Saturday, November 18, 2006

Gimme my filibuster back!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Remember how the Senate Republicans talked about doing away with the filibuster? Well, disingenuous hypocrites that they are, it looks like they may want to use it now that they’re back in the minority.

According to Crooks and Liars, which has the video, Sen. James Inhofe has “threatened to filibuster any legislation on Climate Change”.

As I wrote earlier today, Inhofe is an exceedingly dangerous idiot, much more even that I had previously thought. And now we have yet more evidence that he wants to take us all down with him.


UPDATE: McConnell likes the filibuster, too — for judicial nominations, no less.

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Pelosi’s choice: Why Jane Harman won’t be the next chair of the House Intelligence Committee

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The high-profile Hoyer-Murtha contest for House majority leader, now in its what-does-it-all-mean aftermath, has obscured another of Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to put her own people in place. That effort concerns the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, a key position as Democrats look to position themselves as the majority party on the war in Iraq and the war on terror, provide a more formidable opposition to Bush with respect to both wars, and, as appears likely, conduct wide-ranging investigations into the incompetent and inadequate — and, in the case of Iraq, also deceptive and manipulative — waging of those wars by the Bush Administration.

The obvious candidate for the position is California Rep. Jane Harman, currently the committee’s ranking Democrat and one of the party’s leading figures on intelligence matters. But reports emerged shortly after the elections last week that Pelosi could select to bypass Harman and appoint someone else. For example, this report in the Post: “Pelosi has nursed a well-publicized grudge against her fellow California Democrat because she believes Harman has not been a tough enough critic of President Bush on security matters, while using her ties to the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee to lobby for the chairmanship.” Then, just a few days ago, the Post reported that “Pelosi has also all but decided she will not name [Harman] to chair that panel next year, a decision pregnant with personal animus”.

Harman has been backed by the conservative Blue Dog Coalition (of which she is a member), according to The Hill. The Blue Dogs put it this way: “Both our Caucus and Party have counted on Congresswoman Harman to answer forcefully and credibly to partisan critics who have questioned Democrats’ commitment to protecting our nation.” And the L.A. Times agrees, defending Harman’s record and arguing that she is “an expert on intelligence matters who has won the respect of both parties while criticizing some of the Bush administration’s excesses in the war on terror”. She “has earned this chairmanship”.

So what’s going on here? Why won’t Pelosi appoint her to the position?

Harman may be too moderate (or not anti-Bush) enough for some, including Pelosi, but her record is clear. One excuse is that “her rotating membership on [the committee] is about to expire”. But such term limits “don’t apply to the chairman and ranking member” and “can be waived” regardless, and “the independent 9/11 commission called in its recommendations for longer tenures on congressional intelligence panels as a way of fostering continuity and institutional memory”. Harman has the “institutional memory”. She has the respect of her colleagues. She has the experience for the job. But no. For it seems that the forces of personal and identity politics have combined to bring her down.

The L.A. Times refers to “the Harman-Pelosi rift” and suggests that Harman “may be insufficiently partisan in Pelosi’s eyes”. Bob Novak noted yesterday that some of Pelosi’s critics “worry that her decision making may be distorted by personal considerations,” and he refers to Harman as Pelosi’s “rival diva from California,” which may be sexist but also true.

All of which is bad enough. This is no time for personal politics, even if Pelosi is determined to establish her authority in the House (and over her own party). It’s one thing to want your allies (like Murtha) in key positions, quite another to reject the most competent candidate for the committee chairmanship as important as this one. Given how grossly incompetent Bush and the Republicans have been with respect to intelligence, the Democrats’ priority with respect to how they conduct themselves in power should be, well, competence. Pelosi may not like Harman, but personal differences ought to be put aside in favour of the national interest, not to mention Democrats’ self-interest as the new majority party.

Pelosi’s preferred candidate seems to be Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Why Hastings? Unlike Harman, Hastings was never what the editors of The New Republic call “a strong supporter of the Iraq war” — although Harman is now “a tough critic,” and a far more visible and credible one than Hastings. But Pelosi may also be playing “racial politics”: “Pelosi doesn’t want to skip over a black member like Hastings for fear of angering the Congressional Black Caucus,” even though “African Americans [are] sure to chair several major committees”.

If this is no time for personal politics, it certainly is no time for identity politics. The Democratic caucus is diverse enough that historically underrepresented groups will be represented in key positions of power and responsibility. And not because of what they are but because of who they are.

And the problem with Hastings isn’t just that he lacks Harman’s experience and competence but that he’s one of the great embarrassments in American politics. Consider: “In 1981, Hastings was a federal judge in Miami. He was accused of conspiring with a friend to take a $150,000 bribe in exchange for issuing light sentences to a pair of mobsters. A Miami jury acquitted Hastings (while convicting the friend), but three different federal judicial panels later referred him to Congress for impeachment.” The Democratic Congress impeached him by a vote of 413 to 3. And the Senate convicted him by a vote of 69 to 23. And then he won his House seat in 1992, where he has been ever since “without leaving much of a mark on the institution”.

Harman is the right person for the position, but even if she weren’t how is Hastings the right person for it? He isn’t. And yet he may very well be Pelosi’s choice. I realize I’ve been hard on Pelosi lately (even though I welcomed her ascension to the speakership and still support her). But the promotion of Murtha over Hoyer for majority leader and now, much worse, the promotion of anyone but Harman (and perhaps someone like Hastings) for the chairmanship of a battleground committee are, to me, reflections of messed up priorities and signs of questionable leadership. She needs to do better. And she needs to look beyond herself to the good of the country and the good of her party. Both of which would be well-served with Jane Harman leading the way on intelligence.

(See also all the comments at The Carpetbagger Report, where this post first appeared.)

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Dan Savage on Borat and Haggard

By Heraclitus

Anyone else notice how Michael always rips me off? I post some stuff on McCain, suddenly he has to post stuff on McCain. I post a WWI poem, suddenly he posts a WWI poem. I link to and quote from Dan Savage's blog post on Santorum's defeat, suddenly Michael links to the same blog post. I'm just sayin'.

Here's Savage's take on the Haggard outing (which I know is a little old now). Bottom line: this proves you can't cure gay. Somehow I expect that the people who are stupid enough to think that you can, that being gay is some kind of disease, won't take note, but what can you do?

Meanwhile, I think it is truly impossible to say who is further beneath contempt, David Brooks or John Tierney. Brooks can be funny when he's writing about Home Depot or such things. What's terrifying is that at some point people somehow got the idea that he knows something about things like Iraq and should be included in adult conversations. Brooks is at his most contemptible, at least in my opinion, when he's pandering to social conservatives, the ignorant and retrograde bigots who compose the worst of the Republican Party. In fact, I almost prefer the outright lunacy of folks like Pam Atlas or Pat Robertson over the pretence Brooks makes at moderation and decency while fellating the most repellant people in the country.

So it's no surprise that Brooks has criticized the Borat movie because Sacha Cohen is an urban elite ridiculing the rubes of fly-over country (apparently Tierney has already made this shamefully dishonest argument, but so witless is Brooks that he can only rip-off his fellow NYT right-wing hack). Nevermind that he ridicules them for being racist, homophobic, sexist and generally mean-spirited and bigoted. And nevermind that he doesn't ridicule these people, he just allows them to expose themselves as the ugly souls they are. You're not allowed to make fun of reliable GOP voters, especially not if you're going to expose them for the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing louts that they are (and, by the way, I'm not saying that all GOP voters are the sorts of bigots ridiculed in Borat. I'm not saying that at all. But, quite seriously, David Brooks is.)

What I love about Dan Savage is his ability to cut through self-serving mendacity and moralistic grandstanding like a laser. In this case, he correctly identifies the mixture of self-pity and aggression at the heart of the identity politics that constitute so much of Red State America, and that are the mark of the adult bully. Here's the finale of Savage's response to the call to show greater respect for the "values" of social conservatives:

At bottom it’s really not about respect for their values. It’s about insisting that everyone adopt their values. When we say, “We hear you, homelanders, but we think you’re wrong,” that’s makes ‘em mad. That’s what kills ‘em. They're so insecure that they take our rejection of their oppressive, retrograde political agenda as somehow personally disrespectful—particularly of their religious beliefs. They only way to appease an Allen is to live like one. Not gonna happen.

Yes, yes: It’s bad politics to be openly dismissive of the homelanders, as they wield disproportionate political power, thanks to a stacked Senate and the Electoral College. But we should call the rubes on their hypocrisy, their ignorance, and their fear. And mockery is one way to do it. If it makes the Allens angry, good. Maybe the anger will make him think.

God bless Borat.

The Allen he mentions is from a book he discusses in the post. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

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We won't have Santorum to kick around anymore

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I’m sorry to be the one to bring you the bad news, if you haven’t heard it already, but Rick Santorum won’t — repeat: won’t — be running for president in ‘08.

“Absolutely, positively not,” he said. “Absolutely not.”

I feel for Dan Savage. However much we dislike him, wouldn’t it have been so much more fun if he’d decided to run? Now we may be stuck with Mitt Romney as the leading social conservative in the GOP field.

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James Inhofe is an even more dangerous idiot than I thought

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sen. James Inhofe — thankfully the outgoing chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — on FOX & Friends yesterday morning:

Now look, God’s still up there. We still have these natural changes, and this is what’s going on right now. New science comes out…

If the northern hemisphere is warming up, it’s not due to manmade gases. And that’s what these people all come to the conclusion. And yet the other side, the far left, the George Soros, the Hollywood elitists, the far left environmentalists on the committee that I chair — all of them want us to believe the science is settled and it’s not.

By the way, there’s all kinds of new things. Gretchen, you’ll enjoy this. Get your violin out and get ready. They came out with a great discovery just a few weeks ago. And this came from the geophysical research letters and you know what they said? Hold on now! They said the warming is due to the sun. Isn’t that remarkable?

Come on, FOX, tell us. It’s remarkable, right? It’s true, right?


BRIAN: That’s a Fox News alert.

GRETCHEN: That is a Fox News alert.

That’s how it went. I kid you not. Think Progress has the video and the transcript along with a reminder that pretty much every serious climatological scientist thinks that human activity has been a major cause of global warming.

Inhofe thinks it’s all a hoax. But the joke — and the tragedy — will be on all of us.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

One-trick pony

Guest post by Capt. Fogg

There's an old joke about a guy taking a Rorschach test. With each new picture his answer is: "That's two people having sex." "I'm beginning to see a problem here," says the psychiatrist. "It's not my problem," says the patient. "You're the one showing me the dirty pictures."

So when I hear that George W. Bush finds a lesson in the American Vietnam experience and that the lesson is that "Freedom takes a long time to trump hatred" and that this means we have to keep occupying Iraq for a long time -- I'm beginning to see a problem. If every comet in the sky, every burning bush, every letter written on the wall screamed "get out of Iraq," he would see an argument for staying the course.

Never having been to the former object of America's imperialist passions and anti-communist hysteria, Bush seems to be totally oblivious to the fact that we never were supporting freedom in that country and that we never allowed free elections and that we killed at least a million people, many of whom were women and children and innocent peasants, so that they would be forced to accept a kind of government we found preferable for economic reasons, its massive corruption and suppression of civil rights notwithstanding. He doesn't seem to understand that peace only began when America went home.

If there is a lesson of Vietnam, it's to stay the hell out of such struggles. When Bush argues patience with Iraq, he's either convinced that we're idiots, is an idiot himself, or is so demented that he sees and hears only in terms of his obsession. Our patience with a war that killed 50,000 Americans and lasted over a decade and ended with our defeat was far greater than our patience with Bush's war, and regardless of the circumstances under which we will inevitably exit Iraq, peace will not be the result of our occupation.

The lesson of Vietnam is that the stakes we insisted we had there, the insistence that this was a fight for our freedom and that the "lights of freedom [would] go out all over the world" if we withdrew, were all lies or misapprehensions, despite the passion with which these arguments were made and despite the cries of treason that met doubters.

The Vietnamese have always had a long memory, and so too do the people of the Middle East. The Iraqis and the Iranians remember how we sabotaged their freedom long before we claimed to be fighting for it, and whether or not they ever achieve the kind of liberal democracy and equality under the law for all people we claim is our goal, they will only achieve it without our occupation.

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Sex, lies, and abortion: More theocratic quackery from the Bush White House

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Jessica Valenti of Feministing reported yesterday that Bush has appointed Dr. Eric Keroack Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (DASPA) at the Department of Health and Human Services. Which could mean one of two things: more hackocracy or more theocracy.

Well, it’s the latter.

Keroack, “currently the medical director of a Massachusetts pregnancy crisis center,” is “a well-known anti-choicer” and “a major proponent of abstinence-only education”. The “crisis center” in question is actually a chain of centers in eastern Massachusetts called
A Woman’s Concern, where Keroack, according to “moiv” at AlterNet, “spreads all the usual lies about abortion, and uses ultrasound scans as a tool to influence the decisions of women who might be considering abortion.”

And that’s not all. He’s “on the Medical Advisory Council for the notorious Leslee Unruh’s National Abstinence Clearinghouse“. “And this is the guy,” in Jessica’s words, “who is going to have control over hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding meant to provide access to contraception and reproductive health information — specifically to low income Americans.”

Yes, that’s right. The Office of Population Affairs that he is about to head includes the Office of Family Planning and the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs. Given his career background, crazy theories, and theocratic leanings, it’s quite clear where his priorities will be: abstinence and (when that fails) absolutely no abortion. I suspect he doesn't much care for birth control either.

(Pharyngula and Majikthise have more.)

This story won’t get the attention it deserves, but it illustrates the continuing influence of the religious right on the Bush White House. (Where are you now, David Kuo? Or is this just an attempt to win the doubters back?) And it shows just how dangerous even Bush’s allegedly lame-duck presidency can be.


UPDATE: See also the Post: "The appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, was the latest provocative personnel move by the White House since Democrats won control of Congress in this month's midterm elections... The Keroack appointment angered many family-planning advocates, who noted that A Woman's Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts."

Read the whole article for more reaction.

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More on tasers

By Heraclitus

Unfortunately, I effed up the link for the letter to send the UCLA and the mayor of LA in my earlier post on police brutality at UCLA. This link will work; it will take you to an action alert, and with one click, you're at the page for the letter. I really encourage everyone to send the letter. Based on the chancellor's latest statement (also note that the chancellor of UCLA doesn't know the meaning of the word "transpire"), it looks like he may well try to defend the brutality, or sweep it under the rug, in the belief that this will be best for the UCLA brand (heads of universities are essentially second-rate corporate functionaries). There needs to be enough pressure brought upon the university that the chancellor understands that UCLA's reputation will suffer far worse if he does not take decisive action against police brutality in an effing university library.

Meanwhile, a commenter on the earlier post notes that the security officers involved were real police, not, as I had put it, "rent-a-pigs." Via Michael
Bérubé (comment #29), Digby discusses the wider trend of police using tasers, often rather nonchalantly. This wouldn't be such a problem if they didn't have this nasty tendency to kill people. In These Times has more.

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The imbeciles

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Grover Norquist on Don Sherwood, the Pennsylvania Republican who lost his House seat to Chris Carney and whose mistress accused him of choking her: "Bob [sic] Sherwood's seat would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn't whined about being throttled.” (via Pandagon)

Glenn Beck to Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim ever elected to Congress: "[Y]ou are a Democrat. You are saying, 'Let's cut and run.' And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.'" (via Media Matters)

And, of course, various right-wingers want to blow up the State Department, as Heraclitus mentioned yesterday.

(And I haven't even mentioned Coulter or Malkin. Or any of the other dangerous and idiotic wingnuts out there.)

Nice, huh?

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Police brutality at UCLA

By Heraclitus

In case you haven't heard about this incident, a student at UCLA was repeatedly tasered by campus security because...well, there really doesn't seem to be much of a reason. The LA Times story is here. Amanda Marcotte has the video captured by students on their cell phones here. Campus police claim the student refused to leave the library, but witnesses say he was leaving when he was attacked and tasered by the rent-a-pigs. Students who witnessed the attack repeatedly asked the police to stop tasering the student, but to no avail. The police threatened to taser at least one other student who asked them to stop attacking her classmate and for their badge numbers. Nevertheless, the university seems to be trying to defend the brutality. The National Iranian American Council has an account of the brutality here (the student was Iranian-American). You can also send an email criticizing the whole sordid affair, and calling for an external investigation, to the chancellor of UCLA, the head of the UCLA police, and the mayor of Los Angeles. Please take a few seconds to send the email and try to force the university to take some accountability for this act of naked brutality and intimidation that has no place in a university, or, indeed, in any part of a free society.

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Lusting after power: The partisan attack strategies of the House Republicans

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As Democrats settle into majority status in the House — with the contentious battle between Murtha and Hoyer now behind us — Republicans are strategizing on how best to bring them down over the next two years. And that strategizing is playing out in the contest for the position of minority whip between incumbent Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Shadegg of Arizona. The Hill reports:

Leadership candidates have highlighted their plans to hammer the incoming Democratic majority for ethical lapses, fiscal irresponsibility and legislative mismanagement, borrowing from a playbook those same Democrats used with great success to unseat the Republican majority.

Leadership hopefuls have made regaining the majority the central thrust of their campaigns, but rank-and-file members are debating as to which candidates can successfully implement their attack strategies as well as the particulars of the individual plans.

Blunt has even put together a strategy memo entitled “24 Months to a New Republican Majority — A Plan for Victory”. The Hill calls it “a detailed roadmap,” which seems like excessive credit for what is really just the same old vicious partisanship from a party that has been reduced to rubber stamping President Bush’s executive power grab on issues like torture and domestic wiretapping, pushing plutocratic tax cuts, and latching on to non-starters like Social Security privatization. And so we are told that, for example, that the memo “outlines amendments [Blunt] would offer to projected votes implementing pay-go rules in the budget process, raising the minimum wage and allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies”.

Can’t have any of that. For the Republicans, all that matters is power. They lost it and they want it back. Evidently, though, they don’t quite get why they lost it, why the American people turned on them in such overwhelming numbers.

Democrats in the House, as well as in the Senate, will face relentless attacks over the next two years. But they are now an effective check on presidential absolutism on Iraq and the war on terror and they have an agenda that works for the American people on issues like national security, health care, the minimum wage, and stem-cell research. If the Republicans want to block that agenda, if they think that blocking it will return them to power, that’s fine with me, politically speaking. It’s a losing strategy. The American people will be hurt by it — and therein lies my objection to it — but it will also expose the Republicans for what they are. Just let them run on it in ‘08.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ségolène Royal wins Socialist nomination

By Heraclitus

Ségolène Royal has won the Socialist nomination for president in France. Here's a brief profile I wrote about her a few weeks ago, which has since been translated into French and posted on the website of Reporters Without Borders (although Michael has tried to claim credit for it). As I said in the earlier post, her candidacy seems to me to be important because she may become the first female president of France and, perhaps more importantly, because a win by a Socialist in the French presidential election will, at the very least, be an exception to the movement towards the economic and social right seen in so many recent European elections. The Guardian has more.


For more on Ségolène Royal, see the profiles at BBC and The Economist, her entry at Wikipedia, her official page at the French National Assembly, and her official campaign website for the 2007 presidential election. -- MJWS

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Right-wingers: Kill all State Department diplomats

By Heraclitus

Let's face it, when you're looking for humorously wacky right-wing bloggery, it's not going to get much better than Hugh Hewitt's pronouncement that "Senator Santorum is now available for a seat on the SCOTUS should one become available." It's turgid, pompous, and crazy, but ultimately completely irrelevant. You can laugh at it because it's so obviously blind to the political realities of the world. But at the same time, it's relatively harmless. Justice Santorum may be the two scariest words in the English language, but we're never going to have to say them in earnest. Meanwhile, he's proposing something that in no way requires breaching the laws of god or man.

Unlike, say, calling on Hamas to "blow up State." State? Michigan State? Is this a rabid Wolverines fan speaking? No, it's someone named Pam Atlas, blogular toady of the ineffably execrable John Bolton. She's also a member of Pajamas Media (and -- gasp! -- she has a quote from Ayn Rand on her website. There is, as I'm sure you're all aware, no surer sign of a pygmy intellect and a gruesomely stunted emotional life than admiration for Ayn Rand). Glenn Greenwald reports. Here's the quote from Atlas herself.

Back to terror funding our enemy. Do they really believe by feeding the crocodile, they won't get eaten?
While those have been the Israeli and American demands of the Palestinian Arabs since Hamas won legislative elections in January, two diplomatic sources yesterday who requested anonymity said the State Department would be willing to accept a government that included some Hamas members if a majority of the cabinet agreed to the terms laid out in the 2003 road map document signed by both sides as well as America, Europe, Russia and the United Nations.

Accepting Hamas? Perhaps Hamas will blow up State. Someone has to.
“We are looking at creative ways to get around this,” one diplomat said. “I would not call this ‘Hamas lite,’ but if we could get a government of negotiators instead of terrorists we’d take it.”

First, kill all the diplomats (before they get us killed.)

Subtle. Decent. Sane. Today's conservative punditry.

But, actually, Atlas didn't come up with this little idea on her own. As Greenwald also notes, Pat Robertson has called for the same, while interviewing the author of a book critical of the State Department.

"I read your book," Robertson said. "When you get through, you say, 'If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that's the answer,' and you say, 'We've got to blow that thing up.' I mean, is it as bad as you say?" Robertson said.

Memo to Pat Robertson: if you detonate "a nuclear device" in Foggy Bottom, it would kill more than those Satanic diplomats.

Here's Greenwald on the relative centrality of these whackjobs to today's GOP, and especially to the Bush White House and political ethos.

For some reason, journalists are eager to talk endlessly about the handful of foolish right-wing extremists who march around wearing swastikas and Nazi costumes. That gets the media excited, despite their total isolation and lack of consequence.

[I would actually say that the media focuses on them precisely because of "their total isolation and lack of consequence." It makes them easy targets for a press that wants to engage in virtuous-sounding but utterly empty and worthless rigtheous indignation. Our media isn't "liberal," it's cowardly and dishonest. -- Heraclitus]

But right-wing hate-mongering that is fueled by religious extremism (Christian and Jewish) is infinitely more dangerous and significant in the U.S. A strong argument can be made that religious fanaticism constitutes a significant motivating force for much of our foreign policy and certainly for the support of many people for those policies, including -- to one degree or another -- the President himself. Yet that topic makes the media very uncomfortable and it is therefore almost never discussed. It ought to be.


The point is that Pam Atlas, like Ann Coulter, is the exposed id of the Bush movement. She continues to be embraced by the right-wing blosophere because, for many of them, the sentiments she is expressing -- as extreme and attention-seeking though they may be -- are not at all objectionable to them because the same sentiments motivate them. There have been enormous amounts of ink spilled on the so-called "Angry Left" and the allegedly rabid liberal bloggers (mostly based on the fact that some delicate pundit received e-mails with bad words in them), but the pulsating and ever-increasing hate-mongering in the right-wing blogosphere has been all but ignored.

Greenwald's right, and his point is certainly worth thinking about (I know, I know, absurdly and lamentably anti-climactic ending, but I'm exhausted [like Blind Willie McTell, in the song that just came on, I feel like a broke down engine], and I think the quotations speak for themselves).

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Hoyer beats Murtha

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, it’s Hoyer. And it wasn’t close. 149 to 86.

Questions for your consideration:

– Are you okay with this? (I am.)
– What does it say about Pelosi? Has it weakened her? (In the short-term, perhaps.)
– Will the Dems be able to move on peacefully? Will there be any negative fallout? (Not in the long-term, hopefully.)

Otherwise, let’s move on, shall we?


This and another post on Murtha/Hoyer appeared earlier today at The Carpetbagger Report. There were a lot of comments from readers, many of them putting this contentious battle in perspective or otherwise downplaying its significance. Upon reflection, I, too, think that it was overhyped. I just hope Pelosi and Hoyer can work well together and push ahead with a very promising legislative agenda.

See here and here for those posts.

Now we'll move on.

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Carpetbagging time

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm going to be guest blogging at The Carpetbagger Report from today through Sunday along with two of my favourites, John Cole of Balloon Juice and the Anonymous Liberal of his eponymous blog. It's a great opportunity to contribute to a great blog, where I've been filling in from time to time, and I really can't say enough about the support, encouragement, and generosity of my friend Steve Benen.

I'll post here what I post there, but I'll also do more here. And, of course, the co-bloggers and guest bloggers will continue to do their thing. As always, we'll put a lot of posts up for your reading (and viewing) pleasure.

Stay tuned. And keep coming back.

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Arrogance or ignorance?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Or both? Bush may not be able to claim a mandate after the midterms after he did after the '04 election -- he claimed one, but he didn't have one (see Social Security privatization, a miserable failure once the American people found out about it) -- but that isn't stopping him from trying to push his weight around.

The WSJ's Washington Wire is reporting this: "After calling for bipartisanship, President Bush surprised Senate Democrats with plans to renominate a controversial list of judges – some of whom may be unacceptable even to a few Republican senators. “It’s an unfortunate signal,” said one senior Democratic Senate aide."

Of course, Bush has never really been serious about bipartisanship -- you know: uniting, not dividing -- but what he has been serious about is implementing the agenda of the far right. And that has meant the nomination of extremist judges beyond Roberts or even Alito to spots on the federal benches. (See the WW piece for the list of nominees.) The rubber-stamping Republican Congress, including the Gang of 14, was more than happy to oblige. Thankfully, things will be different now under Leahy and the Dems.

Steve Benen puts it this way: "These nominations are a slap in the face. Bush is making it quite clear that his rhetoric about bipartisanship is entirely meaningless. Given a choice and a fresh start with a new Congress, the president prefers conflict to cooperation. Indeed, with nominations like these, he’s shouting it with a bullhorn. What other way is there to interpret this nonsense?

A slap in the face? Well, he's pandering to his base and promoting his plutocratic interests. To me it seems like he's giving us the finger.

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The plight of Afghani women

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What horror:

Increasing numbers of Afghan women are committing suicide by setting fire to themselves to escape difficult lives, according to NGOs based in the country.

They say women forced into marriage or suffering chronic abuse are killing themselves out of desperation.

Although estimates are difficult to make, one group says cases of self-immolation in the capital have doubled since last year.

Cases are said to be reported every day in the western city of Herat.

In Kabul, some 36 cases of self-immolation have been recorded this year.

If there's another reason to hate the war in Iraq, this is it. No, I'm not blaming Bush. And no, I'm not saying that this wasn't going on under the Taliban or other past regimes, or, more generally, that Afghani women have ever had it easy -- they surely haven't. But -- and I know this is an old argument now, but it bears repeating -- wouldn't it have been better to rebuild one country before going off and invading and occupying another? Shouldn't the job have been finished in Afghanistan? And by that I mean both building some sort of stable government for the sake of a lasting peace and continuing to fight the terrorists on their own turf?

Oh, I forgot, Saddam had those WMDs. And Iraq was where the war on terror was at. So forget Afghanistan. Ignore it. Bush has. (Yes, I just blamed him. Pardon me.) Once upon a time, I made the argument to some friends in Amnesty International that the war in Afghanistan would benefit the people of that desperate land, and particularly the women. Well, the Taliban is out but still there, Karzai is nothing more than the figurehead mayor of Kabul, the countryside is ruled by warlords and poppy growers, the drug trade is thriving, terrorists plotting America's demise still roam freely, undermanned Canadians and others are dying on the battlefield of a war without end, as are local civilians, and women are setting themselves on fire to escape a life that evidently isn't worth living anymore.

Oh, what a lovely war this has been.

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Larry King is an idiot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sorry. That's a bit harsh. He's old, maybe even a bit senile, and certainly tired, or so it appears. And he's been a force on radio and TV for a long, long time. And he may just be stuck in his ways, the ways of "old" media. So maybe it's not his fault. Maybe he doesn't understand. Maybe he just doesn't get it. I mean, it's clear he doesn't prepare for his interviews. It's clear he doesn't research his guests. That's bad enough. But you'd think someone at the epicenter of politics and culture, someone who has on the leading lights of the day and is himself newsworthy because those in the news and the makers of news and the breakers of news come on his show would make a greater effort to keep up with the times. No?

No. For it seems that Larry King has never used the Internet. "I've never done it, never gone searching," he told Roseanne the other day. "What do you punch little buttons and things?" he asked.

Uh, yeah. Go back to sleep, Larry.

Think Progress has the video and the transcript -- click here.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rubbing it in

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So how did the Democrats do last Tuesday? Pretty well, right? They now control both houses of Congress -- the House by a comfortable margin, picking up 30 seats so far; the Senate by just two seats, although even there they won all the close races except Tennessee and won in generally red states like Virginia, Missouri, and Montana, picking up six seats and surpassing expectations that they would fall just shy of a majority. And they picked up six governorships, giving them 28, winning across the country in red and swing states like Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, and Ohio.

Truly impressive. But there's more, and for that I turn to Chris Bowers of MyDD, who looks at what happened at the state level:

-- "In state legislative bodies, Democrats control 56 chambers, Republicans control 40." And two remain undecided. And the tie in the Oklahoma Senate goes to the Dems.

-- "Democrats control 3,964 state legislature seats, and Republicans control 3,307."

-- "Democrats have new trifectas in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Oregon, bringing our total number of trifectas to sixteen. Our previous trifectas included Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia." Republicans only have ten.

So what does it all mean? -- "We have now almost entirely restocked our bench following the 1994 elections. Our list of potential candidates for higher office at every level is now much longer than it was only six years ago. We also are in a position to favorably remake electoral maps in than we were six years ago. Also, by taking a substantial lead in trifectas, now we can govern for the first time in a long time, shifting the national policy debate decidedly in our favor. The trend for us at the state level has been pretty much straight upward from 2004-2006. As the backbone of our national coalition, this makes our majorities and influence in Washington, D.C. all the greater."

Smile, people, smile. Victory -- and particularly such an impressive one -- is sweet indeed.

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Trent Lott, pigfucker

By Heraclitus

Okay, did that title get your attention? I got it from Ed Morrissey. Well, actually, what Morrissey said was that he opposed Lott for Senate whip because of Lott's unquenchable lust for pork.

This naturally inspired a lot of criticism from the blogosphere, which has focused on earmarks (especially secret earmarks) as a point of entry for corruption in Congress. In response to this criticism, Lott told an AP reporter that "I'll just say this about the so-called porkbusters. I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them."

Memo to Senator Lott: porkbusters are taxpayers, and we have every right to question how our money gets spent. The fact that the question came in response to a $700 million project to relocate rail tracks in Mississippi that we had just spent $300 million repairing makes the point even more clear. Lott belongs to a generation of politicians that believe that they are above the criticism of their constituents, and that we should just shut up and let our betters decide what to do with us.

But, folks like Morrissey notwithstanding, Lott won the race, and is set to be the GOP No. 2 Senator in the next Congress (he's no. 2 all right). Of course, Lott made waves a few years ago when he opined that, had Strom Thurmond won his bid for the presidency in 1948, the country would have been a better place. Here's exactly what he said:

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Thing is, Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat, on a segregationist platform. He also delivered the longest filibuster in the history of the US Senate, in 1957. What was piece of legislation was he trying to prevent being passed? The Civil Rights Act of 1957. Thurmond's filibuster came after the southern Senators succeeded in significantly weakening the bill through a weeks-long filibuster of their own. But it wasn't enough for Thurmond. He led the opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He also had a child with a black woman (out of wedlock, of course).

If only the South had remained racially segregated (and, as we all know, the legal segregation was only the tip of the iceberg of injustice and barbarism), "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years." I don't know what problems he was thinking of; presumably teh gays. Here's how the AP refers to these comments:

Lott relished his duties as majority leader but stepped down in 2002 under pressure over remarks that were interpreted as racially insensitive.

There were "interpreted as racially insensitive"? Lott said he was "proud" to have supported a segregationist for president, and that "all these problems" were caused by ending the legal subjugation of southern blacks. That's more than "insensitive," and saying so is more than an interpretation. How much longer before everyone recognizes that the famous notion of the "liberal media" is simply a lie?


UPDATE -- by Michael J.W. Stickings

Even Malkin thinks the Republican leadership is "lame".

ABC News is reporting that Lott beat Alexander, "who had made an 18-month bid for the post," 25 to 24 by secret ballot. All you have to know about the new Republican leadership is that Mitch McConnell is #1 and Trent Lott is #2. Lovely, but, then, what do you expect from the stupid party? Call it yet another victory for extremism.

See also the Post.

Howie Klein posts a political cartoon that puts it in perspective. He also suggests that Lott's victory reflects "the true unreconstructed southern nature of today's GOP".

And here's Josh Marshall: "Nice to see that the segregation wing of the Republican Party can still muster a majority of votes in the Senate GOP caucus."

And Steve Benen: "I think the Republican leadership has just about given up on its African-American outreach effort." And: "Lott’s ascension to the Senate GOP leadership again seems a bit like a slap in the White House’s face. The president, with varying degrees of subtlety, has made it clear that Lott is not his favorite member of the Senate."

See also Joe Gandelman and John Cole, both of whom offer some solid analysis.

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Jim Webb on class in America

By Heraclitus

There's a very interesting piece on The Wall Street Journal today by
Jim Webb. I'm afraid I'm too exhausted to provide any meaningful comment, but here's a sampling:

The most important -- and unfortunately the least debated -- issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

Interesting for so many reasons, one of them being its implications for the question of whether the election was a move to the right or to the left. Webb clearly believes it was a move to the left, and intends to act on that belief. I am, as always, less than optimistic about what will actually be done, but Senator-elect Webb, at least, clearly has no use for the the idea that this election was a vote for centrism on social and economic policy.

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Seriously, what the fuck are the Dems doing?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

One week ago this very moment -- 1:17 am ET -- I was sitting here at my computer live-blogging the elections, celebrating a Democratic takeover of the House, and waching the Senate races in Virginia, Missouri, and Montana with a mixture of anxiety and optimism. Everything was breaking our way, except Tennessee and a few key House races, and the Dems look poised to control both houses of Congress. Happy, happy times.

And now? Everything seems to be
fine in the Senate, where Reid will be majority leader and the rest of the leadership team is securely in place: Durbin, Schumer, Murray.

And in the House? Not so much. Pelosi is firmly in place as the next speaker, but there is a contentious battle underway for majority leader between Murtha and Hoyer. As I
mentioned on Monday, Pelosi is pushing Murtha, long-time Pelosi ally and outspoken Iraq War critic, over Hoyer, long-time Pelosi rival, Democratic whip, and somewhat less outspoken Iraq War critic. To be sure, there's nothing wrong with some healthy competition. But did Pelosi need to get so personally involved in this contest? She would no doubt work better with Murtha than with Hoyer, but as Josh Marshall puts it: "She's very publicly making everyone takes sides. And in a very specific, unique way. She's staked her authority and credibility on a Murtha victory. And since she represents the caucus, to a degree she's putting the caucus's authority and credibility on the line too, just after the Dems have taken power in the House for the first time in a dozen years. It's a really bold power-play on a number of levels."

But do the Dems need this sort of agressive "power-play" from their speaker-elect? Because it's all gotten quite nasty. Murtha is now
accusing his opponents, those in the Hoyer camp, of swift-boating him on ethics. But what about those ethics? Is Murtha clean? And what about Hoyer? He has his own questionable ties to K Street. (For more on this, see Howie Klein.) In general, I agree with Barbara O'Brien: Although Murtha is more aggressive on Iraq, "Hoyer has a far better voting record than Murtha". Murtha may be to the left of Hoyer on Iraq, but he is in every other regard on the right of the party, a conservative Democrat who isn't always on the right side of the issues. Besides, I worry that Murtha's aggression on Iraq could back the party into a corner with a formal policy of phased withdrawal. And it's not like Hoyer is pro-Bush on Iraq. He, too, supports withdrawal, just not quite as vehemently as Murtha does.

Which is not to say that I like Hoyer any more than Murtha. (See Barbara's post for more on Hoyer's problems.) I really don't like either candidate for the job. Despite Pelosi's outspoken support for Murtha, would it not make sense for a third candidate, a popular compromise, to be elevated to majority leader? Perhaps it's too late for that now that Pelosi has put her weight, and "authority and credibility," behind Murtha and now that the caucus has been divided into two warring camps, but what good will come of this? No matter who wins, there will be bitterness and divisiveness both at the top and throughout the caucus.

So I ask: Why, why, why?

Everything looked so good just a week ago. And now this.

Was it so difficult to transition smoothly into the majority? (Okay, the other side isn't doing any better, but that hardly matters now.) Was it so difficult to keep the peace? Was there no other way?

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FOX News and the terrorists

By Michael J.W. Stickings

At his excellent blog State of the Day, our co-blogger Creature reported recently on an internal FOX News memo that seems to prove that the network of unfairness and imbalance is "more than happy to give a platform for the Iraqi insurgents to express themselves" and "absolutely gleeful that the war on terror will continue irrespective of the Democratic victory".

How so? The memo, written by a network vice president and reproduced at The Huffington Post, includes this little nugget: "The election and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption... And let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress."

Yes, we all know that FOX News is nothing but a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, however dishonestly it may market itself, but its shameless partisanship has now reached such depths that it will happily promote the views of the insurgents -- just so long as those views correspond with its shameless partisanship, just so long as the insurgents say the right things.

FOX News, like others in the Republican camp, use Iraq and the war on terror for political purposes, that is, to score points. Now we have it in writing.

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Abortion causes illegal immigration

By Heraclitus

To paraphrase Lisa Simpson, I know all those words, but that title makes no sense.
But, you know, Republicans say the darndest things.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A Republican-led legislative panel claims in a new report on illegal immigration that abortion is partly to blame because it is causing a shortage of American workers.

The report from the state House Special Committee on Immigration Reform also claims "liberal social welfare policies" have discouraged Americans from working and encouraged immigrants to cross the border illegally.

The statements about abortion, welfare policies and a recommendation to abolish income taxes in favor of sales taxes were inserted into the immigration report by the committee chairman, Rep. Ed Emery.

Okay, I could say some stuff about this, but forcing you to read me when you could be reading Amanda Marcotte would just be cruel and unusual. A sampling:

What I really love here is the notion that there’s something wholesome and upright about using government force to up the production capacities of Anglo uterine factories, for the sole purpose of driving down Big Agra’s labor costs while also sparing uptight, wealthy WASPs the indignity of hearing people speaking Spanish or seeing people with dark skin just walking about. Talk about corporate welfare! The report is a two-fer. Not only should American women raise more children at great expense to themselves to drive down labor costs for Big Agra, according to the report, the tax burden should also be shifted down the income ladder, so that the people who can least afford it are paying a bigger portion of their income to it.

By the way, I know I've mentioned Elvis Costello's collaboration with The Fairfield Four, "That Day is Done," here before. But you should really check out the Fairfield Four album that song is from, I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray. I would say God...Damn, but they're religious, and that seems rather contrary to the spirit of their music. If I ever get religion, I think it might be through these songs. Check out, for instance, "Four and Twenty Elders." How many songs that use the phrase "but you never said a mumbly word" non-ironically can bring a smart-assed atheist to the verge of tears? Or listen to their song with Pam Tillis on the album, "Get Away Jordan." Really, though, the whole album is amazing.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The plutonium problem

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Uh-oh: "New traces of plutonium and enriched uranium -- potential material for atomic warheads -- have been found in a nuclear waste facility in Irana revelation that came Tuesday as the Iranian president boasted his country's nuclear fuel program will soon be completed."

Not good -- although, as President Ahmadinejad admitted, Iran's nuclear program is still in its "first stages".

Stay tuned.

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XXII

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Life, death, and kidnapping:

Armed men in Iraqi police uniforms and driving police vehicles kidnapped as many as 150 people from a government agency on Tuesday, and several senior police commanders were arrested in connection with the abductions, Iraqi officials said today.

Thankfully, all the hostages were released or freed by police. Prime Minister Maliki said that the kidnapping was "the result of disagreements and conflict between militias belonging to this side or that," but the truth could be much worse. The Guardian notes the obvious: "[T]he episode, one of the biggest mass kidnappings since the 2003 war, raised pointed questions about the reliability of the Iraqi security forces." Not that Maliki (or Bush) will say that publicly.

Regardless, the story and its happy ending have dominated news out of Iraq today. Which means that the ongoing violence has gone even more underreported than usual (if not largely ignored). Consider this horrific report of "deadly incidents" from the AP.

Seriously, READ THIS. For this is the reality of today's Iraq.

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Global warming and wildfires

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The deniers will continue to deny, not just at their own peril but at the peril of us all, but global warming, and climate change more broadly, continues to wreak havoc with our daily lives. Researchers have already connected global warming to stronger hurricanes like Katrina and Rita and to extensive heat waves in the U.S. and Europe, and now, according to CNN, researchers are linking it to devastating wildfires:

Global warming could stoke ferocious wildfires that will be more difficult and costly to fight and might drastically alter the environment in parts of the world, some scientists warn.

Approximately 1,000 scientists and forestry officials who gathered in San Diego for an international wildfire meeting that began Monday urged policymakers to consider the effects of global warming when managing wildfires.

The wildfire season that just ended in the U.S. was the most severe -- and expensive -- on record with more than 89,000 fires scorching 9.5 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The U.S. Forest Service spent $1.5 billion fighting those fires -- about $100 million over budget.

Wildfire season typically peaks in late summer and early fall. Climate change is being blamed for a longer fire season and some even predict the possibility of a year-round fire season.

However much the deniers try to write it off as bad science, or as pernicious theory with no basis in reality, global warming can no longer be considered some distant abstraction. It is very real. And if incremental temperature increases and the slow melting of the polar ice caps don't arouse much public concern, certainly not enough to arouse the attention of politicians, perhaps the onslaught of ever more destructive hurricanes and wildfires will do the trick.

Sad to say, but the prime motivator in people's lives is often nothing other than narrow and immediate self-interest. Such is human nature. Planetary disequilibrium is simply too remote for most people, for people with the incapacity to think and feel beyond themselves. They would rather have their taxes cut and satisfy their basest material desires than make the necessary sacrifices to save the planet and safeguard the well-being of future generations.

But what if their houses are being flooded, as in New Orleans? What if fire is overrunning their houses, as in California? Will these manifestations of global warming not arouse their self-interest? Will they not finally compel our leaders to act?

Global warming is for real. Now or later, we'll have to deal with it far more seriously than we're dealing with it now, when most people can go on living in blissful ignorance. But it will only get worse. And, as it does, so will its manifestations. Think about that when you turn on CNN for news of yet another weather-related disaster.

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Giuliani eyes the top prize

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The AP is reporting that America's (most overrated) mayor is set to launch his long-awaited and much-anticipated campaign for president: "The former mayor filed papers to create the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Exploratory Committee, Inc., establishing a New York-based panel that would allow him to raise money to explore a White House run and travel the country."

On the right (and in opposition to many on the right), James Joyner argues that "Giuliani instantly becomes the 1B to John McCain’s 1A among Republican hopefuls. He is, in my view, the most interesting of the major contenders and the one that offers the best hope toward ending the virtual 50-50 divide that we've been trapped in the last couple of presidential cycles." But I tend to agree with Shakespeare's Sister, who argues that he has no shot of making it through the primaries. (He's pro-choice, pro-gay, and pro-gun control, after all, although the Veep spot may indeed be a possibility. Romney-Giuliani, anyone?)

Giuliani is an interesting figure only because of 9/11 and his inflated popularity. But 9/11 is in the past, and I'm not so sure he's really the hero he and his admirers have made him out to be. He did well on that terrible day. Which is all well and good, but not nearly enough to be president. Besides, I suspect that the rigours of a national campaign would knock him off the perch of self-congratulation he so comfortably occupies.

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Just another day in the life and death of Darfur I

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We do this with Iraq, so why not Darfur? Here's the BBC:

About 30 people have been killed in Sudan's Darfur region, when pro-government militias raided a village, peacekeepers say.

Armed men on horses and camels rode into the village of Sirba, near the Chad border, killing those they found, say UN and African Union officials.

Meanwhile, the UN has offered at least $77m to help [African Union] peacekeepers in Darfur.

I'm sure that'll make all the difference. And I'm sure Khartoum will agree to let the U.N. take over peacekeeping responsibilities from the A.U. Yeah, sure.

There are presently about 7,000 A.U. peacekeepers in Darfur. They "have failed to end the violence," as if they had any chance of doing so. "The UN Security Council has passed a resolution for 20,000 troops to be sent to Darfur but Sudan has refused to let the UN take control, saying that would infringe its sovereignty." Sovereignty comes before genocide, it seems, according to the rules of this morally backwards game. But even if U.N. peacekeepers were to take over in Darfur, would it matter? Would the genocide stop?

Likely not. Until there is a commitment from the international community -- and from the U.S. and its allies above all -- far greater than the U.N. can muster, until the international community stops putting the principle of sovereignty before the far nobler goal of putting an end to genocide, until we all start taking the situation in Darfur much more seriously than we do now, the killing in that distant land will continue.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

This is why I dislike Joe Lieberman

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You know, I was never one of Lieberman's more vehement critics. Even after he cozied up to Bush after 9/11 (and then on Iraq), I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. And I didn't take sides in the Lamont-Lieberman primary race. But then he lost, badly, ran as an independent, and turned on his fellow Democrats. And I turned on him, for good.

But, of course, he won last week, and, like it or not, it was necessary to welcome him back as a Democrat. And it seemed that he wanted to be a Democrat again. Perhaps he learned something from his defeat in the Democratic primary, I thought. Perhaps he finally understood why the overwhelming majority of Americans had voted against Bush and the Republicans. He's not stupid, after all. Surely he understood what last week was all about.

Apparently not. The Hartford Courant is reporting this:

Four days after calling his party affiliation a "closed issue," U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman said Sunday he was "not ruling it out" that he could turn Republican.

He told NBC's "Meet the Press" he will return to Washington as an "Independent Democrat" - "capital I, capital D."

"I'm not ruling it out," he said, "but I hope I don't get to that point. And, I must say, and with all respect to the Republicans who supported me in Connecticut, nobody ever said, 'We're doing this because we want you to switch over.'"

So what is he, then? Is he just a Democrat so that he can be the decisive figure in the 51-49 Democratic majority? He won in Connecticut largely because he was able to win so many Republican votes. And also because he said he would continue to caucus as a Democrat. But it seems that party affiliation is nothing but a matter of personal convenience to him. He can hold the Democrats hostage even as he courts Republicans.

In the end, it's all about Joe Lieberman. He masquerades as a man of principle, as an independent who hovers above the partisan fray. But no. His principle is self-interest and his independence has a price.


And if that weren't enough, consider this:

Lieberman also left open another controversial door -- supporting more U.S. troops in Iraq.

"I think we have to be open to that as a way to succeed to achieve a free and independent Iraq, which would be an extraordinary accomplishment, but it's got to be tied to a new strategy," he said.

A new strategy is fine, as is the goal of "a free and independent Iraq," but a troop increase insn't the way to go. (For more on this, see here.) It seems that Lieberman hasn't learned anything at all.

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Smart-assery on gender differences

By Heraclitus

Disclaimer: The truth is, as the lead character says at the end of Trainspotting, I'm a bad person. I'm in a rather bad mood, aggravated by tension from caffeine-consumption, so I'm not very nice in what follows. More than a little polemical, at least in parts. So, if you don't want to read me being an insufferable smart-ass, proceed thee not. You have been warned (but, if you find that my posts radicalize you too much to teach in a college classroom in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you still have to read this, because there's a joke only you will get).

There are at least half a dozen things I should be doing instead of blogging, so I'm going to limit myself to a delicious, light-hearted post making sport with a right-wing commentator, much like I did in my easy, breezy ridicule of a recent column by Dick Morris and his wife in The New York Post (hey, at least they called the election for the Dems). My hope is that this will be less taxing for all of us than a more serious post.

Now, where to look for such material? Well, how about That's where Hugh Hewitt recently intoned, with all the solemn dignity appropriate to such a wise pronouncement, “Senator Santorum is now available for a seat on the SCOTUS should one become available.” Well, actually, I didn't go there unprompted. I actually saw this article discussed by Amanda Marcotte, and thought it would be a lark to write down some of the smart-ass remarks that went bouncing around my little brain as I read about it. But read my post first, because I don't want to have to try to follow her act.

The subject of this Townhall masterpiece? How gender differences are innate (some of you may recall that I'm not much for biological reductionism). Now, I know some of you gents out there get the vapors and swoon whenever someone suggests that our society -- you know, the one in which one out of four women will be sexually assualted -- might be a wee bit misogynist. You're too chickenshit to acknowledge your swinish behavior and attitudes for what they are, so you want to hide behind the idea that it's all "natural" (hey, if you think I'm being mean here, you should see what I do to dudes who piss me off while I'm trying to watch football -- eh, Mr. Martin?). Well, whip out that two-inch Johnson of yours, because you're going to love this.

The article is by someone named Burt Prelutsky, who looks like a more corpulent version of Tommy Lasorda with a beard. He delivers himself of this profound insight:

Study after study have [sic] shown that, left to their own devices, little girls will seek out dolls to play with, while little boys will seek out trucks, guns, and things they can take apart and, they hope and pray, break into a thousand pieces.

Yes, because no socialization takes place between birth and the age at which children are old enough to pick their own toys. Excellent point, Fat Tommy Lasorda (man, I'm such a dick). Oh, and apparently men are innately incapable of grasping the rules of subject-verb agreement.

But it gets better.

A recent poll further emphasized the stark contrasts between the dreams and ambitions of the two genders. Asked to name their fantasy careers, women’s top five were Hollywood wardrobe stylist, vacation tour director, doll fashion designer, concert promoter, and ice cream creator. The men’s top five were comic book guru, video game developer, toy creator, casino host, and brew master.

I might have more faith in this "poll" (did this study even make a pretense to being scientific? or was it some kind of on-line poll that is essentially meaningless?) if whoever designed it understood that "ice cream creator" isn't a job. I mean, my ideal job would be something like wise-crack maker -- or would it be wise cracker? I am, after all, a wise cracker -- but that doesn't mean it's actually a job. Let's see what Burt makes of these lists.

Nobody even fantasized being a lawyer, a doctor, an architect or a CPA. Predictably, the women wanted to be involved with fashion and ice cream, while the men leaned towards, toys, games, and beer.

Yes, but what if we try actually thinking about the lists, since we don't write for Townhall? Two of the women's dream jobs were "vacation tour director" and "concert promoter." In other words, very strongly "executive" positions, jobs that call for all of the traditionally masculine qualities you can name. In fact, designers, whether of Hollywood wardrobes or dolls, possess the same qualities, even if they display or apply them in traditionally feminine areas.

And what about the dudes? First on their list of dream jobs is "comic book guru," again a profession that does not exist. But, to the extent that we can figure out what this means, what is it? Sitting around discussing the minutiae of thirty year-old issues of Spiderman and The Green Lantern, speculating,
á la Jason Lee's character from Mall Rats, on whether The Thing's genitals are made of stone? What innate difference between men and women does this dream job illustrate?

Numbers two and three on the fellas' list: video game developer and toy creator. Who answered this poll, Comic Book Guy and Homer's three roommates from when he went back to college? The top three "dream jobs" for men are all expressions of adolescent escapism, and nothing else. What traditional gender role is this survey supposed to be propping up? One that decrees that men are too weak-minded and weak-willed to deal with reality, and so have to escape into childrens' stories and games? Or is it another illustration of the old saw that men are more "creative" and imaginative, while women are more rational, attuned to hard, physical reality, and driven to assume roles of leadership and planning?

Oh, finally we get "casino host" and "brew master": men are sleazy and insincere or drunkards. The "master" part sounds vaguely masculine, but doesn't hide the fact that the dudes basically want to get paid to lay around belching drunkenly. Very manly.

Then, as Amanda notes, the article spirals off into some bizarre fantasy about being a wealthy heir (and this fantasy is about half the column). He proudly proclaims that he wouldn't let any concern for social justice prevent him from enjoying the vacuous and materialistic life such riches would afford him. Then, at the end, we learn that the author is one of those "former leftist" right-wing hacks. It starts to make sense. He's a sort of poor man's David Horowitz (and you have no idea how dismayed and terrified I am to learn that such a thing is possible).

Incidentally, I should perhaps note, since some people seem to have trouble understanding that rejecting one extreme position on a subject doesn't automatically mean embracing the other extreme position, that I'm not necessarily denying that there are gender differences, or asserting that gender differences have to be a bad thing. What I'm objecting to is intellectually lazy and dishonest attempts to "prove" that there are gender differences, like in the column cited above (although, granted, it's kind of no fair picking on something from, sort of a poor man's New York Post -- again, a dismal and terrifying reality). Nor is it a coincidence that such an overflowing pot of hogwash is served up by an ideologically regressive media outlet. So it's not just that the column is the intellectual equivalent of something you would scrape off the bottom of your shoe; it's that it's morally and politically pernicious or retrograde as well.

I'd like to come up with a snappier ending, but I have to go pretend I'm Aquaman designing a better kung-fu grip for my favorite G.I. Joe (in reality: I have to go wash dishes).

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