Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Nina Simone!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Today would have been the 76th birthday of "The High Priestess of Soul", Ms, Nina Simone.

We certainly couldn't let that go by without a nod.

The Official Nina Simone Website

Nina Simone on MySpace

Nina Simone on Wikipedia

L'hommage: Nina Simone

And here is one my favorites ...If this isn't a classic, late Saturday night riff ... 

Oh, the heartbreak ... 

You Can Have Him By Nina Simone

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Stupid sexist polls

By Libby Spencer

If our elite media can get any more stupid than this, just shoot me now. I don't want to live to see it. And I'd really love to know why we never see a poll asking which male politician you would trust to mow your lawn or change your oil?

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)


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The truth is going to hurt

By Libby Spencer

Honesty is the best policy but I hope they're prepared for the inevitable Republican caterwauling when the numbers come out.

For his first annual budget next week, President Obama has banned four accounting gimmicks that President George W. Bush used to make deficit projections look smaller. The price of more honest bookkeeping: A budget that is $2.7 trillion deeper in the red over the next decade than it would otherwise appear, according to administration officials.

And this part makes me a little nervous. "The new accounting involves spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medicare reimbursements to physicians and the cost of disaster responses." I really hope that the strategy here is to use the numbers to sell a national health care plan and ending the occupations rather than a plan to further downgrade reimbursements to doctors that are already too artificially low.

Furthermore, if this is true and the Obama administration is really trying to kill the email lawsuit against the Bush adminstration -- well -- it's doing nothing to bolster my confidence that we're going to see any real transparency or accountability any time soon. Obama can't just pick and choose what to uncover.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Montana Governor mocks Palin

By Libby Spencer

Not that I'm complaining. I'm glad to see her shunning the spotlight, but it is curious that Palin cancelled yet another appearance at a major event.

Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer ribbed Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin Friday for announcing at the last minute that she will not be attending a Sunday discussion of energy policy that the two governors were scheduled to lead at this weekend's meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Washington.

This following her ducking out of the starring role at the upcoming wingnut convention, CPAC. Maybe it's just that the guys at NGA aren't very nice to her. Or could it be that the bigwigs she partied with when she attended the Alfalfa Dinner in DC told her to sit this out lest she say something stupid in public about energy policy, which was to be the topic of the panel she was to moderate for the NGA? Whatever the reason, Schweitzer's putdowns were rather amusing.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)


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Friday, February 20, 2009

The Reaction in review (Feb. 20, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

This week several authors wrote multiple good posts on the same subject. They are included in parentheses.

Creature Featured: "Short Takes on the Opposition" -- Rick's Stock Exchange rant; Poll Percentages: 45%, 31%; Nationalize the Banks; Republicans: (here) (here), (here), (here); Our own fears: (here), (here).


By J. Thomas Duffy: "First rule of the Neocon Club ... You do not talk about Neocon Club!" -- Duffy focuses his steely-eyed gaze on the neocons' "Prince of Darkness," Richard Perle's assertion that neocons do not exist; includes Bonus Neocon Riffs.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Illinois governor wants Burris to resign" -- Michael explains what might happen in Illinois that would remove Senator Ronal Burris from office; (see also here, and here).

By LindaBeth: "Will economic conservatives learn any lessons from this crisis?" -- This very fine piece concludes with a central sociological point, ". . . I wish that this economic crisis would be the jolt that conservative America needs to rethink poverty in America, to recognize it as structural, and to stop always,"blaming the victim." (see also...)


By Carol Gee: "Troop talk" -- An overview of the current situations with U.S. military, including the deployment ot Afghanistan, as well as recruitment.

By Mustang Bobby: "It's alive" -- Bobby writes very thoughtfully about the new North Dakota bill that is another conservative attempt to outlaw abortion.

By Carl: "Opt out privacy" -- With good insight, Carl explores a couple's law suit against Google's Street View mapping service for invasion of privacy.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Quote of the Day: Eric Holder on race" -- This very sensitively written piece is a must read on the subject.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Venezuela voting: The entrenchment of Hugo Chavez's tyranny" -- Michael's teriffic post reveals what is behind (and perhaps ahead), for the people of Venezuela following their vote to lift constitutional term limits on officials.

By Capt. Fogg: "It's not fraud when we do it" -- Fogg's fine piece on Republican Alaska, Governor Palin and her tax problems that are never investigated.

By Carl: "On the margins" -- Carl's great post explains the internal workings of the California legislature's recent budget meltdown, (related).


By Libby Spencer: "Must reads on the drug wars" -- Libby writes a very important piece on the current changing situation regarding the so-called war on drugs under a new administration.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Report: Cheney lobbied Bush for Libby pardon" -- This post looks at the amazing revelation of a fight between Veep Cheney and his boss, demanding that Scooter Libby be pardoned before Bush left the White House.


By Mustang Bobby: "How fair is that?" -- Bobby raises some very interesting and provocative questions about the possibility of reviving the Fairness Doctrine.

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First rule of Neocon Club ... You do not talk about Neocon Club!

By J. Thomas Duffy

The second rule of Neocon Club?

You don't talk about Neocon Club ...

And, that apparently is Richard Perle's story, and he's sticking to it.

Dana Milbank, in the WAPO today, has a fascinating, and hilarious, piece, on one of the Grand Poohbars on the Neocon Society, one of the architects and vociferious advocates of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, dutifully carried out by the Bush Grindhouse.

Here's one, of many, stories, putting Perle at Ground Zero Neoconland, where he infers that Iraq was behind Sept 11th;

Manning already understood that people close to President Bush wanted to go after Iraq, and Tenet of course knew it too. Conspicuous among them, in his mind that night, was the neoconservative agitator and polemicist Richard Perle, an outspoken advocate of removing Saddam Hussein by military force. On the very first page of Tenet's memoir, he tells us that he had run into Perle that very morning -- Sept. 12 -- as Perle was leaving the West Wing of the White House. They knew each other in a passing way, as figures of note on the Washington scene. As Tenet reached the door, Perle turned to him and said, "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility."

Ahh, but on to the hijinks.

Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence

No, not that "Prince of Darkness", the one that runs over homeless people in his Corvette.

The Prince of Darkness -- so dubbed during his days opposing arms control in the Reagan Pentagon -- was not about to let details get in the way of his argument that "50 million conspiracy theorists have it wrong," as the subtitle of his article for National Interest put it. "I see a number of people here who believe and have expressed themselves abundantly that there is a neoconservative foreign policy and it was the policy that dominated the Bush administration, and they ascribe to it responsibility for the deplorable state of the world," Perle told the foreign policy luminaries at yesterday's lunch. "None of that is true, of course."

As you can see, Perle is adhering, not to the letter, the rules of Neocon Club.

In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack. But at yesterday's forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which:

1. Perle is not a neoconservative.

2. Neoconservatives do not exist.

3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn't be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.

"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."

Even when he was pressed;

Richard Burt, who clashed with Perle in the Reagan administration, took issue with "this argument that neoconservatism maybe actually doesn't exist." He reminded Perle of the longtime rift between foreign policy realists and neoconservative interventionists. "You've got to kind of acknowledge there is a neoconservative school of thought," Burt challenged.

"I don't accept the approach, not at all," the Prince of Darkness replied.

As Milbank aptly notes, "there was a sense of falling down the rabbit hole", but this wasn't merely a stumble, this was a head-first, deep-as-the-core-of-the-earth, plunge down that rabbit hole.

The Bush Grindhouse, in a equally-bald-face, twisted employment of the lexicon, gave us the "Clear Skies Act".

Perle, taking his cue, is trying to sell his "Clear Conscious" act.

Which is as about as credible as the mushroom clouds and WMD's Perle and his Neocon Nitwits tried to palm off on us.

And, when you look at where we are now, after eight-years of this kind of horse-shit, Perle and Co. followed the script perfectly.

After establishing the Neocon Club, they immediately put into action Project Mayhem.

Bonus Neocon Club Riffs

Washington Sketch: Richard Perle in Wonderland (Video)

Christy Hardin Smith - Richard Perle: Rebranding Himself, The Neocons And Other Con Jobs


Spencer Ackerman: Just Ignore Everything Richard Perle Says for the Rest of His Life

Alan Colmes: Neocon Says There’s No Such Thing As A Neocon


Garlic Poll Results ...Most People Think The PNAC Is ...

Where's Ernest Borgnine when you need him?

Neocon Dolphins? ... Say It Ain't So, Flipper!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Yo, my good dawg

By Mustang Bobby

RNC Chair Michael Steele says the Republicans will reach out to minorities.
"We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles," Steele told the Washington Times. "But we want to apply them to urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

"It will be avant garde, technically," he said of the new public relations team he's signing on. "It will come to the table with things that will surprise everyone - off the hook." He also added: "I don't do 'cutting-edge.' That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge."

Well, bless my buttons. I for one will be both bemused and mirthful to see the august members of the Republican National Committee endeavour with great astuteness to get down with their bad selves.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Gibbs responds to Rick's ridiculous rant

By Creature

I like this very much.

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Governing by newbies

By Carol Gee

We will see whether the Obama administration is doing a good job or a poor job as the days and weeks go by. Today's post focuses on a few news items that seem to indicate good governance. I am not going to include a fair and balanced litany of stories that are critical of President Obama's leadership. I will leave that to shallow pundits and Republicans; I am frankly partisan here.

Corporatocracy holds less sway. The U.S. economic meltdown happened in part because business has been far too much in charge of government. To see less of their influence now is a very good thing. Politico writer Eamon Javers wrote an interesting piece Friday titled, "The Obama Cabinet is a CEO Black Hole," highlighting the lack of people in the current cabinet primarily from the business sector and pointing out that there may not be a connection "between success in business and success in Washington." Quoting Javers further,

Whether it is a significant absence, however, is far more debatable. As it happens, only a small number of the business leaders in recent administrations were stand-outs. And several were ostentatious flops.

. . . In a new economic climate, and with populist resentment growing against the trappings of CEO life . . . it might be a long time before Fortune 500 executives are welcomed back into government, argues Michael Franc, . . . Heritage Foundation. “You have to ask yourself: Are CEOs tainted now? Is there an untainted CEO type out there who is not one of the people who got us into this mess in the first place?” But Franc also sees the influence of Obama’s own life story in the makeup of his inner circle. “Obama’s more academic, intellectual and political,” Franc said. “He comes from a whole different tradition.”

. . . Terry McAuliffe says Obama won’t be limited by the paucity of executives at the White House. “He reaches out,” McAuliffe said. “It’s not like the business community can’t get to him and hive him ideas. He’s very open.”

Indeed, in early February Obama announced the formation of the White House Economic Recovery Advisory Board, a bo[d]y stocked with economic experts who the president can turn to as a sounding board for ideas. . . “I’m not interested in groupthink, which is why the board reflects a cross-section of experience and expertise and ideology,” Obama said at the time.

Talented people are in charge of change. Because President Obama has tried to get the most competent people in the country to help him govern, crucial interventions have better chances to succeed. Ben Smith writes a great profile of OMB Director, Peter Orszag in Politico (2/19/09). Orszag recently headed the Congressional Budget Office during the Bush administration. His specialty is health care which is in need of reform. Smith revealed that Orszag played a key role negotiating the final stages of work in Congress' work to reconcile the recent Stimulus bill. To quote from the item, "Budget to Kick off Health Care Rewrite":

"In my mind, if there is a hero in all of this, it is Peter Orszag,” Reid, who knew Orszag from his previous role as director of the Congressional Budget Office, observed, unprompted, to Politico’s David Rogers after the deal was done. “He was wonderful.”

Orszag’s emergence as a central figure and key negotiator in Obama’s economic policy team has come as a bit of a surprise to watchers of the administration, from Reid on down. Orszag, at 40 the youngest member of the Obama Cabinet, left a profound mark on the stimulus, which focused heavily on healthcare technology, a major focus of his research.

. . . And the bill spends more than $1 billion on Orszag’s pet cause, research on the effectiveness of medical practices, which he sees as an opening to reforming American health care . . . With a growing body of research finding some practices more cost-effective than others, the program's reimbursement rules can be used to force changes at those hospitals — a sort of back door to health care reform.

“Medicare and Medicaid are big enough to change the way medicine is practiced,” he said.

Smart people have the insight and courage to know when they are on the wrong track and change direction, sometimes when it seems very late in the game. This story by Neil Irwin and Binyamin Appelbaum, from the WaPo (2/16/09), is the perfect illustration of my point: "Late Change in Course Hobbled Rollout of Geithner's Bank Plan." To quote:

Just days before Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was scheduled to lay out his much-anticipated plan to deal with the toxic assets imperiling the financial system, he and his team made a sudden about-face.

According to several sources involved in the deliberations, Geithner had come to the conclusion that the strategies he and his team had spent weeks working on were too expensive, too complex and too risky for taxpayers.

They needed an alternative and found it in a previously considered initiative to pair private investments and public loans to try to buy the risky assets and take them off the books of banks. There was one problem: They didn't have enough time to work out many details or consult with others before the plan was supposed to be unveiled.

Good people who are new at the game bring all their previous life experiences with them. The best people have everything they need to do well, if they know when and who to ask for help, and if they have a bit of luck. I like it that Tim Geithner listened to his gut and changed direction, though he knew there would be grumbling. I like it that corporate interests no longer get to have things all go their way. And I like it that the health care system will be asked to use the "what treatment works best" method to assure the quality and effectiveness of what our megabucks purchase. It all bodes well for us, I do believe.

Related References:

  1. "Obama Diary: The First 100 Days" -- BBC News

  2. "Scientists Happy But Wary With Obama's Direction" -- CQ Politics (2/15/09).

  3. "Obama Governs by Committee" -- (2/13/09).

  4. "Winners and Losers in the Stimulus Fight" -- (2/13/09).

  5. "Obama Scores Early Victory of Historic Proportions" -- Memeorandum from WaPo (2/14/09).

  6. "Copernicus Vindicated" -- "Democratic Strategist" (2/16/09). To quote:
    Barack Obama's general leadership as president continues to enjoy robust public support, despite the reams of MSM, conservative, and sometimes progressive opinion suggesting that his first days in office have been characterized by a steady fall from grace.

See related items at my new blog, Behind the Links.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Illinois governor wants Burris to resign

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Rod Blagojevich's replacement, Gov. Patrick Quinn, today called on Sen. Roland Burris, to resign. Burris should "act as quickly as possible for the best interests of Illinois," Quinn said. "This should not be a matter that takes weeks."

It seems unlikely that Burris will resign, at least not without a protracted fight to keep the job to which Blagojevic appointed him. Indeed, as TNR's Jason Zengerle points out, "the real story... is that Quinn is asking the legislature to set a special election within 115 days -- which would spell an end to Burris's temporary appointment," meaning that Burris might soon have to decide whether to seek the people's support to remain in office. But would he even be the Democratic nominee? That also seems unlikely. Would he run as an independent? Perhaps, but he'd surely lose.

Is there any way he could actually win a special election? Surely not.

Then again, this is Illinois we're talking about. Anything is possible.

For all our Burris coverage, including on this latest Blago-related scandal (with Burris lying repeatedly about his connections to the former governor prior to his appointment), see here.

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White House: No nationalization of banks

By Creature

With Citi and BoA stocks tanking today over nationalization fears, wouldn't now have been the perfect time to take them over? Timing is everything and the White House just shot their own recovery plan in the foot. Not a mortal wound, mind you, but a wound nonetheless. This bad bank band-aid must get pulled.

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Will economic conservatives learn any lessons from this crisis?

By LindaBeth

Yesterday I wrote about Republicans' victim-blaming rhetoric in their critique of Obama's housing plan. I was not only interested in their rhetoric because of its interesting blaming structure, but also because lately I have been wondering if our current economic crisis might change the way we think about, talk about, and approach public policy regarding the unemployed and working poor. Now that many “hard-working Americans” are being laid off “through no fault of their own,” will the Right rethink their stance on social services for unemployed and working poor Americans?

I suppose this is opposed to the “normal” unemployed and working poor who are in their state entirely through fault of their own. It seems that when structural economic hardships happen en masse, it’s not “their fault”, but when structural hardships perpetually happen to a good fifth of Americans, it is their fault? Or is it when the middle and upper class find themselves un-or underemployed (and thus can’t pay their overconsumption-induced bills), someone else’s is to blame, but when high-school educated, full time workers can’t even break out of poverty, they themselves are to blame? Do not both scenarios arise from corporate greed? Is not the health insurance through employment formula a major factor in both hardship situations? Do we only have sympathy for the middle class who become poor but not for the poor who can’t make it anywhere close to middle class?

It took my own personal struggles to break me free from the American Dream brainwashing I had received from my conservative upbringing. In the spring of 2003, I found myself a new college graduate, with several years in retail management under my belt, and a partner with a Master’s Degree. We moved back to our hometown because he owned a home there with no mortgage. Because we “voluntarily” moved back to the town where he owned a home rather than stay in the college’s town with our part-time minimum wage jobs, we could not qualify for unemployment–or any social service–when 3 months later, we were still unsuccessful in finding jobs in our fields. We shifted to looking for any job, which is more difficult than you think for two fairly educated people. No factory wanted to hire someone with a Master’s Degree. In the end I realized a few things:

  1. The system is degrading. It is not very empowering to sit at DSS and beg to be approved.
  2. It is not all that easy to obtain social services. You must own so little, or at least look like you do. (46% of all poor families receive no welfare)
  3. Our society has no short-term safety net–nothing that covers you between jobs or between college and employment. Unemployment is not so easy to get.
  4. Hard work and education does not mean good employment. Life outcomes are not the direct result of one’s self-making.
I share my experience because this is what it took for me to understand that (full, or even decent) employment is not a function of personal worth or hard work and that even if our social services are organized poorly, the idea of them–their necessity and our duty as a society to provide them–is non-negotiable.

While pessimistic, I wish that this economic crisis would be the jolt that conservative America needs to rethink poverty in America, to recognize it as structural, and to stop always “blaming the victim.”

(Cross-posted to Speak Truth to Power)

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By Creature

That's the percentage of people opposed to the federal government helping out financially troubled homeowners with their mortgages. With jerks like Rick Santelli of CNBC running around calling homeowners losers and blaming everyone but the banks and brokers--who lent money with no standards, got rich, and walked away--Barack Obama, once again, must get out and explain that we all benefit from helping our neighbors refinance their mortgages. Foreclosures must stop if we are to regain our financial footing. This message is quickly getting lost in the noise.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

More like this

By Creature

The Times-Picayune [via ThinkProgress]:

A group spearheaded by two ministers has filed papers with the Louisiana secretary of state's office to recall U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-New Orleans, who has been on the job only six weeks.

The recall effort is ostensibly a response to Cao's two votes against the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, which passed Congress last week and was signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama.

These conservatives are so worried about primary challenges from the Right that they forget they represent real people. Real People who need real help. To stand on principle is great, but when you're standing on a starving constituent, who can't get up without you, it's just plain heartless.

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Troop talk

By Carol Gee

More U.S. troops will be deployed to Afghanistan, a total of 17,000 -- a Marine unit this spring and an army one this summer -- but the new regional strategy remains a work in progress. The troops will supplement the current force of 38,000, and their orders could not wait on the strategy, the President said. Members of Congress are calling for planning that will include more non-military interventions, while generally supporting the Commander in Chief. Part of the plan presupposes a successful drawdown of forces in Iraq, leaving thousands in place for support, training, etc., without jeopardizing the gains already in place there.

General David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was in Washington yesterday and gave an extended press briefing. He said it will be a "tough year" in Afghanistan, and that at this point the situation in the south is, at best, "stalemated." Officials feel that the current troop increase will handle U.S. needs through the summer election there.

President Obama is visiting Canada, his first official "foreign" trip. In addition to a number of other important issues, talk will surely turn to Canada's considerable contributions to the NATO efforts in Afghanistan, upon which the United States heavily depends. President Obama will not ask them to reconsider their troop withdrawal in 2011.

On the subject of needing more troops -- Memeorandum and the New York Times add an interesting twist to the news. It turns out that the U.S. military will begin to recruit skilled immigrants with temporary visas, offering them a chance to become U.S. citizens in as little as six months.

CQ Behind the Lines is a very fine national security newsletter, by David C. Morrison, (2/18/09) from which I quote:

Over there: An ex-Gitmo detainee who became an al Qaeda field commander after being repatriated has surrendered, Yemeni officials tell AP — while The New York Times has four Gitmo detainees sent back to Iraq, where they are being interrogated. Pakistani immigrants in New York say Taliban enforcers single out their families for threats and violence, the Times tells.

President Obama faces a very delicate dance with U.S. armed forces deployment. Drawing down in Iraq without destabilizing the country's security, and ramping up in Afghanistan while demanding a significant increase in diplomacy and development, means that our limited military will need to be very carefully managed. I like it that former general Jim Jones is the President's National Security adviser. He is smart and tough, and was NATO's commander not that long ago. If any group could do this dance on a knife edge, this new administration has the talent.

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Republicans' housing victim-blaming

By LindaBeth

Merits and analysis of Obama’s housing plan aside, I’m particularly interested in this bit of Republican rhetoric I’m seeing.


The GOP, perhaps predictably, was less enthusiastic. House Republicans released statements, suggesting Obama’s plan rewarded irresponsible borrowers at the expense of the vast majority of homeowners who pay their monthly bills on time.


He objected most to the main theme of the foreclosure plan – using monetary incentives to spur lenders and borrowers to do the right thing.

“The biggest outrage is that the president’s plan actually will use taxpayer money to pay people to do what they are already supposed to do – pay their mortgage,” Shelby said. “It also uses taxpayer money to pay banks to do what they should already be doing – modifying mortgages.”

So the mass job layoffs aren’t their fault, but people who are struggling to pay their mortgages are “irresponsible” and aren’t “doing what they’re supposed to do” by paying their bills–in other words, their non-payment is “their fault”? I guess in their perspective, you ought to be able to pay your bills with or without a job!

The Republicans seem willing to say that the economic downturn (and thus layoffs, increased credit card rates, and lower lines of credit) is beyond people’s control, but the impact of the economic downturn (housing foreclosures) somehow isn’t.

Their rhetoric also removes any blame for the abusiveness of the mortgage industry on the industry and solely in the hands of “irresponsible” Americans.

I also find it interesting that they claim that this is what the mortgage industry should be doing anyway, yet they don’t want any regulation making them do it and in the absence of such regulation, don’t want the government to incentivize good behavior they “ought to” be doing anyway? If it’s less advantageous to them financially, why on earth would they do it? Since when did the financial industry grow a conscience?

(Cross-posted to Speak Truth to Power)

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California budgetin'

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Sacramento Bee has the good news:

The California Legislature voted early today to approve a massive budget package of tax increases, spending cuts and borrowing to close a $40 billion deficit after granting major concessions to one holdout Republican senator.

Some things to consider:

1) The budget -- or, rather, passing it -- is a huge victory for Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Democrats. It pulls the state, and one of the world's largest economies, back from the brink of disaster.

2) The deal required that that "holdout Republican," Sen. Abel Maldonado, get a lot of what he wanted, including the elimination of "the 12-cent additional gas tax, which was estimated to bring in $2.1 billion through June 2010," which, while partially offset by a state income tax rate hike, would have gone a long way towards helping the state get through what is expected to be a difficult year ahead. (Such a disincentive to buy and use gas also would have been good for the environment.)

3) The problem in California is that budgets require two-thirds supermajority legislative support, meaning that the minority party -- in this case, the Republicans -- can often block passage indefinitely, as long as it has one-third-plus-one support. Which is what they were trying to do here, the party united enough that it took a pretty sweet deal for one of them for the majority Democrats to have enough votes to pass the budget.

And let's be clear about this: The overwhelming majority of Republicans oppose the budget.

As the Bee puts it: "The deal comes at a time when California was headed for fiscal calamity, already unable to pay all its bills and on the precipice today of suspending 374 construction projects that were valued at $5.58 billion and could have affected more than 90,000 jobs statewide." Which is to say, the Republicans oppose a budget that will prevent "fiscal calamity," that will keep construction projects going, and that will save tens and tens of thousands of jobs.

Once again, as federally, the Republican Party has positioned itself as the party of ideological extremism at a time of historic economic crisis, at a time when the American people, including the people of California, need help just to stay afloat. It isn't just the do-nothing party, which would be bad enough, it's the party against the people, the party so far divorced from reality, and decency, that it would rather stick to its anti-tax guns than rescue the state from impending disaster, that would rather promote its partisan political interests than protect jobs.

The economic crisis, which has shaped the debate over the stimulus package in Washington, the debate over the state budget in Sacramento, and other such debates all over the country, has provided us with the opportunity to peer directly into the soul of the Republican Party.

And what an ugly sight it is.

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It's alive

By Mustang Bobby

Following up on Michael's post below...

The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that grants a fertilized egg all the rights of any person:

That means a fetus could not be legally aborted without the procedure being considered murder.

Minot Republican Dan Ruby has sponsored other bills banning abortion in previous legislative sessions - all of which failed.

He also sponsored today's bill and says it is compatable [sic] with Roe versus Wade - the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion.

(Rep. Dan Ruby, -R- Minot) "This is the exact language that's required by Roe vs. Wade. It stipulated that before a challenge can be made, we have to identify when life begins, and that's what this does."

I suppose you could marvel at the determination of people like Mr. Ruby who are so dedicated to their cause, but you also have to notice that he clearly didn't think this through. There are a lot of questions that a sweeping declaration like this leave unanswered. For instance, if life begins at conception -- which is debatable, since viability doesn't become possible until the egg attaches to the uterus, which occurs some time after fertilization -- how do we know the exact time when that happens? Does a bell go off or something so a doctor or the mother knows when the microscopic speck suddenly becomes a person? (Misty at Shakesville has several other questions.)

That's just one of many practical questions that would have to be addressed if this law actually passes legal muster. A lot of state and federal laws would have to be re-written to accommodate this law, and the United States Constitution would have to be amended, since it states that citizenship is obtained when someone is born or naturalized, not conceived. And since the egg obtains full rights in the uterus, that means that its rights supersede those of the woman who is carrying it, since she would no longer have the right of self-determination about her own body. Further, if the egg grows and is born and we find out later on that the person is gay, he or she will lose rights, such as that of the right to get married or visit their loved one in the hospital. In other words, a fertilized egg in North Dakota has more rights than many other citizens who happen to be unfortunate enough to be born there.

Of course, the point of this law is not to resolve a legal question, it's meant to challenge one; in this case Roe v. Wade. This isn't an uncommon legal tactic; advocates on both sides of the political spectrum have used it before to either call a standing law into question in the courts or just point out the extremism of a law. But the paradox here is that this law is being put forth by an advocate for a group that lives by the philosophy that all of our questions can be answered with a simple bumper-sticker solution: Abortion Is Murder. That's not meant to provoke a debate, it's meant to end it. It's the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting, "Neener, neener, I can't hear you!"

So they pass this law knowing that it will attract a lawsuit -- they're counting on it -- so that they can go all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States chanting their mantra and assuming that they will prevail. They will spend a great deal of the North Dakota's citizens' taxes on this quixotic quest with the high probability that it will be knocked down, and they'll come back from another direction and keep trying and trying. This is a strange paradox for a political party that on everything else -- guns, taxes, property rights, health care, education, and the airwaves -- advocates for smaller and limited government. That is, apparently, until it comes to a woman's uterus. Then all bets are off.

There may be a medical debate as to when an egg is alive, but there is little doubt that the folks who think that the only lives worth saving or ensuring the rights for are the ones that are in utero are still out there stalking the streets.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Opt out privacy

By Carl

There's an interesting decision in the case of a couple suing Google for invasion of privacy:

A ruling issued Wednesday by Judge Amy Reynolds Hay in a Pennsylvania district court states that Google's Street View mapping service is not an invasion of privacy. Judge Reynolds has dismissed a lawsuit against the search giant and has denied a request for injunctive relief that sought to block Google from publishing Street View imagery.

The lawsuit was filed last year by Aaron and Christine Boring, who contend that Google violated their privacy when a Street View camera car drove past a "private road" sign in their driveway in order to take pictures of their house.

Google countered that there was already a public record photo of the house, filed by the county tax assessor's office, and said this proved that "complete privacy does not exist." Perhaps that's a point, although I would argue strongly that being forced to file with the county is not the same thing as having a private enterprise drive up your road. This would be much like claiming that, because you get US mail, you should be forced to accept each and every stinking flyer that a car wash decides to litter your property with.

Here's where the argument gets interesting: Google claims (and it's probably right) that it protects privacy on an "opt out" basis, that, if you ask it, it will eliminate your house from Street View.

Um, what?

It strikes me that privacy is a little like virginity: Once you've lost it, you can't exactly ask for it back. If anything, then, privacy shouldn't be an opt-in right, but an opt-out right.

In other words, Google, no matter how benevolent or benign your purpose may be, it seems to me that the polite thing to do, particularly when it comes to driving onto someone's property, is to ask permission.

The judge's rationale for this boorish invasion by Google? In two words, utterly ridiculous:

Judge Reynolds sided with Google and concluded that the Street View service doesn't meet the criteria for an unlawful intrusion. Case law precedents define an actionable intrusion as one that causes "mental suffering, shame, or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities." Reynolds doesn't believe that sufficient evidence was provided to demonstrate that Street View can cause such damage.

"While it is easy to imagine that many whose property appears on Google's virtual maps resent the privacy implications, it is hard to believe that any -- other than the most exquisitely sensitive -- would suffer shame or humiliation. The Plaintiffs have not alleged facts to convince the Court otherwise," the Judge wrote in the decision.

The Judge also pointed out that the Borings have not taken steps to have the images removed from Street View through Google's opt-out process and have, in fact, decreased their own privacy by drawing attention to themselves with the lawsuit. They did not file the suit under seal, which would have minimized exposure.

Judge Reynolds, now arguably the stupidest jurist in the States (privacy suddenly looks pretty good, Judge, don't it?), has clearly made a brutish and Neaderthalic interpretation of the law, very much akin to the rape victim being told, "Well, hell, don't dress like that, beeyatch!"

Amy Reynolds has compounded the heartache that the Borings (intriguing name, by the way) now feel by basically telling them, "No, no, you didn't read my mind and you got the wrong answer."

"Minimized exposure"? By filing a lawsuit, the Constitutional method of handling these things (unless you want us to fly to Google headquarters and picket, or worse), the Borings availed themselves of the legal recourse open to them, but that recourse has been held against them because it wasn't perfect enough.

As for the whole case law precedent that "mental suffering, shame, or humiliation" must accompany an invasion of privacy, isn't the simple act of exposure a mental suffering? We're talking about a violation, severe enough that the Borings took it upon themselves to fight back. That act alone ought to qualify as evidence of a mental suffering, unless you are going to claim that somehow this couple is masochistic enough to take on one of the biggest frikkin' corporations in the world and is enjoying their moment in the spotlight.

Judge Reynolds, maybe you need to be back in traffic court!

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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North Dakota bans abortion

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, not really. Or, not yet.

The state's House of Representatives has, by a margin of 51-41, voted "to declare that a fertilized egg has all the rights of any person," according to local KXNet. In other words, the House has effectively voted to ban abortion, given that abortion would be murder. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Bill sponsor Dan Ruby -- a Republican, of course -- claims that the legislation is compatible with Roe v. Wade, in that it contains "the exact language that's required by Roe," specifically by "[identifying] when life begins."

Ruby, apparently, is insane. Even if the bill passes the Senate, even if it is eventually signed into law, there will be extensive litigation. Anything is possible with a right-leaning SCOTUS, of course, but, based on Roe (which, lest we forget, grants abortion rights and is not, and is not meant to be, some existential determination of when exactly life begins), the law would be struck down.

Because -- if I may offer my own politico-existential take on the matter -- a fertilized egg is simply not a human life. It may have the potential for human life, but it is hardly a being that deserves, and requires, the same rights as any living person, or that needs to be protected like a late-term fetus.

(For more on the North Dakota bill, see my friend and colleague Jazz Shaw over at TMV.)

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Still not getting it

By Creature

Even as polling suggests the passage of the stimulus bill was a boon for all those involved in passing it and a bust for the Republicans who obstructed it, a handful of conservative Republican governors are threatening to not take the money. Why are they making these threats? To appeal to the same conservative base that drove Congressional Republicans to make a stink about the stimulus in the first place. And, of course, these governors are brandishing their conservative bona fides with an eye towards 2012.

Have any of them been paying attention? Did John McCain not lose an election precisely because he ran a base campaign? These governors should not be trying to appeal to their conservative base, they should be trying to form a new one.

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Sebelius for HHS?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Looks like it. And she'd be a great pick.

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Quote of the Day: Eric Holder on race

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Attorney General Eric Holder, yesterday:

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards.

In predictable fashion, the right-wing likes of Michelle Malkin are turning this around and spewing their venom at Obama, among others, while claiming that "Holder doesn't want an honest dialogue about race." The right always likes to play the racist card against its opponents, much like it played the sexist card against Palin's opponents last fall, but its accusations are usually baseless. Yes, there is racism on the left, and perhaps even racial cowardice -- which is not what Holder was getting at -- but it is the right that doesn't want to address race in any meaningful or constructive way, instead preferring to ignore America's racist past (and present) in knee-jerk opposition to any possible slight against America and/or to stoke racism by using it for partisan political purposes (and/or to wallow in its own racist filth).

As for Holder, it's not that he, or Obama, wants "the rest of us shutting up while being subjected to lectures about our insensitivity and insufficient integration on the weekends," but rather that America ought to come to terms with its racist past (and present). The fact is, as Holder put it, "we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial." Instead, the old wounds are left to fester, bandages applied now and then, but not treated properly, often made worse with wedges driven in from, and by, all sides -- yes, by overly sensitive race-obsessers among the politically correct, but also, and more noxiously, by Malkin and her ignorant, denial-ridden ilk.

America is a deeply divided country, with many of the deeper divisions following racial lines. Much progress has been made, but there are still bridges to be built, tensions to be overcome, and wounds to be healed. Obama and Holder are looking forward by addressing the truth about America's past and present, about the racism that was, and is. They aren't cowards, they're loyal adherents to the promise of America, to what is possible in America, to the ongoing project of making America a more perfect union, a project that requires courage to see things as they really have been, and are, to admit that all is not perfect, and to work towards a brighter future.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Truth in comics?

By Capt. Fogg

The truth is that "controversial" cartoonist Sean Delonas is a provocateur who really doesn't care about the limits of decency, or about appearing to be joking about murdering the president, or comparing a man of exceptional intelligence, education, and achievement to a dead ape.

Humor is a wonderful tool for saying what is difficult to say, but when the difficulty stems from offending the dignity of people of African descent and indeed of the United States of America, the tool is no longer wonderful. I've been vilified for criticizing George Bush, as has everyone who disagreed with him. Bush's mildest critics have been called vicious, unpatriotic, and "deranged," but although he's often been depicted as a monkey, I can't recall a single cartoon in the mainstream press showing him being shot by the police. Double standard? We need a better word than understatement to describe it.

The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, it broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy,

said New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan. No, it isn't. I'm the last one to go hunting for racist innuendo, but this isn't innuendo, it's a classic piece of bigotry right out of the Jim Crow era, and it can't be whitewashed by slurs against Al Sharpton, whether you like him or not. Everyone on the planet who believes we are a violent nation of racists will nod his head at this. It will be reproduced in papers all over the world just at the time when Obama's election was beginning to change people's minds, and that's just what the rabid right wants: failure for America, resurrection of the policies that have torpedoed the world.

Delonas has left us
a long slime trail of disgusting cartoons pandering to the demented, deranged, stupid, bigoted, homophobic, and social misfits who read Murdoch publications looking for justification and stories of alien abduction.

It's time the Rupert Murdoch-owned Post found someone else to write the next cartoon. It's time America found better places to look for information.

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Venezuela voting: The entrenchment of Hugo Chavez's tyranny

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Over the weekend, as you might have heard, Venezuelans voted to lift the constitutional term-limit restriction on elected officials, thereby allowing Tyrant Chavez to run for re-election and essentially to remain in power as long as he wants. It was a huge victory for Chavez, who in December of 2007 lost a previous referendum on this and other constitutional reforms.

As I wrote at the time -- and I have written extensively (and critically) here on Chavez's slice-by-slice acquisition of power -- the 2007 referendum was not about reforming the constitution so much as it was about entrenching Chavez's tyrannical rule: "He threatened to resign if his reforms were defeated, if he was defeated, but he won't. This vote may slow down his 'revolution,' his slice-by-slice coup, his gradual acquisition of tyrannical rule, but he will remain in power and he will try again. And again. Until he gets what he wants."

And, yes, he tried again... and succeeded, winning about 54% of the vote.

"The doors of the future are wide open," he speechified from the balcony of his presidential palace, but, in reality, they're closed. The future is Chavez and Chavez alone -- 54% of voters made sure of that -- who will run for re-election in 2012 and, of course, win.

Of course, it was not an entirely free and fair vote, nor one that fully reflects the will of the Venezuelan people -- oh, sure, observers said it was free and fair, but it clearly wasn't. "Opposition figures... said victory had been achieved thanks to huge government funding and blanket state television coverage," reported the BBC (link above). "In 10 years we have had 15 elections, 15, and this has been the most unequal, the most abusive campaign of all," said opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. "So that's why you are seeing more propaganda, more campaigning, more advertisement for the 'yes' vote."

As well, turnout was fairly low, if higher than in 2007, with just 11 million of 17 million eligible voters casting ballots. According to the BBC, "Chavez managed to persuade more of his supporters to vote, as turnout was considerably higher than in 2007. One factor was probably the change in the wording of the question, so that this time voters decided on whether term limits would be lifted for all officials not just the president." Not that it really matters about other elected officials. The vote was about Chavez, and he did what he had to do to win, pushing propaganda and getting his supporters to the polls.

Still, as bleak as this all seems -- and I remain a fervent foe of Chavez and his regime (and, weirdly, and not by my own doing, I'm now on the mailing list of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, which spits out predictable propaganda) -- there may be a "silver lining," as Alvaro Vargas Llosa has suggested:

Hugo Chavez's victory in Sunday's constitutional referendum in Venezuela will allow him to run for re-election indefinitely, but it does not mean he will be able to establish a totalitarian state anytime soon.


Even though the opposition was not able to defeat Chavez this time, the referendum confirmed that he still faces millions of Venezuelans who abhor his regime. The opposition obtained 45.6 percent of the vote -- 9 percentage points more than in 2006, when Chavez won his third term. The "no" vote won in five key states and got more than 40 percent in nine others. He was only able to win in one of the five states governed by the opposition -- and lost the state of Merida, governed by a Chavista.

If in next year's legislative elections the opposition obtains similar results, it will control almost half of the National Assembly -- a big shift with respect to the current situation, with Chavez in total control because the opposition boycotted legislative elections in 2005.

Perhaps more significantly, the results confirm that Chavez's base in the major urban centers, where Venezuela's biggest slums are concentrated, has been seriously eroded: His power is increasingly reliant on the more rural or provincial parts of the country.

Well, okay. Good.

The problem is that Chavez is still in power, and will remain in power, and still controls the levers of power, and is more powerful than he was last week. So while there may be cause for optimism -- with the country seemingly trending against Chavez -- tyranny, if not quite totalitarianism, is still the order of the day. And that isn't about to change anytime soon.

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Fasten your seatbelts

By Creature


The Federal Reserve on Wednesday sharply downgraded its projections for the country's economic performance this year, predicting the economy will actually shrink and unemployment will rise higher. [...]

The bleaker outlook represents the growing toll of the worst housing, credit and financial crises since the 1930s. All of those negative forces have plunged the nation into a recession, now in its second year.

The bill for Republican rule has yet to be paid.

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It's not fraud when we do it

By Capt. Fogg

We've certainly seen and heard plenty of haughty harumphment aver the tax problems of Tim Geithner. We've had more of the "more of the same" from the same folks who gave us, or tried to give us, Sarah Palin as a Joan of Arc reformer and an upholder of the kind of ethics Republicans like to talk about while trying to keep us from examining their own failings.

We're not seeing a hell of a lot about Sarah Palin's tax problems. It seems that it hadn't occurred to her that the additional "travel related" money she was being paid for staying at home in Wasilla ( since her home isn't in the capitol, Juneau) was taxable income. Of course, we learned a long time ago that the State of Alaska has been paying for all kinds of family expenses like tickets to basketball games, and sled races, but these things are "private matters" according to her spokeswoman. That's because she's a Republican in a red state. Otherwise, any personal detail would be a public matter and could and would be used against her by her party's scandal machine. I'm still waiting for the "liberal press" to make a fuss about it. I'm still waiting to hear why everything we do or say on the phone or in our mail: why everything we buy and everywhere we go is no longer a private matter as far as the Government is concerned.

Next time they tell me what a bad break Sarah got from the mean old media, I might just have to mention this, as well as to relate my litany of her other lies.

Of course, Alaska is in for some hard times, since 90% of its revenue comes from soaking the oil companies, hard as that might be to explain to laissez faire lovers who supported her anti-tax rhetoric. "Living within our means and putting money aside for a rainier day" is something, like ethics, that Sarah likes to give lip-service to while running up debt like a mainstream Republican.

But they're still talking about her as a presidential candidate, which is fine with me. Let her select Joe the Plumber as VP, too. and maybe the accountant she used to hide her expense account shenanigans for secretary of the Treasury as well. The country's going to hell anyway and we might just as well get it over with. You betcha!

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Forward motion

By Creature

I'll reserve judgment on Obama's mortgage help announcement until I hear a bit more (so far, it sounds reasonable and more than most expected, which is saying something), but what really strikes me about today (and the last few weeks) is how much forward momentum I'm seeing from this administration. Obama's actions may not get us out of the hole and we may quibble around the edges, but after eight years of Bush doing nothing to address America's problems, seeing a president in action is jarring (in a good way).

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Craziest Republicans of the Day: Michele Bachmann and J.D. Hayworth

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Both via Steve Benen.

Michele Bachmann: Rep. Bachmann (MN) said many crazy things in an interview with a conservative talk-show host over the weekend, including this: "We're running out of rich people in this country." (Umm... really?) It was all a load of "unhinged stupidity," as Steve puts it. "I should also note that we're not talking about some strange nut screaming on a street corner; this is all coming from an elected member of Congress."

And, even worse:

J.D. Hayworth: On Hardball on Monday, former Rep. Hayworth (AZ) blamed the economic crisis on two Jews, Sen. Chuck Shumer (NY) and philanthropist George Soros: "I'll tell you what was bad -- the sneak attack on our economy, the dress rehearsal that was the debacle of IndyBank, when Chuck Schumer helped get that started, and the guy in the background, George Soros, manipulating all the currency."

Steve quotes Steve M.: "[Hayworth argued] that our current economic situation has nothing to do with eight years of George W. Bush and quite a bit to do with two 'sneaky' gentlemen who just so happen to be of the Jewish persuasion... Yup, a Jewish senator and a Jewish 'currency manipulator' made all this happen."

Aren't Republicans fabulous?

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On the margins

By Carl

We all know or have heard of people who live on the margin: It might be by circumstance or by choice, but they tend to live a hand-to-mouth existence, or carefully marshall their resources to survive, day to day, paycheck to paycheck, but turning their backs on society.

I thought about this as I read a follow up to the
California budget crisis I discussed yesterday:

California Republicans oust leader amid budget lockdown

As California Senators were literally locked in a budget debate overnight, the chamber's Republicans overthrew their leader because he had agreed to a budget deal with billions of dollars in tax increases.

Dave Cogdill, R-Fresno, was ousted as Senate leader in favor of Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murietta, who made it clear he opposes raising taxes to balance the budget which is more than 15 weeks overdue.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, made good on his promise to lock senators inside the Capitol after another vote on a budget compromise fell a vote short again overnight. Steinberg said he is prepared to keep the chamber in "lockdown" as long as it takes to approve a budget.

If it lasts long enough, California will soon have a second major fossil discovery. But I digress...

It's been interesting to watch the GOP return to the same failed stance that got us into this mess in the first place: cut taxes, cut spending, and find some way to hope the deficit doesn't balloon while praying this time the economy will boom. Meanwhile, companies across the land are struggling, homeowners in every state in the union are having a really tough time making ends meet, and the worst is yet to come.

After all, if you thought the mortgage crunch was bad, wait until consumer credit hits the fan. Give it another couple of months, I figure.

Now, you know the Republicans have some people who actually have a brain, if only a few, and those voices, while probably being ignored for the grandstanding going on, have some weight somewhere in the smoke-filled rooms of not only Sacramento, but Washington, D.C. and every other political power center across this land.

So the question is, in the face of the worst economic meltdown in history (not yet, but I have little doubt it's going to happen) and after an election in which they were all but run out of the nation on a rail, why would the Republicans suddenly stiffen their backs and start throwing reason and caution to the wind?

It confuses me, frankly. Yes, you can make the case that the GOP is beholden to the Limbaugh-cheesers, who stink up the place while adding little flavor to anything they touch. But look, even George W. Bush, a man who was about as conservative as they come, considering how he was cheered on by the same knuckleheads who are determined to sink the ship of state(s), repudiated the ultimate conservative playing card: Let this shit stink the place out, while the roaches take over.

Even Bush couldn't stoop that low. Even he saw his legacy in peril. Even Bush saw the degradation of a once-great land at the hands of people like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh and the frightened reactionaries of the Republican party, and stopped short of going there.

The grace of American politics is it runs top-down: Things that happen at the federal level tend to trickle down to the states and then the counties. A repudiation in Washington of failed policies and mean-spirited political hackery will eventually make its way to the rest of us.

Too little, too late, as they say.

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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Roland Burris must resign

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With investigations underway in Illinois, an ethics probe launched in the Senate, and more and more evidence that he's a lying, corrupt scoundrel, it is indeed time for Roland Burris to resign.

The Washington Post

From the moment that Mr. Burris was selected, he strove to portray himself as a blameless public servant. The sad pictures of Mr. Burris being cast out into the rain by the Democratic leadership of the Senate, which initially refused to seat him, turned public opinion in his favor. Mr. Burris got his seat. But this latest revelation makes a mockery of his professions of no quid pro quo. It is a violation of the public trust. The people of Illinois have suffered enough. Mr. Burris should resign.

Chicago Tribune

The hole just gets deeper and deeper, and Burris keeps digging. He has no credibility.


There's only one honorable action for Burris: resign.

Find more reaction at Memeorandum, including from HuffPo's Sam Stein, Political Animals's Steve Benen, and MyDD's Todd Beeton.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

By Creature

"Everyone should be paying attention to the political/fiscal catastrophe now unfolding in California. Years of neglect, followed by economic disaster — and with all reasonable responses blocked by a fanatical, irrational minority. This could be America next." -- Nobel winning economist Paul Krugman from a post entitled "Apocalypse now."

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Must reads on the drug war

By Libby Spencer

The UN meets every ten years to decide on drug policy conventions. At the next meeting, three former Latin American presidents are preparing to call for an end to the so-called war. "Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria said there was no meaningful debate over drugs policy in the United States, despite a broad consensus that current policies had failed. ...[He] said Washington appeared increasingly isolated in its repressive approach as Latin America and Europe move toward treating drug abuse as a health problem rather than a crime."

In more good news on that front, Nora Callahan of flags this news from PRI's The World:

LYNCH: Now, it looks like the tone is changing. Obama has long wanted to repeal the 1988 ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs inside the United States, but he needs Congress to go along to make that domestic change. So he’s shifting his gaze outward. In a significant break from both Mr. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, Barack Obama is making his support for needle exchange programs official, at least abroad. Today, Laura Tischler of the State Department confirmed the US is giving its negotiators new guidelines.

They're not going so far as to embrace some of the other sensible harm reduction programs such as legalized dispensaries for addicts but still it's a welcome change from the zero tolerance policy of the Bush regime. Nora also has a petition that calls for restoring earned early release parole to federal prisoners. Take a minute and sign it. This would be a big step to restoring some sanity to our sentencing structure and could alleviate prison overcrowding.

Johann Hari had a knockout piece on the big picture. One interesting fact, "Drugs syndicates control 8 percent of global GDP - which means they have greater resources than many national armies. They own helicopters and submarines and they can afford to spread the woodworm of corruption through poor countries, right to the top." Legalization would put these cartels out of business.

Radley writes the letter Michael Phelps shoud have. It starts like this:

Tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I'll apologize for smoking pot when every politician who ever did drugs and then voted to uphold or strengthen the drug laws marches his ass off to the nearest federal prison to serve out the sentence he wants to impose on everyone else for committing the same crimes he committed.

Meanwhile, SoBeale notices a hilarious promotion for the local hockey team. Bong hits for Michael.

And in other good news for the Olympic toker, SC decided not to pursue criminal charges because they didn't have enough physical evidence. Rumor has it part of the problem was too many other people had used the same bong for them to get DNA evidence. Not sure if that's true, but it is kind of funny.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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