Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hot Senate races in 2012

By Richard K. Barry

If we are counting correctly, the next general election in the United States will take place in about eighteen months on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Between now and then there will be a great many nomination races not only to see who the Republicans put up against President Obama but also for House and Senate seats in both parties.

And then comes the general election itself, which will determine the composition of the executive and legislative branches of our government. In other words, many, many contests to think about.

It's occurred to us here at The Reaction that it might be useful to begin wrapping our heads around some of the more important or, to put it differently, more hotly-contested races.

As a starting point, we thought we would look at the United States Senate, which, as any grade school child knows, elects a third of its membership of 100 every two years, who then get to serve six-year terms. In other words, those 33 who will be elected on November 6, 2012 will serve from January 3, 2013 to January 2, 2019.

At the moment, Democrats control the Upper House by a margin of 53-47, which means that the GOP would need to win 3 or 4 seats to take control, depending on who wins the White House because the President of the Senate, who is also Vice President of the United States, gets to break a tie.

Unless something changes, Democrats are expected to have 23 seats up for election, which include two independents, who caucus with the Democrats, while the Republicans have only 10 seats up for election.

Predicting what things will look like in a year and a half can be dodgy business, but the simple fact that far more Democratic seats need to be contested might suggest that there is greater potential for Republicans to win back the Senate. It may also be true that some Senate seats currently held by Democrats are in states which are more traditionally Republican.

In any case, our goal here is to have a look at some of these races to see how things are developing and to provide some background to educate ourselves and to perhaps solicit some comments from those who may be closer, both geographically and in terms of intimate knowledge, to some of these races. That would be fine too.

Just to have a starting point, here are 17 of the 33 Senate races that could bare some scrutiny, either because they could flip to the other party or because they could be seriously contested in nomination battles. Others, of course, may be interesting for all sorts of reasons.

Listed is the incumbent and his or her status:

Republicans who are retiring (or have resigned):
Republicans who are running again:

Democrats who are retiring:
Democrats who are running again:
So, that'll keep us busy for a while and along the way we fully expect to get to some of the more interesting House and gubernatorial races -- in fact, we've already started. It will be, we are sure, a very interesting year and a half.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost)

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Elephant Dung #28: Is NY-26 the new NY-23?

Tracking the GOP Civil War

By Michael J.W. Stickings

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

Earlier today, R.K. Barry posted on the goings on in NY-23, the district that in 2009 saw one of the very first Tea Party uprisings.

As you may recall, Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman emerged to challenge moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava in a special election to replace John McHugh, who resigned to become secretary of the Army. With lackluster backing from the party that nominated her and some high-profile Republicans switching their support to Hoffman, Scozzafava pulled out of the race, endorsing Democrat Bill Owens, who ended up winning the seat narrowly over Hoffman. Owens won again in 2012, even more narrowly over Republican Matthew Doheney. But it was Hoffman who made the difference. He took just enough support away from Doheney to allow Owens to pull it out.

Well, what happened in NY-23 may also be happening in NY-26, where a rich Teabagger, Jack Davis, is dividing Republican/conservative support just the way Hoffman did. The seat is currently vacant, following the resignation of Republican Chris Lee (of Craigslist scandal fame) earlier this year, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo called a special election for May 24.

There's little doubt that it's a Republican seat to lose. Republican Jane Corwin is ahead in the polls, but not by much. Democrat Kathy Hochul is just a few points behind. But Davis is running a strong third, and he's clearly draining support from Corwin. If his support holds up, Hochul could squeak through. Indeed, what should be a slam dunk for the Republicans has been turned into a toss-up by Davis, and the only way the Democrat can win is if the Republican/conservative vote is split, if Davis, like Hoffman, makes just enough of a difference.

What's interesting, though, is that Davis is an ex-Democrat. He even ran for the seat as a Democrat in 2006 and 2008, losing both times. And his views are hardly mainstream (conservative) Republican. He's opposed to the Republicans' budget proposals and is generally isolationist/protectionist. In that latter regard, he's more Buchananite paleo-conservative than business-oriented Republican. He appears to be a right-wing populist, and is certainly trying to appeal to the Tea Party, but he's certainly less of a Teabagger than Hoffman. And, indeed, the Tea Party itself is split between Corwin, something of a Scozzafava-like moderate, and Davis.

It looks to be a brutal campaign, with the right bitterly divided. The district may be Republican enough that Corwin can pull it out, but it's certainly going to be a lot closer than it otherwise should have been. And, once again, we see conservatives turning a safe Republican seat into an opportunity for the Democrats, and all because the Tea Party and its allies on the right are waging a campaign to control the Republican Party by narrowing its ideological scope and purging it of insufficiently conservative (in Tea Party terms) elements. So determined are they, so convinced of their righteousness, that they're apparently willing to commit political suicide in the process.

We'll have to see if NY-26 is indeed the new NY-23. I suspect that Davis has peaked and that Corwin, who has some Tea Party support, will pull it out. But what's going on there is instructive, and what we're seeing is a preview of much more to come in 2012.

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Photo of the Day: Royal Wedding insanity 2

Following up on my PotD post from yesterday...

The wedding is done. Over. But it's been hard to escape it today.

Even in Canada...

We have a federal election on Monday and yet our media have been swept up in the insanity across the pond, and all because this country is too pathetically servile, too disrespectful of our liberty, to cast off the British Monarchy for good, to toss it in the dustbin of our history, where it belongs. Even our most prominent journalist, CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge, has been reporting from London. I find it all utterly revolting.

You can find photos all over the place. (Or you can just turn on the TV.) But here's another pre-wedding one. The insanity is palpable.

(Photo from The Globe and Mail: "Royal fans wait outside Westminster Abbey Thursday. The marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton takes place Friday in London, England.)

I'm embarrassed today even to have anything to do with Britain, even though my family lives there and I'm a British (and Canadian) citizen. It's a wonderful place, in many ways, a country I love.

And yet...

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The appalling bigotry of Sally Kern II

In March of 2008, I wrote about Sally Kern's ridiculous, bigoted claims that that homosexuality is "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, "that proponents of "the homosexual lifestyle" "want to get [children] into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them," and that "no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted for more than, you know, a few decades."

Well, the Oklahoma Republican was back at it on Wednesday, this time directing her bigotry at people of color:

The Republican-controlled Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a proposed constitutional amendment [on Wednesday] that would eliminate Affirmative Action in state government. The offical GOP reasoning for the change is that while "discrimination exists," "I don't think Affirmative Action has been as successful as we like to believe," the bill's sponsor, state Rep. T.W. Shannon (R), explained. But perpetual extremist state Rep. Sally Kern (R) offered her argument for ending the system that helps minorities advance: "blacks" simply don't work as hard as whites:

Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said minorities earn less than white people because they don't work as hard and have less initiative.

"We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that's tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don't want to study as hard in school? I've taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn't study hard because they said the government would take care of them."

There isn't really much that needs to be said about this. Such bigotry, I think, speaks for itself. It's an appalling example of an all-too-common form of somewhat indirect racism. Racists like Kern don't necessarily say that blacks and other "minorities" are sub-human and don't deserve equal rights, just that they're all or mostly (note the broad generalization) lazy, uneducated, and undeserving of government support -- and, worse, "lazy" can be understood as a euphemism for un-American and worse. It's a way of explaining, justifying, and ultimately perpetuating racial inequality.

As Steve Benen asks, "where does the Republican Party even find people like this? Is there a website where a party can order cartoonish racists to serve in state government?"

It apparently doesn't have to look too hard. Cartoonish racists are right at home in the GOP.

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What's new in New York's 23rd Congressional District?

I was wondering today how things were going in the NY-23rd Congressional district. You may recall events in the district that took what probably should have been a safe GOP seat and handed it to the Democrats due to infighting between more mainstream Republicans and the Tea Party.

This started when Republican John M. McHugh resigned the seat on September 21, 2009 in order to become the Secretary of the Army. Thus a special election was required, which, under normal circumstances almost certainly would have been won by the Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava, who had previously been a member of the New York State Assembly.

What made circumstances other than normal was that Scozzafava supported abortion rights and gay marriage and had other unseemly affiliations, as far as the emerging Tea Party movement was concerned.

Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin, among others, decided to put their weight behind some sad sack character who would run under the Conservative Party banner. I believe his name was Doug Hoffman, though as I recall he was a terrible political performer and has mercifully disappeared into political obscurity, but not before he could lend the Democrats a very useful helping hand.

Long story short, running as a third party candidate, Hoffman made it impossible for Scozzafava to win. Upon realizing this, and no doubt sick of being vilified by members of her own party, she dropped out and ending up endorsing the Democrat, Bill Owens (pictured above).

Owens not only won in 2009, but won again in 2010 when Hoffman, having failed to secure the Republican nomination ran (again) as a third party candidate allowing Owens another two-year term. Oddly, Hoffman dropped out late in the race, but too late to have his name removed from the ballot. In the end, Owens got about 48%, the nominated Republican (Matthew Doheny) got about 46% and our helpful friend Hoffman got 6%. That's what they call a spoiler. Yes indeed.

I think I've got the details mostly right and I only recount them because I see that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is already hard at work to reclaim the seat, as they may be able to do (assuming they don't blow their feet off again). Okay, I'm also recounting it because I'm really hoping that Republicans and the Tea Partiers amongst them dance the same dance all over America in 2012.

In total, the NRCC is targeting 23 Congressional districts with robo calls and even some television ads with the same basic message, which I found interesting and perhaps indicative of things to come. So, take heed.

Here's the script:

Hello, I'm calling from the National Republican Congressional Committee with an important alert about your Congressman Bill Owens. Thanks to Owens' addiction to spending, the federal government borrows $4 billion every day. That's given us fourteen trillion dollars in debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren. And Bill Owens is making it worse. He voted for another Pelosi budget that would strangle our economy with more spending, more debt and more borrowing from China. Call Congressman Owens and tell him to stop spending your money. Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

And, if you insist, here's the ad:

The usual ham-fisted bullshit. My favorite part is the bit with the People's Republic of China and the big red curtain and the Statue of Liberty, that and the beautiful children we are condemning to lives of desperation. It almost brings a tear to my eye.

I didn't see any seniors in the clip who will live their "golden years" terrified that they won't be able to pay for their health care if the Republicans get their way. Maybe the next ad will cover all that.

Just to prove the game is on, a spokesperson for Congressman Owens responded by saying:

Now the Washington attack dogs are trying to distract voters from Rep. Owens' fight to protect Upstate seniors from the Ryan Budget, which would end Medicare as we know it and increase health care costs for the next generation of seniors.


(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Rebels without a cause

By Capt. Fogg

To be honest, I've come to hate activists, even when I agree with them. The passion behind so many crusades has often rendered the crusaders irrational, intemperate and more than half blind. It prompts them to accept spurious facts and figures and sometimes to invent them and in too many cases there's a kind of regenerative feedback that mimics a PA system with too much gain. It begins to howl and screech. Whatever was said into the microphone and what the howling is about matters little, only the joy of crusading, which not only surpasseth understanding, but prevents it.

Take genital mutilation, for instance. On the list of people I hate well in excess of my general contempt for humanity are those who painfully slice up young girls in a way that is intended to prevent them from enjoying sex as an adult. Yes, we have a constitutional ban on government interference with "free exercise" of religion, but we have a long standing interpretation of it that limits that free exercise to otherwise legal actions. We are, even so, usually able to make fair decisions because we distinguish between minor cosmetic surgery and malicious mutilation without a lot of hysteria. We can sometimes tell whether a comparison is ludicrous or not. We're able to take notice of the testimony of close to a billion males that it's not an impairment; unless we're prone to activism, that is.

Is circumcision, demanded by two of the major religious categories, really the kind of "mutilation" that falls outside of constitutional protection? To the activists of San Francisco, there are no uncertainties and certainly no distinction between something that is initially agonizing and a cruel lifelong impairment and something that isn't either. And let me be clear, this isn't a subject that will be illuminated by our traditional, left-right dichotomy. It simply doesn't matter whether it's liberals or Conservatives behind it; whether it's neither or both. I'd go so far as to say that the stated justifications for banning the circumcision of male babies is irrelevant to the passion for it and has too much to do with "aesthetics" to be more than an excuse. So I'm not going to indulge myself in modern fashion by invoking the traditional straw men ( and women of course) and restrict my contempt for people who need to have a cause and need it so much they aren't quite scrupulous about the high contrast, black and white scenarios they use in their passion plays.

If the crusade succeeds, much like the one that captured Jerusalem in 1099, the City by the bay will be as slippery a thing to hold on to. Jews and Muslims will simply use maternity facilities elsewhere or have the religious rite performed elsewhere. The Brit Milah, given in Gen. 17:10-14 to Abraham and in Lev. 12:3 is carried out on the eighth day. Muslims have a similar guideline. The law them would be only an inconvenience, like having to drive to the next town to purchase alcohol is in some places.

What then will it accomplish than, after all the sound and fury and obsession with penises wanes? Certainly nothing to stop what was intended to be stopped unless a further incursion by the dominant religion into the neighborhood of tolerance was part of the game all along.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Elephant Dung #27: Rand Paul takes aim at Donald Trump's questionable Republican cred

Tracking the GOP Civil War

By Michael J.W. Stickings

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

I'm not exactly a fan of Rand Paul, the Tea Party Republican senator from Kentucky. But I've got to hand it to him, he's a funny guy and he's got a knack for hilarious one-line swipes at fellow Republicans. Earlier this month, he took aim at Newt Gingrich. Yesterday, his target was Donald Trump:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday took a swipe at billionaire businessman Donald Trump, demanding to see his "Republican registration."

While speaking at a breakfast with New Hampshire Republicans one day after "The Donald" visited the Granite State, Paul riffed off the potential GOP presidential candidate's "birther" questions.

"I've come to New Hampshire today because I'm very concerned," said Paul, according to The New York Times. "I want to see the original long-form certificate of Donald Trump's Republican registration."

Paul's comments follow up on some GOP-aligned groups' effort to discredit Trump as a conservative. The free-market Club for Growth has accused Trump of being a liberal for his previous support of universal healthcare and his desire to raise tariffs on China.

It's hard to be a successful Republican when you've got both the Tea Party (via Rand Paul) and the Club for Growth aligned against you. Which is no doubt partly why Trump has so enthusiastically embraced the whole Birther thing and is now channelling his racism (what else is it?) into suggesting that Obama is an affirmative action case.

Now, is Trump a Republican? Yes, no doubt. His wealth-based sense of entitlement and megalomania would seem to indicate that he leans to the right, as would his pro-business (or, to be more precise, pro-Trump business) views. But his own political history is mixed. He has espoused various liberal positions over the years, and he was a registered Democrat for years. As he himself has acknowledged, if prior to his current courting of the Republican base, he's an independent, and he has voted for and financially supported both Democrats and Republicans.

None of this should disqualify Trump from being a Republican today, but of course the Republican Party, and in particular its powerful Tea Party wing, is all about party purification. They're the new Bolsheviks. If you're not Republican enough, Republican as they define it, they'll purge you from the party. We're seeing this happen again and again, with the Tea Party and others on the right challenging even established conservatives like Orrin Hatch, Richard Lugar, and John Boehner. The Republican Party is descending into madness, as I've said many times, and all this ongoing purge is accelerating that descent.

Trump has the media platform, not to mention the temperament, to fight back against those who would challenge him, including Paul. But Paul's onto something. Birtherism aside, Trump just isn't the sort of Republican, if truly Republican at all, to win over enough of the grassroots base to win the nomination, even if he manages to lure some of the party establishment (like Ralph Reed). He's got the anti-Obama attack going, and that's sustaining his popularity in the party, but were he to run that popularity would likely fracture once he was actually subjected to any sort of sustained scrutiny of his record. In that sense, he's got a Romney problem, and it's the sort of problem that's virtually insurmountable. Just ask Mitt.

And just ask Rand, who threw a pile of dung at the upstart Trump. If The Donald insists on remaining in the Republican spotlight, there will no doubt be much more to come.

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Obama, Panetta, Petraeus

President Obama shook up his national security team yesterday, notably moving CIA Director Leon Panetta to the Pentagon and Generalissimo David Petraeus to the CIA.

It was "a game of musical chairs," Slate's Fred Kaplan observed, though "under the circumstances, it's hard to imagine a shrewder set of moves, both politically and substantively."

Panetta is a Washington insider. Can he succeed at the Pentagon? Maybe. He certainly has credibility where it matters, on Capitol Hill:

The next defense secretary will have to wind down the wars without losing them and will almost certainly have to cut the budget without wreaking havoc in the Pentagon. It's a nightmare job for anyone, but Panetta has as much experience as anyone at carving out that sort of territory.

I don't much care for him, and he's come to be an apologist for the Bush-Obama national security state, but I suppose he has the political clout to lead what is undeniably a deeply political office. (Whether he manages to secure the trust and support of the military brass, not to mention of the rank-and-file, is another matter, though that may not matter given his political priorities in the months/years ahead.)

As for Petraeus, well, Obama had to do something with him, not least given his political inclinations, if not aspirations, and connections to the conservative/Republican foreign/military policy establishment:

Picking Petraeus to run the CIA is a move worthy of chess masters. He's been a wartime commander of one sort or another for eight years, almost non-stop. It's time for him to leave the battlefield; that was clear even to him. Yet for much of that time, he's also been a household name -- and widely hailed as the U.S. military's finest strategic mind in a generation. So the question -- which would have been vexing for any president -- is: What to do with this guy? Some who are close to the general refer to this question, with a slight smile and a cocked eyebrow, as "the Petraeus problem."


Keeping Petraeus on the inside -- in a job that's related to, but not quite of, the military -- is a judicious stroke.

But will anything actually change? Well, we'll have to see. Maybe Panetta is the right man to deal with Iraq and Afghanistan, and particularly to preside of the end of the latter war. And maybe Petraeus will be a fine CIA director.

But these are political moves, first and foremost. Obama puts an ally/confidante at the Pentagon and a possible rival/critic at the CIA. Panetta will do what Obama wants him to do. Petraeus will perhaps be more independent, but he will also be constrained by his position.

Yes, it was a game of musical chairs. And Obama won.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

This day in history - April 28, 1970: Nixon authorizes the invasion of Cambodia

On April 28, 1970, President Richard Nixon authorized American combat troops to invade Cambodia to engage approximately 40,000 troops of the People's Army of Vietman (North Vietnamese army) and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietman (NLF, also known as the Viet Cong) who occupied the eastern border regions of Cambodia.

A total of 13 major operations were conducted by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN or the South Vietnamese army) between April 29th and July 22nd and by U.S. forces between May 1st and June 30th.

The stated goal for the U.S. was to strengthen the position of the South Vietnamese army to enable it to carry on military operations on its own, after the withdrawal of the American military -- the so called "Vietnamization" process.

Some things never change.

In response to American military action, demonstrations erupted on American university campuses, with protestors expressing opposition to the expansion of the Vietnam War into another country. On May 4th, Ohio National Gaurdsmen shot and killed four unarmed students (two of whom were not protestors) during what became known as the Kent State shootings.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Photo of the Day: Royal Wedding insanity

(We're going to try to make this a regular feature. So check back daily for Photo of the Day posts, usually around this time.)

Photo from The Globe and Mail: "A royal wedding fan prepares his overnight position on the pavement outside Westminster Abbey in London."

Have I mentioned, with so much attention on William & Kate and their impending nuptials, that I'm more ashamed than ever to be, as both a Canadian and British citizen, a "subject" of Her Majesty, and to be associated, even by nationality, with the masses of people who are obsessed with this stupid wedding?

And have I mentioned that I despise both the British Monarchy and monarchy generally?

And that, when it comes to Canada, the country I call my own, I'm a republican? It's truly shameful that our head of state is essentially a foreign monarch and that we kowtow, figuratively speaking (because we should never accept such submission), before an utterly ridiculous institution and an equally ridiculous family that has done nothing to deserve its position of privilege?

Well, there you go. Needless to say, I will not be watching the wedding on TV.

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No circumcision for you!

Generally, and admiringly, I find San Francisco to be one of the most progressive places in America (not that that's really saying much, but still).

Take same-sex marriage, for example: Harvey Milk's city is well out in front of most of the rest of the country, which lingers still in vicious bigotry.

But sometimes it can go too far, and not even in a progressive way. Sometimes it's just nuts:

A group opposed to male circumcision said on Tuesday they have collected more than enough signatures to qualify a proposal to ban the practice in San Francisco as a ballot measure for November elections.

But legal experts said that even if it were approved by a majority of the city's voters, such a measure would almost certainly face a legal challenge as an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of religion.

Circumcision is a ritual obligation for infant Jewish boys, and is also a common rite among Muslims, who account for the largest share of circumcised men worldwide.

The leading proponent of a ban, Lloyd Schofield, 59, acknowledged circumcision is widely socially accepted but he said it should still be outlawed.

"It's excruciatingly painful and permanently damaging surgery that's forced on men when they're at their weakest and most vulnerable," he told Reuters.

Oh please. A ban may or may not be unconstitutional -- I suspect the current Supreme Court would rule it as such -- but it would certainly be stupid. Male circumcision isn't female circumcision, after all, and it's hardly -- sorry, Kramer -- the "damaging surgery" its opponents make it out to be.

The spread of disease may not be much of an issue anymore, given our penchant for hyper-hygiene, and so, if it isn't religion, it may just be parental preference. But what's wrong with that? This hardly rises to the level of a choice that needs to be taken away from parents.

Thankfully, not all of San Francisco is this crazy. A vote would likely fail.

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The amazing Gabrielle Giffords

All I can say is, Rep. Giffords is one strong woman. And it's pretty incredible that she's now walking on her own and will be attending her husband's Space Shuttle launch on Friday.


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That Word, "Need"...


Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia needs to pump at least 9 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude for the next few years and is considering boosting capacity to meet rising demand, Petroleum Intelligence Weekly (PIW) said in a report citing Saudi sources this week.


Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Sunday the kingdom's April oil output may rise from March, when it pumped 8.292 million bpd. Output was above 9 million bpd as recently as February, when the kingdom produced 9.125 million bpd to plug the gap left by Libya, where civil war cut exports.

Libyan output disruption, the threat of more supply cuts stemming from political tumult across the Middle East and North Africa, and strong growth in fuel demand helped push oil prices to 2.5-year highs this year. Brent crude rose to $127.02 a barrel earlier this month, the highest since August 2008, while U.S. crude rose to $113.46.

It sounds to me more like the House of Saud sees an opportunity for enormous profits.

And therein lies the tale.
You may recall that, yesterday, I briefly discussed the looming cold war between the Saudis and Iranians. The Saudis have been stockpiling weapons. While there is no question this has been a drain on the coffers of the King, undoubtedly a few days worth of profit has probably paid many times over for the armaments.
But...there's a flip side. Another thing to consider when looking at this cold war is the unmistakable stench of American policy and hegemony. It is not unlikely, now that Obama has genuflected in the directions of the Saudis, right down to toning down his criticism of Israeli cross-border aggression against the Shi'ite-backed Lebanese and Palestinians (Shi'ite, in this case, being Syria and Iran), that there's a tit-for-tat deal working here, where Obama gets to influence Saudi oil pumping decisions.
Remember that cold war: who's supplying the Saudis with weapons if not us? Well, I mean, us, France and Britain, of course. The Sauds are the seventh largest buyer of armaments in the world. There's a lot of money to be made there, much of which filters its way back to the US.
It is, in effect, an enormous transfer of wealth from the working and middle classes at the gas pump, back up to the rich and elite who supply the weapons technology, many but not all of whom also maintain a vested interest in higher energy prices.
Which means the Sauds have to walk a tightrope in terms of the strike price on their oil deliveries. Too low, and they'll piss off the speculators. Too high, and they'll piss off the adminstration and defense contractors.
So if they can bank a high profit margin at the same time, then things are golden for them.
Need? No. Greed, is more like it.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Whither Birtherism?

Conservative renegade David Frum may describe Birtherism as a "disgrace" and a "phony controversy," as an issue that effectively ended with yesterday's release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, and I credit Frum for asking how "this poisonous and not very subtly racist allegation [got] such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party" (that would be, his movement and his party) and for denouncing "these racialized attacks on Obama" (not just the Birther allegation but the new allegation, via Donald Trump, that Obama is basically a product of affirmative action, undeserving of his Ivy League education), but actually Birtherism and its various offshoots, however convincingly refuted, aren't going anywhere.

James Fallows explains why: "[Tuesday], about half of all Republicans thought Obama was foreign born, and therefore an illegal occupant of the White House. How many Republicans will think the same thing one week from now? My guess is: about half. We've reached that stage on just about everything. It's probably been true of human beings throughout time, but is more obviously significant in politics now, that generally people don't act like scientific investigators, or judges in moot-court competitions, when parsing the logic and evidence behind competing arguments to come up with political views. They go on loyalty, and tradition, and hope, and fear, and self-interest, and generosity, and all the rest."

Quite true, but I think Fallows is too generous, and too universal in applying his theory. While I acknowledge that ignorance, willful or otherwise, has been a facet of the human condition forever, or almost forever, this isn't so much about "human beings throughout time" as it is about the current state of one of America's two dominant political parties, a party that to a great extent has rejected science in favour of a far-right ideology, mixed with a similarly far-right theology, that wants nothing to do with "logic and evidence" and everything to do with trickle-down economics and "Intelligent Design." Yes, much of this has to do with loyalty, tradition, fear, self-interest, etc., but a lot of it has to do with sheer madness -- and, as I have remarked a number of times, what I find to be one of the defining aspects of our time, politically speaking, is the Republican Party's descent into madness, or rather its ongoing descent into ever deeper levels of madness.

Many Republicans, needless to say, still aren't convinced. Some of them are crazies like Leo Berman, but the issue, in one form or another, will be kept alive by more mainstream Republicans like Trump, Newt Gingrich, and everyone else who, sincerely or not, is trying to appeal to the grassroots base of the party. And of course it will be kept alive on Fox News, on talk radio, and throughout Frum's "conservative movement."

It's ignorance, it's racism, it's madness. And the facts don't matter one bit.

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The truth shall set you free, unless you prefer to remain a prisoner of right-wing fear and paranoia

So fuck you, Donald Trump, and the rest of you ignorant, racist Birthers.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It never ends: Racism, Birtherism, and Barack Obama

By Mustang Bobby 

It doesn't matter if it's Winston from Alabama or Donald Trump or Pat Buchanan, there is always going to be a segment of America that will never accept the fact that Barack Obama was born in the United States, grew up and went to college, including Harvard, and then was elected president. They will continue to say that all he has to do is produce the evidence, and they'll be quiet, but the truth is that no amount of facts or proof will satisfy them, and every time more evidence is produced, they'll say it isn't good enough.

There's a very simple reason for this, and we all know what it is, even if Chris Matthews or Mike Signorile is too polite to say it: it's because Barack Obama is black.

That's it. Nothing else. Period. The End. I really don't understand why we keep dancing around it, and although I know that folks like Mr. Trump and Mr. Buchanan have a reputation for, as Howard Cosell use to say, "telling it like it is," they seem reticent to come out and say that they just don't believe that a black man is capable of being admitted to Ivy League colleges or elected to office without some kind of special treatment or affirmative action. They believe so strongly that the system in America is geared towards the white straight man that it is clearly impossible for anyone else to achieve success on their own.

There really isn't any point in arguing with them or trying to prove them wrong. Like Winston from Alabama, nothing you say will convince them. Chris Matthews and all the rest of the pundits are too polite -- and too much entrenched -- to call out Mr. Trump or Mr. Buchanan for their racism, and so they just leave it out there for the rest of us to ponder. And it will never end. If it wasn't Barack Obama, it would be Hillary Clinton, or Colin Powell or even Michael Steele who got where they did by means other than the usual route of working hard and getting into college and getting a job just like the white kid from Westchester.

So clearly Barack Obama had help, either by violating the Temporal Prime Directive and going back to August 1961 and planting false records in the Honolulu newspapers to say he was born there, and then jumping ahead to get him into Columbia and Harvard without anyone knowing him at those schools -- the subtext there is that those places are so lily-white that a black student would garner attention -- or that he brilliantly bought off everyone ever connected with any of those places to plant him in the right place at the right time.

But if he's so smart and rich, there has to be someone else pulling the strings; no black man could come up with such a plan on his own. So who's really in charge? Ah, that's the conspiracy...

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Donald Trump attacks Obama with the affirmative action card

Donald Trump has added yet another unsubstantiated claim to his list of attacks on President Obama. Now he is saying, without a bit of evidence, that Obama was not qualified to attend either of the Ivy League schools, Columbia or Harvard, that he in fact attended. As per normal, the Trump burden of proof is based on the "fact" that he "heard" that Obama was a poor student.

The reality, as is well known, is quite different. Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York in 1983 with a degree in political science after transferring from Occidental College in California. He then went to Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1991. He was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.

Okay, those are facts, but Trump wouldn't recognize a fact if it bit him on the ass (as they say).

So, again, as with the Birther nonsense, this is not about facts. This is racism plain and simple. This is intended to appeal to those who can be easily manipulated to froth at the suggestion that certain individuals (African-Americans, women, etc.) are given all the breaks because of unfair government intervention. You know, the usual right-wing knock on affirmative action. On this logic, when an African-American succeeds in such a grand way, there must be something wrong.

Trump is always indignant at the suggestion that he is a racist. But to modify only slightly the words of that great American philosopher Forrest Gump, "racism is as racism does."

Trump knows what he is doing. He understands his audience. He knows that there are components of the conservative base that will follow him to hell and back as long as he continues to attack the president through whatever means required. He knows it won't get him as far as the White House, but this carnival con man also knows that this will keep him on the front pages of newspapers and on the talk-show and news-panel circuit.

Yes, Trump craves fame above all else, especially as a means to further augment his wealth, and he will crawl through the most disgusting muck to get it. Truly despicable.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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CNN investigation finds that, yes, Obama was in fact born in the U.S.

Did we really need a CNN investigation to tell us what we already knew, what the facts told us, namely, that President Obama was in fact born in the U.S., more specifically in Hawaii on August 4, 1961?


But we got one nonetheless and if nothing else it provides additional confirmation.

And what we can also confirm is that Birtherism is not just a delusional conspiracy theory but a blatant lie and complete disregard for the truth.

But will this finally silence the Birthers? Will it put an end to Donald Trump's self-aggrandizing ravings? No, of course not. The facts mean nothing to the Birthers, including Trump, who will no doubt continue to talk up his own secret investigation. Think Progress:

CNN researchers decided to save Trump the trouble and actually investigate. First, they spoke with Dr. Chiyome Fukino, former Hawaii Department of Health Director and a Republican, who took advantage of a state law allowing her to see President Obama's birth certificate stored in a vault. Fukino declared the certificate "absolutely authentic." She even put disputed Trump's suggestion that Obama is hiding that he's a Muslim to rest, pointing out that no birth certificate from that time mentions faith.

Aware of Trump's concern that no one remembers baby Obama, CNN went ahead and found them too. Not only did Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) reiterate his memory of celebrating the birth with Obama's mother, but so did Dunham's college adviser and another mother giving birth in the hospital when Obama was born. She remembered because "in those days, there were hardly any other black babies."

The repeated debunking of the birther conspiracy has convinced numerous Republicans that Trump offers nothing but a "joke" candidacy. Last night, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) told CNN's John King that this issue "is leading our country down a path of destruction." Americans agree, with 64 percent saying "they would definitely not vote for Trump in 2012" and half of all Americans believing he'd be a "poor" or "terrible" leader. This, however, seems to be another fact Trump will entirely ignore. 

Republicans embrace Birtherism at their peril -- and yet that is precisely what they're doing. Yes, there are some in the "establishment," including Brewer, who are worried about it, but Birtherism is rampant among the base, which explains why so many establishment figures, whatever their own views, are careful not to dismiss it (by insinuating that it might be true or by making it a matter of belief instead of fact) and which helps explain Trump's significant popularity even as a "joke" candidate.

Trump has other things going for him (e.g., broad name-recognition, ubiquitous media presence, myth as self-made Super CEO who possesses astounding business acumen, and lots of money, always popular with Republicans), but his current standing has a lot to do with the fact that he's tapping into the deep reservoir of grassroots Republican paranoia and fear. It's not an accident that he's embraced Birtherism. It's his key to Republican success, should he seek it, and he's not about to drop it just because a CNN investigation says he's crazy.

The facts haven't stopped Republicans before. They won't stop them now either.

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