Saturday, May 16, 2009

No presidents need apply

By Capt. Fogg

It is clear that Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation.

The invitation in question was From the University of Notre Dame to President Obama to give the commencement address tomorrow, May 17. The opinion of Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, must be understood to be then, that it is not in the interest of maintaining orthodoxy to allow American Students to hear the thoughts of an American President who does not vow to follow the Roman Catholic Church's proclamations regarding abortion. More simply, the graduates are to be considered as Roman Catholic first, and Americans second -- at best. What it means to be Catholic is to obey, to surrender. What it means is not to listen to unapproved opinions or tolerate the holders thereof simply because they represent our country and our laws.

The Cardinal Newman Society has prepared a petition calling for Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins to tell the President of the United States he, as a non-catholic, tainted with the sin of heterodox and heretical ideas, is not welcome -- and tells us that the streets of South Bend Indiana have been invaded by wild-eyed crusaders like as Alan Keyes and Randall Terry carrying blood covered dolls while Cardinal James Francis Stafford, one of the highest-ranking Americans at the Vatican, asserts that the President of the United States should not soil the sacred ground because of:

an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.

There is no information about whether the aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic Stafford managed to say that with a straight face.

It's difficult to know just what the official "agenda" of the Vatican might be as concerns the Obama Administration as a whole or in relation to his relaxing of restrictions on stem cell research and his lack of requisite intransigence on the subject of abortion and Time spends more time speculating on it than I will, but is the day over when a candidate for high office in the United States can assure us (and be believed,) that he is an American first and a Catholic second? Indeed, can the University of Notre Dame assure us that it has any commitment to Democracy as opposed to religious authority?

Of course, as Abdon Pallasch at the Chicago Sun-Times points out, such things are nearly standard procedure at the Catholic University. It's happened before, many times. Clearly, however, there is a persistent and durable movement of consequence amongst American Catholic leaders that seems to play well to those neo-Know-Nothings with anti-Catholic sentiments. This is a movement that reminds one far too much of the Church of earlier days and makes the ecumenical, tolerant sentiments of past Popes seem more like an interlude that's now over.

Of course, it's not only the small mindedness or religion in general that divides America. Arizona State University, refused to confer the customary honorary degree on commencement speaker Obama on Wednesday, explaining that his "body of work" was insufficient even though foreign dignitaries whose BOW's were of lesser bulk had been. I suspect the Arizona libertarian/anarchist movement amongst the University administration here, but if The Daily Show's roast of ASU students was close to the mark, a good number of their students lack the brains to get a job sweeping Sesame Street and therefore don't think Obama has the right stuff, even for a fake Arizona degree. Harvard will just have to do.

From all accounts, however, the president was received well by the students and I have a feeling he will be at Notre Dame as well. The American People, particularly the younger ones, aren't the ones trying to tear the country apart for fun and profit, it's the same, cranky, closed-minded, and anti-democratic institutions and leaders who have been with us since the beginning. Soon may they disappear so that we can start to respect ourselves and our country once more.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Do not all judges only have a perspective?

By LindaBeth

Just reading an article from a few days ago in The New York Times about Judge Sotomayor's views about judging that while made in 2001, which are now relevant because of her potential as a Sumpreme Court nominee and also as a way to discuss (or perhaps malign) President Obama's desire for a justice with "empathy."

Well, she really could have said it better than this:

'Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,' she said, for jurists who are women and nonwhite, 'our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.'

This, unfortunately makes it sound as if experience and identity only come to bear for women or non-white judges. What is more accurate is that identity and experiences of oppression and privilege will necessarily come to bear on any judicial decision-making. It is not just the dispriviledged for whom their dispriviledge shapes their perspective; privilege itself also shapes one's perspective.

When we neglect this sociological truth, dominant identity positions (white, or hetersexual, or male) and privilege itself become invisible. Dominant positions are take as neutral and natural "experience" and everyone else has "other" experiences that color it as different from some sort dominant plain-ole "experience," which is really white (or male or heterosexual) experience.

Because what happens is, well, what has happened: conservatives decrying injecting one's experience or identity into legal decisions--as if that really isn't what happens in all judging--except that the makeup of the court (white, male) has been the same as the dominant American identity in our culture (dominant in sociology meaning power, not numbers), and therefore better reflects the status quo--the identity position from which legal decisions have been made since the U.S's inception.

Now of course I am not saying that any identity position is monolithic--all women, all Latinos/as, all queer folk do not think the same, the same way that all men or all white folk do not. And this is not to say that those who have been priviledged cannot develop a sense of empathy fo those who have.

But to say that one's experience--whether one is part of a privileged or disprivileges social group (and sometimes some of both)--will can have no effect on judicial decisions ignores another statement Judge Sotomayor made, quoting another justice: “'there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives.'”

The claim to neutrality perspective that conservatives claim their white or male justices have is itself, indeed, only a perspective.

(Cross-posted to Speak Truth to Power)

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Priscilla Ahn: "Dream"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The best word to describe Priscilla Ahn, one of my latest musical finds (thanks, iTunes!), is lovely. Her songs are lovely, her voice is lovely (indeed, one of the loveliest I've ever heard), and, well, she just looks lovely.

And I mean all that in the best possible way.

Ahn is an exceptionally talented singer-songwriter -- check out her official site, MySpace profile, and Wikipedia page -- and, while I find some of her music a tad soporific, songs like "Dream" (with wonderful lyrics taking us back to her pastoral childhood) and the Beatlesesque "Astronaut" (both off her debut album, A Good Day), as well as "In a Closet in the Middle of the Night" (off an iTunes exclusive Live Session), show just how good she can be.

Here's the video for "Dream," her best song. Enjoy.


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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Reaction in review (May 15, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By Capt. Fogg: "Yes we can" -- Fogg writes with singular logic and great passion about the summary discharge of Arabic translator Lt. Daniel Choi from the U.S. military, for telling us he is gay.

By Hamid M. Khan: "Pakistan faces the abyss" -- Another Truman Project guest writer presents a brilliant primer on Pakistan that should be a must-read for everyone interested in foreign affairs.

By Creature: "Jack Bauer had nothing to do with it" -- Creature's great little post lays out a good argument for exposing the real reason the Bush administration tortured; it was to extract false confessions regarding a Saddam-al Qaeda connection. See also, Mustang Bobby's "The ticking time bomb."


By Carl: "News alert: Politician tells truth" -- Carl's post is a very well written plea for President Obama to go ahead and release that next batch of torture photos. See also, Michael's equally excellent post arguing for the abuse photo release.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Worst Democrat of the Day: Ben Nelson" -- This post (on a public option for health care reform) debuts a new Reaction featured series showing that you can and should expect occasional inanity, insanity and idiocy from our side, too.

By Capt. Fogg: "Ugly is as ugly thinks" -- Our Captain illuminates a Republican-Palin brouhaha, about Miss California's rights to free speech being abridged, as mere ugly words mistakenly associated with our constitution (includes several comments).

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Sarah Palin, Alaska chronicler" -- Michael explains why he will not be trying to get on the waiting list for Sarah Palin's "much ballyhooed memoir."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Foreclosures, way up in April" -- Michael rightly decries the big increase of foreclosures on homeowners, concluding that "there is much, much more to come."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Quote of the Day: Jesse Ventura on Cheney and torture" -- Michael concludes, "That's some sound, straightforward commentary from a guy known for his unabashed bluntness, as well as for his independence. He was in top form the other night, and he spoke the truth."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Graham denies torture briefing" -- Michael points out the significance of former Senator Bob Graham's corroboration that both he and Speaker Pelosi "weren't actually told what was going on, that they were intentionally kept in the dark."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "McKiernan, McChrystal, and Obama's new war in Afghanistan" -- Michael cites Fred Kaplan's piece in Slate, and offers his own insights into the positives and negatives of changing generals in Afghanistan.

By Mustang Bobby: "Nothing new here" -- Bobby's great post makes a convincing argument that shows us columnist William Kristol got no better at punditry, after leaving the NYT pressure cooker for the WaPo monthly gig.

By J.F. Murphy: " 'Enhanced' interrogation undermines American security and violates military values" -- Guest poster Murphy, a vet who fought in Iraq and graduated from the SERE program, writes a wonderful piece that argues very persuasively against using torture to interrogate detainees.


By Carl: "Another one bites the dust" -- Carl's economic expertise comes forward again, happily for us, to discuss the possibility of strengthening current anti-trust laws.

By Mustang Bobby: "Just an entertainer" -- Bobby's matter of fact assessment of comedienne Wanda Sykes' routine at the WH Correspondents dinner elicited a long thread of lively point and counterpoint comments.

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Yes we can

But no we won't.

By Capt. Fogg

Really nobody expected Barack Obama to bring about the Kingdom of God, or even a democracy of justice. That his supporters did, is just another of the straw men ambling down the yellow brick road from GOP headquarters. What we really wanted is somebody not actively trying to destroy our country in every possible way, but from day one we've been giggled at because he hadn't done in 24 hours what Jesus Christ hasn't done, lo these 2000 years and largely because his followers are Christians.

One of the things I have been hoping for is for an end to the persecution of gays in the military. It's a small thing in the greater picture of our corrupt, superstitious and furious country, but had somebody done something to block the summary discharge of Lieutenant Daniel Choi from the US Army because he prefers men to women, it might have been reassuring, at least, to those who hope for something of a saner, more secular America. Alas he has chosen not to "interfere." He has chosen to allow the crusaders one more victory in taking over our military.

It's only one of many stories, but the sad lack of Arabic translators in our service has something to do with the fact that we place such great value on their private sexual thoughts that we are willing to risk the lives of our soldiers and perhaps our nation by firing them and negating their years of study and service and indeed their valuable expertise. Choi was the 54th translator to be discharged for unclean thoughts.

I'm waiting for our allegedly Liberal Press to say something and perhaps for the "traditional values" side to be hypocritical and call them hypocrites, but so far, It's only the bloggers and the ever vigilant Daily Show that are willing to point out that our Christian friends in God's Army are allowing their superstitions to weaken us in yet one more way.

Religious bigotry doesn't require a beard or any kind of headgear to be the enemy of freedom, or does stupidity for that matter. Take Kim Hendron, a member of the Arkansas State Senate, and currently a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, who told us recently that he believes in the traditional values of The Andy Griffith Show, not like "that Jew" Chuck Schumer. Now, most of us remember that, no, John Wayne never really was a soldier and that, no, Andy Griffith never really was a sheriff of that non-existent fantasy town that had no Jews or Catholics or Mexicans or folks of African descent, but Hendron isn't going to let any damned New York Jew tell him otherwise any more than the U.S. Army of God is going to let any damned sodomite translate any damned Arabic messages even if we have to have New York blown up all over again. Of course, when his foot was extracted from his Arkanas blow hole, he had to admit that he did actually like maybe a couple of Jews like Jesus and Lieberman, neither of which it's likely he's ever listened to with much understanding.

So maybe if we want to get an idea of what's really going on here, we need to turn off our inner Arkansas and listen to some damned Jew like the one that told us to shut the hell up and be nice to each other a long time ago and the one on Comedy Central who seems brave enough to tell off the Army and Obama and our hate-based community that we've had enough of this. waterboarding may make them talk, said that Jew Jon Stewart, but it won't make them talk in English.

Shame on you, Mr. President.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Bring it on, trolls

By Capt. Fogg

We see the same thing over and over. We "Liberals" are hate mongers for criticizing Ann and Rush or virtually any of the malicious and malignant dragons who make a living breathing Republican fire. They're justified because we're just as bad, even though they're really not that bad because they're criticizing "liberals," after all. Confusing? Never mind, just understand that there's a Liberal culture of hate and slander and all that stuff -- as I am sure some Limbaugh Limbo dancer will say when he shows up to lower the bar of decency even further. Go ahead -- I dare ya.

None the less it's hard for someone with my "liberal" bias to understand that people like Mark Levin aren't really acting like sociopathic adolescent bullies in need of some swift corporal punishment before they move on to careers of leg breaking and arson. Can you feel the slime, smell the funk?

Perez Hilton, who I am now terming a vile sodomite . . . yeah, Perez, you’re a vile sodomite - doesn’t that word have a ring to it - sodomite — and vile - vile sodomite - it just sounds so good to hear in my headphones - vile sodomite . . . . I’m not sure whose idea it was to have an overweight homosexual . . . What do gays constitute? They could announce the cure for AIDS on Logo and nobody would know for two weeks . . . And again, Perez Hilton, you’re a vile sodomite . . . and then this vile sodomite . . .

said Mark Wilcow on Levin's very popular "conservative" talk radio show Tuesday night and again about Rachel Maddow, perhaps the nicest, least confrontational talking head on TV:

You, the idiot taxpayer, are paying the salary of that nice little boy, Rachel Maddow . . . Keith Olbermann’s nephew, Rachel Maddow . . .

No, I won't speculate about the man's problem with homosexuality, I won't go on one more time about how the word "conservative" has come to mean possessed of an ill defined, immoral and uncontrollable malice toward every manifestation of decency. It doesn't have an effect on these commercial demons anyway and their supporters always have some false and contrived equivalence to pin on their targets to show that Levin is a victim, Rush is a victim, Ann is a victim and them "liberals" just don't have a sense of humor:

What kind of people would listen to something like this and react with anything other than pure repulsion, a desire to remain as far away from people like this as possible?

says Glenn Greenwald at Come back in a while and I'm sure you'll hear from at least one smart-ass, condescending nobody with a spelling problem, telling me I'm an idiot who thought Obama was Jesus Christ. What kind of people? Just wait.

No, there's no point I can make that's more illustrative of what's left of the hard core Right. I'm just going to report and you're going to decide; and if you can't denounce Levin and Limbaugh, history isn't going to vindicate you any more than then it vindicated the slavers and night riders and segregationists who are your ancestors. In fact, you'll be lucky to be a footnote in a world embarrassed to admit you were ever part of it.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Pakistan faces the abyss

Guest post by Hamid M. Khan

Hamid M. Khan is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado Law School and a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project.

Leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan met in Washington last week, stoking hopes that greater cooperation between the two nations would facilitate a united front against the increasingly powerful Taliban. Afghanistan's weakness in this partnership is long-standing, but it is Pakistan's new instability that is catching the world's attention. Once a stable nuclear state, Pakistan's future is now far from predictable. How it will respond in the months ahead remains to be seen, but one thing that is clear is that Pakistan cannot face this constellation of existential challenges without the United States.

Pakistan's current fever-pitch
battle with the Taliban cannot be resolved by armed force alone. Instead, the present conflict finds its causes in the vacuum of an episodic democracy; a state ravaged by military rule, the cancer of corruption, and the nation's inability to deal with its Islamic origins.

Founded as a democratic state and predicated on the British system of rule, Pakistan has suffered from intermittent episodes of democracy in which civilian governments were often inept and military rule was unwilling to cede power. More troubling, however, is that the current civilian government appears so helpless that it almost reflexively seeks a negotiated end to violence, but without securing any compromises from the extremists.

Equally troubling is that the military which created and trained many of the extremists it is now fighting has seen its morale erode, even while it maintains control over Pakistan's sizeable nuclear arsenal. Should military morale erode even further, one wonders if the military will follow the path of the ISI (Pakistan's intelligence service) and undermine U.S. efforts in the region, especially by relaxing control over portions of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Pakistan's failures at governance have begotten one of the most
corrupt nations in the world. In fact, Pakistanis have become so accustomed to the self-serving interests of bureaucrats on every level – military or civilian, religious or secular – that they are simply unwilling to invest in their social and governmental institutions. The abysmal of failure of Pakistan's social institutions have left this much of its enormous population without electricity or drinking water, let alone education or health care.

Pakistanis have become increasingly restless for institutions which may act as a check on entrenched power. When the former president, General Pervez Musharraf sacked the chief justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court in 2007, Pakistanis took to the streets and helped to bring down his government. When Pakistan's current leadership failed to reinstate this same chief justice, popular protest nearly toppled the government once again.

Finally, there stands Pakistan's inability to deal with its Islamic roots. To begin, Pakistan was founded on the strident belief that a Hindu-dominated India could not adequately represent the rights of Muslims who lived within the subcontinent. Consequently, West and East Pakistan were created in 1947. Pakistan was unique because the nation itself was predicated on the religious -- rather than on the cultural or lingual -- character of its citizenry.

Less than two decades later, however, Pakistan could not preserve its national integrity and civil war led East Pakistan to become Bangladesh in 1971. Today, after sliding between secularism and religiosity, Pakistan ostensibly finds itself in another civil war. Will Pakistan's Islamic identity tip more towards democracy and moderate Islamism, or will it descend into extremist ideology? This is the question that sits at the center of the battle for the soul of Pakistan.

The problem is the allure the extremists offer. They promise honest and robust institutions to a population that deals with rampant corruption everyday. That is why the fight in Pakistan
cannot be won through arms alone. The U.S. must partner with the Pakistani military to root out extremists. We cannot allow Pakistan and its nuclear weapons to come under the control of a theology that relegates women to servitude, forestalls education, decimates tolerance, and encourages violence.

Yet there is a limit to how long Pakistanis will tolerate civilian casualties and refugee camps for the sake of a corrupt government. If you build a sand castle on the water line, it doesn't matter how well it's built: high tide will sweep it away. We can partner with the Pakistani military to sweep away insurgents, but unless we help Pakistan build credible institutions, extremists will rush right back in. Until we make that happen, the abyss Pakistan is perched upon will only grow deeper.

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Jack Bauer had nothing to do with it

By Creature

As it becomes increasingly clear that Dick Cheney ordered detainees to be tortured not because there was a time-bomb ticking somewhere in America, as the torture apologist are so fond to argue, but because he was trying to justify his illegal war against Saddam Hussein by coercing a confession about Saddam's ties with al-Qaeda, Steve Benen asks the right question: "Are the same torture apologists we've heard from lately willing to also accept "extracting false confessions" as a reasonable justification?"

This is the question that must be asked to all apologists moving forward. Not only will the answer prove interesting, especially from Dick Cheney, but it will keep the real reason why the Bush administration tortured at the forefront. Right now the absurd ticking-time-bomb excuse is winning the argument. That argument needs to be shifted to a playing field that isn't based upon a cheap Hollywood plot point.

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Roberta McCain slams Dear Leader Rush

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What's going on with the McCain Family? While Senator John continues to play the faux maverick, some of his closest relatives are speaking out, aggressively, against the various right-wing demagogues and ideologues who have taken over their beloved GOP. First it was Daughter Meghan, who took on Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Cheney/Rove, and, more broadly, the extremism that dominates the party. (In response, John acted like a jerk, implying that he disagrees with his daughter and otherwise dismissing her views as a difference of opinion). And now it's 97-year-old Mother Roberta, who, on The Tonight Show on Wednesday, took on no less a towering giant than Rush Limbaugh:

I belong to the Republican Party. What he represents of the Republican Party has nothing to do with my side of it. I don't know what the man means, I don't know what he's talking about.

Of course, this is, in part, a mother standing up for her child. Rush hates John, and so Roberta's maternal juices flow with full force.

Otherwise, it's not clear what Roberta's "side" of the Republican Party is. John's side? (But John doesn't really have a side. He is what he needs to be at any given moment.) The moderate side? (But what is left of moderate Republicanism?) If Roberta doesn't know what Rush means, and what he's talking about, then she just doesn't know much about her party. It's like she belongs to, or delusionally wants to belong to, a Republican Party that doesn't exist anymore. I appreciate the nostalgia -- yes, things used to be different -- but the current Republican reality is all about Rush and Sean and Ann and Glenn and the rest of that extremist ilk. John knows this. Should he not have a little talk with his mom about her political, er, misunderstanding?

But why pick on Roberta? She's 97 years old. And still admirably feisty.

And while the Republican Party may have passed her by, now a right-wing party that isn't quite what it used to be, her disgust, rightly directed at Dear Leader Rush, is understandable, and much appreciated.

It won't, but it should give some pause to Republicans that even McCain's mother, a loyal partisan, finds herself on the outside looking in, angry, frustrated, and alienated, aghast at what the party has become.

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The ticking time bomb

By Mustang Bobby

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is also a psychiatrist, justifies torture by saying that the ticking time bomb scenario (as in Jack Bauer and 24) is real, gets results, and he uses an example from a case in Israel to bolster his claim.
On Oct. 9, 1994, Israeli Cpl. Nachshon Waxman was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists. The Israelis captured the driver of the car. He was interrogated with methods so brutal that they violated Israel's existing 1987 interrogation guidelines, which themselves were revoked in 1999 by the Israeli Supreme Court as unconscionably harsh. The Israeli prime minister who ordered this enhanced interrogation (as we now say) explained without apology: "If we'd been so careful to follow the [1987] Landau Commission [guidelines], we would never have found out where Waxman was being held."

Who was that prime minister? Yitzhak Rabin, Nobel Peace laureate. The fact that Waxman died in the rescue raid compounds the tragedy but changes nothing of Rabin's moral calculus.

Except his example isn't exactly a ticking time bomb, and the hostage they were trying to rescue ended up dead. Oops.

I'm sure that a lot of torture freaks can come up with other time bomb examples. However, there's one small factor they're leaving out: in none of the justifications for using torture under this scenario have they ever cited a case in the current war situations, either in the 9/11 investigations, the war in Iraq, or the war in Afghanistan, where there has existed such a scenario. As far as anyone can tell, they're all talking theoretically and coming up with extreme situations to make their case: "Terrorists have captured your wife and children and have strapped them to a speeding bus that will blow up if it drops below 50 mph unless you reveal the ingredients to Col. Sanders' secret recipe. You have twenty minutes to get the location of the bus from a captured chicken dinner delivery boy. What then?" And then they use their situational morality to justify it: we were desperate! But has anyone stepped forward to cite a real case that provided actionable evidence that actually prevented something from happening?

Oh, but it might, the defenders of torture say, so therefore we shouldn't tie our hands -- so to speak -- and rule it out. Yeah, and we might get struck by an asteroid, too, or get attacked by the Borg, or by the monster that lives under my bed. So far all we know is that the Bush administration administered torture to try to get the captives to confess to a non-existent link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, and that's just execrable.

It sounds to me that Dr. Krauthammer is just a little too enthusiastic about torture, if you know what I mean. Hey, whatever gets you through the night; some people are into that kind of kink. But I'd really rather not have it be the policy of the United States. Save it for your fetish parties.

(Edited to re-insert a paragraph that was inadvertently dropped in cross-posting.)

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

News alert: Politician tells truth

By Carl

Oh President Obama...:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday told graduates at Arizona State University that he had not done enough in his life to automatically receive an honorary degree.

Here's how to fix that, sir.

Release the torture photos.

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Wednesday that he would fight to prevent the release of photographs documenting abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by United States military personnel, reversing his position on the issue after commanders warned that the images could set off a deadly backlash against American troops.

The administration said last month that it would not oppose the release of the pictures, but Mr. Obama changed his mind after seeing the photographs and getting warnings from top Pentagon officials that the images, taken from the early years of the wars, would “further inflame anti-American opinion” and endanger troops in two war zones.

As if.

Look, Mr President, by diddling with this decision, you're allowing an opportunity for Al Qaaeda and other religious extremists (including the right-wing nutjobs in this country) to awfulize the photos, to give them mythic status and to talk to the un- and underinformed based solely on rumour and innuendo.

As for our troops in harm's way, well, most of them shouldn't even have been there in the first place, and I think it's incumbent on the people whose boots are on the ground to make amends. My understanding is, ever since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, that's precisely what some troops have done. Those troops will not be in harm's way.

Neither will troops who have legitimate cause to be in country, such as the ones in Afghanistan who are actively hunting down Taliban and Al Qaeda forces who would re-enslave the people of that nation. Those folks will be grateful, and my suspicion is they'll have a more flexible empathy for the position American troops have been put in by your predecessor.

Yes, some troops WILL face more violence, of that you can be sure, but likely those inflamed tensions would have used any spark to light.

Meanwhile, our history shows that the American public is least served by the administration that hides and cowers behind the skirts of public opinion.

Courageous behavior, sir, is lacking in your administration. It's time you man up (maybe put Hillary in charge of this, if you don't have the stones) and take responsibility for what this nation has done to innocent civilians from other countries.

That's the American way.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Who's misleading?

By Mustang Bobby

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the CIA misled her about the techniques used to interrogate terror suspects:

In her first public comments on the matter since an intelligence report contradicted her recollections, Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters today that she was never told about the fact that waterboarding had been used on a terrorist suspect, even though terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded a month before she was briefed on the subject in Sept. 2002.

“The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed,” Pelosi said, reading from a prepared statement. “Those briefing me in Sept. 2002 gave me inaccurate and incomplete information.”

“At the same time, the Bush administration was misleading the American people about the threats of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” she added. “The CIA was misleading the Congress. At the same time, the administration was misleading the Congress on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

The usual suspects took turns expressing their outrage, including Sen. Joe Lieberman (?-CT) and, of course, the ever-outraged House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who came to the defense of the intelligence community:

Either I don't have confidence in what they told me several months ago or I don't have confidence in what they're telling me today.

Oh, wait, I'm sorry; that's what he told Wolf Blitzer on CNN in December 2007. Here's what he said today:

It's clear to all of us, Democrats and Republicans, that we have flawed intelligence. The CIA have bad intelligence, the Pentagon had bad intelligence and, for that matter, all of our allies around the world had the same bad intelligence. And so that's why Republicans voted to set up the National Intelligence Directorate to reform our intelligence activities.

Oops, wrong again. That was from Meet the Press in February 2007. Hang on... Okay, here's what he really said today, now that the president and CIA director are Democrats:

I've dealt with our intelligence professionals for the last three-and-a-half years on an almost daily basis, and it's hard for me to imagine that our intelligence area would ever mislead a member of Congress.

Yeah, apparently it's hard for him imagine that he'd ever be such a flaming hypocrite either.

H/T to Media Matters.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Worst Democrat of the Day: Ben Nelson

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, it's a new series here at The Reaction. We focus heavily on the inanity, insanity, and idiocy of Republicans, but there are more than a few Democrats who deserve much the same treatment, not least because they are, or claim to be, Democrats. (Which is to say, you can and should expect inanity, insanity, and idiocy from the other side. When it comes from our side, it's rather more disturbing.)


The inaugural WDD is...

Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. HuffPo's Ryan Grim has the details of Nelson's terribleness:

Sen. Ben Nelson announced at the beginning of this month that he opposed the creation of a public health care plan that people would have the option to buy into. He'd be gathering together a coalition of like-minded senators to oppose the plan, the conservative Democrat from Nebraska promised.

More than two weeks later, it's still a coalition of one.

Since Nelson's announcement, eight moderate Democrats and one Republican have told the Huffington Post that they are open to a public health care option. Two others, Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.), have signed on to the idea.

Last week, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said they were open to a public plan but undecided. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) said much the same in a letter to the advocacy group Health Care for America Now.

Add more names to the list of those open to a public option: Jon Tester (Mont.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.).

That's right, Nelson is pretty much alone among Democrats, with a couple of moderate Republicans (and there are only a few anyway) siding with the Democrats. Which means that Nelson, a Democrat, loosely speaking, is solidly Republican, conservative Republican, on one of the central issues of our time.

I don't support ideological purification in the party, and I don't support any sort of purge -- that's what the other side is up to -- but how is it that Nelson is still a Democrat? Right, because he's from Nebraska, and you pretty much have to be a Republican to get elected as a Democrat there.

Still, that doesn't make it much better. The "D" after his name may come in handy from time to time, but, when it matters, as it certainly does on this key issue, Nelson can hardly be counted not just to vote with his party but to do what is right.

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Obama, the detainee abuse photos, and the need to own up to the truth

By Michael J.W. Stickings

While I don't appreciate the reversal -- yes, they should be released, uh, no, they shouldn't -- I respect Obama's position on the as-yet-unreleased photos of detainee abuse/torture, and I understand that, if released, they could endanger U.S. troops overseas (and further destroy America's credibility in the Muslim world -- not that there's much left):

The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.

Still, I think it's wrong not to release them. Americans deserve to know the truth about what happened, and, in this case, even a single photo is worth far more than a thousand words.

And I also think Andrew Sullivan's response to Obama's excuse -- which ought to be read in full -- is right on target:

It's understandable that releasing new evidence of the widespread torture and abuse policy of Bush and Cheney, including techniques that were tailored specifically against Muslims, could inflame the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the two newest military theaters for the US. On the brink of what may be a brutal summer in all theaters in a war whose purpose is now opaque, one can understand the caution, and there is no reason to doubt the genuine worries of commanders in the field. But it is important to remember that it is the abuse that inflames, not the accounting of the abuse. And for Obama to act as an extension of the Bush era of secrecy is potentially more damaging to the US and its interests and servicemembers. He risks looking like Bush's continuation, not a clear caesura. That does not help the war, although the loathing of America in Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan is so intense it is hard to see how anything could make it worse.

That's part of what's so bad about this: Obama looks a lot like Bush, hiding the truth from public view. What is needed is not just an extensive investigation of what happened on Bush's watch but a public airing of the results both of that investigation and of all the available evidence as well as a robust effort to raise public awareness of what happened. The photos are no doubt extremely disturbing -- and for that reason they ought to be released with as little sensationalism as possible, as an effort to inform and educate, not to titillate, and hence it should be incumbent upon Obama himself to explain their value and the need for them to be released -- but it seems to me that some disturbing is just what is needed in the wake of such appalling abuse. Aside from contributing to public awareness, releasing the photos would show the world, including the Muslim world, that the U.S. is now serious about confronting the ugliness of its recent past in a serious and meaningful way.

Obama has a point, yes, but it is overwhelmingly outweighed by the need to open up to -- and own up to -- the truth.

For more reaction to Obama's reversal, see Memeorandum.

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Ugly is as ugly thinks

By Capt. Fogg

This is still America, the discomfiture of the Republican Party notwithstanding, and so no triviality, no irrelevant, inconsequential or plainly idiotic dispute is going to go away without the final word being had by our ad hoc committee on the meaning of everything. The current committee heads seem to be Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher.

As the swells slowly die down on that limitless sea of Who Gives A Shit, we can hear the voice of Mrs. Palin (perhaps all the way to Russia) telling us that:

Our Constitution protects us all, not just those who agree with the far left.

Saving the discussion of just what, to her, constitutes the "far left" for another paragraph, it might be worthwhile to wonder just what protection it offers from the superstition and bigotry of those who listen to psychotic monsters like Pastor "death to witches" Muthee. We won't get an answer from her, I'm afraid, but her feelings are clear. The Constitution protects her religious views against the "liberal" onslaught.

It doesn't, of course -- and I have a hard time seeing the First Amendment as protecting someone's standing in a private, for profit beauty pageant, else we'd be hearing a lot of court cases from ladies with big noses, large bottoms and A cups, but that's the Procrustean bed Palin would like to strap the sad case of Carrie Prejean into, as poor a fit as it may be.

Does Sarah care who wins a contest designed to facilitate the commercial self-objectification of young women? I would guess that she is only interested in portraying her as a noble victim of people so un-American as to assert that the Constitution protects everyones rights, including the right to enter into a contract with another, regardless of race, creed, national origin or gender. That's being a farleftliberal, of course; the catchall term for anything that stands in the way of going back to the days when a real estate broker (we didn't have Realtors back then) could refuse to show you a house in a white neighborhood, a Jew couldn't book a hotel room in Palm Beach, schools, restaurants, public parks, drinking fountains train stations and city buses were segregated, marrying someone of the wrong race could land you in jail and non-missionary position sex was a crime -- and all was well with far right neanderthals like Sarah the moose killer and her Cave Christians. All was right with Sarah's Grizzly God.

No, “the liberal onslaught of malicious attacks” as Sarah growled from her wilderness den -- or in other words, the disgust with people like Prejean, Palin and the Plumber dude who want to have the law interfere with private and personal relationships and strip us of the right to determine just who our families are: the Liberal assault is what what we should be concerned about, or at least the losers who run and watch and participate in beauty pageants should be. It's a "onslaught!" We shouldn't notice that in fact nobody is censoring anyone and Sarah the Idiot is confusing equal protection under the law for all citizens with some kind of an outrageous affront to her primitive religious beliefs.

So it seems like Sarah's "far left" is actually the core of American values, at least the values the constitution was meant to be a means to facilitate. It seems like Sarah's center lies in a culture that died out with the "onslaught" of the Age of Enlightenment, if not with the disappearance of woolly mammoths. Far-left liberals like me feel little more than sad, queasiness at the ugly programmed responses of would be beauty queens, and that's about it. Some may be outraged at her, some might hate her, but they are a subgroup as small as Palin's witch hunters. Most of us care more about how our representatives vote and how well our freedom is protected against its atavistic enemies, but ugly words make people ugly, and this is a beauty contest, isn't it?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Sarah Palin, Alaskan chronicler

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you may have heard by now, Sarah Palin, that most literate of Alaska governors, has signed what is likely a massive deal with HarperCollins (h/t: The Plank) to write her much-ballyhooed memoir. (I say massive because, according to reports, the deal is valued at a whopping $11 million. She has called that figure "laughable," but she hasn't offered a correction.)

In an interview on Tuesday, Palin -- who, to me, is profoundly uninteresting (and an object lesson in unironic self-parody) -- said that she will tell her story "unrestrained and unfiltered," which of course is utterly misleading, if not blatantly untruthful. She will undoubtedly filter some unabashedly self-aggrandizing story, one she has delusionally convinced herself is completely true, through the strainer of her unrestrained ego.

And then she offered this glorious nugget:

It will be nice to put my journalism degree to work on this and get to tell my story, Alaska's story.


First, how does her journalism degree -- how long did it take? how many mediocre-to-bad institutions of "higher" learning did she attend along the way? -- qualify her to pen anything other than a puff piece written, generously, at a Grade 5 level? Or does she mean that she will do some Woodstein-like investigative work? Perhaps some new Deep Throat can help her expose the various skeletons that occupy her custom-built walk-in closet.

Second, how is her story Alaska's story? Does she really see them as one and the same? Perhaps, yes, given her egotism -- she is the center of her own imagined universe, after all, and the book will supposedly be an "unfiltered forum to get to speak truthfully about who we are and what we stand for and what Alaska is all about" -- but the thought of her as some sort of Alaskan Homer is nothing if not outrageously ridiculous.

I look forward to finding piles upon discarded piles of Barracuda: The Untold Story, or whatever the hell she intends to call it, in the remainder bin at my local mega-bookstore.

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The photos

By Creature

I am disappointed that the president has decided not to release the additional detainee abuse photos. However, I'm more disappointed that he used the "few bad apples" excuse as part of his reasoning. It was not a small number of individuals. It was a well thought out program of abuse ordered from the highest levels of our government. To characterize it in any other way is dishonest and, again, disappointing.

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Foreclosures way, way up in April

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Just how bad is the economy? Just how bad is it out there for homeowners? Judging by the latest numbers, it's really bad, and getting worse:

Foreclosures in April exceeded even March's blistering pace with a record 342,000 homes receiving notices of default, auction notices or undergoing bank repossessions, according to a regular industry report.

One of every 374 U.S. homes received a filing during the month, the highest monthly rate that RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties, has recorded in four-plus years of record keeping.

"April was a shocker," said Rick Sharga, a spokesman for RealtyTrac. "I would have bet on a dip because March foreclosures were so high."

Instead, filings inched up 1% from March and rose 32% compared to April 2008.

There were 63,900 bank repossessions, the last stop in the foreclosure process. More than 1.3 million homes have now been lost to foreclosure since the market meltdown began in August 2007.

The increasing foreclosures will force RealtyTrac to rethink its forecasts, according to Sharga. "We had been predicting 3.4 million filings for the year," he said, "but we'll blow those numbers out of the water."

Those are some enormous numbers, and they signify the sheer enormity of the crisis, but remember, for each foreclosure -- for each of the 63,900 repossessions, for each of the expected millions of foreclosures -- living, breathing human beings are involved. Real people -- individuals, families -- are losing their homes.

Yes, some people made some bad choices along the way, to be sure, and, to an extent, this crisis amounts to a correction, a necessary if painful correction, a sudden imposition of reality, the exposure and elimination of the unrealistic and unsustainable, but it cannot be denied that people, millions of them, are struggling and suffering to make ends meet, if they can make them meet at all, some without roofs over their heads.

And, when it comes to bad choices, what about the lenders themselves, the banks and other institutions that saw an opening for massive profiteering and took it, luring those without adequate means into mortgages they couldn't possibly afford, propagandizing about home ownership while bleeding their clients dry?

While these lenders are being bailed out, though, the people who have lost their homes are stuck, given the state of the economy, is a largely hopeless situation. What are they to do? Some will readjust and get through this, but the ongoing difficulties for many will continue to be overwhelming.

And there is much, much more to come.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And go where?

By Mustang Bobby

Via rubber hose, who read it at Matthew Yglesias' blog, Richard Posner, a judge who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, is wondering where conservative intellectuals can go now:

The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.

By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party.

As 'noz points out, the prevailing wisdom is that you can't win a Republican primary without appealing to the Palin/Plumber base -- the Florida and Pennsylvania Republican Senate primaries next year should be good tests of that theory -- and you can't win the general election if all you appeal to is the Palin/Plumber base. Add to that the purging of the moderates from the GOP at the behest of Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh, and you're on the fast track to Loserville.

Far be it from me to argue with the learned judge, but I would say that conservative intellectuals have basically been without a party since the election of 1968 when they decided that it was better to rule than to govern.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Note to dead old white guy

By Carl

You had your chance, you killed 3,000 Americans on American soil and another 5,000 in unnecessary wars.
Please go away:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney may have largely stayed under the radar during his time in the Bush administration, but he is not going softly into that good night, seemingly launching a one-man campaign to fight for his legacy and -- in his view -- the safety of the nation.

"Legacy"... funny word that. No doubt you were privvy to the contents of the August 6, 2001 PDB. Maybe you recall the bloody title?

Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.

Nothing says "safe" like ignoring a warning!

Did anyone else die in terror attacks on American soil since September 11? Frankly no. But no one can know if that's due to your *koffkoff* tireless efforts, or merely because al Qaeda et al shot their wad on 9/11 and it took them years to arm up again.

Indeed, I'd absolutely lay money on the latter because of the posturing you guys did. Keeping in touch with your inner adolescence, you and your Bush administration cronies acted like a bunch of pre-teen hoodlums outside the polar bear enclave at the zoo, teasing and harassing the animals, knowing full well that the next person in the know, the adults?...would have to deal with an angry bear.

Yeah. Brave. That pretty much sums up the level of courage you and Bush the Immature showed in the past eight years.

Dick, and I call you that because it's your name and not necessarily because I think it describes you to a T, your heart stopped decades ago.

Follow suit, mmmmmmmmmmmmmK?

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Dear Oprah, please shut up about your fucking private jet

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Oprah, astonishingly tone-deaf, to Duke's graduating class:

It's great to have a nice home. It's great to have nice homes! It's great to have a nice home that just escaped the fire in Santa Barbara. It's great to have a private jet. Anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn't great is lying to you.

Yeah, okay, sure. I've enjoyed some luxuries, too -- nice homes, nice cars, nice restaurants, foreign travel, and the like (if not quite on Oprah's scale) -- and, yes, they can be great. But, seriously, this is what she says during this time of economic crisis? That's it's great to have a private jet? Well, isn't it also great to be able to put food on the table, pay your bills, and send your kids to college?

Given how many people are losing their jobs, not to mention their "wealth," one would expect a mega-celebrity who dabbles daily in stories of suffering to show a bit more, er, sensitivity. Sure, she talked about helping people, but, for her, helping others is really about achieving a greater degree of success for yourself. Like everything else about the self-obsessed Oprah, in other words, her philanthropy is fundamentally selfish. It's all about her: I help other people; therefore, I am a good and successful and deserving person, and so I can fly around in my private jet with a clear conscience.

Well, isn't that fucking awesome?

Robert Frank of the WSJ, to whom I link above, praises Oprah, as you might expect, for being so honest. Well, it was honesty, I suppose, but it wasn't just the honesty of the shameless rich (Dennis Kozlowski comes to mind), it was the honesty of the self-absorbed egotist, the honesty of the self-deifier.

And what she reveals here is that she cares primarily about herself, not those she claims to help, or want to help. And yet why do so many people like her and adore her? Why is she so popular? Perhaps because she plays the part of the daytime cult of personality so well, because she oozes caring even as, beneath that veneer, she cares only about herself -- and her homes, and her jet, and everything else she has surrounded herself with, everything else she has bought. Her adorers buy the books she recommends and the various products she hocks (for she is all about the shameless product placement) and hang on her every word. They want to be like her, to be similarly good and successful and deserving, and to have the homes and the jet, for she is the embodiment of their dream, of the American Dream generally, conspicuous consumption with a conscience, happiness as material excess, the salvation of the soul reflected in wealth too vast to imagine.

The Gospel of Oprah is about the material and spiritual salvation of Oprah. It's all so thoroughly disgusting at this time of economic crisis, with so many people losing their homes and their jobs, their own dreams shattered, but it isn't any better even when things are going well. I'm sure it's great, in a way, to have a private jet, and to be able to afford to do whatever the hell you want whenever the hell you want, not to mention to have a massive ego trip of a TV show (where she can show off just how good and successful and deserving she is), but Oprah can take hers and shove it up her me-first righteousness.

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More GOP dumb

By Creature

Roger Simon:

A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the "Democrat Socialist Party."

Beyond the obvious grasping-at-straws feeling to this, I can't help but think the GOP would be better off just laying low. All this name calling and general hysteria is reinforcing their in-the-wilderness reality for the American people. Do they not realize the country is trending Democratic in a big way and, if you consider being called a socialist an insult, they are insulting about 70% of the population who have turned their backs on anything Republican? Seriously, if they kept their heads low and their rhetoric lower they'd have a much better chance and winning some voters back to their side.

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New York Assembly passes same-sex marriage legislation

By Michael J.W. Stickings

About a month ago, I posted, with enthusiastic praise, on New York Governor David Paterson's intention to introduce legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. Well, the legislation was introduced, and yesterday it passed its first major hurdle:

The State Assembly approved legislation on Tuesday night that would make New York the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage — a pivotal vote that shifts the debate to the State Senate, where gay rights advocates and conservative groups alike are redoubling their efforts.

In a sign of how opinion in Albany has shifted on the issue, several members of the Assembly who voted against the measure in 2007 voted in favor of it on Tuesday.

The final vote was 89 to 52, including the backing of five Republicans.

It's now on to the Senate, with the battle between supporters and opponents across the state hardening. What is clear, though, is that the trend in New York is in the right direction, with support for the legalization of same-sex marriage expanding. We see this elsewhere, too. Just a few years ago, let alone a decade or two ago, legalization even in mostly liberal states was simply not on the table.

But America has changed for the better, and is changing still, and now, at long last, the state-approved bigotry that has kept gays and lesbians apart from their fellow citizens, and that has denied them their civil rights, is being rolled back and, one hopes, obliterated. There is still such bigotry out there, of course, in the hearts and minds of many, as well as in the laws of states from coast to coast, but at least, at the very least, states like New York are leading the way into a more just future.

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Quote of the Day: Jesse Ventura on Cheney and torture

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you missed it, former wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura was on Larry King the other night, and, facing Larry's typically inane questioning, he had some pretty interesting things to say about waterboarding, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and the Republican Party.

On waterboarding, he was clear: "It's torture." And:

It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

You know what? Cheney's such a big fan of what is euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation," why not let Ventura -- a Navy SEAL who went through the military's notorious SERE program (and who was subjected to waterboarding as part of his training), have a go at him?

Why not let him have a go at all the other torture enthusiasts as well? Should they not know first-hand just what it is they're so enthusiastic about, not least because of the immense damage they've done to the Constitution and the rule of law, as well as to America's credibility and moral standing? They say it isn't torture, or that it's a necessary plank in the war on terror, that it's a useful weapon no matter what you call it. Well, let them experience it, suffer, and report back. I suspect that Ventura's right.


Larry King also asked Ventura about Cheney specifically. His response:

I don't have a lot of respect for Dick Cheney. Here's a guy who got five deferments from the Vietnam War. Clearly, he's a coward. He wouldn't go when it was his time to go. And now he is a chicken hawk. Now he is this big tough guy who wants this hardcore policy. And he's the guy that sanctioned all this torture by calling it enhanced interrogation.

And about whether Limbaugh is "a better Republican than Colin Powell." His response:

No, not at all. In fact, if you compare the two, let's look at Colin Powell, who's a war hero, who strapped it on for his country, and didn't run and hide... And then you look at Dick Cheney who ran and hid. I have no respect for Dick Cheney. I have tremendous respect for General Powell.

That's some sound, straightforward commentary from a guy known for his unabashed bluntness, as well as for his independence. He was in top form the other night, and he spoke the truth.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Headlines that make you do a double-take

By Carl

Every once in a while, a string of headlines pops up on the radar that make it impossible to blog properly.

Conservatives may buck Charlie Crist
Moderate right-wing Republican Charlie Crist, often rumoured to be, well, not strictly heterosexual, has announced for the Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez of Florida.

One wonders if the editor at Politico was being coy.

Actor Gary Sinise floated as possible GOP savior
Well, hiring a washed up actor worked once before, and since the GOP seems determined to trot out every single dusty old meme in opposition to the Democrats...

Lieberman breaks with Cheney: ‘We’re not less safe’ under Obama.
Truly, a "man bites dog" moment in recent politics.

Jon Stewart to Make History Special
The man who raised faux news to an art form has set his sights on completing what he started with his book: a faux history.

It's going to be hard to top
Mel Brooks, Jon.

California shortfall $21.3 billion if measures fail
People who were surprised by the defeat of Proposition 8 allowing for same-sex marriages have not been paying attention the California electorate, I'm sad to say. However, the conservative streak that runs strongly away from the coastline is about to come home to roost, as this budget shortfall almost surely means the repeal that most noxious of
"tax cutting" propositions, 13.

Police arrest NJ man in college popcorn prank in Connecticut
You'd better go read this one.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Should a black dog wear a white dress?

By Capt. Fogg

If you allow this, then you will not be able to disallow it and it will lead to that which will inevitably lead to that and then that. Got it?

Therefore, if we allow women to vote, we'll soon have to allow inferior races to vote and then who is to say we won't have to allow dogs to vote and then chickens and down all the phylae to protozoa. Imagine having to design a voting machine for an amoeba? Those stupid liberals!!

In a Slippery Slope Argument, a sequence of increasingly unacceptable consequences is offered as stepping stones to hell. You'll find it listed under Fallacies of Distraction and you'll find it on the tongues of Fox opinionators like Bill O'Reilly and without the slightest embarrassment, it seems.

So of course allowing (as though you had the right to disallow it) people of the same sex to enter into a marriage contract will absolutely and inevitably lead to people demanding to marry earthworms. It's a testament to American stupidity that anyone would fail to see this as an unfounded assertion, but then, the foundation of the American Stupidity Culture and Fox News' prosperity is this very inability.

Of course, just as Zeno can be invoked to prove we can't get there from here, the Slippery Slope can be invoked with similar illogic to prove we will all go to hell without guidance from traditional things like bigotry and Bill O'Reilly.

The fool asks why, if human beings can enter into a contract without prejudice as to their gender, why not animals? The wise man simply tells him he's an idiot because animals are not human beings, cannot enter into any contracts at all, and the constitution guarantees equal protection under the law only to humans in the first place. The fool doesn't understand and turns to Fox and the Churches who make him feel better by telling him God loves fools and all those other people are heretics and liberals.

Bill is there to tell the bottom third that if we allow gay marriage, you'd better buy a white dress for your parakeet, and they would rather believe that than believe they're ignorant idiots a parakeet wouldn't want to marry in the first place.

I'm tempted to think that in some cases, it might actually help the gene pool.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Graham denies torture briefing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This -- from Greg Sargent -- is very, very interesting:

Former Senator Bob Graham, who received a classified briefing on terror detainees during the same month in the fall of 2002 as Nancy Pelosi, was not briefed about the use of either waterboarding or enhanced interrogation techniques during the meeting, he claimed in an interview with me.

Graham's assertion — his first public comments since the
release of the intelligence document detailing torture briefings given to members of Congress — directly contradicts the document's claim that he had been briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques, or EITs. Graham is now the second Dem official to deny on the record the document's contents and raises questions about its claim that Pelosi had been told, which she has denied.

"I do not have any recollection of being briefed on waterboarding or other forms of extraordinary interrogation techniques, or Abu Zubaydah being subjected to them," Graham told me by phone moments ago, in a reference to the terror suspect who had been repeatedly waterboarded the month before.

Graham is the only other Dem aside from Pelosi to get briefed in 2002, so they are both in effect asserting that no Dem was briefed on the use of EITs that year.

The other side -- the pro-torture enthusiasts -- are defending themselves in part by claiming that top Democrats knew what was going on and did not intervene. What Graham is saying, though, even more clearly than Pelosi, is that they weren't actually told what was going on, that they were intentionally being kept in the dark.

For more on this, make sure to read Emptywheel: "[T]he big news should be what it always has been -- that the Bush Administration and the CIA did not give the legally required briefing on their covert ops to Congress."

And why didn't they? Because they were up to something not just controversial but illegal.

Judge them accordingly.

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