Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Li'l miss Quitter

The blog Swing State Project notes that Sarah Palin has a history of quitting things mid-way through:

One other thought about Alaska that just about everyone in the tradmed seems to be missing. Sarah Palin did have a job in between being mayor of Wasilla and Alaska Governor: she was chair of Frank Murkowski's Oil and Gas Commission. How long was she on this Commission? Less than a year... until she quit in January 2004 with a big public huff (leaving the Commission in the lurch with only one member), saying "the experience was taking the 'oomph' out of her passion for government service and she decided to quit rather than becoming bitter."
To which the Daily Kos adds:
Don't forget that she also quit four different colleges en route to getting a degree in journalism. It seems that the one lesson Sarah Palin's learned her whole life is that quitters always win.

(Via Daily Kos)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Too Disingenuous for Words

Sarah Palin:

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said after Palin's resignation that she was "deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded."

Palin responded Monday by saying there's a double standard. She brought up the fact Murkowski left the Legislature when her father, then-governor Frank Murkowski, appointed her to the U.S. Senate seat he gave up to become governor.

"The double standard that's applied here is a bit perplexing. ... Didn't Lisa Murkowski leave office to go take her dad's seat? (Govs.) Huntsman left, Napolitano just left ... ," Palin said, referring to governors who took positions in President Obama's administration.

Palin said she is embarking on a "different, more effective path" than finishing her term. Asked how, she said she didn't know at this point, other than to campaign for political candidates who represent the values she supports.

There's no double standard here: there's a long, storied history of politicians cutting their terms short to take a government post with greater responsibilities. The people accept this, and vote for them knowing this might be true. You'll find very few constituents who enthusiastically voted for a governor and then became upset that said governor decided to make a presidential run mid-way through his term. But there is decidedly not a long storied history of politicians quitting their elected offices because they got their feelings hurt by a comedian, and remaining popular nonetheless.

We will suffer one who strives mightily but fails despite his best efforts (witness first Rocky movie) wee love the man who dies with his boots one (witness John Henry) but America has no taste for quitters. And that is exactly what Sarah Palin is.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

On This Peculiar Sarah Palin Thing.

What can be said about Sarah Palin and her inglorious exit from the political stage? Almost everyone on both sides of the political aisle is expressing puzzlement over her decision to resign the Alaska governorship a mere two years into her first term, and a full three and a half years before the 2012 presidential elections. Abandoning your state at the height of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression isn't exactly a sign of steadfast leadership. Indeed, among serious commentators, only Bill Kristol (if you can call him a serious commentator) is kind enough to consider the move an audacious gambit of improbable success.

Palin's speech and the reasons she is giving for her resignation bear that trademark, curious Sarah Palin combination of disingenuous and puzzling. In typical GOP fashion, Palin hypocritically blasts Barack Obama for the economic stimulus package:

I’ve taken the slings and arrows with that unpopular move because to veto [the economic stimulus funds] was the right thing to do because I know being right is better than being popular. — and it was an unpopular stand to take. Some of those dollars would harm Alaska and they harm America. I resisted those dollars because of the obscene national debt that we’re forcing our children to pay because of today’s big government spending. It is immoral and it doesn’t even make economic sense.
It's really rich for Palin to blast Obama's stimulus package as "immoral" when its merely a response to the severe economic crisis that eight years of GOP laissez-faire regulatory policies left for the President when he entered office. Let us not forget that the GOP was all too happy to double the national debt during the course of George W. Bush's presidency when there was no justifiable, pressing economic crisis to ameliorate. During the Bush years we saddled our children with debt for the sake of obscene tax breaks for the top 1%. Our current deficit spending regime is, at least, predicated upon preventing a terrible economic crisis from metamorphosing into a worldwide economic collapse. And thus far the President seems to be meeting with some success. Only six months ago economists were warning of the very real potential of a worldwide depression and 40% unemployment rates. Now few economists see much worse than a long, protracted and painful recession. Yes it's gloomy, but it's no longer "stock your basement with water and canned goods" gloomy.

Also curiously hypocritical is Palin's insistence that personal criticisms directed against her and her family have driven her from politics. This might be a genuine issue if she had proven herself to be an honorable straight shooter who never sinks to the murky depths of disingenuous personal attack. But her record during the McCain presidential campaign proves that she's just the opposite sort of campaigner:

Someone who dishonestly exploits the flimsiest of associations to attack her political opponents for "paling around with terrorists" has no business complaining about the way she is described by her political opponents. Palin gleefully adopted the role of attack dog during the last presidential campaign, going so far as to publicly criticize John McCain's handlers for not harping on Obama's ties to the reverend Jermiah Wright (who was himself a victim of a dishonest GOP smear machine as well as a cowardly and dishonest press establishment, IMHO). To complain that she herself is being unfairly treated is, again, the height of hypocrisy.

But maybe there's more to this resignation than meets the eye? Could it be that there are other motives behind Palin's abandonment of her gubernatorial duties? According to the site (via Stinque), Palin is being investigated by the FBI for embezzling funds during her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

The embezzlement scandal involves the massive, $12.5 million sports complex that Sarah Palin pushed through during her last term as Mayor in Wasilla. Federal investigators believe the price of the sports complex was inflated to provide free building materials and labor for the Palin home being constructed nearby.

The sports complex’s contractors and architect have strong links and ties to Palin. Spenard Building Supplies was one - they are the largest building supply company in Alaska - and they also supplied labor & materials for the Palin’s home being built at the same time on nearby Lake Lucille.

Spenard Building Supplies was also the supplier and contractor for ex-Senator Ted Stevens cabin. This one building supply company was in bed with Palin, Stevens, the Wasilla sports complex, and is also a major financial contributor to Palin.

If there is merit to the case, then Palin's peculiar train-wreck of a political career has surely come to a sad, pathetic end.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Now One From My Neck of the Woods

Staying classy, Joyce Thomann, the president of the Republican Women of Ann Arundel County posted an observation om the group's website that has some people talking:

Obama and Hitler have a great deal in common in my view. Obama and Hitler use the 'blitzkrieg' method to overwhelm their enemies. FAST, CARPET BOMBING intent on destruction. Hitler's blitzkrieg bombing destroyed many European cities - quickly and effectively. Obama is systematically destroying the American economy and with it AMERICA. First the banking/investment industry, next private enterprise (GM and Chrysler) and now HEALTH CARE. And he is working on grabbing more of the American economy with his environmental extremism!
Reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that even that group's members have stopped defending Thomann:

"I'm afraid that it very well may take a long time to undo this damage, if we can," [Vice President Carolyn] Middleton said. "If not, we will have to take down our charter and maybe have to regroup and start again."

Middleton said Thomann has a history of posting hateful material on the group's Web site, and that the group's leaders wish they had stopped her before it damaged the group's reputation.

Yeeeeah... maybe you could have started by not electing her your group's president?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Health Insurance Fraud

The New York Times has a piece on so-called "Limited Benefits" health insurance plans, which, judging from the article, are the health insurance equivalent of window dressing:

Too many other people already have coverage so meager that a medical crisis means financial calamity.

One of them is Lawrence Yurdin, a 64-year-old computer security specialist. Although the brochure on his Aetna policy seemed to indicate it covered up to $150,000 a year in hospital care, the fine print excluded nearly all of the treatment he received at an Austin, Tex., hospital.

He and the hospital say they were surprised to eventually learn that the $150,000 hospital coverage in the Aetna policy was mainly for room and board. Coverage was capped at $10,000 for “other hospital services,” which turned out to include nearly all routine hospital care — the expenses incurred in the operating room, for example, and the cost of any medication he received.

In other words, Aetna would have paid for Mr. Yurdin to stay in the hospital for more than five months — as long as he did not need an operation or any lab tests or drugs while he was there.
So what we have, in essence, is a plan that, on the surface, offers $150,000 of medical coverage, but once you dig deeper, really only cover $10,000 in care, as the additional coverage that it claims to offer is exceedingly unlikely ever to be needed. It would be like my selling you a $250,000 insurance policy on your house that covers only $10,000 for fire damage and up to $250,000 for a meteor strike.

Most interesting is the way that Mr. Yurdin's employer justified offering such plans:
Although Mr. Mann acknowledged that the plan Mr. Yurdin purchased excluded routine hospital care, he said he thought it still provided value to employees who wanted “peace of mind.”
In other words, it allows people the "peace of mind" of believing that they have health insurance when, in fact, they do not. That sounds suspiciously like fraud to me.

Elsewhere in the article it mentions that Mr. Yurdin's plan cost him $250 per month. So, in essence he's paying $3000 per year in premiums for $10,000 in potential coverage.

One of the shocking realities of the health care debate that is hardly acknowledged is that, even though the U.S. currently has 47 million uninsured people, a significant number of those who are insured have coverage under a so-called "limited benefits" plan. In other words, they are statistically counted under the "insured" column when, in fact, they should probably be labeled as "uninsured" given the disastrous financial consequences of a serious illness under such a plan.

Later in the article a representative from Aetna claims that these plans are necessitated by the fact that the U.S. does not have a "health care mandate" that helps spread the risk of coverage among health as well as infirm citizens. And Aetna is correct in that regard. Universal coverage is essential if we are to make health insurance broadly affordable. But this, of course, also points to the necessity of a government alternative plan to help keep the insurance companies "honest." If we're going to insist that all American buy coverage, we cannot just wrap them in a blanket and drop them at the doorsteps of the vultures in the insurance industry.

Of course, I feel that a government single-payer plan would be the simplest and most cost effective method for reforming our health care system and getting our ballooning debt under control. It is, alas, probably impossible given political realities.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Danger of Time Travel (per planet Corner)

Writing about the new Star Trek film from planet Corner, Mark Kirkorian identifies the true danger of time travel:

I don't usually like time travel stories, ranking them just above holodeck cop-outs, but in this case it served a long-term purpose. Among Trek fans and writers, it's always been the position that only the TV series and the movies were "canonical" — i.e., genuine events in the Star Trek universe, while the novels and comic books (not to mention all the fan-authored stories) were not. But this movie has created an alternate timeline, and thus the possibility of an infinite number of alternate timelines. So instead of a Star Trek universe, there's now a Star Trek multiverse, where everyone's story (even the fatuous Kirk-Spock love stories) can be "canonical," because they take place in a parallel universe!

So lay off the time travel, OK guys? Unless you want to spawn an infinite number of parallel universes including a few in which you are gay!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Meanwhile on Redstate

Redstate poster Streiff also appears to believe that Mitt Romney is the only GOP official who is not having illicit sex in a South American country, though (s)he seems much less sanguine about a Romney candidacy:

It is also a shame because it means we may have to endure yet another Mitt Romney candidacy as fiscal conservatives look for a home on 2012.

Meanwhile on planet Corner II

Over on National Review's "The Corner", Rich Lowry is pretty sure that Mitt Romney is probably the only prominent GOP member who isn't having an affair with someone or other.

Meanwhile on planet Corner

The party of God, morality and family values, always ready to forgive their own:

Sanford [Mike Potemra]

This dramatic news conference was the first time I had ever watched him, and he came across as a very sincere, humble, and impressive person. If you come across this well on the worst day of your life, you must be doing something right. Is his political career "over"? I frankly don't care about that. I'm just glad to have seen somebody standing up and doing the right thing, being honest about sin and responsibility.

How nice.

The question

I guess the question that logically follows: did Sanford try to turn down the Obama stimulus because he was getting all the stimulus he needed down in Argentina?

Liveblogging Mark Sanford's news confernece?

2:19 Where's hi wife?
2:20 Was is sex?
2:21 Yes, it was sex.
2:22 Bye, bye Markie.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nixon on abortion

Newly released audiotapes show that president Nixon approved of abortion in only limited circumstances, namely, in the case of rape or incest, or if the child was interracial.

I await our conservative friends' continued insistence that the "Southern Strategy" was a fiction cooked up by liberal academics and opponents of GOP policies more generally.

Not a twitter, just a twit

The New York Times kept quiet when one of its reporters was kidnapped in Afghanistan in hopes of keeping things low-key and eventually securing his release, so why couldn't the paper of record keep its trap shut about torture, secret prisons and illegal eavesdropping by the CIA on U.S. citizens? That's the gist of this asinine post on Michelle Malkin's website yesterday.

(via Wonkette)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Neda Agha-Soltan

Her full name was Neda Agha-Soltan, and she was murdered by theocratic thugs. May her name never be forgotten. May her murderers pay a hefty price for their crime. May the people of Iran breathe freedom because of her and the brave multitudes who have taken to the streets to defy the Ayatollahs and the Basij criminals who protect them, and who help enforce their corrupt, inhumane and un-democratic rule.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Neda: Martyr for Freedom

A young girl who is known only as Neda has become the the latest universal martyr for freedom. Her sacrifice gained worldwide notice when a YouTube video surfaced of the young woman lying on the ground moments after she had been shot through the heart by Iranian security forces. The video, which shows the girl in her last moments as she lies dying and blood begins running from her nose and mouth is beyond gruesome and beyond tragic. I simply cannot post it here, but it is easily found online if you insist on witnessing the crime for yourself. CNN reports:

Amid the hundreds of images and videos of Saturday's brutal crackdown on protesters in Iran that flooded the Internet, it was the graphic video showing the death of a young woman that touched a nerve among those following the events in Tehran for more than a week.

Like most of the information coming out of Tehran, it is impossible to verify her name, Neda, or the circumstances of her apparent death, captured close-up on a bystander's camera.


One blogger posted that Neda was protesting with her father in Tehran when pro-government Basiji militia opened fire and shot her in the heart.

Neda, we mourn your senseless death. May the cause you supported succeed, and may your killers be brought to justice (and I speak both of Neda's immediate murderers as well as the more distant figures who autorized her death from a government office, while sitting behind a desk).

This is what martyrdom really looks like, people.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lou Dobbs' Tiniest Victim

My latest post is up on Stinque. It concerns the child whose picture is reproduced to the left and it was very hard for me to write.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quote for the Day

"Government does not create wealth..."

George W. Bush, on Wednesday. Thus said the ex-president whose fiscal and economic policies over an 8 year period resulted in the destruction of trillions of dollars of wealth in the U.S. and abroad.


This blog is modifying its header temporarily to show solidarity with the people of Iran. May their efforts prove successful as they press their leaders for the rights and freedoms they deserve.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quote For the Day

What we're seeing is how much of the neocon agenda really was about freedom. I have long since stopped believing that, having observed them closely for the past few years. They are about warfare against Israel's perceived enemies, and extending US hegemony to eclipse any rival regional or global power. That is the prism through which you have to watch their every statement.
Andrew Sullivan, aghast at neo-conservatives who voice support for the re-election of Iranian president Ahmadinejad under the theory that he makes a much better boogeyman than would a reformist with popular support.

The Corporation is Always Right

In the wake of the recent FDA advisory warning that the homeopathic cold remedy remedy Zicam can cause a loss of the sense of smell, the New York Times publishes an article detailing the dangerous extent of the Bush administration's anti regulatory philosophy:

In 2006, Matrixx paid $12 million to settle 340 lawsuits from Zicam users who claimed that the product destroyed their sense of smell, a condition known as anosmia. Hundreds more such suits have since been filed.

Although the F.D.A. took no action during the Bush administration, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, who was named the agency commissioner by President Obama, said the incidence of anosmia associated with Zicam “strikes us as a fairly large problem.”

The agency issued its consumer alert even though Matrixx refused to recall its products, a highly unusual event. In a news release, Matrixx said it had suspended shipments of Zicam and would reimburse customers who wanted a refund.

“Matrixx Initiatives stands behind the science of its products and its belief that there is no causal link between its intranasal gel products and anosmia,” the release said. “For this reason, Matrixx Initiatives believes that the F.D.A. action is unwarranted and will seek a meeting with the F.D.A. to review the company’s product safety data.”

Matrixx had $101 million in sales last year, of which $40 million came from Zicam products. Because Matrixx has called Zicam a homeopathic product, the company was not required to seek agency approval before selling it.

The F.D.A. does not have the power to order product recalls but must rely on manufacturers to do so voluntarily. Bills now moving through Congress would give the agency that power. Bush administration appointees said the F.D.A. did not need mandatory recall authority because companies always withdrew unsafe products when asked.

But the government sometimes negotiated for days or weeks before companies agreed to recalls, leading many more consumers to be put at risk.
So here we have a company flouting medical regulation by labeling its product a "homeopathic remedy" and, what's more, continuing to sell it even after receiving hundreds of complaints from consumers:
Matrixx has received more than 800 reports of Zicam users losing their sense of smell but did not provide those reports to the F.D.A., said Deborah M. Autor, director of compliance in the agency’s drug center. The law requires producers of approved drugs to forward to the F.D.A. all reports of product-related injuries, but Ms. Autor declined to say whether this reporting requirement applied to Matrixx. (emphasis added)
$40 million in annual sales, $12 million in onetime lawsuits. You do the math. It's pretty clear from this why a "voluntary recall" program is not enough to prevent these snake oil salesmen from hawking their dangerous wares.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Must Read

Frank Rich's column in today's New York Times is a must read, a nice summary of the disjointed right-wing rhetoric that's fueling the violent rampages of the lunatic fringe.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stop Pretending

It's time to stop pretending that the Right-wing in this country does not play host to an army of dangerous, hateful psycopaths. When a prominent Southern Baptist pastor can call overtly for the death of the President of the United States, we've got a problem on our hands. As the Republican party withers into irrelevance, the remaining few are looking more and more like the core of a domestic terrorist cell rather than a political party.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Coleman: Future of the GOP lies in Local Area Networking

According to Norm Coleman, the key to the Republican party's future success lies "in the Ethernet."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Right-wing Media

In today's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne notices the double standard that has taken hold of the media, where radical right-wing views and opinions are treated as mainstream, whereas the left is represented only by moderates who are called to defend themselves against the charges levelled by this extreme right-wing elements:

If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don't. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda.

The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis means that Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left end of a truncated political spectrum. He's the guy who nominates a "racist" to the Supreme Court (though Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to weaken America's defenses against terrorism and is proposing a massive government takeover of the private economy. Steve Forbes, writing for his magazine, recently went so far as to compare Obama's economic policies to those of Juan Peron's Argentina.

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them. But the media play an independent role by regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

Dionne is right to notice this, but he's waaaaaay late to the party. Media watchers have noted for years that extreme right-wing opinion is frequently given a prominent voice and respectable treatment that radical leftists can only dream of. Remember when Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez or the bombing of the U.S. State Department? And yet he is still treated with respect and his on air opinions solicited by mainstream news networks. And studies of the run up to the Iraq war proved conclusively that pro-war opinon vastly outnumbered the war's critics, and that this was by design.

So it's wrong of Dionne to try to blame Democrats for "raising" Limbaugh and Gingrich. The mainstream media has done it for them for decades without any help.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A War of Choice

Those of us who opposed it knew from the beginning that the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq was a war of choice. But in a new Slate piece by Christopher Hitchens on the death of Israeli historian Amos Elon, we learn again just how unnecessary the death and destruction that accompanied the invasion truly was:

One day in Washington several years ago, as it became obvious that things in Baghdad were becoming hellish for the American-led coalition in the Iraq war, he told me the following story. In the run-up to the intervention in Iraq, the United States had approached the Israelis and asked how many citizens they had who spoke "Iraqi Arabic"—i.e., who had lived in Iraq before they had left or been expelled and who understood the local idioms and vernacular. The answer was that there were still quite a few. A group of these was put aboard an AWACS plane that flew high over Iraqi airspace and asked to listen in to radio traffic between Iraqi officers as the date of the Bush ultimatum to Saddam drew nearer.

When debriefed, all the former Iraqi Jews were of one opinion: Saddam's army would not fight, and many of its soldiers had already decided to melt away when the attack began. I thought this was a mildly interesting anecdote and indeed told him so, on the Watergate balcony where we happened to be standing. He was exasperated with me. "Don't you see?" he said. "This means that all the 'shock and awe,' all the damage to Baghdad, all of that, was completely needless? We could have brought down Saddam without smashing Iraq." I have been brooding on this ever since.

We've known at least since Richard Clarke's exposees of Bush administration criminality that the invasion in Iraq was launched, at least in part because Administration insiders felt that an invasion of Afghanistan didn't send a loud enough "message" to the world about American vindictiveness in the face of 9/11. It was Donald Rumsfeld, after all, who lamented that "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq."

So it seems that the Bush administration really just wanted to go in somewhere, guns 'a blazing, and blow up a lot of builidng and bridges and leave a lot of corpses in the sand.

In the end the Bushies suceeded in that part of their mission, though I doubt they fully realized just how may of those sand speckled corpses would wear a U.S. Army uniform.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Domestic Terrorism

An abortion provider is murdered outside his church. Will the media call this domestic terrorism? Will the leaders of Operation Rescue be waterboarded so that they might be forced to reveal what they know about the man's killer and any other unlawful combatants that might be roaming American streets looking to kill more doctors?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quote for the day

Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.

-G. Gordon Liddy, on Sonya Sotomayor.

At this rate, you'll soon be able to fit the entire party membership of the GOP into a phone booth.

Sonya Sotomayor: Providing Some Context

Right wing commentators from Rush Limbaugh to Newt Gingrich to Tom Tancredo have gone out to their way to label Judge Sonya Sotomayor a Hispanic racist, basing their assessment on one sentence taken out of context from a larger speech.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
Conservatives like Limbaugh and Gingrich have tried to use this one sentence to claim that Sotomayor is a Hispanic supremacist who thinks that a female Latina can judge the U.S. Constitution better tahn a white male. Once seen in the broader context of Sotomayor's remarks, however, it is clear that she is, in fact, making this claim only for cases involving discrimination against women and hispanics (a far less controversial stance).

The speech has been reprinted in its entirety in the New York Times, but it is still rather long (5 pages). I therefore here reprint the relevant context with the offending sentence in bold:
No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. Yet, because I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, "to judge is an exercise of power" and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states "there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives - no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging," I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father's visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women's claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants' claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.

In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case.
Clearly, Sotomayor is making a much more nuanced and empirically based argument than her dishonest detractors would have us believe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sharia Law?

President Obama has finally named his choice to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court: 2nd Court of appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who was originally appointed to the bench by George H. W. Bush in 1992.

The usual right wing suspects are predictably beside themselves, erupting in a vitriolic orgy of condemnation:

"Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written," said Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network.

"She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one's sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench. ... She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court."

OK, read that over again. Sotomayor is more liberal than "the current liberal activist Supreme Court." This is the court headed by right-wing ideologue John Roberts, that boasts ultra-conservative activists Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas providing a hard-core radical-right-wing flank. The swing vote on the current court is justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee whose libertarian streak is pretty much the only thing keeping Americans from living under a de-facto Christianist regime of Sharia Law.

I'd really hate to see the sort of Supreme Court that the Judicial Confirmation Network would approve of. I suepect the Salem Witch trials would seem models of judicial restraint in comparison to the decisions that such a court would render.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Absurd Lie of the Day

When Jesse Ventura opines that Barack Obama is doing well considering he inherited a recession and two wars, Sean Hannity responds by claiming that George W. Bush "inherited... the negative impact of 9/11." (Minute 2:40)

I'm not sure how one is supposed to have "inherited" something that happened seven months into one's watch. That claim is just nuts. That's alternate reality stuff. Furthermore, Hannity's claim that Bush inherited a recession from Bill Clinton is also not so clear cut. And he certainly didn't inherit anything like the awful economic catastrophe the country found itself in when Barack Obama was sworn in.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The CIA would never lie (to a Democrat)

Well, I'll be darned. Turns out the CIA does, in fact, lie to members of congress... but only if they're Republicans. Democrats, on the other hand, should clearly wash their mouths out with a bar of soap whenever they suggest that the CIA misled them, because the CIA would never, ever do something like that.

Let me reiterate: this GOP push to investigate Pelosi is surely going to backfire.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Torture inquiry more likely

In a column in the Daily Beast, Matthew Yglesias makes the same point I made a few days ago: that in attacking Nancy Pelosi for her (peripheral) role in the Bush Administration torture scandal, the GOP is making an inquiry pretty much inevitable:

But in their zeal to score a tactical win, the right has made a truth commission more likely not less likely. Obama wanted to avoid a backward-looking focus on torture in part because it distracted from his legislative agenda. But if we're going to be looking backward anyway, thanks to conservatives' insistence on complaining about Pelosi, then the move forward strategy lacks a rationale. And far from forcing a standoff in which Pelosi will abandon her support for an investigation, the right has forced her into a corner from which she can't give in to moderate Democrats' opposition to such a move without looking like she's cravenly attempting to save her own skin.
It's a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let no one insist...

Let no one insist that conservatives are guilty of approaching president Obama's decisions with an open mind. The New York Times is reporting that conservative groups are already mapping out strategies to oppose Obama's (as yet unannounced) nominee for supreme court justice:

WASHINGTON — If President Obama nominates Judge Diane P. Wood to the Supreme Court, conservatives plan to attack her as an “outspoken” supporter of “abortion, including partial-birth abortion.”

If he nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor, they plan to accuse her of being “willing to expand constitutional rights beyond the text of the Constitution.”

And if he nominates Kathleen M. Sullivan, a law professor at Stanford, they plan to denounce her as a “prominent supporter of homosexual marriage.”
Kinda makes me hope Obama nominates Sullivan. Nothing better than to sit back and watch another parade of overt right-wing bigotry that'll simply have the effect of further driving young people away from the GOP while further cementing that party's image as the American counterpart to the Taleban.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Would the CIA mislead? Never!

Nancy Pelosi's accusations that the CIA misled her in 2002 when she was briefed on the possible use of harsh interrogation techniques in connection with the war in Afghanistan has raised eyebrows among right-wing commentators and politicians:

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's accusation that the CIA misled her and others about waterboarding a massive attack on the nation's intelligence community.

Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri on Friday contradicted Pelosi's claim and called her criticism a tragedy. Bond said in a "Today" show interview that he reviewed the CIA's material and it was clear that she had been informed about the enhanced interrogation method.

However, Bond said he was not with Pelosi when the spy agency briefed her.

Now, I can't know for sure what Pelosi was or was not told in 2002, however, the notion that it's inconceivable that the CIA might dissemble when it comes the Bush Administration's torture policies is quite laughable. Have we already forgotten the lengths to which the CIA went to destroy evidence of their misdeeds?

According to a letter filed by the government in court today, the CIA acknowledged it destroyed 92 tapes of interrogations. The admission comes in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking records of the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of prisoners in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all the requested records. That motion is still pending.

The following can be attributed to Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU:

"This letter provides further evidence for holding the CIA in contempt of court. The large number of videotapes destroyed confirms that the agency engaged in a systemic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations and to evade the court's order. Our contempt motion has been pending in court for over a year now – it is time to hold the CIA accountable for its flagrant disregard for the rule of law."

All in all, though, this rush to Demonize Nancy Pelosi is rather disturbing. The press and right-wing is having a field day with the story of what Pelosi knew and when she might have known it. And yet, at most Pelosi is guilty of knowing that torture was taking place in CIA detention facilities and not speaking out against it. Meanwhile the perpetrators of that torture, and the high ranking officials who authorized and ordered it have not been investigated or prosecuted for their crimes. Does it not make sense that one would go after the central figures before focusing on the periphery?

Republicans are enjoying a brief moment in the sun, sitting back an watching the Speaker of the House roast for a few days. I suspect they've made tactical mistake in pushing this story, though. Attacking Pelosi for whatever role she may have played in the torture scandal merely shines more light on it. That alone makes it far more likely that the American people will dmand clarity and the sort of accountability that could find more than a few top Bush administrations in hot water (I'm talking about you Dick Cheney).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How vacuous?

How intellectually vacuous is "Planet Corner"? Matthew Yglesias chronicles the feud that results when a fellow conservative dares to criticize Rush Limbaugh:

...look at what happens after Cato’s Jerry Taylor offers some criticism of Limbaugh at the Corner. All hell breaks loose. Katherine Jean-Lopez attacks Taylor. Mark Steyn rebuts that she “should have been harder on Jerry Taylor’s post.” Taylor defends himself then K-Lo fires back expressing shock that anyone would dare accuse a talk radio host of at times deploying invalid arguments* while Rich Lowry agrees that Rush is wrong about stuff but insists that he should be immune from criticism anyway. K-Lo, back for more, gushes that Rush has a large audience so everyone had better get in line.
Once again, this is what conservatism has been reduced to. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad.

Stupid or dishonest?

Stupid or Dishonest? You Decide:

Here's Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds:

May 14, 2009


Remember how the Reagan administration became a laughingstock for allegedly trying to classify ketchup as a vegetable?

This week, the Obama administration warned that Cheerios are a drug.

On the bright side for Obama, at least it’s not a Jimmy Carter comparison, this time . . . .
But did the Obama Administration really claim Cheerios was a drug? Here's what the article that Reynolds links to really says:

The Food and Drug Administration has taken issue with health claims made by Cheerios, America’s best-selling breakfast cereal, signalling a new approach to food industry marketing under the Obama administration.

The FDA warned General Mills that it was, in effect, marketing its Cheerios breakfast cereal as a drug, because the cereal’s familiar yellow boxes carry unapproved claims about lowering cholesterol and reducing the risks of heart disease.

Is the Obama administration classifying Cheerios as a drug? Of course not. Rather, the FDA under Obama is holding product manufacturers to a tighter standard than the previous administration when it comes to marketing campaigns that claim health benefits that are not scientifically backed. In Reynolds world that somehow means that Cheerios are now classified as a drug.

This sort of nonsense is all that the Right has got right now. No wonder the GOP is in disarray.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

There but for the grace of God...

I empathize completely with Lindsey Lohan, for what happened to her recently could just as easily have happened to me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Get thee back, Satan!

She may have lost the battle against Satan when she agreed to pose topless for a Photographer when she was a "teenager" (her words), but when Satan tempted Miss California, Carrie Prejean, on the issue of Gay marriage (again, her words), she held her ground and stood firm telling the whole world that only "opposite marriage" is acceptable. At least that's what Prejean is telling Focus On the Family's James Dobson, in a new interview on Dobson's radio program.

And now Prejean has become the newest star to the Christian Right, a conservative social movement dedicated to the proposition that the splinter in your eye is a far greater threat to the nation's moral compass than the log in mine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Goodbye Pelosi?

I don't want to jump before all the facts are in, especially since Nancy Pelosi has become the favorite whipping girl of the GOP and the nutty Right. But if, indeed, Pelosi knew that Al Qaeda detainees were being waterboarded back in 2002, as new evidence tends to suggest, then I can't see how she can possibly remain Speaker of the House under a Democratic majority.

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

Our Man on the Inside

Rush Limbaugh again insists that Colin Powell only endorsed Barack Obama because Obama is black, and enjoins the long-time moderate Republican to abandon the party and become a Democrat.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh Wednesday that if former Secretary of State Colin Powell is going to keep criticizing the GOP, he may as well leave the party and become a Democrat—adding that Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama was “purely and solely based on race.”

“He's just mad at me because I’m the one person in the country that had the guts to explain his endorsement of Obama,” Limbaugh said on his radio show. “There can be no other explanation for it.”

“What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat, instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican Party. He's not. He's a full-fledged Democrat,” Limbaugh said.
Now, imagine for a moment, that Democrats had a man "on the inside" as it were, a powerful member of the GOP establishment who was really a double-agent, and whose job was to do as much damage to the GOP "brand" as possible. Who do you think that man would be: Powell or Limbaugh?

My money'd be on Limbaugh.

Gotta love him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I'm sitting at my table, having dinner and watching Chris Matthews and Tom Tancredo "debate" the theory of evolution. It's painful. Neither has the foggiest clue what he's talking about. Matthews just knows he's for it and Tancredo knows he's against it. Matthews doesn't even know the theory well enough to spot the creationist nonsense that Tancredo is spewing. Matthews is trying to use evolution as a means to paint Republicans as anti-science, but he doesn't even underrtand the theory he claims to be defending well enough to realize that Tancredo's absurd arguments prove that very point.

I'm sure there'll be a video of this exchange tomorrow on Crooks and Liars or a similar blog. Until then I'll just sit here and stew in the soup of ignorance that's just been ladelled into my brain.

A Perfect Fit

The GOP, a party which spent the last eight years doubling the national debt and wrecking the economy, has spent the last four months criticizing the Obama administration for spending too much money trying to undo the damage they did and prevent the world economy from plunging into an all-out depression.

It's fitting, then, that Bristol Palin, Daughter of Alaska Governor and GOP superstar Sarah Palin, who spent the last couple of years shacking up with her boyfriend and getting herself all pregnant, is now a spokesperson for abstinence education.

They just don't get it, do they?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Quote for the day

Joe Wurzelbacher, AKA Joe the Plumber:

I've had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn't have them anywhere near my children.
What kind of "friends" can they possibly be if you wouldn't let them "anywhere near" your kids?

This guy and Sarah Palin together are exhibit A on what's wrong with the modern Republican Party.

Killing the Chief

I've long maintained that GM would have to slim down if it hopes to survive, and so I approve of the company's decision to rid itself of several divisions, including Pontiac. That doesn't mean, however, that the move won't be awfully painful to a lot of good, hard working people. The New York Times, for instance, has a story today about one such group of people: a family in Pennsylvania that has been selling cars since 1916, and Pontiacs exclusively since 1926, and whose dealership has been passed down, from father to son, since the very beginning. The death of Pontiac is like the end of their world:

Small, out-of-the-way Arnold Pontiac sells only Pontiacs, GMC trucks and used cars, so the Arnolds figure their G.M. warranty is about to expire. “It was just like getting kicked in the stomach,” says the elder Mr. Arnold, who sold his first car in 1950, to a local man named Paxton. (“Pontiac Catalina. Two-door hardtop. It was cream and rust.”)

His son, who started working at the dealership when he was 6, using a step stool to dust the tops of gleaming Bonnevilles and GTOs, is still trying to process the apparent evaporation of this chunk of his inheritance. “I’m not going to entertain that just yet,” says the younger Mr. Arnold, who sold his first car in 1987. (“Green Sunbird.”)

As Detroit and Washington work to save the car industry from going over a cliff like some roadster in a black-and-white melodrama, entire families have been upended — families that long ago linked their surname to the name of Pontiac in commercial banns of marriage.
The article is worth a read, as it is important to never forget the human cost of our decisions.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

New post

My newest post is up at Stinque.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Execrable Scum

A follow-up on the Chrysler bankruptcy. If what the Washington Post is today reporting is accurate, then the execrable hedge funds that forced the Chrysler bankruptcy are even more despicable than I originally imagined ( know, I know... they never fail to surprise me with the depths of their perverse greed):

The funds hold about $1 billion in Chrysler bonds and have turned down the government's terms. The government would have paid just under a third of the value of those bonds. However, many funds bought the bonds at deep discounts from other investors who feared the bonds might ultimately be worthless.
So these greedy bottom feeders bought distressed assets for pennies on the dollar in the hope of making a killing when the government bailed out Chrysler, and now they're angry that Obama wasn't ready to play their cynical game?

In this context, the following statement of a lawyer representing the hedge funds is almost laughable:
"It sounds like people are being bullied right now," said Ron Geffner, a partner at the law firm Sadis and Goldberg, which represents hedge funds. "To play the 'I stand with Chrysler, I stand with families, I stand with the dealers, I stand with the consumers' -- that's great conceptually, but . . . I stand with the fact that we live in a capitalist society where companies who don't modify their business plans and stay current die and go by the wayside."
These funds bought this debt under the assumption that the cavalry was going to come to the rescue, and are now acting as if it's illegitimate for the cavalry to come to the rescue of dying companies in a capitalist society!? Really, these people are unbelievable!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Crooks that Killed Chrsyler

The greedy bastards who took out Chrysler have released a statement explaining their actions. Predictably, the cowards have not stepped forth to show their faces in the light of day, hiding instead behind the unsigned statement:

The group, which does not identify who they are but sources said includes boutique firm Perella Weinberg, hedge fund Stairway Capital and asset manager OppenheimerFund, said they had been “systematically precluded” from engaging in direct negotiations with the government, which they said had been largely done by four large banks that own 70 percent of the $6.9 billion in loans. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley have all agreed to the government’s offer of $2.25 billion, or 33 cents on the dollar, for the loans.
They wanted 60 cents on the dollar for their holdings, and expect that they will be paid in full if Chrsyler slides into bankruptcy.

I hope Congress passes legislation denying them any compensation (perhaps a narrowly tailored 99% tax on these proceeds is in order).

Remember: the American taxpayer is ponying up some $1.3 trillion to rescue the financial sector, and these financial sector crooks are unwilling to sacrifice 27 cents on the dollar.

The Evil That Hedge Funds Do

Chrysler will probably have to file for bankruptcy protection because a group hedge funds refused to go along with a needed restructuring plan that would have reduced the value of their Chrsyler holdings. If this is anything like the situation facing GM and its creditors, then GM and the American working man is in for a very bumpy ride, indeed as General Motors tries to restructure its debt.

This is the what greed does to America. We are daily asked to make sacrifices in the name of the defense of our country and the survival of our employers, but the men who hold the cash, the men who pull the strings would sooner let a great industry crash and burn, jeopardizing the future of our nation, than take a penny less on the dollar than they could otherwise.

(Via Wonkette)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Best. Floor Speech. EVAH!!!!!

Everyone bow before the incomparable awesome of Representative Michelle Bachmann:

Just to summarize: the years leading up to the stock market bubble that set off the Great Depression are a prime example of good, conservative, pro-growth, fiscal and economic policies which were undone when Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Hoot Smalley (sic.) act in 1930 and led America down the path of economic self-destruction.

This woman is... is.... Michelle Bachmann is the modern Republican Party!!!! God bless her ignorant soul!

(Via Stinque)

Rigid Catholicism for thee but not for me.

Mel Gibson, of Passion of the Christ fame, has divorced his wife and is now showing up to events with his new girlfriend.

Well... isn't that special.

GOP death spiral?

If there's one thing William Kristol can be counted on for it's to stare into a TV camera and lie. Even Kristol isn't stupid enough to think that Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic party is anything less than a disaster for the GOP. Let me repeat that statement, because it's pretty momentous: even Bill Kristol isn't that stupid.

The GOP has a huge problem on its hands right now. Recent polls have shown that only 21% of Americans identify as Republicans, and the party seems to be doing everything in its power to shrink that number even further.

Consider what the GOP stands for and you'll see just how desperate its position really is:

1) Hypocrisy: this is probably the GOP's single greatest weakness right now. While loudly proclaiming itself the party of fiscal reponsibility, the GOP spent the last 8 years racking up an enormous load of debt, and then left Barack Obama with an economy on the verge of global collapse. And instead of offering mea culpas and working with the president to solve the problem it created, the GOP has been taking the path of obstructionism and trying desperately to wash its hands of it. How many times have you heard a GOP commenter insist that "it's Barack Obama's economy now"? But the electorate is not that stupid. You can't fix eight years of economic mismanagement in 100 days, nor does blame for current economic doldrums you created transfer to your successor as easily as GOP operatives would like. It'll be George Bush's economy for some time yet to come.

2) The War: America is stuck in Iraq and in Afghanistan in an awful quagmire of Bush, the GOP and their neoconservative allies' making. The war is draining our country of precious economic resources that could be used to shore up pensions, rescue home owners, save jobs and provide extended unemployment benefits at home. All the while the GOP has been assuring the American people of two self-contradictory propositions: (1) the war has been won and is a great success, and (2) a precipitous withdrawl would be disastrous for the nations we've occupied. In fact, the second proposition is far closer to the truth than the first. What kind of victory can you rightfully claim if it requires an extensive, expensive military occupation into the foreseeable future?

3) Intolerance: for the last 10 years or so the GOP has quite explicitly built its electoral strategy on stoking intolerance a fear of homosexuals. It is a nakedly bigoted play that has lost its currency with the younger generation of voters who are quite comfortable in the company of their gay friends and relatives. After all, the GOP and its defenders in intolerance have never been able to successfully argue the two central claims that drive their attacks on homosexual Americans: (1) that gay rights are "special rights" and (2) that gay marriage undermines heterosexual marriage. Defending these propositions requires a degree of sophistry so absurd, that the true motivation of conservatives is made only more plain by it: crude bigotry.

4) Torture: America is waking up from the daze of 9/11. With no quasi-Orwellian state apparatus hammering the Islamist threat into our heads and bombarding us with "orange level alerts" day in and day out, we are beginning to see what really happened that day. The attacks of September 11 were decidedly not the beginning of an existential struggle between the West, the forces of modernity, and a medieval, retrograde form of Islam. 9/11 was a one-shot deal by a well financed agent of hatred and his pathetic back-hills Islamic militia. The attack was spectacularly successful, true... something out of a movie. But the West was never under any real existential threat after the initial crime. Our military strength, our economic strength, and our democratic traditions guaranteed that Al Qaeda and groups like it would never amount to anything more than a small annoyance to us. And yet we treated and hyped the threat as if we were facing Hitler's vast mechanized armies in 1939. In fact, we were chasing after poorly organized bands of lightly armed desert nomads. The only way we could possibly lose that war was by losing sight of the true enemy, overreacting to the threat it posed and turning the Moslem masses against us. And that's exactly what we did under George W. Bush and the Republicans. We took our eye off of Afghanistan before capturing Osama Bin Ladin, and focused our attention on Saddam Hussein, a traditional, largely secular dictator who had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11. And then, since we had convinced ourselves that western civilization was struggling for its very existence, we resorted to a systematic program of war crimes to produce a speedy victory. Instead we ended up alienating most of the world (not just the Arab world). And the whole time... in the background... unobserved by a government preoccupied with an ill conceived war... our economy was inching toward disaster.

5) Ideological Rigidity: Rush Limbaugh and his talk radio cohorts have become the de-facto heads of the Republican party, and their brand of conservatism is both psychotic and extreme, and their relentless quest for ideological purity has only shrunken the party's base. They've driven away the moderates and left only a shell of a party that is coextensive with an ignorant, biblical-fundamentalist minority mostly centered around the American South. The GOP snake is swallowing its own tail and it doesn't even realize it.

And that, is pretty much that. There's more that could be said (about health care, for instance, or job security) but it's all pretty much in the same vein and helps the GOP not a whit. The Republicans right now are screwed, and they did it without any help from outside their own ranks. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving bunch of folks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No one does crazy...

No one does crazy quite like the GOP does crazy. It fits them like a well worn coat. Politico reports:

Dems in power during flu, Bachmann notes

It was only a matter of time before the CDC discovered an outbreak of Michele Bachmann quotes.

Bachmann, speaking on Pajamas TV, noted: "I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

The 1976 swine flu scare happened on Gerald Ford's watch.

We checked Wikipedia.

Ford was a Republican.

Specter Makes it Official

Arlen Specter has switched parties! I know, I know... I'm the last blogger on Earth to report on this. Still, this is great news. I've had a great deal of respect for Specter since he began criticizing the Bush administration for its expansive view of the power of the executive branch at the height of the controversy of the wireless wiretapping controversy. The Daily Kos is not thrilled about this development, reasoning that Specter's seat was a surefire Democratic pickup in 2010.

In some ways, Specter's switch doesn't give us anything much. As his statement says, he's not switching back on EFCA, he won't be a reliable Democratic vote, and he'll probably duke it out with Lieberman to be the most obnoxious anti-Democratic voice from within the caucus.

On the other hand, he was going to lose his primary and we'd easily pick up the seat against Toomey, giving us a real Democrat in that seat. Doesn't seem like a great deal.

This move is about political survival, and nothing more. Specter's overriding concern is staying in the Senate, and he'll bend whatever conviction is necessary to make that happen. And since it was clear he wasn't going to survive a primary challenge, well, he did what he needed to do. I wouldn't be surprised, if the Dems pick up a good primary challenger to Specter, for the incumbent to suddenly re-find religion on EFCA. It's not as if Specter believes in anything beyond his title and choice parking spot near the Capitol.

I guess there's some truth to that, but in the immediate future, Specter's vote will be key to ensuring that President Obama's agenda moves forward before that time.

The right-wing of the blogosphere is predictably livid, seemingly unaware of the fact that the Republican party is dying a slow, painful death due to a combination of ideological intransigence, economic mis-managment, and unbelievable cynicism that they themselves are contributing to with their knee-jerk reactionary rantings.

I'll close out this post by quoting from my favorite bunch of clueless wingnuts broadcasting from "planet Corner." Contributor Mark Hemingway, comments:

RE: Arlen Specter [Mark Hemingway]

I read that he was switching parties, but I was disappointed to learn he's still a Democrat.

You just go on being dissappointed Specter's "still" a Democrat, Mr. Hemingway. And while you're at it, you might as well get used to a whole lot more dissappointment in the days, weeks and months to come.

My latest

My latest post is up on Stinque. It's a good one, if I may say so myself!

Monday, April 27, 2009

From the horse's mouth (or website, whatever...)

Is this Susan Collins' volcano monitoring fiasco? (Click on the image to enlarge)

(Seeing The Forest)

Oops... did I say that?

GOP Senator Susan Collins strips $800,000,000.00 in funding for pandemic-flu preparedness from Barack Obama's Economic Stimulus package:

One of the most distressing aspects of the reporting in the days leading up to passage of the $700 billion stimuls package was how the media allowed the GOP to determine and dictate just what government spending is "stimulative" and what spending is not.

In fact, injecting money into the economy is, in general, stimulative and one of the best ways to do this is to double your bang-for-buck payoff by spending the money on useful projects... like increased funding to prevent flu-pandemics like the one we are facing today.

So spending money on volcano monitoring is bad, as is spending money preventing flu pandemics. Apparently, the only thing Republicans think it important to protect us from is Saddam Hussein's imaginary WMDs.

(Via The Daily Kos)

The Nuremberg Syllogism

You've got to love the way the Right is trying to escape having to answer for eight years of illegal treatment of prisoners. I call their argument the Nuremberg syllogism, for the similarity it holds with the "I was just following orders" defense made famous at the Nazi war crimes trials. The syllogism goes like this:

Premise: You can’t prosecute a lawyer for simply doing his job and giving an opinion.
Premise: You can’t prosecute torturers who thought what they were doing was legal based on the opinion of the lawyers.
Ergo: You can’t prosecute anyone.

Repeat after me: I was just following orders. I was just following orders. I was just...

When "balance" is a lie

Teen aged acne can be handled in two ways:

a) The problem can be treated with ointments such as Clearasil or prescription medications like Acutane.

b) The problem can be solved through decapitation.

The difference between these two approaches is that one is a sensible way to treat the embarrassing, unsightly condition, whereas the other is insanity.

One would never expect a respectable news organization to treat these two options as "debatable" points of view deserving of equal and balanced consideration. Indeed, to do so would be to write an article more suited to the satirical humor periodical The Onion than a newspaper with serious pretensions to journalism. Indeed, I can imagine a rather humorous piece along those lines in the right hands. I cannot imagine a serious piece along those lines.

So one wonders how on Earth the New York times can maintain that the question remains unsettled as to whether the violent and criminal interrogation technique known as Waterboarding is anything other than a form of torture. Andrew Sullivan quotes the New York Times' Washington Editor Dough Jehl thus:

“I have resisted using torture without qualification or to describe all the techniques. Exactly what constitutes torture continues to be a matter of debate and hasn’t been resolved by a court. This president and this attorney general say waterboarding is torture, but the previous president and attorney general said it is not. On what basis should a newspaper render its own verdict, short of charges being filed or a legal judgment rendered?”
The problem with treating a long since answered question as still open, of course, is that one legitimizes the unjustifiable. The second you add a question mark at the end of the word "war crimes" you affect the culture in such a way that makes those crimes more palatable, more likely, more imaginable. But the crimes themselves are no less horrible. They are no less execrable. They are no less criminal.

What changes is you. You have become a facilitator, just as much a facilitator as the despicable lawyers who wrote sophistic opinions justifying the use of illegal techniques that the Administration wanted to use. Having a mob lawyer approve your crimes beforehand does not make you any less a criminal.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Birth of a Right-wing Meme

Clifford May echoes Marc Thiessen and and a right-wing meme is born: torture is OK when we do it to Muslims because their religion allows them to give up secrets once they have suffered as much pain as they can endure.

I fully expect them to insist, next, that Arabs do not have souls in the conventional sense.

It's difficult to express just how corrupt and immoral the GOP and its defenders have become of late.

Oh, no... RATIONING!!!

Charles Krauthammer thinks he's found the perfect way to put the fear of God into us when it comes to Barack Obama's health plans: write an article in which the word "rationing" is repeated as often as the English language allows. Ten times he warns us that Obama's universal coverage plans will involve rationing:

The hard part is Medicare and Medicaid. In an aging population, how do you keep them from blowing up the budget? There is only one answer: rationing.

Why do you think the stimulus package pours $1.1 billion into medical "comparative effectiveness research"? It is the perfect setup for rationing. Once you establish what is "best practice" for expensive operations, medical tests and aggressive therapies, you've laid the premise for funding some and denying others.

But this is a peculiar definition of "rationing." I'd always thought rationing was supposed to mean denying or postponing needed care based upon fiscal constraints. But for Krauthammer, "rationing" includes such reasonable ideas as focusing health spending on the most effective treatments and avoiding those that are less effective. Why anyone would oppose such a common sense approach to spending (and its common sense not only for health care spending, but for spending in general) I'm not sure. After all, is "comparative effectiveness research" really substantially different from a competitive bidding process, in which the government examins all bids (or in this case drugs) and chooses the one that meets design objectives (cures the disease) for the least amount of money?

Now, I will say that unlike most conservatives, Krauthammer is at least willing to admit that we have health care rationing in this country already. Sadly, the examples he gives of this are ludicrously rare:
Rationing is not quite as alien to America as we think. We already ration kidneys and hearts for transplant according to survivability criteria as well as by queuing.
OK, but what about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance? Why does Krauthammer completely ignore them? I'd say that's a far broader pool of individuals for whom rationing is not just a theoretical issue, people who often do without needed treatments or doctor visits because they simply cannot afford them.

Krauthammer's solution to our nation's health care crisis is, unsurprisingly, an absurd one, hardly worth wating time on. It boils down to... get ready for it: free market economics.
My own preference is for a highly competitive, privatized health insurance system with a government-subsidized transition to portability, breaking the absurd and ruinous link between health insurance and employment.
Krauthammer's solution is really a non-solution. He wants "portable" health insurance, which sounds nice until you realize that he just wants employers to be able to free themselves of the burden of providing health care for their employees. This cost, as Krauthammer notes, has proved ruinous to the U.S. economy by making our manufacturing sector uncompetitive (at least that's what I assume he means when he refers to the costs as ruinous). But why Krauthammer thinks that individuals with no group bargaining power could possibly afford health insurance that a business cannot is a mystery. I guess the magic of the free market will just make things "work out."

As with most conservative approaches to health care, Krauthammer's solution isn't. Personally, my sense is that conservatives want a "free market" solution knowing that once insurance companies are freed of all government constraint and regulation, they'll be able to cherry pick their customers, denying coverage to people with chronic illnesses or who have been shown genetically pre-disposed to expensive conditions, and offering cheap coverage to those who are healthy and likely to remain healthy. At any given time, most people will have cheap health insurance, but a sizable minority will be unable to afford any coverage at all. They will live miserable lives dealing with illnesses they cannot afford to treat, and bankrupting themselves between hospital visits. It's just that this pool of hapless victims will be too small to pose an electoral threat to the GOP. The conservative solution is basically just a heartless social Darwinism.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kiss the ring...

Missed this one yesterday. Another GOP legislator apologizes to Rush Limbaugh:

...Less than a week after calling conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh a mere "entertainer," the apology from Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Ks.) has arrived. Not only did Tiahrt deny any attempt to denigrate Limbaugh, Tiahrt's spokesman called Limbaugh a "great leader."

"The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America -- not a party leader responsible for election losses," the spokesman said, according to the Wichita Eagle. "Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Marc Thiessen is not Insane (Ok, maybe just a little)

You may know George Orwell as the guy who wrote "War is Peace" and "Slavery is Freedom." Of course, Orwell wasn't espousing these absurd opinions, he was merely presenting them as examples of the sort of twisted rhetorical devices that authoritarian regimes use to consolidate and maintain their own power. What's different about the Neoconservatives in the Bush Administration is that when they insisted that "War is Peace" and "Slavery is Freedom," they actually mean it... or at least they want the rest of us to believe it.

One of the best example of Neocon absurdity was probably the moment our war in Iraq shifted from being directed against Saddam Hussein's presumed Weapons of Mass Destruction and focused instead on his Weapons of Mass Destruction Related Program Activities. The phrase was so outlandish it made Bill Clinton's attempt to re-define the word "is" at the height of the Lewinsky scandal seem like a perfectly reasonable philological exercise in comparison.

Another great rhetorical pirouette, which was repeated so many times it's etched in our collective foreheads was the president's simultaneous, categorical, insistence that the U.S. "does not torture," coupled with a steadfast refusal to say whether or not (a) the U.S. has ever water-boarded suspects, or (b) even whether water-boarding constitutes torture.

George Orwell was probably spinning in his grave when the camp commander at the prison facilities on Guantanamo Bay described the suicides of three prisoners as an act of asymmetrical warfare. You have to turn to Monty Python's the Life of Brian, and the Judean People's Front crack suicide squad to find something as absurd as that.

Now, thanks to the depraved meditations of Bush speechwriter Mark Thiessen, we can add another grand piece of rhetorical violence to the Bush legacy. You see, while the rest of the world looks on with horror and shock at the newly released evidence that the torture of captured Al Quaeda suspects was not only sanctioned under the Bush Administration, but was in fact employed with freewheeling abandon, Thiessen wants us to know that in watreboarding a suspect an average of six times a day for thirty days, we are actually doing the man a favor:

Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can -- and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that "Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable." The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.
That's right. Some lilly livered liberals think we're doing ourselves a disservice by torturing prisoners. But Mark Thiessen wants you to know that, quite to the contrary, by subjecting a man to physical and psychological horrors that are outlawed by the Geneva conventions and deplored by all civilized nations (and even our own state department when it is others who do it) we are in fact "freeing" our prisoners to speak openly and tell us all they know (or just make shit up so we'll stop tortuiring them... but really, that's neither here nor there) without fear of divine retribution in the afterlife.

I mean... the masked interrogators who beat prisoners boud in sleeping bags, water-boarded them, forced them to lie naked for days in freezing jail cells, sicked dogs on them occasionally went a little too far, are practically bleeding-heart humanifuckingtarians who probably deserve the Medal of Freedom, if not the Nobel Peace Prize for their selfless endeavors.

Let's all thank Mark Thiessen for reminding us of this important point that is all to easily overlooked in this whole "torture is bad" hysteria.

(This essay is cross-posted to Stinque)

Mickey Kaus doesn't know how to read

Mikey Kaus' latest blog post is really quite peculiar. Slate's conservative blogger responds to a post by Ezra Klein in which Klein lauds Eliot Spitzer for spotting early and working to combat some of the abusive lending practices that helped lead to the current financial meltdown. Here's the passage from Klein's post that Kaus quotes:

Unfortunately, our belief in the importance of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination is too often forgotten when it comes to the debate over whether and how to police the market for home mortgages. In poor and working-class communities across the nation, predatory mortgage lending has become a new scourge. Predatory lending is the practice of imposing inflated interest rates, fees, charges, and other onerous terms on home mortgage loans--not because the imperatives of the market require them, but because the lender has found a way to get away with them. These loans (which are often sold as refinance or home improvement mechanisms) are foisted on borrowers who have no realistic ability to repay them and who face the loss of their hard-won home equity when the all-but-inevitable default and foreclosure occurs. ...[snip]

In these circumstances, government must step in to curb predatory lending and encourage the flow of fairly priced capital to sectors where it is needed and will be well-used. Filling a gap left by federal inaction, state enforcement efforts in this arena have centered on identifying the valid economic criteria considered in mortgage underwriting and compelling lenders to focus on those factors--not on preconceptions, prejudices, or predatory instincts--in determining how to price home mortgage loans. The point is not to protect people from their own bad decisions or, conversely, to guarantee that mortgages be granted to specific persons or groups on specific terms--that would violate the principle of market freedom. The point is to support equal opportunity and to ensure that borrowers are charged rates and fees based upon their status and qualifications as economic actors in the mortgage market, not upon their diminished access or market savvy or their race.

And here's Kaus' peculiar rebuttal:
You make the call ... but I say Klein's easily impressed. What's Spitzer saying here? Is he saying the lenders shouldn't make these loans or that they should make these loans on more favorable terms--in which case the loans would have been even bigger money losers, leading to a bigger meltdown, no? Spitzer invokes the threat of action against "race" discrimination without any sense that official pressure toward affirmative-action style lending would help cause the subsequent mortgage collapse....
Now, call me dense, but how in the world can you assume, as Kaus does, that Spitzer's proposed solutions would have led to an even worse financial meltdown when Spitzer explicitly criticizes martgage lenders who made loans that borrowers could not possibly repay:
"These loans (which are often sold as refinance or home improvement mechanisms) are foisted on borrowers who have no realistic ability to repay them and who face the loss of their hard-won home equity when the all-but-inevitable default and foreclosure occurs."
And when Spitzer demands that lenders make loans that reflect a borrower's ability to repay, rather than his desperation in the face of widespread red-linning:
The point is to support equal opportunity and to ensure that borrowers are charged rates and fees based upon their status and qualifications as economic actors in the mortgage market, not upon their diminished access or market savvy or their race.
I'm at a loss to explain this, other than to say that Kaus is so blinded by opposition to anything that smacks of "affirmative action" that he is unable to digest the actual substance of such a proposal.