviously much more appealing), what they're trying to hide is the fact that she's a crazy right-wing extremist who apparently can only handle a few pre-packaged speaking points at a time.

TPM's Eric Kleefeld provides the context:

Sharron Angle has further expounded on her strategy of courting conservative media and avoiding more mainstream sources -- it's not just about money, as she's said before, but also about only being asked the questions she wants.

"We needed to have the press be our friend," Angle said in an interview that aired on Fox over the weekend.

"Wait a minute. Hold on a second. To be your friend?" said a disbelieving Carl Cameron. Before Angle could fully answer, he added: "That sounds naive." Apparently this was too much for even him.

"Well, no," said Angle. "We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."

Angle continued: "And when I get on a show, and I say, 'Send money to,' so that your listeners will know that if they want to support me they need to go to"

Aside from lacking substance (other than right-wing extremism) and grasping for cash, Angle apparently doesn't believe in the freedom of the press, at least not for her, and would seem to prefer a state-run press that does what it's told. Or perhaps she prefers Fox News, which is very much like a state-run media outlet in some authoritarian state, propagandizing the Republican Party line, and which is very much on her side, or any other right-wing outlet that won't embarrass her by actually putting her on the spot.

She's not just deeply crazy, you see, she's deeply un-American. So is much of the right, which is why she's so popular even now (though trailing Reid in the polls), but Nevadans would do well to reject her with conviction in November.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Like Breitbart, like Sherrod: Right-left equivalency and the inside-the-Beltway stupidity of Howard Kurtz

In The Washington Post yesterday, media critic Howard Kurtz had an appallingly stupid piece in which he laments "journalism as blood sport, performed for the masses," and states that the problem is the "crossfire culture" generally, with each side, left as well as right, guilty of "hyper-partisanship," "vituperation," and "ugly attacks," whether it's Breitbart, Beck, Palin, Gingrich, Buchanan, O'Reilly, or Erickson on the right or Dean, Walsh, Weigel, Olbermann, Carville, or Spitzer on the left.

And who gets it? Who understand the problem, according to Kurtz? Why, David Brooks, conservative at The New York Times, and John Harris and Jim VandeHei, editors of right-leaning Politico. That's the equivalency argument here. Both sides are guilty, but the sensible middle that Kurtz celebrates is really the center-right. What a distortion. No wonder anyone on the left -- and Kurtz's villains of the left are hardly wild radicals -- is compared to, and considered the same as, anyone on the extremist right.

There isn't much to say about this equivalency argument. It's popular in mainstream Washington, especially at the Post, where David Broder remains its champion. But who on the left is akin to Limbaugh or Hannity? Is it Olbermann? Really? I acknowledge that the rhetoric on both sides can be uncivilized, but when has he or any of his peers, such as Maddow, ever expressed the sort of venom and bigotry you hear on a regular basis from "mainstream" conservatives like Limbaugh and Hannity? One oft-cited exception is Michael Moore, but what has he ever said to compare to what, say, Beck says on a nightly basis? Moore sometimes goes too far in his efforts to uncover right-wing conspiracies, and sometimes overstates his case, but he isn't a racist and doesn't resort to the sort of ad hominem and propagandistic viciousness that characterizes most of today's GOP and conservative media machine.

If anything, all the left is doing -- and, again, we're not talking here about the far left (Carville and Spitzer are hardly radicals), which is generally shunned by the Democratic establishment (for example, Ralph Nader, as well as Moore) -- is responding to the attacks of the right. Presumably, in the name of journalism, Kurtz would rather liberals just rolled over and let conservatives have their way. But with all the power Fox News, Breitbart, and right-wing talk radio wield, what are they -- what are we -- to do?

For more on Kurtz's piece, let me quote Digby's post in its entirety:

Howard Kurtz is an utter fool for finding equivalence between Shirley Sherrod, Howard Dean, Joan Walsh and Andrew Breitbart for any number of reasons. I would defend Joan on this, but she's done it perfectly well for herself, and she makes the right point about Dean as well. He is not a journalist. Indeed, among those four named above the only one is Walsh and she is perfectly correct in labeling FOX racist when, among other things, they just spent two weeks ginning up a story about "black panthers" which has no basis and which can only be seen as a tool to sow racist animus.

What makes me want to slam my head into a wall repeatedly is the notion that there is any equivalence between Breitbart and Sherrod. It's so offensive on so many levels that I can only assume that Kurtz believes that Sherrod rightly pointing out that Breitbart is a racist is the same as Breitbart wrongly pointing out that Sherrod is one. I've seen cases of he said/ she said before, but this really takes the cake.

Unless you are a person who believes that racism doesn't exist --- or subscribe to some philosophical view that one can never know if someone else is a racist unless they come right out and admit it --- then this is an insulting position for any rational person to take. Sherrod's own words and deeds speak for themselves. And regardless of what's in his heart, Breitbart's do as well. Any fudging of the lines between the two is an act of intellectual obtuseness and/or moral cowardice.

Yes, that's right. According to Kurtz, Sherrod is just as bad as Breitbart. Both are part of the problem, even though it was Sherrod who was dragged through the mud, character and career destroyed, by Breitbart and Fox News and who had every right to be angry about it, and who isn't a journalist.

It's obtuseness and cowardice, but it's also the expression of a narrative that plays right into the hands of the right, which is why Brooks and Politico are promoting it. Jon Stewart objected to "crossfire" journalism too, of course, but what he objected to specifically was the destructive dynamic of CNN's show Crossfire, with right and left just arguing with each other for no other point but the argument itself. This is different. This, let's be clear, is about left and right being essentially the same thing, each an equal part of the problem regardless of the actual merits of what is being said on either side. In this sense, if Limbaugh says something racist, which he often does, and Olbermann calls him out on it, both Limbaugh and Olbermann are equally at fault for being hyper-partisan and un-journalistic.

Stupid? Yes, of course it's stupid -- dangerously, ignorantly stupid -- but it's what the likes of Howard Kurtz think passes for above-the-fray superiority, allowing them to feel good about themselves while they turn their eyes from what's actually going on, like the bad journalists they are, and enable conservatives to turn political discourse into a cesspool of right-wing poison.

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More attacks on the 14th Amendment

By Mustang Bobby.

The Hill is reporting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to hold hearings on changing the 14th Amendment to remove birthright citizenship.
McConnell’s statement signals growing support within the GOP for the controversial idea, which has also recently been touted by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

In an interview, McConnell said the 14th Amendment provision should be reconsidered in light of the country’s immigration problem. McConnell stopped short of echoing Graham’s call for repeal of the amendment.

“I think we ought to take a look at it — hold hearings, listen to the experts on it,” McConnell said. “I haven’t made a final decision about it, but that’s something that we clearly need to look at. Regardless of how you feel about the various aspects of immigration reform, I don’t think anybody thinks that’s something they’re comfortable with.”

The arguments the proponents of this change are making are rather interesting; they question the original intent of the amendment, which was put in place to guarantee that children of slaves were citizens. They're now saying that granting citizenship to every child born here wasn't what the amendment really means.

Here's Section 1 of the Amendment:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I guess they want to change that to "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.... unless your mother or father is brown. Then forget it; you're on your own." (By the way, that could cause a problem for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. His mother was four months pregnant with him when she arrived from India. Doesn't that make him an "anchor baby"?)

What is it with these freedom-loving limited government types who are always coming up with new ways to mess with the Constitution by adding new amendments -- flag-burning, gay marriage, balanced budget -- to limit the rights of the people? But if they're so all-fired ready to make changes to outdated amendments, how about we take a look at the 2nd? After all, the Founding Fathers had no idea that we would come up with firearms that could shoot 30 rounds a second and bullets that can pierce two inches of steel. How about it?

A reader at Talking Points Memo gets to the real heart of the matter: it's not just the children of undocumented immigrants they're going after.
In some sense, birthright citizenship is birtherism writ large--Obama is the son of a non-American born on American soil. It draws attention to Obama's alleged "foreign" origins. It isn't a mere stalking horse--in other countries, including, until recently Germany, the child of a male citizen and a female non-citizen was a citizen but the child of a female citizen and a male non-citizen was not a citizen. Although equal protection would likely prohibit such an interpretation here, attitudes like this are installed deep in some human psyches.

That's what it's really all about, isn't it?

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Have A Coronal On Me!

By Carl
Global warming? Bah. Meet solar warming:

Astroboffins are warning that a mighty "eruption" of superhot plasma has been blasted out of the Sun directly at the Earth. The plasma cloud is expected to reach Earth beginning tomorrow, possibly causing strange phenomena - including a mighty geomagnetic storm which could see the Northern Lights aurorae extend as far south as Blighty or the northern USA.

As you may or may not know, the typical solar cycle lasts about eleven years, intense activity followed by a similar period of calm. Well, the calm period extended a little, and now the buildup is about to hit us, in less than 24 hours, a coronal mass ejection has been spotted heading directly towards the earth.

It could mean as little damage as a few power lines disrupted and a lovely display of the Northern Lights. It could, and I stress this is a small possibility, mean a complete electromagnetic failure planetwide. This last is not very likely but not impossible.

On the other hand, the activity in 2013...well, that will likely create all sorts of havoc, and may cause the electromagnetic failure scientists have all but determined is inevitable, starting with cell phone outages worldwide and cascading into complete power failure on any electric grid, including solar and wind driven local grids.

To give you an idea, a solar maximum (as they're referred to) in 1921 knocked out the fledging New York City subway system. That's, um, the underground railway, you'll note.

Your best defense? Preparation, of course. Batteries. Lots of batteries. Capacitors, any type of electical storage that you can insulate from the grid will be safe unless it is directly attacked by the solar storms that will occur (remember, the night side of the planet will be relatively secure).

Consider Thursday a test run.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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A Buck, A Yen, A Mark, A Pound

by Distributorcap

There is one thing Sarah Palin (and teabaggers) loves more than anything else....

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Federal judge allows Virginia health-care challenge to go forward, but will anything come of it?

As you may have heard, a federal district judge yesterday ruled that the Commonwealth of Virginia's challenge to the new federal health-care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, may go forward:

The administration had asked the judge, Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court, to dismiss the challenge by Virginia's attorney general, Ken T. Cuccinelli II.

Mr. Cuccinelli had argued that Congress, in passing a measure that requires people to buy insurance or face a penalty, exceeded its limits under the Constitution's Commerce Clause and tax powers. Mr. Cuccinelli had also argued that the federal law violated a state law, the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, which declares that residents cannot be forced to buy health insurance.

Mr. Cuccinelli is one of 21 state officials fighting the health care law, and this is the first ruling by a federal court on the important question of whether states have the standing to sue.

Monday's opinion does not address the merits of the health care law. It has no direct effect on the other state challenges, but it may influence the other judges. 

The challenge focuses specifically on the individual mandate, the requirement to buy insurance, but this ruling does not address the law itself and is effectively meaningless. As Jack Balkin notes, "[w]hat Judge Hudson has done, in short, is to put off the day when he will have to write a decision on the merits." Hudson's ruling indicates that he "clearly sympathizes with the state of Virginia" -- that is, I might add, with the Republican attorney general (and, presumably, Republican governor) of Virginia -- but it is really "only the beginning of many years of litigation over the constitutionality of the individual mandate in many different courts around the country." (For more on the technicalities of the case, see Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog.)

In other words, as Steve Benen puts it, the ruling is "a procedural victory" for the opponents of the law and "not a measure of success on the merits," even if the judge's legal/partisan inclinations are fairly clear. And so there's really no need to get "too excited about this." There's a long way to go, and, from what Steve says, it looks like the law will stand:

Most legal experts, including many conservatives, find the case to be pretty frivolous -- a former Bush/Cheney U.S. attorney said the litigation not only lacks merit, but should be "seen as a political exercise" -- and Cuccinelli has struggled to explain why this isn't a waste of taxpayer money.

Furthermore, the judge isn't exactly neutral:

Regrettably, Judge Hudson's objectivity is already in doubt. He's a Bush/Cheney appointee, and more importantly, the Huffington Post noted that the judge "has financial ties to both the attorney general who is challenging the law and to a powerhouse conservative law firm whose clients include prominent Republican officials and critics of reform."

Surprise, surprise.

Steve goes on to note, rightly, that the individual mandate is actually a Republican idea that once had a good deal of support from Republican senators -- not back in the '90s but just a year ago.

Regardless, and hypocrisy notwithstanding, Republicans will keep pushing these mostly frivolous and utterly partisan challenges -- and of course the concern going forward is that the Supreme Court is still 4-4-1, with Kennedy the unreliable swing vote.

I suspect the law will ultimately stand, and, as a political issue, it looks to me like a loser for Republicans. As the repellent ugliness of Congressional partisanship and legislative sausage-making recedes further and further into history, and as the American people come to see more and more that the fearmongering of Republicans was unfounded, that the Republic still stands and that they themselves are still free, that hordes of fascists and socialists didn't topple democracy and destroy the Constitution, and that, actually, health-care reform brought a lot of good to a system that was (and that in many ways remains) deeply unfair and unjust, costly and cruel, the law will become more popular -- and we are already seeing this.

Republicans -- or, rather, the few sensible ones among them -- know that repeal isn't really a viable option, at least not if they seek electoral success. (Do Republicans really want to face the voters, and to go down in history, having overturned a law that extended health care to tens of millions and that blocked the insurance industry from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions?) As the White House explained, "[h]aving failed in the legislative arena, opponents of reform are now turning to the courts in an attempt to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of government." And this seems to be what Republicans want -- judges to do their work for them, to throw out a law that they know is far more popular than their propaganda would suggest, whereupon they can avoid a major political hit by pointing out that they had nothing to do with it. But of course they would have had everything to do with it. Judges won't be ruling in a vacuum, after all, they'll be ruling on challenges brought by Republicans, as in Virginia.

Republicans, whipping up blood-curdling public fury with their lies, like the ridiculous claim that there would be "death panels," drew their battle lines early on. In Congress, they were unanimously against reform, even this modest reform package that for the most part they themselves had promoted back in the '90s as an alternative to Hillarycare and that a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, had implemented in Massachusetts. They required Democrats to fight their way through all sorts of legislative hoops, denying clear majority rule. And once the bill passed, they continued to fight, pledging to repeal it if they took back Congress. But they know better, don't they? Or some of them do. They know that it's a losing issue for them, which is why they fought so hard against passage in the first place. Their electoral success, on this issue as on others, depends on public ignorance, but the public can't be kept in the dark forever.

And so these challenges will go forward, in Virginia and elsewhere, but the law will only become more and more a part of the lives of Americans, like Social Security and civil rights. You never know how SCOTUS will rule, of course, and there's a chance part of the law, if certainly not all of it, could be struck down, but I tend to doubt it. Having lost, Republicans are just flailing about, mired in the stink of their own political and ideological extremism, desperate for validation. One judge may have given them what they wanted, but they won't find any lasting success fighting health-care reform.

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