Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vatican rejects Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So the Vatican won't accept Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador -- or anyone else who is pro-choice (and pro-stem-cell research)?

Tough, I say.

It won't happen -- not least because there are so many Catholic voters at home to placate -- but Obama ought simply to refuse to appoint an ambassador to the so-called Holy See. Why give in? Why appoint a pro-choicer just because that's what the Vatican wants? Why implicitly approve of the Roman Catholic Church's absolutist authoritarian positions on such issues -- that is, its moral extremism -- by appointing someone who approves of the Church's positions and of whom the Church approves? What message would that send? That the U.S., that the Obama Administration, is with the Church on those issues, or that it isn't willing to stand up in defence of its own positions.

So enough. Kennedy would be a fine person to represent America's interests at the Vatican. Perhaps she could even make the case for abortion rights and stem-cell research effectively enough to challenge the Church's long-standing oppression. Not that the Church, or its leaders at the Vatican, would ever be persuaded to abandon its moral extremism, but should it not be challenged, should it not be confronted with alternatives to its extremism?


Such are my views this Easter Saturday. Not that I'm celebrating Easter, other than the secular version -- bunny and eggs for the kids, a nice dinner tomorrow -- but whatever you happen to be celebrating, and I'm celebrating a four-day weekend, quality time with my family, and some fairly nice weather here in Toronto, be safe out there, and be good to one another.

-- Michael

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About those tea parties

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Andrew Sullivan is absolutely right about those Fox News-promoted right-wing mobfests known as "tea parties":

These are not tea-parties. They are tea-tantrums. And the adolescent, unserious hysteria is a function not of a movement regrouping and refinding itself. It's a function of a movement's intellectual collapse and a party's fast-accelerating nervous breakdown.

This from "a fiscal conservative who actually believed in those principles when the Republicans were in power." (Read his entire post -- it's an excellent attempt to figure out what the hell the "tea parties" are all about. He's "still befuddled.")

And Think Progress, in a similarly valuable post, is also right that these "tea parties" aren't grassroots events "rising up spontaneously":

Fox News isn't the only right-wing organization involved in building up these so-called "grassroots" events. The tea parties have been heavily backed by corporate lobbyists. The principle organizers of many of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, and Newt Gingrich's American Solutions. The groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests.

The tea partiers and their cheerleaders would have us believe that what is happening now is as revolutionary as what happened way back when in Boston. Which is, of course, sheer nonsense. Today's tea parties are nothing more than contrived outlets for manufactured right-wing populist rage. To suggest otherwise, and to buy into the right-wing spin, on Fox and elsewhere, is to diminish the significance of the American Revolution and to sully the very purpose of America as an experiment in democratic self-rule and as a bulwark against tyranny.

Once again, as we see so often on the right, those supposedly fighting for America, these "patriots," are actually, unwittingly or not, working to undermine it.

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By Creature

You know, the United States military may end up storming the dingy to free captain Phillips from his Somali captors, but to root for that as the first option and not the last is irresponsible. This knee-jerk, macho, shoot first, ask questions later reaction from the Right (whether it be North Korea, Iran, or pirates) is not very helpful in the real world. Just look at Iraq.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Spencer Bachus

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For pulling a Joe McCarthy and pointing fingers:

Some of these guys I work with, the men and women in Congress, are socialists.

Actually, he only pointed a finger at one guy, Vermont's Bernie Sanders, who is, admittedly, a socialist of sorts, specifically of the Scandinavian variety, but he claims that there are 16 others.

Now, so what if there are 17 socialists in the House? Whoever they are, they were elected, were they not? It's up to their constituents to judge them, not Bachus or the right-wing mob.

Besides, it depends on your definition of socialism. If by "socialism" you mean progressive taxation and a robust social safety net, including universal health care and government-run anti-poverty programs, the sort of socialism that exists in most of the world's advanced (capitalist) democracies, including Canada and Western Europe, then I would hope that there are far more than just 17 socialists in the House. If by "socialism" you mean Communism, or the "democratic" socialism of the former Eastern Bloc and totalitarian states like North Korea, then, well, that would be different, wouldn't it? -- I would hope that there are zero of them in the House, or anywhere else in the U.S. government.

But Bachus is obviously referring to the first kind -- though he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about, let alone understand just what socialism is. He won't name names, other than one, but anyone who isn't a neo-liberal Republican, an extremist ideological capitalist who worships Ayn Rand, is apparently a target.

And, names or no names, what he evidently wants is another McCarthyite witch hunt.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republican Party of 2009.


For all of our Craziest Republicans of the Day posts, see here.

For all of our Craziest Conservatives of the Day posts, see here.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Reaction in review (April 10, 2009)

The week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Pirate hostage stand-off continues off Somali coast" -- Michael's interesting piece on piracy gives a completely new perspective on the seriousness of the situation.


By Carl: "A message of hope" -- If you can click on only one of these links, Carl's wonderful post should be the one, because it could inspire you for the rest of the day -- or the week, for that matter.

By J. Thomas Duffy: "I See London, I See France ..." -- Duffy explains how it is that Alan Greenspan has his reputation for brilliance in economic theory and adds, "I hope this doesn't mean we have to look forward to bailing out the underwear industry."

By Jessie Daniels: "The Af/Pak strategy: Setting the stage at home" -- Another very finely written (Truman Project) guest post argues that "failure to lay the groundwork for what the [American] public should expect in Afghanistan and Pakistan may have serious consequences in the near future."

By Boatboy: "C'mon over, my wife's away" -- Also a guest post, this piece is a very interesting exploration (and take-down) of 4 of the arguments opposing same sex marriage, penned by a very articulate writer.


By Capt. Fogg: "One if by land, two if by Internet" -- This important post, in support of Richard Clarke's warnings about protecting the U.S. power, is worthy of reading because it is good and because we could all be impacted by possible Internet failures.

By Jim Arkedis: "DoD numbers on personnel spending" -- Jim's tight little post brings the numbers into stark relief; it's really good food for thought.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Vermont legalizes same-sex marriage" -- Michael's well done news post adds a bit of useful history as well as the facts of the event.


By Mustang Bobby: "Basic accounting" -- Bobby, in a very well-written argument for truth and accountability, takes to task all the right-wing fear-mongering about President Obama's position on gun control.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Craziest Republican of the Day: Michele Bachmann (again)" -- Michael joins the chorus of disbelief over the latest utterances of this Rep., saying "no summary would do the craziness justice."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Madness!" -- Michael explains that he has been overcome with sports of late and unable to blog; it's a very good read for someone unable to post.


By Edward Copeland: "Why doesn't anyone really talk health care?" -- To quote Edward's conclusion from this absolutely riveting post, "Someone needs to crack down on the health care industry, you know, the way they should have done on the banks and Wall Street.

By Carl: "Gunnin' for the bottom" -- Carl's very thoughtful and well done post looks at the two recent instances of multiple killings (in Binghamton N.Y. and near Pittsburgh), in light of a number of gun-control issues.

By Carol Gee: "Focus on Obama Policies" -- The intro, "this post plays catch-up with some of the political news that has sped by in just this past week."

Bonus Feature this week: "Quotes of the Day" --

By Michael J.W. Stickings: Roger Ebert on (to) Bill O'Reilly. Plus Axelrod on Cheney.

By Creature: President Obama answers his critics. Right-winger Frank Gaffney explains (something?).

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Standing on the shoulders of those before him

By Carol Gee

Like all leaders before him, President Barack Obama has been shaped by those who came before him. Their leadership styles, the controversies that caught up with them, the assessments of how they operated, the alliances to which they were loyal, their capacities to have a global view and take global responsibilities seriously -- all these elements made them either good international leaders or not. This post is an overview of the President's first big trip abroad with the above items in mind. I begin with Madeleine Albright, who helped Obama during his campaign.

American leadership abroad -- Albright to Obama: The Audacity to Hope for Usefulness - Washington Whispers ( To quote:

It was a simple message from one author to another. When Madeleine Albright gave President Obama a copy of her book, Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership , she left him a clever note. "I inscribed it to him, 'With the audacity to hope that this book will be useful,' " Albright said. "Be useful or be read?" kidded Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth, who moderated a conversation with Albright last night at George Washington University. And while the president may not have Albright's tome on his nightstand, some of the first things Obama accomplished as president were very similar to her recommendations, and the recommendations of other foreign policy pros.

Obama the rationalist -- Reflecting on the President's homecoming, John Harris and Eamon Javers at Politico have written an interesting analysis of the Obama thinking style as it emerged during the trip. To quote:

As Barack Obama returns from Europe on Tuesday, he has in bright, bold strokes revealed his signature on the world stage: He is Obama the rationalist.

A diverse set of Obama decisions in recent days have a common theme: a leader who sees himself building a more orderly, humane world by vanquishing outdated thinking and corrupting ideology.

With a rapid series of major announcements and rhetorical gestures, the new president has done more than turn from Bush-era policies. He has shined a vivid light on his philosophical outlook on the world — and how starkly he differs from his predecessor on basic beliefs about power, diplomacy and even human nature.

"Obama the visionary: end nukes, admit Turkey to the European Union," is how Juan Cole of Informed Comment defines President Obama. Cole said, "Barack Obama continues to shake up the world with his new ideas, demonstrating himself again among the more creative and bold leaders the world has seen in the past half-century." President Obama visited Turkey after attending a celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Matthew M. Johnson of Congressional Quarterly has written a very interesting analysis of the "hazy future of the Atlantic Alliance." Before meeting with NATO and visiting Turkey, President Obama attended the G-20 meeting.

G-20 Meeting in the United Kingdom -- Is the outcome "a new world order, as Gordon Brown termed it?" What its implications for the world's poor? The Washington Note assessed it as "good for the developing world, though the stimulus was not addressed." The Financial Times has a very good in-depth piece that reports on the question, saying that harmony was the main item on the agenda. See also President Obama's interview with the Financial Times, his first with a foreign paper. It was a fine balance for the President to strike.

President Obama comes home to mini religious controversies. There was a bit of talk that some people were miffed because they did not get an invitation to the White House tonight for the first Passover Seder ever to be held there. US News and World Report has all the details about the occasion. The most visible conflict is over his invitation to speak at Notre Dame's commencement exercises. A letter to the editor at US News (4/9/09) calls it an "uproar." President Obama will attend Easter services in Washington , D.C., not necessarily the one he will join permanently, aids say.

President Barack Obama, helped by those before him, has a leadership style that is becoming apparent. Few serious controversies have caught him and the assessments of how he operated have been generally positive. The old alliances are getting to know the new president, with his outstanding capacities to have a global view and take global responsibilities seriously. All these elements could make Barack Obama a good international leaders or not. He will need more good help and some luck along the way

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Michael Steele

By Michael J.W. Stickings

RNC Chair Michael Steele guest-hosted Bill Bennett's radio show this morning. In response to a caller who claimed that he "[doesn't] see people spending any less money than they have been, Steele said this:

I've heard a number of people say that across the country. The malls are just as packed on Saturday.

And he said it while laughing, exhibiting just the sort of detachment from reality and insensitivity to the plight of normal Americans that you'd expect from a high-ranking Republican, or any Republican, at this time of historic economic crisis.

It's so hilarious -- isn't it? -- that so many people are having trouble paying their bills, putting food on the table, and supporting their children, so uproarious that so many people are losing their jobs and that the economy has collapsed to the point where only massive government activism and investment can save it from itself.

Well, I suppose it is, to Republicans like Steele (and there are many, many like him, however much of a joke he may be as RNC chair), who are either too ignorant to have a clue or too viciously ideological to care.

It's just like when there's an unseasonably warm day in February and all the global warming denialists come out of their caves and upchuck the same old lies. Yeah, sure, malls are still busy, people are still spending money -- but is such anecdotal evidence, which takes no account of job numbers or corporate profits, or anything else, a meaningful indicator of the state of the economy, let alone of the struggling, and suffering, of normal Americans? Of course not.

Steele is a moron and a fool. No wonder he was tasked with heading up the GOP.


For all of our Craziest Republicans of the Day posts, see here.

For all of our Craziest Conservatives of the Day posts, see here.

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Glenn Beck attacks Obama over immigration, sinks to another new low

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Another day, another level of crazy for Glenn Beck.

As C&L's David Neiwert reports, Beck, in response to President Obama's coming efforts to address the illegal immigration problem, put on a little show yesterday. Playing Obama, Beck doused a guest, who was supposed to be "the average American," in water, which was supposed to be gasoline, and lit a match.

Do I even need to explain what Beck was getting at? Basically, in supporting immigration reform, Obama wants to destroy America. It was yet more right-wing populist fearmongering from one of the worst perpetrators in the business.

As David points out, what Obama actually supports is not amnesty but, quoting the NYT:

[L]egislation that would bring illegal immigrants into the legal system by recognizing that they violated the law, and imposing fines and other penalties to fit the offense. The legislation would seek to prevent future illegal immigration by strengthening border enforcement and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, while creating a national system for verifying the legal immigration status of new workers.

That's pretty tough. There would be a path to citizenship for those already in the country, but there would also be an emphasis on preventing illegal immigration through heightened, and tightened, security. I realize that might not be enough for Beck, but it's not exactly the most "sweet" and "sensitive" approach to the problem.

No matter to Beck, though, the populist showman, for whom not getting it has never stopped him from espousing right-wing madness and pandering to the nativist bigotry of his audience. "And then he wonders why people think he's promoting a violent and paranoid right-wing worldview that is bereft of anything approaching reality."

There's no greater glennbeck than Glenn Beck himself.

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Pirate hostage stand-off continues off Somali coast

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I realize that there's a serious piracy problem in and around the Gulf of Aden and along the Somali coast of the Horn of Africa, but the magnitude of the problem continues to amaze me.

The latest development in the current drama involving a U.S. cargo ship was the attempted - and failed -- escape of the ship's captain, Richard Phillips. He jumped out of a lifeboat and tried to swim to a nearby U.S. naval vessel but was recaptured. The crew of the Maersk Alabama somehow retook control of the ship from the pirates, and now the Navy and the FBI are attempting to secure the Phillips' release.

The problem is much bigger than a single American ship, though. Consider this passage from the N.Y. Times:

The standoff unfolding on the high seas off the coast of Somalia intensified Friday as American naval reinforcements moved toward the scene. There were also reports that the pirates, desperate to reach shore with their captive, had themselves called in additional vessels and men.

It's understandable that the U.S. would send in reinforcements -- and a longer-term naval presence in the region may be necessary -- but what's clear is that these pirates are actually part of a fairly sizable organization, at least large enough that there are "additional vessels and men" available to them.

One of the most lawless parts of the world -- where pirates even hijack ships carrying humanitarian aid, as is the case with the Maersk Alabama -- is fast becoming a war zone, the piracy problem so great that countries around the world have established a naval task force, Combined Task Force 151, to combat it. (For more on piracy off the Somali coast, see here.)

It's all quite amazing -- given that this is 2009, not 1809 -- but obviously the threat is significant.

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Up to our knees in Santorum

By Capt. Fogg

Watching President Obama apologize last week for America's arrogance -- before a French audience that owes its freedom to the sacrifices of Americans -- helped convince me that he has a deep-seated antipathy toward American values and traditions,"

says former (hurray!) Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in a Philadelphia Enquirer op-ed titled "The Elephant in the Room." Of course, the problem with any elephant in the room is not that it's difficult to notice, but that the room tends to fill up with shit rather rapidly.

Of course, nothing helped Santorum be convinced of anything, he's just, like any elephant, looking for whatever fodder he can find so that he can, as elephants do, digest it and turn it to dung. Conviction is what you call the straw you're grasping at when you're afraid of drowning.

The fact that president Obama told the French we can sometimes come across as arrogant is a simple statement of truth. We can -- and Santorum certainly illustrates it by pointing out how the French owe us their freedom, while ignoring that we owe the French the same debt. Of course, only such an elephant's ass as he would require the French to grovel and eat up such merde as we feel fit to excrete -- and in perpetuity. His own arrogance would be a model for the Sun King.

Of course, he fails to note that Obama also called Europeans arrogant as well, which renders the former Senators "convincing evidence" nugatory as well as dishonest. But what "values and traditions" is Santy talking about here other than arrogance itself if Obama is admitting that yes, we can be perceived as overbearing and pushy?

Actually I'm getting tired of treating this man's shit as worthy of comment -- as though he weren't a tin-horn blowhard without the wit or talent to do anything but cut bait for the Republican dementia mongers. You're an elephant's asshole Santorum -- you and the Fox you rode in on.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

A message of hope

By Carl

Y'know, it's pretty depressing out there.

It seems like the world is heading to hell in a handbasket, and I'm tired. I get a new perspective on the Great Depression. It wasn't so much economic as it was psychologic.

At least this week, the news is mixed on the economic front: jobless claims were surprisingly low last week, Wells Fargo, universally acknowledged as one of the few strong banks out there, reported good earnings, new home mortgages are rising, and the trade deficit is collapsing. On the other hand, retail sales are still in the toilet, meaning consumers aren't shopping, the auto industry is still on very shaky ground, and gas prices will begin their inexorable summer climb this weekend as people get their cars out of the garage and start the summer driving season early.

Nevermind the news page, the business section is enough to make people depressed! That's before the piracy in Somalia, the North Korean missile test, earthquakes in Italy, the Twitter uprising in's enough to raise the dead!

What's really depressing is to read blogs and watch television, and everyone is looking for someone to blame. If it's not God, it's the President. Or liberals. Or Muslims. Or immigrants. Or Hollywood.

I have a better solution: it's you!

Now, I realize the way of the world is to make our problems somebody else's. Both sides of the political fence claim the other scapegoats. The right claims we liberals are trying to build a nanny state. The left believes the right wants to deny and deflect their personal responsibility towards their fellow citizens.

Guess what? Both sides have a point (altho you'd be hard pressed to prove to me at this point in time how government is doing too much for us).

So the old saw is shown to be true: if everyone else is wrong, it really is your problem.

For the past thirty years, this entire nation-- heck, the entire world, when you realize that France has McDonald's on the Champs Elysee and Wrangler jeans are hot sellers in Abu Dhabi-- has spent its days, nights, lives in pursuit of the Material Me. Even so-called "radical lefty tree huggers" have to be seen hugging the right tree.

We have the latest, newest, greatest, biggest...and ultimately, most useless...junk on the planet.

Just. Stop.

Focus on the things that really matter: your health, your weight, your family, your friends, your life. The problems of the world will start to melt away if we all just "stick to our knitting".

Want to solve the health insurance crisis? Walk. Exercise. Pay a co-pay and see a doctor before you get sick. Eat healthier. Sleep better. Skip every other drink or every other cigarette. Lose weight.

Want to help solve the banking crisis? Spend less, save more. Take twenty percent of your paycheck and bank it. Put your loose change at the end of the day in a jar, then take it to the bank and deposit it each month.

Want to prevent a war? Talk to people. Don't argue, don't judge them. Just listen to them. Sit in a coffee shop and make a point of truly understanding someone.

Want to be happier with your friends? Be happier about yourself. The weather's getting nicer, take a walk. Take a camera with you. Take pictures of the kids out playing. Do something that has meaning to you but doesn't cost an arm and leg, not because it's "material," but because you don't have to sit there with part of you adding up the total money you just spent.

Search for beauty in an unbeautiful world.

You have a material home. Create a spiritual one. A place where your mind can rest and your spirit can play.

You have a material home that makes you unhappy. You have spent your life pursuing it, because this is what you were told to pursue, and everyone else is doing it. That's a powerful influence, that "everyone else". Marketing firms have made entire fortunes on the backs of you and your neighbors, convincing you to buy this gadget or that SUV.

You have the power to quit them. Use that energy, now exhausted, now spent, on yourself. You have a window full of stuff, but a house devoid of what you need. You have things, but no love, because you cannot love a thing. It cannot love you back. You have glee, but no joy. Glee comes from knowing you've bought the new toy. Joy comes from living with what you have. Glee is a drug. It requires constant reinforcement. Joy is everlasting. it grows on its own if you just give it room.

Give room to your joy. Shun your glee. Don't you have enough? Do you have all that you need? Most of us do and are unaware of it. And besides, everything is on loan here. It can be taken from you in the wink of an eye, but the one thing that will always be with you is you.

Give to people. Give your time. Give your love. Give your joy, because the best soil for joy to grow in is soil that two people tend. Don't worry, it grows quickly!

Give your things, too. A gift given gives twice, or so the saying goes.

The damnable trap of the past thirty years is that we have taken, but we haven't taken from others...well, not much. As others have taken from us, however-- and that has happened-- we have also taken from ourselves and our futures. We borrowed money we didn't have to buy things that might not even be around now that the bill has come due.

By allowing others to take from us, we have robbed ourselves of our humanity, our dignity, and our individuality. By buying the iPod or the car or the Britney Spears CD or the Disney DVD, we have allowed others to take "us" in exchange for making us more like everyone else. We have fuller closets and emptier hearts, prettier clothes and uglier bodies, bigger cars and smaller minds.

But when you give, you maintain who you are. You become who you need to be. You keep what and who you want in your life, and you stop pushing aside the important things in life.

Yes, the world is troubled. Yes, you will be buffetted and affected and maybe even harmed for decisions you've made in the past.

But you can be the future, too, and that is where you will live. Do the things you need to do now to make that a better life.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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I See London, I See France ...

By J. Thomas Duffy

Now we all see Mr. Andrea Mitchell's underpants ...

News, in brief, so to speak ...

From Sam Stein;
As chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan was known for using quirky, proletariat metrics to judge the temperature of the economy. The most famous of these, as recounted by NPR's Robert Krulwich in January 2008, were the sales of men's underwear. If the economic scales dipped even the slightest, Greenspan reasoned, it was as sure a sign as any that people were truly feeling the pinch.

"If you look at sales of male underpants it's just pretty much a flat line, it hardly ever changes," Krulwich recounted after the publishing of Greenspan's book, "The Age Of Turbulence." "But on those few occasions where it dips that means that men are so pinched that they are deciding not to replace underpants. And [Greenspan] said 'that is almost always a prescient, forward impression that here comes trouble.'"

Well, here comes trouble.

Yeah, trouble alright, especially when it comes to Greenspan.

He all but claimed he was on intravenous-delivered Ambien, saying he was "mystified" by the Sub Prime meltdown.

Stein reports that there is a 2.3% drop expected in the sale of Mens underwear products for 2009

I hope this doesn't mean we have to look forward to bailing out the underwear industry.

That, certainly, would be a cringe-inducing press conference.

For the good news;
Men's underwear is a replenishment item. If you see a dip in the market it is because of the economy. But over a longer-term period it will even out. They tend to be later going into the recession and earlier coming back... Men certainly aren't wearing underwear less frequently than before."


Bonus Riffs

James Joyner: Greenspan’s Underpants

Digby: Boxers Or Briefs

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Middle East in recent weeks -

By Carol Gee

The Middle East is one of the subjects I regularly visit. Today the focus is on torture, the economic side of national security, help for Pakistan and Iraq, DoD contractors, and it ends with some assorted items about detainees.

Red Cross report -- "The CIA interrogation program was 'inhuman';" a headline made the headlines recently. The Red Cross reported on active participation of medical officers, who in some cases, participated in torture. The author wondered whether the release of the report (against the wishes of the Red Cross) will add to the pressure to investigate further. From TPMMuckraker I quote,

The journalist Mark Danner has obtained the entire report on torture by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which he published excerpts from last month. The report has been posted on the website of the New York Review of Books. Danner's new writeup of it is here.

Global Financial Crisis -- The "Pentagon prepares for economic warfare," an article by Eamon Javers in Thursday's, discussed a two-day war game last month that looked at how hostile countries might try to cripple the U.S. economy. What could China do to harm us economically, for example? And how we should think about integrating any economic conflict with "kinetic" conflict. To quote further:

. . . instead of military brass plotting America’s defense, it was hedge-fund managers, professors and executives from at least one investment bank, UBS – all invited by the Pentagon to play out global scenarios that could shift the balance of power between the world’s leading economies.

. . . In the end, there was sobering news for the United States – the savviest economic warrior proved to be China, a growing economic power that strengthened its position the most over the course of the war-game.

Pakistan is problematic -- President Obama ruled out U.S. troop raids into Pakistan at the end of last month, according to Yahoo! News, saying that "he will consult with Pakistan's leaders before pursuing terrorist hideouts in that country." On CBS the President emphasized that Pakistan is a sovereign government. CQ Politics predicts "trouble ahead for the Pakistan aid Obama wants," if Oklahoma's Senator Tom Coburn renews his objections to the Kerry-Lugar bill that will be the vehicle for the increased aid appropriation. The WaPo reported recently that "Congress Moves to Set Terms for Pakistan Aid." Terms include benchmarks.

Iraq Refugees -- The Iraq Refugee problem persists, according to an April 1 article in ProPublica. "Only a fraction of Itaq refugees have begun returning home," the story says. To quote:

The number of Iraqis living outside of their homes remains in dispute; the U.N. places the figure at 4.7 million. How quickly they return is viewed by many as a bellwether of Iraqi stability, with implications for regional security and U.S. military efforts.

. . . Last month, the Obama administration announced additional funds to support displaced and conflict-affected Iraqis in Iraq, Jordan and Syria in the current budget year, bringing the U.S. commitment so far this year to roughly $150 million; in 2008 the U.S. contributed $400 million. Al-Tikriti said the U.S. has been criticized for failing to invest more robustly. "Much of the international community feels that this is primarily a U.S. crisis and the U.S. should be primarily responsible for dealing with it."

DOD Contractors -- As we know, spending for contract work surged markedly during the Bush administration. However we learned through ProPublica that, to quote:

Pentagon inspectors sent 76 percent fewer contracting fraud and corruption cases to prosecutors than those under President Clinton did, reports the Center for Public Integrity. A Pentagon spokesman blamed the drop partly on laws passed in the 1990s that require contractors to disclose less information, and IG reports have cited staffing shortages.

ProPublica's Alexandra Andrews also revealed this little blurb,

In 2005, four Blackwater guards in Iraq fired more than 70 shots at a car without justification, according to State Department investigators, and left the driver in unknown condition, reports USA Today. But in what the paper calls "another example of lax State Department oversight," documents show that the top security official at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq refused to punish them because he didn't want morale among contractors to suffer.

About Detainees --

  • A National Geographic television documentary, "Explorer: Inside Guantanamo," premiered April 5. CQ-Politics'Jeff Stein reported on "the full treatment of the issues" by the documentary.

  • Given the release of Legal Counsel memos by the DOJ, the ACLU called a couple of weeks ago for the administration to "release photos of other Abu Ghraibs." The ACLU points out that there are still-secret and mostly unknown pictures of U.S. personnel abusing detainees at overseas black sites other than Abu Ghraib. A FOIA lawsuit by ACLU is making its way through the courts.

  • The legacy of Abu Ghraib remains. On March 10 a suicide blast killed at least 32 people at the Abu Ghraib marketplace in western Baghdad.

  • Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) is detaining the nomination of Christopher Hill to be the next ambassador to Iraq. The question will come up again following the spring recess of Congress.

  • And finally, undersecretary of defense policy during the Bush administration, Douglas Feith told the New York Times that he is "shocked, simply shocked by possible torture charges" brought against him in Spain, according to TPMMuckraker (3/31/09).

The Middle East is a subject of fascination for me at this blog. Unfortunately I did not find much good news in recent days as I surveyed the blogosphere. National security will take a tremendous amount of our time and treasure as the Obama administration continues to face most everything head on. It will not be easy.

Reference: "You Can't Put Out Fire With Flames," by guest poster Amjad Atallah, is an important analysis of President Obama's major speech in Turkey when he was recently abroad. It comes from the April 6 Washington Note.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The Af/Pak strategy: Setting the stage at home

Guest post by Jessie Daniels

Jessie Daniels is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. She is currently a second-year masters candidate at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. From 2003 to 2007, she served as a legislative aide for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), focusing on national security issues.

President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is an effort to achieve success in a troubled region. Success at maintaining domestic support on the home front, however, will require a different strategy altogether. This can only happen if he prepares the American public is ready for what is ahead.

It's going to take some time to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan has never been a stable country, while Pakistan is nuclear-armed and teetering. This double whammy presents a serious obstacle to America's long-term goals in the region, and our NATO partners seem reluctant to provide many more resources to help complete the mission.

At the same time, the economy is suffocating all other news stories from the front page. When General Petraeus went to Congress in 2007 to talk about Iraq, there was a media circus. When he returned to Capitol Hill to talk about Af/Pak strategy, reporters barely noticed.

It just goes to show that preparing the public for the long road ahead in Afghanistan and Pakistan is going to be a tough sell when Americans are more worried about losing their homes or their jobs. According to a recent
Gallup poll, while it's true that 60% of the public support a US troop presence in Afghanistan for two years or more, a majority also believe the US should play a limited role. They want us to go after terrorists, but they're not keen on nation building. This could spell trouble for Obama's strategy. Furthermore, there may be backlash on the Afghan side too if the nation building effort is slow to work and Afghan civilian death and destruction rise.

Failure to lay the groundwork for what the public should expect in Afghanistan and Pakistan may have serious consequences in the near future. What if things take a turn for the worst and we need to send additional troops? What will happen when casualties mount for U.S. troops? How will Americans feel about shouldering an increasing burden if our allies continue their reluctance to share that burden?

The president could use the upcoming meetings between the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan next as a catalyst to start an open conversation with the public about the challenges we face in carrying out a successful Af/Pak strategy. Additionally, articulating a clear endgame will go a long way toward keeping the public on board. Establishing clear markers that Congress and the public understand is the first step in this process. Unwarranted optimism, like we saw from President Bush on Iraq, is a bad idea that undermines public support. President Obama will have to have to be straightforward about the difficulties that lay ahead. He has pledged to "stay on the offensive" in Afghanistan, but he will need the sustained support of the American people to win the war.

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Why we need Alec Baldwin

By Michael J.W. Stickings

To defend The New York Times, and newspapers generally, which he does here. I generally read newspapers, including the NYT, online, but from time to time I like to pick one up and read it as it used to be read, including my local paper here in suburban Toronto. The future, much more so than the present, is digital, and virtual, but I do hope there is a future for old-school journalism, and that, to that end, the apparent demise of the newspaper industry, including the possible collapse of institutions like The Boston Globe, is halted, and reversed. Of course, the industry deserves much of the blame for what is happening to it, for example, by being so slow in responding to the rise of the Internet, but we, too, we media consumers, are at fault for failing to recognize the ongoing value of print media in their non-virtual form. Tear your eyes away from the screen in front of you, now and then, from your television or your computer, and get back to basics. There's something remarkably invigorating about doing it the old-fashioned way.

And, yes, I know, I say all this as a blogger, in a blog post, at a blog, in the blogosphere, on the Internet, with an eye on the TV. There's room for balance, though, and, thankfully, not all my media consuming takes place in this post-print world.

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The conservative mind (under the influence of reality)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Even conservatives think Norm Coleman should give up. Well, at least one does -- National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, one of the more sensible conservatives out there today (and I mean that as a compliment, barely), who writes:

If he keeps up the fight, he is likely to lose, unnecessarily deprive Minnesota of a second senator, end his political career seen as a sore loser, and hurt his party in a state that is eager for this fight to be over. His team has talked enough about further legal challenges that if he leaves now, he will get some points for grace. (Needless to say, that sentiment would not be universal.) But this is, I think, the last moment where he can exit with some dignity.

Some, but not much.

(For our most recent update, #14, on the Minnesota Senate Recount, see here. For all of our Minnesota-related posts, most of them on Franken-Coleman, see here.)

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Who's Hu?

by Capt. Fogg

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?”

said Texas State Representative Betty Brown yesterday. She was speaking to, or rather at Ramey Ko who had been invited to the Texas House Elections Committee hearing to talk about perceived voting problems involving people with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean surnames.
“Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”

said the lady from Texas, forgetting for the moment that Americans of foreign descent might take umbrage at the insinuation that they are not themselves Americans by virtue of their names. Actually Chinese isn't all that hard and it's the world's most popular language, nor do you have to be able to read the Analects of Confucius to say "Hu," you just make an O with your lips and blow.

The idea that Lee or Park or Honda might just be too much for Texans to handle just might be worth a Texas sized guffaw and thigh slap, even to those who don't drive a Hyundai or Honda or Toyota or Subaru, will probably occur to her any time now -- surely before theScubasziewskis and Popadopoulis' and Krishnamurthy's of Texas stop snickering in their Stetsons and Lucchese boots.

Is there really a problem in Texas, or are the Republicans trying to suppress votes with a voter ID bill as the Democrats tend to think? Perhaps Lee XiaoPing's drivers license says Sam Lee because he's trying to be accommodating in the first place, but if that's a real problem at the polls all that would be needed is to require the legal name to appear on the license. Of course we're getting the traditional "what Brown really meant to say was. . ." follow up, but it still sounds like the same old WASP supremacy ethnic purity shinola to me. It sounds like:
"all you furriners better be on your best behaviour even if you've been here seven generations. Yer still furriners."

Wouldn't it be funny if Ms. Brown came from one of those families of Brauns, Schmidts and Müllers who became Browns, Smiths and Millers during the First World War? I'm just sayin'.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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C'mon over, my wife's away

Guest post by Boatboy

Boatboy is the author of the blog The View from the Docks.

There's been a lot of noise about the recent events in Iowa and Vermont, particularly from the Chicken Little School of Conservative Thinking. Steve Benen, Shakesville, BBWW, Box Turtle Bulletin and others have all covered it rather nicely.

It occurs to me, though, that there's a reason the marriage issue is so big for the RWNM (Right-Wing Noise Machine) that's not being discussed all that much.

Living in SW Florida, I run into all sorts. One of the types I try to avoid is the "married but playful" kind: the ones that are stepping out on their spouses to indulge their preferences on the down-low. It's messy for them, it's uncomfortable for me and it's dishonest on both parts to carry on anything more than a one-night stand under those conditions. Quite frankly, I won't knowingly have anything to do with it. However, the number of folks I meet who do or will is startling.

The RWNM has long presented civil rights issues as a zero-sum game: more for you is less for me. The idea of an expanding set of civil rights -- indeed, of rights in any sense -- seems alien to them. They did this with civil rights based on race and sex, and they've done it more than a few times based on sexual identity.

In the SSM (same-sex marriage) case, my hypothesis is this: many of the naysayers are acquainted with more than a few married couples who aren't straight, and legalisation of SSM would drive them to divorce their spouses and marry their partners.

This is offensive on a number of levels. I'll hit the chief ones that bother me: feel free to add your own in comments.

First, their position assumes that there are a lot of couples who married for convenience, respectability, and tax and insurance benefits. This perspective reduces those marriages to pure business contract: there's nothing "sacred" about getting married just to be added to your spouse's health insurance or to file joint tax returns. If SSM is legalised, these marriages will be shown up for the transactional relationships they are, and the arguments about the "sanctity of marriage" will instantly evaporate.

Second, the assumption that there are substantial numbers of couples who married for convenience and respectability undermines the arguments about "special rights" for a "small minority." There is an unstated assumption in the position that the actual number of people who would self-identify as LGBT if SSM were legalised is substantially higher than is either reflected in accepted sociological statistics or claimed by the naysayers - perhaps as high as 30-40%. The RWNM doesn't want to be seen as hostile to proportions that high -- just look with the GOP has done to court the Hispanic vote in recent years -- so numbers like that can't be allowed to see the light of day. So long as they can talk about a small number of "deviants" rather than a substantial minority of law-abiding LGBT citizens they can continue to whinge about the "special" and "excessive" demands of those LGBT citizens willing to make noise on behalf of the rest. If the numbers they fear become public, prior statements denouncing the LGBT movement as a tiny fringe of society seeking preferential treatment will be meaningless.

Third, the naysayers are expecting legalisation of SSM to produce an immediate uptick in the divorce rate as all those marriages of convenience adjust. Their assumption seems to be that this will be an immediate phenomenon. Again, they are failing to take into account that divorce is a messy business not undertaken lightly, that many of the marriages they think are jeopardised by the new laws are prone to dissolution not just because the new alternative is available, and that said marriages are taken so lightly that they are at risk in the first place. This puts yet another torpedo into the "sacred institution" meme simply because it implies that marriage is so fragile that it won't withstand expansion.

Fourth, there is the unspoken awareness that marriages of convenience are loveless, unhappy things foisted on these people in the name of respectability and social harmony. The numbers the anti-SSM voices fear, should they manifest, would spotlight their commitment to a cruel, oppressive social policy that demanded those in MOCs live lies just to be accepted. It might even be enough to cause a resounding backlash, and it would certainly encourage opposition to their other platform planks. The idea that marrying the person one prefers to have sex with produces happiness is no more true than marrying a person one prefers not to have sex with produces unhappiness: however, these people apparently fail to recognize that point.

Searching through my memory, I can recall perhaps three couples I have known who tied the knot for legal benefit, social respectability or camouflage for non-hetero behaviour. That's three (maybe) out of some hundreds of married people. I have, however, met many who cling to this "sanctity of marriage" argument -- all the while indulging in extramarital recreations (and sometimes more serious involvements) and keeping it quiet. LGBT personal ads and website profiles that demand "discretion" abound in the South and particularly in SW FL, a term I am learning is codespeak for "I'm hitched and playing on the side, but I don't want my spouse/employer/church to find out." I hardly think these same people would run to the courts to annul those marriages simply because they don't have to stay in them to claim the attendant legal or financial benefits. There may be a readjustment of sorts over time, but there won't be crowds beating down the divorce courts' doors the moment these laws are signed.

This, though, seems to be the likely calamity the anti-SSM lobbies fear: that all those people they know personally who are in some marriage of some sort of convenience would immediately ditch their present arrangements and swap them for the SSM they really desire. Should that happen, all the RWNM's rants about the Sanctity of the Institution of Marriage, the Needs of Teh Children, the Special Rights Teh Gay Demands and other such memes would suddenly and forcefully ring hollow as all those people their positions drove to these MOCs were allowed to choose a more desirable legal alternative.

(h/t to Mustang Bobby for the title of this post)

(Cross-posted from The View from the Docks.)

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Quote of the Day: Roger Ebert on (to) Bill O'Reilly

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Chicago Sun-Times, hardly a long-standing bastion of liberalism (whatever its pro-Rooseveltian founding purpose), recently dropped Bill O'Reilly's syndicated column. In response, O'Reilly, ever thugish, called for an advertising boycott of the newspaper. In response, Roger Ebert, who has more humanity in his right thumbnail than O'Reilly has in his entire being, penned an epistolary comeback that includes this line:

Bill, I am concerned that you have been losing touch with reality recently.

Recently? Thumbs down for the understatement, Mr. Ebert (a film critic whom I have long admired, most of all for bringing Ozu and Kieslowski to American audiences). You make some good points, but you could, should, have been a lot tougher.

Thumbs down, too, for being nice to Conrad Black, hardly a good and decent man.

Thumbs even further down for your characterization of Charles Krauthammer as "admirable." Did you mean that in relative terms? As in, Krauthammer is more admirable than, say, Bill Kristol? Even if you did, "admirable" just isn't the right adjective. Krauthammer may be less of a right-wing hack than some of his peers, which isn't saying much, but he's still a blowhard with a detestable ideological agenda.

Still, well done for standing up to O'Reilly, and for noting that his columns are "composed of knee-jerk frothings and ravings." He is himself little more than frothings and ravings, both on television and in print, and a newspaper without him is so much better for it.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ghosts in the machine

By Carl

Two stories surfaced while you were sleeping that ought to help open your eyes as you stumble around for a cup of coffee:

Item 1:

The FBI is investigating whether counterfeit routers and computer hardware from China installed in U.S. government computer networks might provide a secret gateway for hackers to tap into secure government databases.

Sources told ABC News the counterfeit hardware could represent a major breach to national security. An FBI PowerPoint presentation, which somehow ended up on a Web site, lays out the concerns and the breadth of what has been a far-reaching investigation.

Friday afternoon a somewhat miffed FBI released a statement that read: "At the request of another federal government agency, on Jan. 11, 2008, the FBI's Cyber Division provided an unclassified PowerPoint presentation and briefing on efforts to counter the production and distribution of counterfeit network hardware," said FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Finch. "This unclassified briefing was never intended for broad distribution or posting to the Internet."

Finch goes on to talk about Operation Cisco Raider, which "targeted illegal distributors of counterfeit network hardware manufactured in China and included 15 investigations across nine FBI field offices and the execution of 39 search warrants."

According to Finch, the FBI "disrupted a large distribution network and recovered approximately 3,500 counterfeit network components with an estimated retail value of over $3.5 million."

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, outsourcing!

Item 2:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls, the newspaper said, citing current and former U.S. national security officials.

[...] Officials said water, sewage and other infrastructure systems also were at risk.

Ahhhh, nostalgia! Hearken back to a time when Boris and Natasha...and now Li and Guangmei... would drop microfilm canisters off in a tree stump on the Appalachian Trail...

Granted, these are nations with means and resources (and in the former instance, incredibly easy access, bordering on the treasonous) to implant the software necessary to spy on and perhaps disrupt American society.

It may not sound like much, to hit our electrical system or our water and particularly our sewer systems, until you realize just what would happen: we've had regional blackouts, one as recently as August 2003, that crippled half the country and affected the rest with flight delays, food shortages, and so on. Imagine that on a national scale.

Imagine turning on the tap in any location where water is distributed and pumped mechanically or electronically, meaning basically every place west of the Rockies and south of Oregon and most of the Midwest and farm country.

Now add to that a massive sewage backup (since treatment plants would be the likely target of a cyber attack), and murky brown water that begins to spurt out of your drains.

Yeah. That bad. With no place for all that crap to go, because storm drains would be the first to back up.

You want a disheartened nation? Tell 330 million people they have to shovel shit for a few days, nevermind weeks. In the dark. Without fresh water to bathe in, even if they could clear enough of their drains for the waste water to flow down. Probably in the middle of winter, just make things really horrid.

I can almost hear Limbaugh now: "My friends! Shoveling shit builds character! Why, it's no worse than spreading manure on your gardens! I shovel shit every day and look at me! I'm filthy rich for it!"

I say Limbaugh will support this because quite simply, the Russians and Chinese aren't going to do this on Barack Obama's watch, but should some idiot Republican (and it always seems to be them, don't it?) get us into another useless war, even a cold one, with Russia AND China, they won't hesitate. They'll trigger the "S" bomb.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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One if by land, two if by Internet

By Capt. Fogg

Richard Clarke has a habit of giving important warnings that go ignored by us and by our government. Had the Bush administration listened to him, there might have been a chance to thwart the September 11th attack or at least to have been more prepared. Critics, of course (read Republicans), preferred to retaliate rather than to take heed. I can only hope that if recent reports are true that our electrical power grid is highly vulnerable to malicious tampering through the internet, someone, this time, will listen -- in time.

I admit that the likelihood of an armed invasion by Russia or China or any country, for that matter is quite small, but the ability to couple one with massive, continent wide power outages is a dangerous weapon all by itself. Many people do not appreciate how dependent we are on the power grid and how communications, hospitals, transportation, water and sewage -- and yes those cell phones also depend on it. Those of us who have suffered through multiple hurricane events are not so sanguine. We know that without power we would find ourselves wishing for Paul Revere to let anyone know who or what was coming. Then of course, there are terrorists. Can you imagine the additional chaos had all power and most communications been off in Washington and New York on that awful day in 2001? Can you imagine the panic had the rest of the country been unable to get the full story? Even without an attack, widespread blackouts could cost us billions -- each time it happened.

Why are we so vulnerable? Because we use the internet to control the power grid and therefore so can someone else. Pull the plug, said Clarke on ABC to Diane Sawyer today. It may cost some money, but it may save us from a huge disaster. Will our new administration listen this time or will it do what George Bush did 8 years ago?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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DoD numbers on personnel spending

By Jim Arkedis

SecDef Gates has begun the difficult process of trying to get the military to spend a bit more sensibly. Thus far, the focus has been on weapons systems. But here's the other side of the equation - personnel.

Here are some 2009 numbers to mull, taken straight from DoD's comptroller:

$128.56 billion - total military pay to active duty personnel

$ 70.8 billion - military benefits, including retirement pay

$ 24.76 billion - expenditure on DoD health services

$ 3.35 billion - expenditure on military family housing

That's 36% of a $637 billion total DoD budget.

There are approximately 1.44 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on active duty right now. With a little round math, that means we're spending at least $167,800 each... and that doesn't even count training costs (which I haven't found yet).

I think it's right to engage in a serious conversation about weapons spending - we need it. But this stuff has to be brought into the conversation as well. Manpower is the military's most important asset and we'll continue to pay for it. But are there ways to reward our personnel - particularly in a time of war - and do so in a fiscally responsible manner? I don't know just yet. It's a political time-bomb, too - how does any Commander-in-Chief (particularly a Democrat) say he wants to restructure military pay without making himself vulnerable?

(Cross-posted to AllOurMight.)

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By Mustang Bobby

Why is tonight different from every other night?

On Thursday, President Obama will participate in an event at the White House where he will discuss the need to enhance the quality of healthcare afforded to members of our Armed Forces and our Veterans. The Press Secretary will brief in the afternoon. President Obama and his family will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.

According to the The Jerusalem Post, this will be the first seder ever attended by a sitting American president.

And all this time I thought he was a secret Muslim. Who knew?

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Minnesota Senate Recount -- update 14

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Last time we checked (here), it was almost over. Franken's lead stood at 225 votes -- not a huge lead, all things considered, a large enough one given how few absentee ballots remained to be counted (about 400).

Well, with those ballots now counted, Franken's lead has actually grown -- to 312. As the StarTrib puts it, "Coleman's dim prospects for winning the U.S. Senate trial darkened today."

But it's still not over, not with Coleman's litigiousness in full swing:

Coleman's case during the trial has rested mostly on counting absentee ballots that he contends had been wrongly rejected. Barring an unexpected court ruling, he now lacks the ballots needed for a trial victory, and his lawyers repeated vows to appeal an adverse final verdict.

Don't get me wrong. Coleman has a right to continue his legal challenges, at least until exhausted. But the people of Minnesota are surely exhausted of this by now, and, as they say, the writing is on the wall. Franken won. That may not be easy for Coleman to take, but it's the way it is.

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Vermont legalizes same-sex marriage

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Take that, Gov. Douglas (and all you bigots across the land). The people of Vermont have spoken (through their elected representatives):

Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage -- and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its first-in-the-nation civil unions law.

It's now the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are the others. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.

I finally saw Milk over the weekend -- an excellent movie, very nearly a great one. If only Harvey were around to see this.

Well done, Vermont. What a progressive, civilized place you are.


For more, see The Anonymous Liberal:

I repeat my prediction that, within a decade, the Supreme Court will strike down bans on gay marriage nationally.

Many conservative critics (at least the principled ones) are today praising Vermont for legalizing gay marriage the "right way," i.e., by a vote of the legislature and not by judicial decree. But I think that analysis vastly oversimplifies the issue. The reality is that what happened in Vermont today likely would not have happened but for the actions of judges in Massachusetts, and several years earlier, in Vermont.


Perhaps more importantly, however, these early judicial decisions changed the scope of the public debate. They forced people, for the first time, to grapple with the obvious tension between prevailing attitudes regarding gay rights and the inequality inherent in existing marriage laws. The fact that the world didn't collapse after gay people were allowed to enter into civil unions and then marriage also helped people adjust to the idea and get over their initial apprehensions. It changed public opinion. Without the court decisions that paved the way, it is very unlikely that this day would have come (at least at the speed it did).

Read the whole post.

See also Pam Spaulding for the oh-so-predictable reactions from the theocratic bigots of the right.


In related news:

The D.C. Council unanimously voted yesterday to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere, joining a growing number of states to loosen restrictions on the unions.

Also well done, District of Columbia.

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