Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Loser pays

All those handmaidens of power who want to codify loser pays as a principle of American legal process should consider this travesty, where serial process abusers now stand to collect from the family of one of the soldiers whose funerals they desecrated.

The Westboro Baptist Phelpses intentionally provoke people in the hope of finding a cause of action so that they can finance their ugliness off the anger of their targets. Often, they're Constitutionally protected, but that doesn't change how despicable they are.

Rolling back the clock

Republicans and other unsavory Tenthers want to use discredited and obsolete arguments to roll back the march of progress. Sean Wilentz in the New Republic:

Now, as in the 1860s and 1960s, nullification and interposition are pseudo-constitutional notions taken up in the face of national defeat in democratic politics. Unable to prevail as a minority and frustrated to the point of despair, its militant advocates abandon the usual tools of democratic politics and redress, take refuge in a psychodrama of “liberty” versus “tyranny,” and declare that, on whatever issue they choose, they are not part of the United States or subject to its laws—that, whenever they say so, the Constitution in fact forms a league, and not a government. Although not currently concerned with racial supremacy, the consequence of their doctrine would uphold an interpretation of the constitutional division of powers that would permit the majority of any state to reinstate racial segregation and inequality up to the point of enslavement, if it so chose.

That these ideas resurfaced 50 years ago, amid the turmoil of civil rights, was as harebrained as it was hateful. But it was comprehensible if only because interposition and nullification lay at the roots of the Civil War. Today, by contrast, the dismal history of these discredited ideas resides within the memories of all Americans who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s—and ought, on that account, to be part of the living legacy of the rest of the country. Only an astonishing historical amnesia can lend credence to such mendacity.
Wilentz is overly generous, I think. The Tenthers would by and large be happy to wake up in the ante bellum South - just so long as they got to be aristocrats and not poor white farmers or, heaven forfend, with their color changed.

This is not to say that I think the Democrats' heath insurance reform is a slam dunk to pass Constitutional review. There's ample precedent for mandates to have auto insurance, though some states provide alternatives to purchasing a policy, such as posting of a bond, essentially self-insurance. But this health insurance mandate goes a bit further in that dying and emigrating are the only ways to escape it.

Of course, there's also the current Supreme Court, still dominated as it is by conservatives, four of them accurately hard-right conservatives - Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts. An ideologically similar court was willing to nullify the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election (or, at the very least, to fix the result before the result could be accurately known). It would be naive to think their judicial modesty - not at all evident on the hard right, by the way - might restrain them from overturning a democratic act of Congress.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meaning

These scrapings off the bottom of the gene pool are terrorists (if guilty), but IEDs are not weapons of mass destruction. Murderous, evil, vicious, and criminal weapons, true, but they don't threaten mass destruction.

Some of these fringe-dwellers were arrested at home here. David B. Stone has a listed phone number, not really bright for an open seditionist.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Frank Farkel

Click image for full Mike Luckovich/Atlanta Journal Constitution cartoon.

Electoral Viagra

Click image for full Tom Toles/Washington Post cartoon.

Don't believe it? Check this. Schwing!

Fire next time

Click image for full Adam Zyglis/Buffalo News cartoon.

Sarah Palin's technique

Click image for full Bruce Plante/Tulsa World cartoon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Laying it on thick

Thick as a brick.

Of course, we all know - since Fox has it in heavy rotation - that any violence from wingnuts is simply an understandable response to the savage and high-handed voting and speech-making from Democrats. The nerve of them actually fulfilling campaign promises!

Click image for full Clay Bennett/Chattanooga Times Free Press cartoon.

Bitchers and kvetchers

Click image for full David Donar/Donkelphant.com cartoon.

Politics of fear

Not to mention irrationality...

Click image for full Milt Priggee cartoon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So it is socialism after all

David Leonhardt writes ("In Health Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality"):

Over most of that period, government policy and market forces have been moving in the same direction, both increasing inequality. The pretax incomes of the wealthy have soared since the late 1970s, while their tax rates have fallen more than rates for the middle class and poor.

Nearly every major aspect of the health bill pushes in the other direction.
Back to the ugly socialism of the 1970s!

(OK, so long as we don't have to go back to the ugly clothing...)

Recommended theft

Something Barack Obama should steal from Mitt Romney, his rationale for the individual health care insurance mandate:

"[R]ight now in this country, people that don't have health insurance go to the hospital if they get a serious illness, and they get treated for free by government. My plan says no, they can't do that. No more free riders. People have to take personal responsibility."
I've trimmed off Mitt's claims that this is conservative. This in fact is about basic fairness, the appeal to which members of a social species such as ours almost all understand.

I would phrase it a little better:
As a civilized country, we've decided that no one should be turned away from emergency care even if they can't pay for it. We're humane enough to save lives and worry about who pays the bill later. But free riders have mooched off this system, and we've just put an end to that. Now everyone will have the personal responsibility to pay the fair share they can afford to pay.

They all do it

Politicians all need room to maneuver. Sometimes they have to take half a loaf or less and spin it as great. The Democrats just did on health insurance reform.

Sometimes they have to reverse themselves. Unlike Duhbya, as coached by Karl Rove, it is possible to learn something while in office (or in Duhbya's case, learn something anytime at all).

Compromise is what the Greens don't get - and especially supporters of the inflexibly perfect Ralph Nader. In democratic politics (heck, even in aristocratic politics), you don't get everything you asked for at the outset.

Democrats, on the other hand, get the necessity of compromise far too well. The insurance reform law they just passed (two cheers!) is a case in point. Had President Obama not started by compromising, we would have wound up with far better and more effective law, and it still would have received zero Republican votes.

For all the nasty things I say about the Bushists (and will continue to say), even Duhbya understood that you don't start negotiations by trying to choose a compromise that your adversary might accept. He'll just want to split the difference again in his favor.

The honest politicians have core convictions and reveal them to the voters. Sure, all pols, even the honest ones, confront from time to time the dirty job of trying to make a sow's ear into a silk purse with the right trimming and spinning. Cynical voters often conclude from this occupational hazard that all pols are insincere hacks whose only goal is to continue suckling at the public teat.

These cynical voters are not wrong about every pol.

Mitt Romney is a craven pol who is so insincere that even the Republican base, which generally shows ovine credulity whenever anyone says what they want to hear, could tell that Romney has only one principle - himself. He was pro-choice for Massachusetts. He was anti-abortion for America. He put on his new outrage like TV makeup. He was a resident of Utah for tax purposes. He lived in Massachusetts for political purposes. He loved his, ahem, home state until he had to vilify it to gain the approval of mouthbreathing yahoos on the national Republican campaign trail. He despised tax increases but raised every state government fee in sight.

Now he rails against the Democrats' health insurance reform:

Romney is taking a hard line against Obama's health care bill, and calling for repeal. "America has just witnessed an unconscionable abuse of power," Romney said in a post at National Review. "President Obama has betrayed his oath to the nation -- rather than bringing us together, ushering in a new kind of politics, and rising above raw partisanship, he has succumbed to the lowest denominator of incumbent power: justifying the means by extolling the ends."
Romney does this despite the Democrats' plan's strong sibling resemblance to his very plan, enacted in Massachusetts. His nefarious spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, argues that that's different, "it was designed for Massachusetts and not the entire country." Well, yeah, that disposes of all the similarities.

Maybe they all do it. But many of them trim and spin in honest furtherance of the causes they advocated when they ran. Not Mitt Romney. He leaves you guessing what he actually believes, other than in Mitt. If that too-obvious fact kills his chances among the Republicans, it couldn't happen to a more deserving cipher in a suit.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Slippery slope


(h/t Salon)

It has to be really tough on conservatives to look back fifty years and see all the things that liberals and moderates have done to make life better for people. Conservatives have to realize that, in every case, they failed to hold back the tide.

  • civil rights for black people
  • civil rights for women
  • Medicare
  • desegregation
  • the end of the Vietnam War
  • environmental protection - air, water, toxics
  • gay rights
  • the truth about Iraq
  • universal health care
About the only accomplishment of conservatives domestically has been a return to deregulated Hoover-nomics, and we see where that got us.

Not to mention the fifty years before that... How do they keep going about their daily goal of restraining all progress? It's no wonder they lose it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two-step

Click image for full Tom Tomorrow/Salon cartoon.

End it, don't mend it

The current Republican Party has no place in the political dialog of a modern nation. It is mastered by destructive and incorrigible extremists.

Of course America needs representation for the center right. At present, that burden is carried by DINOs like Joe Lieberman and Blanche Lincoln, both of whom would be perfectly tolerable as the opposition.

Still, to misconstrue Rummy, you go to war with the conservatives you have, not the conservatives you want. (If you had the conservatives you want, you would be able to talk constructively with them and wouldn't have to go to war at all.)

(h/t Atrios)

Monday, March 22, 2010

The proud stupid

This is what we're up against: Glenn Beck mocking, among others, John Lewis, for "comparing themselves to civil rights activists."

The truth will never penetrate Beck's audience. They aren't interested in learning. They simply want confirmation that they aren't racist, even if the rationalization that proves it to their satisfaction is transparently bullshit and in fact proves the contrary.

Feeling safe

A pro-violence wingnut feels safe enough, even when identified by name, to say this:

"I can understand how someone can be frustrated enough to throw a brick through a congresswoman's window," [Michael B. Vanderboegh of Pinson, Alabama,] said.

He said he feels the health care bill is "unconstitutional and tyrannical."

"My answer is violence, by getting their attention," he said, adding, "If we can get across to the other side, that they are within inches of provoking a civil war in this country, then that's a good thing."

Again, it's the people who haven't done anything violent who are at fault for the violence.

Update (3/26): This gets even more absurd. Vanderboegh lives on disability from the government. If this asshole had actual principles instead of mere narcissistic resentments, he would starve himself to death. (h/t Atrios)

Rare occurrence

Last night, while watching the health care voting, I got sick of the usual pabulum from the usual suspects on CNN, and I tuned into MSNBC. There I saw something I almost never see for longer than a couple of hours: an actual liberal slant on the news, as opposed to the fevered imaginings of conservatives who object when reality runs against them.

Of course, with Ed Schultz hosting, the slant should have been obvious.

Ironically, Schultz did call on conservative voices - reporters! Mike Viqueira couldn't contain his Republican opinion, couldn't even dress it up in conditionals.

If you're keeping score at home: Republicans find bias in objective reporting if it fails to confirm their opinion, yet they love bias in reporting that does confirm their own bias.

Enormous shrieking tsunami of fail

My friend Tom Levenson nails it:

If [Megan] McArdle wants to argue that IOKIYAR to wreck the country, but not for Democrats to try to wrestle into some better path the enormous, shrieking tsunami of fail the GOP has left behind it, then that’s her right. But the point, of course, is that this administration, to the despair of those like me who wanted to take our real majorities out for a spin, attempted for a full year to engage Republicans in a real dialogue on health care. Instead, we found those across the aisle constantly working to bring us to our Waterloo. I think we’ve learned our lesson, (and, tonight, that contrary to the expectations of the GOP Elba-ists, it seems that President Obama more closely resembles the Duke of Wellington than the little Corsican.)
So I'm quote-mining for the great phrases...

Republican political analysis

David Frum identifies the party that actually just had its Waterloo. (Hint: The Democrats wound up cast as the English.)

Update: Very astute analysis of the plight of the right, this time the plight of the small rump of remaining sane conservatives.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Socialism rules!

Now that health care reform has passed, that's what the Republicans will say. For them, the word socialist is a vicious slur, but it's almost a content-free slur, since they have no clear idea what it means.

From conservatives' use of the word, I interpolate that they mean any government program that helps people (as opposed to businesses) and that they think will require any taxation at all.

The irony is that this health care bill is transparently centrist - too centrist for me to be thrilled, in fact. Yet not one single House Republican voted for it.

We Democrats will immediately set out to improve this reform, with or without the Republicans. Their frankly insane rhetoric suggests that the entire task will fall to us. O.K., we're strong enough to handle that.

"We are still a people capable of doing big things," said President Barack Obama.

And each new President no longer is limited to the first hundred days to get something large done.

Unity of purpose

Click image for full Bruce Beattie/Daytona Beach News-Journal cartoon.

Executing the astrologer

Why are religious tyrannies like Saudi Arabia so afraid of bullshitters that they have to kill them?

Because the airy nonsense of astrology is epistemically indistinguishable from their own state dogma, and they can't stand the competition.

Speech alone is not a crime

It's not illegal to say hateful things. Coarse and bigoted, sure, but even that ugliness is protected by the First Amendment.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Surprised?

You thought this wouldn't get uglier? Why?

Violence is coming.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Evita of the nerds

That epithet of Michael Lind's for Ayn Rand by itself makes his piece in Salon worth reading.

The media is building [Paul] Ryan up as a serious thinker. Build him up even more, I say. Give him a Nobel Prize, like Obama's. Make him the face of the Republican Party. Progressives should want Ryan and [Ron] Paul and the Cato Institute to define the next American right. That will ensure its minority status for decades.
Lind thinks conservatives divide into three factions - neocons, the religious right, and libertarians. My very similar division is more blunt - bullies, fundies, and wealthies. No surprise Lind and I see the same three-headed dog guarding the hellish right. It's right there in front of us.

But Lind makes two errors. He thinks the culture war is over:
The Protestant religious right benefited from a backlash against the cultural liberalism of the 1960s on the part of working-class and middle-class white Americans. That backlash, however, appears to have been a generational phenomenon. Younger Americans are less racist, more educated, more secular and more liberal on social issues. Archie and Edith Bunker have passed away, and Gloria and the Meathead voted for Obama.
Demographic hope is not a plan to win the continuing culture war. This war is a long war, and the social reactionaries are playing for a war of attrition and constant social pressure. They're willing to stupidify our schools to maintain the chosen Bible-literalist ignorance of our children, our culture, and our polity.

Lind also thinks that the strong and visible libertarian strain of Republicans dominates the economic conservatives, when in fact it's only their rhetoric that dominates. The Republican Party of Paul Ryan is about enriching the already rich at a cost of beggaring the middle class. Libertarianism helps them do that, but if it got in the way for a second - as it did under Duhbya - it would be like Christian scripture demanding stoning to death for eating shellfish. Forgotten.

No take-backsies

Teabaggers want to recall Democratic U.S. Senators to force them from office. This is patently unconstitutional. The 17th Amendment (which enacted direct popular election of Senators) says in part:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.
Not "six years, as long as the loonies don't want to change the rules in mid-term". Not "six years ... or whatever, dude". Not "six years for conservatives but less for anyone with even a whiff of stinky liberalism".

Six years.

Article I, section 5 of the Constitution adds:
Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, ....

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Nope, still no provision for a bunch of ignoramuses throwing a Senator out early.

Even though a state appeals court in New Jersey has pretended that there's some legal doubt on this issue about the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution over the New Jersey Constitution, there is no such doubt.

This effort is not really about recalling Robert Menendez. It's about exacting the price from Menendez of suffering incessant attacks. At the end, he'll win, but meanwhile his attention and efforts will be diverted away from governing, away from living better, away from preparing to run for re-election. He'll get tired, his contributors will get tired at the additional burden of contributing to his legal defense fund, and being a legislator will seem less and less like a good idea.

This was exactly the strategy of attack agains Bill Clinton when he was President.

Oh, I said there was no doubt that recalling a Senator is unconstitutional, but there is in fact one doubt. The U.S. Supreme Court has proven its willingness to intervene in politics on the side of Republicans (if you're Rip Van Winkle, Bush v. Gore). There's no guarantee that this court would have any more conscience than that court did in 2000.

Then, it could be us liberals carrying torches and pitchforks, as we should have nine years ago.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leaving the stupid their outrage

The House is going to vote on the Senate health care bill. Up or down, as always.

Never mind the Republican propaganda to the contrary on Fox (as usual):

An emerging Democratic plan to vote on health care reform without really voting on health care reform has critics riled up.
Sure, the Boston Herald has the AP's similar take:
...plans to push massive health care legislation through the House without a direct vote.
And CNN has a typically bullshit headline in support of GOP talking points:
Could House approve Senate health care bill without vote?
The Washington Post ladles on the stink:
House may try to pass Senate health-care bill without voting on it
But the New York Times is surely a paragon of truth, right? Uh, no. Your big media - conduit for whatever Republicans would want in a press release (such as this one). Here's the Times:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is eyeing a strategy by which the Democrats include the Senate bill in the rule that will set the terms of the House floor debate on the health care legislation. Once the rule is adopted, the Senate bill would be “deemed” to have passed without House members actually voting on it.
Look, this is pretty simple: The House is going to vote on this. The entire membership must approve the floor rule. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants can't simply stamp a bill law and be done with it. They need 217 votes.

Pelosi wants to package the vote in its floor rule because she wants her members to be able to vote at the same time on Senate bill and the reconciliation bill that fixes the Senate bill (well, starts the first toddler steps toward fixing it). This has a real benefit for Pelosi, no doubt about it. It stretches the ideological range of her shaky coalition.

Prominent Republicans want you to believe that this is about Democrats escaping responsibility for voting for the Senate bill, when actually they know it's not. Their own future ads will tie Democrats to this vote without worrying about parliamentary procedure in the least.

This parliamentary maneuver is about making a vote in favor of insurance reform of health care easier to explain. Liberals will be able to say that they held their nose and voted for the bill because of the reconciliation fixes. Conservatives will be able to say that they agreed with the Senate bill and agreeing with the reconciliation fixes was the only way to get that.

No one - no one - will try to convince voters that this new law is perfect, just that it is a little better than what went before.

Meanwhile, every media outlet I've read that has a story is pushing Republican talking points. The press could have dug - but didn't - into a quote featured prominently in the GOP release:
“I think we're going to have a vote, and the American people are entitled to an up or down vote. We don't want to see procedural gimmicks used to try and prevent an up or down vote on this issue.” Senior White House Advisor David Axelrod, 3/14/10, ABC’s This Week)
Republicans want to show Axelrod and Democrats as hypocrites when the GOP themselves baldly show their own hypocrisy. The House will have an up-or-down vote; it always does on any bill that passes. But Axelrod decried the filibuster in the Senate, where Republicans rely on it to prevent the corresponding up-or-down vote, when the very phrase entered our political lexicon because Republicans demanded that Democrats not use the same filibuster.

Most amazing is the sheer eagerness of Republicans to lay bare their depraved indifference to the truth or to holding themselves to anything close to the standard they want to hold Democrats to. If we had a political media worth having, the GOP would be drawn and quartered for this straightforward, undeniable, blatant bit of duplicity. (It's so visibly out front I can't even call it deceit.)

The upshot, instead, is that the media would rather help Republicans foment even more unjustified outrage in their know-nothing base.

And of course, the Democrats, still naive about the bare knuckle game they're in, adduce cases where this sort of rule has been used before. So what!

What they need to be doing is saying, "The Republicans are lying about this. There is going to be a vote. It'll be on C-SPAN if you want to tune in. Their claims are as always a thin tissue of lies intended to fool the fools. I'm sure there aren't many fools out there who are taken in by this."

The Democrats need to say this over and over and over again. Sweetly, with a sad smile. The Republicans don't deserve any credibility. The future of America depends on exacting a price from them every single time they lie.

The media once cared for the task of winnowing grains of truth out of bullshit. Reporters no longer do this without help. When are the Democrats going to cotton onto this 30-year-old truth?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Greater expectations?

Click image for full Jake Fuller/Artizans cartoon.

Lots at stake

Click image for full Matt Davies/Journal News cartoon.

Ewe betcha

Click image for full Bruce Plante/Tulsa World cartoon.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

But

I'm an atheist from a Protestant background. Still I can see the good works of the Catholic Church. I've known priests who were good men. The Church gives comfort to many people, including loved ones.

But...

Guilt for the child rape scandal pervades every level of the Catholic hierarchy, up to and including the pope. In practically every diocese where there has been sexual abuse by priests, their monsignors and bishops have covered it up, many by acts of commission. The higher priests, even if not pederasts themselves, have looked first and last to protect their fellow priests, rather than the children in their charge. Far from being punished and defrocked under canon law, the enablers in the hierarchy - I'm thinking of Bernard Law, formerly archbishop of Boston and still Cardinal - have been protected.

The church authorities - to put their own best spin on it - were concerned about the damage to their institution that revealing priests' misconduct would have done. Instead, they have allowed it to rot from within, and this belies all their claims to special knowledge of and access to god.

The doctrine of papal infallibility was obviously self-serving bullshit in the first place, but this ought to put the last nail in its coffin. If the holy spirit will protect popes from all doctrinal error when they merely say they're serious, don't you think it would at least protect the church from conspiring to put thousands of children at risk of being raped? It might be beyond the power of god to keep the first child safe in god's own house, but a god, supposed to be all-knowing and all-powerful, that would permit the second child to be raped is no god I could ever respect, much less worship.

And if he has a problem with that, may he strike me dead.

Update (3/15): Judging god:

[Eva Wankerl, 61,] also said it was time that the church stopped hiding abuse cases and questioned why priests seemed to be held to a less strict standard of morality than ordinary parishioners. “If you get divorced and remarry you can’t take communion, but someone convicted of molesting children can celebrate Mass for the rest of his life,” she said.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A foolish inconsistency

Imagine the doublethink that makes this possible:

In 1954, Congress added the words "under God," at the urging of the Knights of Columbus and other groups. ...

"This decision is a victory for common sense," Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said in a news release. "Today, the court got it absolutely right: recitation of the pledge is a patriotic exercise, not a religious prayer...
If it's a purely patriotic act to pledge allegiance, Carl, why'd you clutter it up with your religion in the first place? Well, duh. You wanted to conflate religion and country. You still do.

As an aside, anyone who holds the title "Supreme Knight" gives me the willies. To a boy like me who grew up in the South, it just has too many unintended associations. Even if the Catholic K 0f C would have been a victim of the KKK in that period at least, not an ally, maybe some of the K of C's allies in 1954 did get busy because of Brown v. Board.

Personally, I was always able to defeat the single evangelical phrase of the revisionist Pledge simply by omitting it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Who needs bread?

Click image for full Rex Babin/Sacramento Bee cartoon.

Who's the pig here?

How's your economy structured?

Click image for full Ann Cleaves cartoon.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

First things first

Click image for full Joel Pett/Lexington Herald-Leader cartoon.

Sources say

Big media is incredible!

[T]hey continue to violate their own guidelines over and over by indiscriminately using anonymity in the most reckless ways. And they know they do it, because it's been repeatedly documented, even by their own ombudsmen and reporters. Yet they blithely continue. What other conclusion could a rational person reach other than that the publishers, editors and reporters of these newspapers neither care about nor deserve journalistic credibility? Just think about it: in the aftermath of the Iraq debacle, they announced: We know we have lost credibility and here are rules we will follow to win back that credibility, only for them to then systematically and continuously breach those rules over and over, thus replicating exactly the behavior that led to the loss of credibility in the first place.
Or, if you prefer, uncredible.

Monday, March 8, 2010

How I know I'm not an asshole today

A Facebook friend, who wears her conservative Christianity very publicly, asks:

Does anyone know of companies in ... who offer health insurance to part-time employees?
Last summer, this same friend voted NO on universal health care, voted NO again on universal health care, and posted this video.

Today, I am not commenting on her status that the public option is what she needs. Instead, I am hoping that she and her family find the health insurance they need. That small mercy keeps me from being an asshole. Today.

Getting the kinks out

Click image for full Jen Sorenson/C-VILLE Weekly cartoon.

Some logic required

Click image for full Ted Rall cartoon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Republocracy

Click image for full Tom Toles/Washington Post cartoon.

Fried squirrel brains

Click image for full Joel Pett/Lexington Herald-Leader cartoon.

Consequences

Click image for full Nick Anderson/Houston Chronicle cartoon.

GOP just wants to leave its mark

Click image for full Dan Wasserman/Boston Globe cartoon.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Good enough for my daddy

Click image for full David Horsey/Seattle Post-Intelligencer cartoon.

Taking sides

Ed Hornick of CNN repeatedly casts Republicans in the best possible light, but he covers his complicity in their lies with a pretense of getting the other side. Here's a clear example:

[Karl] Rove discusses the Bush administration's support for the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding, which Democrats and others have described as torture.
This is just normal amoral media bullshit about whether waterboarding is torture. John Yoo and Jay Bybee covered this question with a thin tissue of bullshit, and they have now escaped sanction for it, but that doesn't alter at all the plain fact that we have sent our enemies to prison and death for using torture, including waterboarding. Bushist apologists, for whom military opinion is fetish, should consider:
Waterboarding as an interrogation technique has its roots in some of history's worst totalitarian nations, from Nazi Germany and the Spanish Inquisition to North Korea and Iraq. In the United States, the technique was first used five decades ago as a training tool to give U.S. troops a realistic sense of what they could expect if captured by the Soviet Union or the armies of Southeast Asia. The U.S. military has officially regarded the tactic as torture since the Spanish-American War.
Hornick thinks he's being objective. He's really siding with the side of bullshit.

[Rove] defends the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), arguing they were authorized by the Department of Justice in August 2002 and signed off by then-CIA director George Tenet. He also disputes claims that the administration failed to brief members of Congress on the use of these techniques.

"When these techniques were first authorized, Democratic leaders had been briefed about them. Their silence made them complicit in their use," he wrote. ...

He singled out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who charged in July 2009 that the CIA misled Congress in a secret briefing she received in 2002. Pelosi said the CIA failed to inform her and others at the briefing about harsh interrogation techniques being used on terrorism suspects.

The CIA responded by saying Pelosi was told about the harsh techniques, including waterboarding, at the classified 2002 briefing.

But the story didn't end there, despite Hornick's willingness to court Rove by implying that it did. Pelosi acknowledged being briefed on the existence of the torture memos but not on the actual use of torture the Bushists intended.
As for whether the techniques were actually torture, Rove says the president "never authorized torture," but rather "did just the opposite" by making sure the techniques "did not cross the legal line into torture."

In sum, Hornick and the big media remain willing to abet the Bushists' claim that a century of settled understanding that waterboarding is torture can still be legitimately disputed. The Bushists dispute it; it must be legitimate. Never mind their self-interested redefinition of the word. Yet Hornick and most of the media accept the word of the CIA, also oft-fetishized by Republicans, based on so-called proof that the CIA itself wrote, that Pelosi is not telling the truth.

Snarkolepsy

Irresistable dream sequence, riffing on this:

Useless journalist: "Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be President?"

Romney: "I sure do. ... She's been a mayor, she's been a governor, she's been part of a presidential campaign, she's got a lot of support."

Useful journalist: "Would you hire her to make deals and manage money at Bain Capital?"

Romney: "Hem, haw, to manage my money? She doesn't have a lot of support in that area."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Confidence game

There's a knowledge debt that swamps the national debt:

What this means is that if you’re worried about the US fiscal position, you should not be focused on this year’s deficit, let alone the 0.07% of GDP in unemployment benefits Bunning tried to stop. You should, instead, worry about when investors will lose confidence in a country where one party insists both that raising taxes is anathema and that trying to rein in Medicare spending means creating death panels.
But it's condescension for me to call raving lunatic wingnuts, well, raving lunatic wingnuts:
The truly sad thing, though, is the way much news reporting goes along with the condescension meme. That’s Waldmann’s point. You really, really might have expected that the Bush experience would give reporters pause — that they might at least ask themselves, “Isn’t it my job to ask whether a politician is right, as opposed to how he comes across?”
Y'know, when they actually grapple with reality, I'll stop condescending. Until then (never?), all they deserve is condescension. And they claim they're really big on people getting what they deserve.

Vanishing people

This bears repeating for anyone who's complacent about unemployment.

How can all three of these facts be true at the same time?

  1. The rate of unemployment held steady in February (at the awful rate of 9.7%).
  2. 36,000 net jobs were lost.
  3. Approximately 150,000 people would be expected to join the workforce in an average month.
The obvious expressions of these facts:
jobsFeb = jobsJan - 36000
workforceFeb = workforceJan + 150000
jobsJan/workforceJan = jobsFeb/workforceFeb = 0.097, thus
jobsJan/workforceJan = (jJ - 36000)/(wJ + 150000) = 0.097
Only problem is that this last equation has no solution. The unemployment rate should have gone up a tenth of a point.

The problem with this arithmetic is that workforceFeb = workforceJan + 150000 isn't true. People who need jobs, who want jobs, are giving up, falling off the count.

Unemployment, as officially measured, held steady. That is only true because the Bureau of Labor Statistics stopped counting a bunch of the actually unemployed. How many? Since there are about 138,000,000 people working in the U.S., about 190,000 people had to give up in the single month of February to make the ratio stay constant.

Fifteen million people are out of work. Involuntarily. Not counting people who are working parttime but would like a fulltime job. Not counting people working shit jobs just to keep body and soul together. Not counting people who have given up, more than one percent of all unemployed in last month alone.

In ordinary times, this would be considered a crisis.

Alienation from media

They want to marginalize people like me, the ones they can't bullshit.

Benjamin cites numerous Bachmann statements that demonstrate her penchant for bizarre claims (and there are many he omitted), but points to only one Grayson statement: his famous floor speech in which he claimed: "If you get sick in America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly." One could reasonably object to that statement as unduly inflammatory rhetoric, but Grayson was one of the only members of Congress willing to forcefully connect health care policy to the actual lives (and deaths) of American citizens. There's nothing crazy about dramatically emphasizing that causal connection; far crazier is to ignore it.
If you're nuts and want to speak more than once to the news media, you had better be a right-winger.

Stock in trade

Wingnuts - and even ordinary conservatives - will believe whatever Karl Rove tells them to extend the lies and the obvious bullshit that led us into Iraq. Wingnuts want to say that they were honorably motivated. They weren't. Ordinary conservatives want to salve the consciences (which wingnuts lack) about the imperial rush to a war of choice. (Aside: Are there any ordinary conservatives left?)

The truth is the Bushists wanted to invade Iraq. Duhbya was no doubt tired of hearing how his father had left Saddam Hussein in power. Darth Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld wanted to project American power into a permanent client outpost at the crossroads of the Middle East, in short to implement the neocon PNAC plan.

Republicans lie. Karl Rove lies for a living - and quite a handsome living at that. They do it to get what they want. Because all you have to do to Americans and especially Washington Democrats is wave a bloody shirt, they succeeded. That shame should be on all of us. Instead, the wingnuts revel in it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Amuse-bouche

Libertarian Jonathan Loya is running for State Rep in the Massachusetts 8th Middlesex, a district I know pretty well. He's running against freshman Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), who's a friend of mine. More power to him for running - at age 19 - even though I wish him a thorough defeat. Still, being involved in politics is important even if he's on the wrong side.

Here's something funny, though. Loya is using my words to describe at least what he claims he is not. Two weeks ago, I made several comments on this MetroWest Daily News story announcing his candidacy. One of them included:

[T]he libertarian response to the financial crisis would have been to let the economy burn to the ground. As big a mess as we're still in, it would be much worse if libertarians like Loya had been in charge.
Today came the news straight from Loya's mouth:
“Some people, when you say libertarianism, think you’re a radical person who wants to burn the economy to the ground” said Loya jokingly before scratching the surface of his ideas about the ideology.
Oh, no, now I'm a speech-writer for the opposition. Heh.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The problem with Bunning

It's not the fact that Jim Bunning (R-No KY) is an asshole that makes him unpopular with his fellow Republicans. Being a scrupulously cruel and unfeeling asshole is very common, even highly esteemed on the right - witness Limbaugh, Beck, Savage, Malkin, Robertson, Coulter. In Congress, as well, there are plenty of Republican assholes.

If I might digress for a moment, being an asshole is not a blindly partisan affliction. There are Democratic assholes, that's for sure. From time to time, I catch myself being an asshole. The difference is that we tolerate our assholes, that we try to reform our own moments of assholery, where they are proud of their asshole compatriots and their own petty cruelty and unfeelingness.

Bunning's real sin, in the eyes of his estranged Republican colleagues, is that he has been too visibly an asshole. Bunning has been out front with his cruelty, failing to hide it even behind the usual thin bullshit.

Of course, his real transgression in the eyes of the press, is not that he blocked small care for the unemployed. No, it's that he had the temerity to curse at them. That gave them the middle school news hook they needed to hang Bunning. Mitch McConnell, a Potemkin village of bland over a flinty heart of savage asshole? The press will never notice.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Little red book

Where does power come from?

Click image for full Ted Rall cartoon.

Make it till you fake it

The truth hurts. Where we are results from building our economy to bow to - and reward - the often ephemeral paper value of Wall St., rather than the intrinsic value of goods and services.

Click image for full Joel Pett/Lexington Herald-Leader cartoon.