Saturday, December 04, 2010

Attention Teabag shoppers

By Distributorcap

Congratulations! Your insanity is only overshadowed by your stupidity -- you are sending foxes to the Congressional henhouse.

Today, the U.S. Senate voted on extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class (or what is left of it) -- and not extending them for families earning over $250,000. It took 60 votes to break the filibuster (only in America does 60% equal a majority).

Guess what? With 41 Republicans (and some Democrats including Joe "the Douchebag" Lieberman), it did not pass.

So for those teabaggers out there who think these guys are on their side:

There are 100 senators, ALL of whom earn over or somewhat close to that $250,000 magical tax cutoff (the base salary is $174,000, and with the perks and other income they most come close). Income only tells half the story. What about net worth (the value of one's assets less liabilities and debt)?

  • 84 are worth over $500,000
  • 69 are worth over $1,000,000
  • 28 are worth over $5,000,000
  • 17 are worth over $10,000,000
  • 3 are worth over $200,000,000 (Kohl, Kerry, Warner)
The median net worth (the mid-point) is $2 million. The average net worth is estimated to be $13,500,000 (Kohl, Kerry and Warner skew this).

These are the people "representing America" who get to  vote decide on the fate of tax cuts for "average American." These "everyday Americans" sit in a body that requires a 60% supermajority to get anything done, including the economic security of a majority of Americans.

For comparison sake:

The median net worth of an American household is $120,000. That is about 95% lower than the Senate median. The average net worth of an American household is $550,000 (folks like Gates and Buffet skew this number), but that is also about 95% lower than the Senate average.

So the average Senator is worth 95x the average American.

Let's just assume for a minute the mean and median income of the Senate is the base of $174,000 (it isn't, but lets be conservative). The median HH income in the U.S. is just under $50,000, 72% lower than the Senate. The average HH income is around $72,000 (again thank Gates and Buffet), 60% lower than the Senate.

As another point of reference, only 34% of American HHs earn over $65,000, 17% have incomes over $120,000, and under 3% have an income over $200,000.

Two-thirds of Americans live in HHs with incomes under $65,000! Who needs the break?

The nation (including the teabaggers) sit idly by as people who are worth 95x more than the average American household decide whether that typical American family will be able to pay their mortgage or rent, clothe themselves, heat their houses, or feed their kids. With this 60 vote supermajority, the Republicans, who have been adamant about continuing the tax cuts for everyone, including the uber-rich, are holding the extension of tax breaks hostage to 97% of the population -- who need every cent -- over a barrel to pay back the 3% who don't.

Note to teabaggers: The median net worth of the Republicans in the Senate is $4.1 million. The median net worth of the Democrats is $3.2 million.

And guess what? A big CHUNK of those 97% voted for those $4.1 million-assholes like Kyl, McCain, Corker, Inhofe, Grassley, and the King Anus of them off, Mitch McConnell. You get what you pay for.

Some more facts about the folks the Senate has decided to take hostage to ensure the welfare of the 3%:

  • 83% of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1% of the people.
  • 61% of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49% in 2008 and 43% in 2007.
  • 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
  • 36% of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.
  • 43% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement­.
  • 24% of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
  • Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represente­d a 32% increase over 2008.
  • Only the top 5% of U.S. HHs have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
  • For the first time in American history, banks own a greater share of residentia­l housing net worth in the U.S. than all individual Americans put together.
  • In 1950, the ratio of the average executive'­s paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
  • The GDP has risen by 67% since 1980, while the median HH income has risen by only 15%
And we wonder why there is a economic mess in this country. Look who is deciding policy, people who have ZERO stake or ZERO experience in the struggle of 300,000,000 people, including the teabaggers who have insanely enabled this to go on.

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Why waste all that typing on an email

By Creature

As you guys have become acutely aware of, I have no time to blog (or, I'm so dispirited, I don't feel much like it). However, I have had time to have some spirited email exchanges, see my last two substantive posts, with a very moderate buddy (and reader) who insists on making the false equivalency argument that both the Left and the Right suck ass and are only interested in destroying the other. I call him a militant moderate. Well, we got into another row yesterday after I sent him a link to this Tom Tomorrow comic:

And the "discussion" flowed:

Him: Calling me a tepid moderate seems out of line on a nice Friday morning – and, besides, as you have noted before, I am pretty militant in my moderatism.

Here is what I do not get: You and your southpaw crew apparently think that the right is out to deliberately destroy and run the US into the ground (just like the right thinks the left is). That is my main problem with the battle lines that have been drawn. I simply just refuse to believe that either side is thinking “how can I, not only obstruct the other side, but DESTROY the country today.” Each side believes what they are doing is right, and both sides want what they see as “the best for the country.” You can disagree with their theory, but I just cannot believe that one side or the other wants the country to implode – cue you calling me naïve….

Me: You’re naïve.

If the left were as absolutists as you think then maybe you’re right. However, the left (or should I say Obama) has been bending over backwards to meet in the middle (the health plan was a GOP plan from the '90s and Mitt's from when he was governor of Massachusetts, the tax cuts were larded into the stimulus to satisfy the GOP—and they still didn’t vote for it, Cap & Trade was a GOP idea—-I could go on) and they have gotten nothing in return. They may not want to destroy the country, but they want to destroy Obama, make sure he’s a one-termer. It’s politics over the good of the country. This is what I’m talking about and you never acknowledge this. You are blinded by your militant moderation.

Him: I think we have played this record before.

Why do they want to “destroy” Obama? Because in their minds, according to their political theories, he is not doing what is best for the country.

Why did the left want to “destroy” Bush – for EXACTLY the same reasons – they didn’t agree with his politics and thought he was taking the country in the wrong direction.

Why did the right want to “destroy” Clinton? You get the point.

Me: Right, but I just gave you concrete examples of the Left trying, in good faith, to deal, so it’s not the same. Can you at least admit that?

Also, too, the Left gave Bush every opportunity and benefit of the doubt at the start (pretty much until Iraq). The battle cry to destroy him did not happen until then (not even from me). Obama got no such luxury (and he didn’t even send people to die in an illegal war of choice).

Here’s a thought experiment for you: If 9/11 happened under Obama what would the GOP do? Now, think back, when 9/11 happened the country and all Dem politicians were overwhelming supportive.

And another one: If Lehman’s collapse and the banking crisis of Sept. '08 happened under Obama, what would the GOP have done? It happened under Bush and the Dems banded together to help despite that fact that it helped a GOP President.

I’m just saying it’s not as black and white as your middle-of-the-road mind would like.

Him: Hypotheticals are not really useful. I know which conclusion you draw, but I do not believe you can play “what if” like that. Do you seriously think that the GOP would not rally behind the president in the face of an attack on the country? Also, you make it sound like the left was doing Bush a favor – they were overwhelmingly supportive because it was the right thing to do.

Yes, you provided one example. If you are representing to me that in the history of American politics, the Right has always been obstructionist, and have NEVER tried to deal in good faith, I guess an uninformed guy like myself would have to take you at your word. Is that what you are telling me?

Right, its not black and white, but its not either black and every single shade of gray on the one side and only the purest white on the other, like the left often represents.

Me: You’re killing me.

“If you are representing to me that in the history of American politics, the Right has always been obstructionist, and have NEVER tried to deal in good faith, I guess an uninformed guy like myself would have to take you at your word. Is that what you are telling me?”

What I’ve been trying to tell you, and you so stubbornly won’t hear, is that times have changed. Jeez. Yes, there was a time when there was dealing in good faith. I long for those times. Newt in '94 changed ALL that and they’ve gotten worse ever since. I long for those magical times where Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan sat down to deal. It just doesn’t happen today. They do not give Obama an inch. Hell, Clinton gave them everything they wanted (welfare reform, anyone) and they IMPEACHED him anyway. This is what you refuse to see. Again, times have changed. Now, this is a message Dems (and especially Obama) must get too. They still think they can deal in good faith, but there’s none right now. Maybe that will change, but that is not the reality of today.

Him: Ok, Ok, jeez, keep your pants on. I do not refuse to see anything.

Your Clinton point is weak. I am sure you don’t mean that the GOP should have ignored Clinton's lies on the stand (that is what he was impeached for, right? That is a question), because Clinton scratched their back?

Me: I give up.

Him: Quitter.

Me: Just call me Sarah.

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What do Bulgaria, Jordan, Poland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States have in common?

According to the recently-released Pentagon report on Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), they're the only countries in the world that ban gays in the military.

Nothing against the good people from these other five countries, but that's not exactly good company to be in.

Now, I suspect that countries like, say, Saudi Arabia don't allow gays in the military either, but such countries do not generally allow gays in society either.

These six countries have explicit policies in place banning gays in the military.


I got this from Fred Kaplan's excellent piece at Slate on the Pentagon report. (I highly recommend it.) And, in case you missed it, the report's findings are definitive:

Much of the study reports and analyzes the results of a survey sent to 400,000 active-duty members of the armed services (115,052 of whom responded), as well as surveys of more than 40,000 military spouses and several workshop forums and face-to-face interviews.

The top line is that 70 percent of those surveyed say that repealing DADT -- and thus working, eating, sleeping, showering, and fighting in the same room or on the same ship, plane, or battlefield with service members who say they're gay -- will have a positive, a mixed, or no effect (in other words, won't have a bad effect) on accomplishing the mission.

Yes, there is obviously still a good deal of opposition in the military to gays being allowed to serve openly -- and John McCain and others are emphasizing that opposition to the exclusion of all else. But the numbers are actually even more definitive:

Among members of the armed forces who have actually worked with someone they believe to be gay, 92 percent say that the unit's effectiveness is very good, good, or "neither good nor poor" (in other words, at very least, not bad)...

As the report puts it, the apparent "misperception that a gay man does not 'fit' the image of a good warfighter... is almost completely erased when a gay service member is allowed to prove himself alongside fellow warfighters."

The results are overwhelming. The military is ready for gays to be allowed to serve openly. And it will be much easier for them to serve openly than it was, say, to integrate the military racially in Truman's day, when, as the report notes, there was overwhelming opposition to blacks being allowed to serve alongside whites.

The country has come a long way, the military has come a long way, and there's no good reason to keep gays out.

Though, of course, McCain and his ilk keep trying. Kaplan concludes:

The evidence, the polling data of service men and women, the testimony of senior officers, the everyday experiences of living and fighting, the imperatives of national security, as well as the obvious moral standards of contemporary life -- all point to, at the very least, a shift in the burden of proof on whether DADT should be repealed. It's no longer valid, and it's clearly a pretense, to call for further studies, further surveys, closer questioning. If McCain and the others oppose repeal, they have to come up with some new reason -- or fall back on the oldest, most unpalatable reason -- why.

But there is no "new reason" that has any validity. And so let's just spell it out. The real reason they keep up their opposition is indeed "unpalatable." It's called bigotry.

And so, for all his supposed pro-military cred, McCain finds himself in opposition not just to the military's civilian and chief military leadership (including not just Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but perhaps America's most revered current military commander, including by McCain, Gen. David Petraeus) but to the rank-and-file as well.

And, as Kaplan notes, the issue isn't just about rights but about national security (something McCain claims to care deeply about), as DADT has resulted 13,000 "involuntary discharges," including of key language experts who are essential to the military's efforts around the world. In opposing the repeal of DADT, then, McCain is not just promoting bigotry but undermining the military and weakening national security.

To be fair, President Obama and Senate Democrats have been dragging their heels, but, while Republicans will undoubtedly keep trying to put new roadblocks in the way, there's no excuse anymore. The military has spoken. It's time to repeal DADT.

(For more on McCain's opposition to repeal and the deeply flawed arguments against repeal, see LindaBeth's excellent post from yesterday.)

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Craziest Republican of the Day: Eugene Delgaudio

I've been quite busy the past couple of days, so I'm only now getting to a few stories that I've been wanting to blog about. Like this one -- which takes our CRD series to a whole new level (until you remember that they're crazy like this a lot). Via Jonathan Chait, Virginia's WTOP reported on Wednesday on a local Republican who would appear to be as ignorantly bigoted as they come:

A conservative Loudoun County lawmaker says controversial airport pat-downs by the Transportation Security Administration are part of a "wide-scale homosexual agenda."

Eugene Delgaudio, a Republican representing Sterling on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, made the comments in a widely distributed e-mail sent in his capacity as president of the conservative nonprofit Public Advocate of the United States.

In the e-mail -- reported by WUSA9 -- Delgaudio also says the TSA's non-discrimination hiring policy is "the federal employee's version of the Gay Bill of Special rights."

"That means the next TSA official that gives you an enhanced pat-down could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission," he wrote.

That's right, this guy thinks the TSA's enhanced airport security is all one big gay conspiracy to get action. It's hard to know where to begin, but, really, why bother? If you honestly believe this, you're not just an ignorant bigot but a complete and utter moron.

I'm no fan of all this enhanced security (or whatever you want to call it), much of it supposedly justified through trumped up (if not outright manufactured) threats and promoted through government- and industry-sponsored fearmongering, scaring Americans into a state of terrified submission, accepting ever more authoritarianism and to give up their freedom to a creeping police state, but this, needless to say, is ridiculous.

It is, of course, incredibly insulting to gays and deeply ignorant of their sexuality (and all of our sexuality). As if this is how they get off. As if they're incapable of having meaningful sexual relations.

But, again, why bother? Delgaudio and the many who think like him are stupid, crazy, hateful people.

But maybe this is just the usual homophobia of the self-loathing right-wing bigot. Maybe he gets turned on by these pat-downs and is lashing out. And maybe he needs not just a pat-down but a full-body erotic massage, to set him, er, straight. (Yes, it would move.) The TSA wouldn't do it, but I'm sure he can find someone who would.

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Can we all just agree that McCain won't ever support DADT's repeal?

The DADT report is out, and as suspected, it shows a military that is rather unfazed by the idea of gays and lesbians in the army being allowed to be openly gay or lesbian. This report was the BIG CONDITION that John McCain had on repealing DADT. That is, of course, after his prior condition that military leaders support the repeal actually came to pass. Now that the military leaders and service members have demonstrated their support for the repeal, McCain should support it, right?

Of course not! Now he has new objections to why the demonstrated support isn't enough to win his. He wants to have a study on the DADT study! It should be abundantly clear by now that the repeal of DADT will never win McCain's support, no matter how many high ranking members and reports tell him we should--because members support it and because it's just the goddam right thing to do. McCain is reneging on his earlier pledges to act because he doesn't want it repealed and will keep coming up with excuses as to why he shouldn't support DADT's repeal. Even if it means disagreeing...with himself.

Last night's Daily Show hits the nail on the head:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaypocalypse Now
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorThe Daily Show on Facebook

Watch here in Canada.

This is just one issue among McCain's several flawed lines of thinking regarding this policy: 

  • As long as gays and lesbians don't say anything, they are fine: not true, there are many ways that officers get around this, including invading privacy, to find out if someone is gay, aside from their telling.
  • Not being able to "tell" is a fine way to live: I'd like to see heterosexual people live the way gays and lesbians have to in the military, without photos of their partners, without being able to fly back home in the case of serious illness or death of a partner, without being able to say "I love you" on phone calls, of having to hide all those little things that part of our everyday lives that "reveal" our sexuality.
  • It's not hurting the military: anytime well-qualified women and men that we've invested time and money into is discharged under DADT, we lose.
  • The right question isn't how would repeal affect the military, but should it be repealed: no, this is a matter of justice. If service members don't really care about gays and lesbians being open, then it won't disrupt unit cohesion. If it won't disrupt unit cohesion, there is no logical argument for why it shouldn't be repealed, even for conservatives.
  • We should make civil rights decisions based on what won't disrupt the dominant group's lives or how people "feel" about it, rather than on what's right: if we had asked the south if schools and lunch counters should integrate, what would the response have been? In fact, the military was much less supportive of racial integration than they are of DADT. But the military integrated because it was right, not because it was popular. One important way that prejudice can be overcome is by contact in conditions of equality (i.e. peer-peer). Our nation's institutions should lead the way, not lag behind.
And who crowned McCain king of all things military? McCain is part of the old guard, the old ways of thinking--he's part of the generation who did not encounter gays and lesbians in every day life and his prejudice is steadfast. It's time to let the new blood make these decisions.

(Cross posted to Speak Truth to Power)

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Earmark this, Teabaggers!

So the Teabagging Republicans are so very fiscally responsible, right? And, putting principle before politics, they're so very much against all those politics-as-usual earmarks, right? Er, not so much:

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

"It's disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt," said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. "There's going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks."

Well, they're not going to shut up, but I doubt they'll put up either. They'll play the anti-earmark card if they think it can win them votes, but ultimately they'll all figure out that winning votes back home means bringing home as much bacon as possible.

But there'll only be a backlash if they're not given a free pass by the media, and if their partisan hypocrisy is exposed for what it is.

Behind the rhetoric, it's still politics as usual, just with an extreme right-wing twist.

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My general state of mind

By Creature

Obviously, I haven't been blogging lately, but I did have the time today to write an email about my state of mind and what's irking me. So, here goes, for what it's worth:

I’m having a hard time dealing with politics right now. The mere fact that these GOP bastards are going to the mat for the top 2% (proving they are true deficit hypocrites, I mean we’re talking $800 billion added to the deficit here), while at the same time blocking an unemployment extension (the best and purest form of stimulus-—not to mention people will suffer) has me enraged. At the same time all our ball-less president can do is repeat his happy bi-partisan bullshit (while they stab him in the back). The only one with balls in this whole thing is Nancy Pelosi.

If I had the money I would gladly pay more taxes to help. However, the key here is that I’d still get a break up to 250K. Everyone still gets the break (even the billionaires), just not over 250K. It would be one thing if the GOP didn’t say all they care about is the deficit, but that is their mantra and they are prepared to blow a giant hole in it. Hell, it's two wars, Medicare Part D, the Bush tax cuts, and a collapsing economy that got us in this HUGE hole to begin with and they take no responsibility for any of it. Also, their line about not taxing “job creators” is total bull. I loathe them and the feckless Democrats who enable them. I’m this close to checking out and not voting again.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: James Inhofe

Tulsa World reports:

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Tuesday that he won't participate in Tulsa's Holiday Parade of Lights until organizers put "Christ" back in the event's title.
"Last year, the forces of political correctness removed the word 'Christmas' and replaced it with 'Holiday' instead," the Oklahoma Republican said. "I am deeply saddened and disappointed by this change."

Inhofe, who was Tulsa's mayor from 1978 to 1984, said he had participated in the parade annually, riding a horse as his children and grandchildren watched.

"I did not do so last year because I'm not going to ride in a Christmas parade that doesn't recognize Christmas," he said. "I am hopeful that the good people of Tulsa and the city's leadership will demand a correction to this shameful attempt to take Christ, the true reason for our celebration, out of the parade's title. Until the parade is again named the Christmas Parade of Lights, I will not participate."

Asked for a response from Mayor Dewey Bartlett, city spokeswoman Kim MacLeod said the mayor "wouldn't miss the city's parade" and then provided a comment from the mayor.

"If it was up to me, I'd call it a Christmas parade, but I also understand that we have a diverse community, and I'm sensitive to the importance of the many cultures and traditions that make up our city," Bartlett said.

In related news, Sen. Inhofe called reports of non-Christians residing in Oklahoma "the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the God-fearing people of this state."

Appearing on Glenn Beck's radio show yesterday, he said that he'd never encountered a "Mohammedan" anywhere in Oklahoma -- "and I've been around, from homestead to homestead." He also claimed that he'd never met "any so-called Jew or Jewess other than Joe Lieberman and his wife, and they're nice people otherwise." When asked about "Indians" and "blacks," he asserted that "Indians here embrace Christ and the Hinduist ones over there are atheists" and that "it is well-known that blacks have no traditions other than the Christian, so what's the big deal?" When asked about "Buddhists," he said he "[doesn't] even know that is," accusing Beck, who by then was sounding somewhat reasonable, of "making it up."

So, yeah, I don't think he's one to be sensitive and embrace diversity. Even by Oklahoma standards, Inhofe is a narrow-minded bigot.

(You think I'm making all that up about Inhofe? Huh.)

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The creeping police state of Orwellian America

Sometimes liberty isn't snatched away through the revolutionary actions of a Pol Pot. Sometimes it just erodes away. I've described Hugo Chavez's use of slice-by-slice "salami tactics" in Venezuela, and it's an appropriate analogy:

In the first episode of the great Yes, Prime Minister, "The Grand Design," new PM Jim Hacker meets with the government's chief scientific advisor to discuss defence policy. The advisor, a hawkish Austrian, argues that the Soviet Union would use "salami tactics" to take over Europe, that is, a "slice-by-slice" plan with no one slice so grave as to compel the West (or the U.K., in this case) to respond militarily. (The 16 YPM episodes originally aired on the BBC from 1986-88.) At each slice/stage of the scenario, he presses Hacker -- What would it take for him to act? An incursion into West Berlin? Or would the Soviets have to go so far as to take over the Reform Club, one of London's old political establishments? Would he ever respond with nuclear weapons? Probably not.

My point here is not to make a case for military action against Venezuela, but it is clear that Hugo Chavez is using salami tactics in his drive to establish so-called "Bolivarean" socialism -- that is, his own national-socialist autocratic rule -- in that country. I wrote about this last week: "Sometimes revolution can be achieved without sudden, dramatic bloodletting." There are a number of different prongs to Chavez's continuing revolution, a number of slices. They may be examined individually, but they are best understood as variations of the same, as components of a single overarching plan. The nationalization of industry, the seizure of private property, repression of dissent and opposition, control of the media, one-party rule, rule by decree, and, soon, the removal of constitutional impediments to the permanent and perpetual rule of the leader himself.

The pattern is clear. One slice, then another, and another, and another, with no one slice so grave as to compel anyone to act...

This is happening in America now, too, is it not? Yes, there are many who are standing up for freedom and civil liberties, but what success are they having? Freedom has been opposed for a long time by corporatist elements -- including what Eisenhower famously called the military-industrial complex -- but the speed with which government and its private-sector and media allies apply slice upon slice has grown markedly since 9/11 and the supposed emergence of the Islamist-jihadist terrorist threat as the justification for the Patriot Act, domestic surveillance, racial/ethnic/religious profiling, anti-Muslim bigotry, the TSA's intrusive airport pat-downs, and so on. Read 1984. What's happening in the U.S. may not be so blatantly obvious, but do you see what's going on? If not, wake the fuck up.

I'm a committed civil libertarian on this. I understand the need for some degree of security, but beyond what's absolutely essential (like what we were used to at airports, for example), we shouldn't budge an inch. Because it's a slippery slope. If you aren't vigilant in defence of your freedom, you'll wake up one day to find it gone.


At Reason, which espouses a libertarianism I generally reject, Radley Balko addresses one of the latest and most revealing slices:

Janet Napolitano said last month that we should expect to soon see tighter restrictions at bus, train, and marine transportation centers, too. Here's a report about TSA, Border Patrol, and local police setting up a checkpoint at a Greyhound station in Tampa. Note how quickly preventing a possible terrorist attack expands to include catching illegal immigrants, and preventing drug and what sounds like "cash smuggling." (It's hard to tell from the audio.) Note also the complete and utter reverence the local news report bestows on these government agencies, who after all are merely "teaming up to keep your family safe."

A liberal blogger wrote to me in an email this week that libertarians who call the TSA pat-downs a violation of their civil liberties do a disservice to actual violations of civil liberties. It's not difficult to envision the day where anyone wishing to take mass transportation in this country will have to first submit to a government checkpoint, show ID, and answer questions about any excess cash, prescription medication, or any other items in his possession the government deems suspicious. If and when that happens, freedom of movement will essentially be dead. But it won't happen overnight. It'll happen incrementally. And each increment will, when taken in isolation, appear to some to be perfectly reasonable.

If you care about your freedom, and about being free in America, don't stand for this.

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Holding Washington hostage: How the Republicans are threatening to shut down government and screw the country until they get what they want

Well, we knew this was coming, didn't we? (We should have. They told us it was coming.) As you may have heard by now, Senate Republicans have unanimously declared that they will oppose all legislation until Dems cave on the Bush tax cuts and agree to extend them permanently. As they wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

[W]e write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.

Yes, at a time of ongoing economic uncertainty and various crises bubbling up around the world, Republicans are threatening to get their way or else. No cooperation, no compromise, no bipartisanship -- nothing. Is that really what the American people, so many of them suffering and desperate for solutions to the country's many problems, wanted when they gave them the majority in the House and reduced the Democratic majority in the Senate?

If Republicans think this is the "mandate" they were given in the midterms, they are wildly off. They apparently do and are.

And what of all that Republican talk of fiscal sanity, of balancing the budget? They aren't proposing meaningful spending cuts because they know that cuts to major entitlement programs are deeply unpopular. And yet they want the budget-exploding Bush tax cuts to be extended forever? (And, by the way, not extending them would not actually be a tax increase, just a responsible return to more reasonable pre-Bush levels.)

Actually, what we see here is what the Republicans are, at their core, really all about: not social conservatism, not neocon idealism, but small-government reductionism, but tax cuts for the wealthy, for the plutocracy that is itself at the core of the Republican Party. Essentially, that is, Republicans are about making the rich richer with no regard whatsoever for the well-being of anyone else, including the middle class and completely disregarded poor (who do you think will end up paying for the tax cuts?).

Aren't the American people, including all those all-important independents (most of whom inexplicably voted Republican last month), supposed to be against this sort of scorched-earth politics?

Then shouldn't Republicans pay for what they're doing?

Steve Benen explains what happened:

When the letter was being circulated [on Tuesday], there was some hope that some of the less-conservative members -- the Maine "moderates," for example -- might not go along with the hostage-taking strategy. This morning, however, we learned that every Republican is on board with this plan. Even Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is saying our national security needs through the pending arms treaty must take a back seat to tax cuts.

Also note the context: President Obama hosted a meeting at the White House yesterday with congressional leaders of both parties, and afterwards, everyone was all smiles. There was a renewed commitment to try to work together, find common ground, with an emphasis on bipartisanship.

A few hours later, the hostage letter was circulated by the GOP leadership, and less than a day after the bipartisan confab, literally every member of the Senate Republican caucus effectively told the world, "Screw bipartisanship; we're playing hardball until we get what we want on tax cuts for the wealthy."

How Democrats -- on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue -- respond to this gambit remains to be seen.

One would hope that Democrats allow Republicans to present themselves to the American people as the all-out obstructionists they are and that they reinforce this as one of the dominant post-election narratives. But that's probably hoping for too much. It's more likely they'll cave. We're talking about the Democrats, after all. Cowardice, stupidity, and lack of unity/focus will win out, even when a huge winning issue is handed to them on a jewel-encrusted platinum platter.

But will anything change? Will appeasing the Republicans allow the Democrats to get their way on anything? Of course not. As Steve writes:

Also note the unstated truth behind the threat -- Republicans will block literally everything until they're satisfied, at which point, they'll try to block literally everything anyway.

It's the Republican way. And Democrats, President Obama included, are letting them get away with it.

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Sarah, Palin & Fall

By Carl
Like her or not, it's hard to ignore the monstrosity that has become "Sarahpalin". She's transcended being a politician to becoming a symbol open to interpretation.
For my part, I don't hate her. I hate Dick Cheney, because I think he knows he's evil and yet does nothing to better himself. Sarah is just a fucking loon. It's hard to hate an idiot.
Now, I hate her politics and the smarmy condescending way she talks down at her "constituents" as well as her opponents, as if she is some paragon of virtue and justice when in point of fact she is and has always been a loser who skated by on looks and luck. Unintelligible to the Nth degree, what people hear is what they want to hear, and since she doesn't form complete thoughts or even factual thoughts, people have to read an awful lot into them.
Normally, this would immediately disqualify her from any office higher than dogcatcher, but apparently Alaskans and rightwingers like teh stoopid.
There's a double-barrel backlash rising up against her, however. She might want to take a breath, because we have all seen how thin her skin is, and I suspect it's only going to get worse for her.
First, Ed Rollins, rightwinger and former Reagan administration capo di capi:

You're a media star and a great curiosity. You were plucked out of political obscurity because of the whim of presidential contender John McCain, who didn't know you and made you into an overnight sensation. You performed well for three weeks in the campaign, did better than expected against Joe Biden in the debate and then you self-destructed.

You clearly weren't ready for prime time, but neither was your running mate. After the election, you quit your day job as governor of Alaska with 18 months left in the term and went out and made a fortune making speeches and selling a book.

[...] Right now, polls indicate you wouldn't carry your home state of Alaska.

The last Presidential candidate to not even carry his home state was Al Gore.

He goes on to bash her comparisons to Reagan and Rollins is right: she certainly is no Reagan, who at least had accomplishments before her was forty. Even Obama, whom many saw as a cypher, had all those law school honors and community organizer functions on his CV.

Her closest analog would probably be Dan Quayle: a mindless bumbling buffoon who couldn't rub two words together to create a dialectical fire, yet somehow managed on the strength of his charm and his daddy's name (something Palin distinctly does NOT have) to parlay a minor political career.

People probably think that my greatest frustration is the lies that are told in the tabloids and on hateful blogs full of anonymous sources about my family … and there are constant everyday lies that we have to read that are out there in the public. But my family and I…thick skin…we can take it, you know…we can take what the haters say despite the fact that there’s injustice in the situation.

I mean, look at the other day. Willow, finally, my 16 year old, she had had it up to here with somebody saying very, very hateful things about the family and saying mean things about her little brother Trig, and Willow finally responded and she used a bad word when she responded in defense of her family. And her response became national news, even hard news copy it turned into, so that’s ridiculous and I had to explain to her, “Willow, there is no justice here but you have to just zip your lip and let’s move forward.”

The "bad word" in question is "faggot". Not "shit", or "fuck", or "douche", but an ad hominem of the very worst kind, striking at a group that is already on America's shitlist.

One wonders what it would take for Sarah Palin to take umbrage at a word? *koffkoff*retard*koffkoff*

Oh. Right. It would take ANY word directed at her or her family, despite the fact that her "family" is about as dysfunctional as the Gosselins. Odd thing about her comment on Hannity, not once was Trig mentioned!

Her life is a train wreck, to be certain, and her public image is only held together by the spit and duct tape that her moronic mesmerized supporters patch together, forming a wagontrain-like circle around her. Except the wagons lack fabric. Or wood. Or wheels. It really is just the human shields she's cajooled into protecting her, including her children.

Todd seems to be the only sane one, and that's more because he's basically said "Good luck with that!" and gone off snowmobiling until the cameras are turned on.

Of course, the kids might be sane. It's hard to tell since she treats them like props.

And yet, for all that, Palin could be a minor danger on the political scene, and a major threat to the United States if her luck holds out. To-wit:

In her brilliant new book Reality Bites Back, Jennifer Pozner argues that Americans prefer the scripted "reality" of reality TV to the messy complexity of our lives because these shows "both play to and reinforce deeply ingrained societal biases about women and men, love and beauty, race and class, consumption and happiness in America." And Palin is the perfect reality-show star: more ruthless, more eloquent, more audaciously dishonest, more single-mindedly ambitious, more likable and eminently more electable than Hillary Clinton in 2008. She is a pencil skirt–wearing marathoner who operates without a shred of shame or self-doubt. There is something remarkable and frightening about the depth of her belief in her narrative. Every criticism, every defeat, every attack is just evidence of the virtue of her chosen path. Her show replaces the tough tradeoffs of a politically complicated and economically insecure world with a fiery self-assurance born of the hard, bright blindness of righteousness. In uncertain times, this unassailable certainty, set in the compelling aesthetic of the American frontier and packaged with pitch-perfect editing, proves magnetic even for those who disagree with her.

Pozner reminds us that media are "as much a dissemination mechanism for ideological persuasion as...a means of entertainment;" they are "our most common agent of socialization, shaping and informing our collective ideas about people, politics and public policy." Media, especially reality TV, encourage us to think less and buy more. They capture our emotions and silence our inner critic. They send us in search of products to fulfill our deepest desires. Palin may just be the political embodiment of our contemporary cultural moment; a presidential candidate born from TV's easy emotional draw and limited analytic capacity, a candidate who needs only 140 characters to explain policy, a candidate who attracts us even when she repulses us. As with reality TV, to underestimate Palin is to invite her to reach ever deeper into the American consciousness.

Indeed, Sarah Palin may be the embodiment of the American Idiot: someone whose attention span lasts up to the next Tweet.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Elephant Dung #6: Rollins tells Palin she's no Reagan

Tracking the GOP Civil War

(For an explanation of this ongoing series, see here. For previous entries, see here.)

Long-time Republican operative/strategist Ed Rollins has penned a piece for CNN in which he tells Sarah Palin to cool it -- and, well, politely puts her in her place:

[Q]uit comparing yourself to Ronald Reagan. To paraphrase the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's comments to Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate: I knew Ronald Reagan, and you're no Ronald Reagan.

You're a media star and a great curiosity. You were plucked out of political obscurity because of the whim of presidential contender John McCain, who didn't know you and made you into an overnight sensation. You performed well for three weeks in the campaign, did better than expected against Joe Biden in the debate and then you self-destructed.

You clearly weren't ready for prime time, but neither was your running mate. After the election, you quit your day job as governor of Alaska with 18 months left in the term and went out and made a fortune making speeches and selling a book.

It was certainly your right, and you're not the first one to cash in on fame. Millions of Americans love you, and I am sure millions more hate you. Unfortunately, that's what happens in politics.

You can be a contender for the Republican nomination in 2012, but you're a long way from being the nominee. You're going to have to beat some very formidable candidates with way more experience and far superior knowledge on issues foreign and domestic. And to rate your chances today, I would put them at "possible" but not "probable." It's an all-uphill battle.

Right now, polls indicate you wouldn't carry your home state of Alaska.

Etc., etc. It's fairly tame, but the message is clear.

And will Palin get that message and do as Rollins suggests? Of course not. She may "want to be a player," but she's not about to "go to school and learn the issues" or "[p]ut smart people around [her] and listen to them." She's not about to do the hard work necessary to become "a serious presidential candidate." She just wants to build her brand and take what she thinks is the easy way up the ladder.

"If you want to be an imitator of Ronald Reagan, go learn something about him and respect his legacy." Yeah, good luck with that.

Rollins concludes by calling Palin a "gadfly," intimating that she should probably just remain on the sidelines in her "forum" -- presumably he understands this to be Fox News, Facebook, and her cult of personality on the Tea Party right.

No, such euphemistic criticism from a somewhat has-been like Rollins doesn't mean all that much compared to Palin's massive popularity among Republicans. But you can add it to the list, a growing list of opposition to the GOP's major star and de facto leader.

There's a deepening divide in the party between the pro-Palin and anti-Palin factions. The former is much larger, but, clearly, many Republicans have had enough.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Quote of the Day: Andrew Sullivan on Republican "dickishness"

I've got to hand it to Andrew Sullivan. I may not always agree with him (and his small 'c' conservatism), but he's immensely quotable and, when it comes to what's wrong with American conservatism and the Republican Party, is right on:

What we've observed these past two years is a political party that knows nothing but scorched earth tactics, cannot begin to see any merits in the other party's arguments, refuses to compromise one inch on anything, and has sought from the very beginning to do nothing but destroy the Obama presidency. I see no other coherent message or strategy since 2008. Just opposition to everything, zero support for a president grappling with a recession their own party did much to precipitate, and facing a fiscal crisis the GOP alone made far worse with their spending in the Bush-Cheney years. There is not a scintilla of responsibility for their past; not a sliver of good will for a duly elected president. Worse, figures like Cantor and McCain actively seek to back foreign governments against the duly elected president of their own country, and seek to repeal the signature policy achievement of Obama's first two years, universal healthcare.

Read the whole post.

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GOP harmony: the pre-season doesn't count

David Weigel had an interesting article recently in Slate about how rumours of impending GOP civil war are greatly exaggerated. He makes a good case that we might be surprised when all those Republicans end up playing nice with each other. I do find it interesting, though, that the subtitle of the piece is: "Anyone hoping for 2011 GOP infighting is going to be disappointed." The article is then sprinkled with qualifiers like "so far" or "not yet," or "GOP's honeymoon period."

I don't want to speak for Mr. Weigel, but it seems to me he's arguing with himself. Who cares if they're getting along this week or even into next year? That's not what's going to matter, and in his own way I think he knows it. So far they are getting along. OK. But when it counts they are either going to get along or they're not. Anything else is just pre-season.

I certainly never expected them to start throwing office furniture at each other this soon. Come on. Most of the new class are still hiring staff and finding the bathroom or complaining about how long it takes their health benefits to kick in. And the old guard is having too much fun once again having some power.

Hell, these people just had a major electoral victory. I suspect they're partly stunned with their good fortune. It's going to take some time for them to remember that many of them really don't like each other very much and are really not in lock step on a number of things. And outside the Beltway people are going to start to realize that this is a very broad coalition, as any successful coalition must be.

Victory can paper over a lot of dissension, but true believers and pragmatists in bed together? Can it last? I don't know.

Remember that this is a party that rejected a strong Senate candidate in Florida because he once hugged the president. These are very emotional people prone to some pretty severe judgments and they'll get around to remembering that again.

Getting along now doesn’t matter. Getting along when there are spoils to be fought over, that's going to be a different thing. Getting along when the next campaign season gears up with all of those contested nomination races: the Senate, House, and presidency, not to mention state and local races, well, that’s going to be much, much different.

Weigel writes that "[i]n order for there to be a real split in the new GOP there needs to be a disagreement on some issues big enough to distract the party from its mission."

This is a party that saw sure-shot Senate seats in Nevada and Delaware pissed away in defiance of the GOP establishment over nothing but Tea Party wackiness. Weigel is giving them way too much credit. Issues? Really?

It's interesting that he cites the survey data that shows more than half of Tea Partiers identifying with the religious right. Maybe I just don't see these people being as patient and calculating as Weigel thinks they'll be.

None of us can prove anything at this point but a movement feeling the need to invent aderisive term for one of their own deemed not pure enough, i.e., RINO (Republican in Name Only), doesn't strike me as a group that's going to get through the next election cycle without some seriously messy internecine strife.

I do think that Weigel is right that a general hatred for Obama is what has kept this conservative coalition together. But now that they have had some success they are going to want more and may end up being in too much of a hurry for the next conquest to tend to the niceties of getting along with each other.

Yes, for now they are more or less getting along. We'll see.

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Taking a leak

By Carl 

Al Capone committed all sorts of nefarious and dastardly crimes during his reign in Chicago. He was nailed on tax evasion.

Any number of criminals have been arrested and jailed on minor charges from littering to jaywalking, nuisance infractions that are enforced only in the most extreme circumstances, or when they really need to hold someone, but have no real charges to post. 

This, however, smacks of illegality: 

PARIS — Interpol has placed Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing organization, on a so-called red notice wanted list following allegations of sexual misbehavior by a Swedish prosecutor, according to the police organization’s Web site on Wednesday.

The notice said Mr. Assange, 39, was wanted for "sex crimes" on an arrest warrant brought by the international public prosecution office in Gothenburg, Sweden. Interpol is based in Lyon, France. Mr. Assange's whereabouts were not immediately known.

Now, I don't really want to get into the merits of the charge -- and if you feel strongly about them, comments are open -- although that does play a part in my analysis.

You may recall that over the summer (on August 20) an investigation was opened in Sweden, accusing him with one rape and another case of sexual harassment. The rape charge was dropped almost immediately, then re-instated a week later. Assange admits to having sex twice during the period in question, alluding to the possibility that it was with both women. He also says it was consensual, if unprotected (which might under Swedish law be an issue).

In other words, this really becomes a "he said, she said" matter (although I'm sure there must be some physical evidence tying him to the events), and consequently the purview of local authorities. A criminal investigation was handed up in November, and an arrest warrant handed down. This has ballooned into the current Interpol order.

There seems, however, to be some conflicting details about Assange's cooperation. His lawyer claims he's offered to meet on neutral territory (including a Swedish embassy), but the Swedish prosecutor has insisted he return to Sweden to face the charges. Of course, the prosecutor denies this.

Now, a Red Notice is Napoleonic in nature. The fugitive has to prove his innocence before it's lifted, and he is presumed guilty of the charges until he's tried and exonerated. There are actually two Red Notices: one is an arrest warrant, the other is for a fugitive who has been tried, convicted, and sentenced. Interpol claims that there is no arrest warrant on Assange, meaning he's wanted for fleeing a sentence.

Um, excuse me? He hasn't even been tried yet. Effectively, he's being chased down across the globe to be arrested, but yet, there's no international arrest warrant other than the Swedes own BOLO.

This disturbs me. Here we have two events that involve no physical evidence of a crime being committed, only evidence that the events happened. Yet, Assange is being equated to Osama bin Laden in criminality.

That's simply not right. Whatever you think of the leaks (the Libertarian in me thinks he did signal service, but the American in me wishes he had been a little more cautious in what he leaked), for a state, or group of states, to hunt down a person internationally on the word of two women, neither of whom has to come forward to reveal their identities is a New World Order writ small.

The timing of all this is a little suspect, as well. Who has ever heard of an international probe launched for sexual misbehavior within months of the event? It's not like Assange killed women he slept with and would be an imminent danger to be around. In July of this year, Assange released the Afghan war documents, internal Pentagon documents that detail secret conversations and discussions of the war in Afghanistan. In August, he's accused of rape. By December, he's on what amounts to an international terror watch and presumably could be assassinated by a trigger-happy cop in whatever country he lands in.

All because he spoke the truth.

Like it or not, support him or not, this has to send a chill down your spine.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ham and Shadeggs

In the past two years, the Republicans have said and done so many outrageous and dumb things -- that it impossible to count them, keep track of them or remember them all. I would say the GOP has jumped the shark, but they did that back in 1980 when they nominated Reagan.

But today outgoing Arizona Representative John Shadegg may have actually jumped the Palin -- saying something so outrageous, so stupid, and so wrong it is hard to believe he hasn't been laughed out of Congress (or laughed out of the human race) a month early.

The Republicans are so smug and arrogant right now they actually think they can say ANYTHING can just get away with it. We are witnessing the modern day version of Pavlov's Dogs behavior -- if you are never punished or admonished for doing or saying the wrong things, then you will continue to do or say the wrong things. With no one in the media calling them out on their utterly ridiculous statements (e.g. "death panels") you end up with Pavlov's Elephants invoking Goebbel's big lie -- create a lie big enough and pound it in long enough AND not get called out on it -- and you end with a new reality.

From ThinkProgress:

BARNICLE: What about the fact that unemployment benefits pumped into the economy are an immediate benefit to the economy? Immediate...

SHADEGG: No, they're not! Unemployed people hire people? Really? I didn't know that.

BARNICLE: Unemployed people spend money Congressman, 'cause they have no money.

SHADEGG: Aha! So your answer is it's the spending of money that drives the economy and I don't think that's right. It's the creation of jobs that drives the economy... Actually, the truth is the unemployed will spend as little of that money as they possibly can. Job creators create jobs.

BARNICLE: Have you ever been unemployed? Have you ever been unemployed?

SHADEGG: Yes, I have.

BARNICLE: What did you do with the money? Save it?

It hard even to start on this one. Job creators create money as well as jobs and unemployed people hoard money!

I would think even an idiot like Shadegg would understand that someone who is unemployed will spend whatever they have (from savings or unemployment insurance) to keep their family fed and clothed. Shadegg seems to think that these people are headed to the craps table in Las Vegas or the roulette wheel in Monte Carlo -- or better -- stashing their newfound wealth in an offshore bank on the Cayman Islands.  How about the fact that many families are suffering greatly during this holiday season -- and would like to make sure their kids can find a little joy. Not John Shadegg -- these are leeches on society. 

Let's go to Shadegg's second corollary -- that the money the freeloaders will spend won't help the economy, but tax cuts for the idle rich job creators will boost economic output. If more and more people are out of work (some estimates say true un/under-employment is nearly 20%) and more and more of those people are losing their final safety net -- where is this great demand going to come from? 70-75% of the U.S. economy is based on consumer spending -- for groceries, gas, kid's toys etc. NO demand -- no need for goods and services. The trickled down money to the wealthy is not going to get invested in new businesses and increase production because the rich have an extra $50K in their checkbook. Corporations will create jobs if and when they have a need to -- MORE DEMAND.

Even fucking Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand would admit to that.

Tax cuts do NOT create jobs, because tax cuts do not create demand. Tax cuts create more cash for people -- they DO NOT make people spend. Giving the rich more money will not up their demand -- how many BMWs do they need? Do the beneficiaries of this tax cut largesse save that extra cash? Sure they do. Remember from basic economics 101 that savings = investment. Well, with the banks not lending to create growth, that theory is as good as a bad egg. When people and businesses have a need for something they spend -- not when they are given a free flow of cash.

Memo to Dodo Shadegg -- people living paycheck to paycheck and new businesses need to spend. The Koch brothers do not need to spend.

John Shadegg may be an evil and corrupt (hence typical) Republican, but even John Shadegg is not stupid enough to believe this (Palin and Bachmann yes, Shadegg no). Shadegg may be spewing the diarrhea (hate of the freeloading unemployed), but even he knows that unemployment benefits go directly back into the economy and that jobs are ONLY created when there is demand for products and services.

Oh, evil and corrupt and heartless John Shadegg wants to extend tax cuts for the rich -- but that was a given. After all the rich are job creators -- not freeloaders off the government dole.

You think the economy is bad now? Let's drop the final safety net for millions of unemployed Americans and watch small businesses -- businesses that cater to basic needs -- suffer. As an added bonus, property values will drop as even more homes get foreclosed.

Those people left without anything -- welcome to your Shadeggville.

This is only the tip of the teabag. When the Teabags really take control in January we are going to see even more "soak the poor" regulations. Remember -- there is a common pledge for all GOP members to abide by for the the next two years -- make things to get worse and blame the Kenyan Muslim socialist.

Why do people continue to fall for this crap?

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