Saturday, August 08, 2009

Trig in 2012!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Remember, one of the reasons The Wasilla Whiz Kid bailed out of her job, was that the Lefty Communist Socialist Media was picking on her children, and, that they needed to "quit makin' things up".

John Amato, over on Crooks and Liars, hits it good;

Sarah Palin says Obama's health care will kill her Down Syndrome baby

I've heard a lot of disgusting stuff coming out of the mouths of the Zombie Plumbers, but Sarah Palin has become the Zombie Queen with this one. She sure likes her FaceBook page.

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Okay, here's what is going to come down;
The PartyofNoicans (what is left of them, after the great 2011 ethnic-style-cleansing by Michelle Malkin's, Glen Beck's, and Sean Hannity's Flying Monkeys - or maybe, just Chuck Norris) nominate Trig in 2012 (They will ignore, and relentlessly beat down anyone who complains, the 35-year-old minimum age), who chooses his mother as running mate ... Trig wins in a landslide (thanks to the armed patrols of Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Beck listeners, supported by the Arizona Minutemen, ringing the polling sites) and the first order of business is to pass legislation, making it a Federal Crime to mention him, or any of his brothers and sisters, punishable by instant death (Malkin, Beck, all of Faux News, Little Billy Kristol and NR, Townhall, Hugh Hewitt and the Cheeseburger That Sweats [H/T Barry Crimmins] are all grandfathered in as exemptions).

Trig then resigns (tests later show, it's in the DNA), handing the reigns over to Ms. Ya'Bet'cha, who picks Michelle Bachmann for VP, and we begin the 2+-year purge of all the Communists and Socialists in Congress, and, the entire deficit is wiped out by selling all our borders to Lou Dobbs..

The First Amendment is tossed away, and the 2nd Amendment, with loads of revisions, becomes the 1st Amendment.

Remarkably, Palin sits for the eight-years, and is succeeded, not by Bachmann, but by Governor Gaucho's new Argentinian wife (the Birthers shift gears, and produce thousands of birth certificates to show Maria Belen Chapur was born in the USA)

Any Independent, or Democrat (and some moderate Republicans), that haven't been killed off, are exiled, and shipped to France.

Oh yeah, and Freedom Fries are brought back.

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Feeding the birds

By Capt. Fogg

We had only a jumble of disconnected phrases from which to discern Sarah Palin's plans for the future and a possible reason for her abandonment of the governorship of Alaska. We have a few more complete and coherent sentences from Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez but probably no better idea of why he's walking away and where he's going. "Feeding the birds" is the clearest hint he's given us of his plans.

I wouldn't blame anyone for not being aware that a US senator from a large state spontaneously resigned yesterday. The press has been otherwise occupied with trying to make it less obvious that Big Pharma and the Republicans are trying to disrupt any rational discussion of health care reform using violence and intimidation and symbols and tactics of the Third Reich. Martinez tries hard to emphasize however that it is indeed spontaneous and of his "own free will" and nobody is pressuring him. That he brings up that strange notion, rather suggests that someone is.

It will be up to Governor Charlie Crist to replace Mr. Martinez, but Crist will be leaving the governorship to run for senator himself and so isn't going to be motivated to replace him with anyone unbeatable -- which is a nice but unavoidable conflict of interest.

On a more local level, my state representative, Ken Pruitt, recently resigned "for family and financial reasons." As Pruitt wasn't shy about endorsing the fundamentalist agenda, I'm not sorry to see him go, even though I have to wonder what the family and financial problems were and what improprieties might be involved. Of course, his replacement is no less fond of government support of Christian institutions and the first thing one notices about him is his striking lack of intelligence, but one has to expect that in Florida.

But something is happening here, and neither I nor Mr. Jones knows what the hell it is.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Friday, August 07, 2009

The Reaction in review (August 7, 2009)

By Carol Gee

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

Good News --
Now that he is back home after vacation, you can follow our esteemed Editor, Michael J.W. Stickings on Twitter, via a link at The Reaction website. Thanking Creature for minding the store in his absence, here is the. . .

Creature Feature -- Ten succinct posts run the gamut from "Death Panel," making Creature "want to disconnect completely," to "Not a bad week" indeed, for the President. Somewhere in between Creature was fighting the teabaggers, criticizing Michelle Malkin, looking for an outlet, watching the polls, and wishing for a single-payer form of health care.


By (O)CT(O)PUS: "I have seen the enemy: America's mega-corporations and their media shills" -- "The author's self-described "diatribe" asserts that "the hooligans have taken over; the corporations have won," citing news that CNN refused to run an ad critical of the insurance industry. See also, Michael on CNN.

By Mustang Bobby: "Sen. Martinez to resign" -- Bobby, a Floridian, offers a very good analysis of what could likely happen in the 2010 U.S. Senatorial race.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Stop the fearmongering" -- Michael firmly corrects any assertion that the White House would set up an enemies list of dissenters, noting that the project is actually a campaign to rebut lies.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "John Hughes (1950-2009)" -- Michael is one of the best when it comes to tributes to his favorites who have passed on; this warm and very knowledgeable obit is no exception.


By (O)CT(O)PUS: "How astroturfing and town-hall hooliganism will destroy American democracy" -- Our beachcomber-contributor worries that "we are reaching a tipping point where we lose both" the two sides of the coin, "freedom and responsibility."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "How the conservative critics of Clinton's trip to North Korea are both heartless and stupid" -- Point by point, Michael's fine post argues against the right's (Krauthammer, Bolton and Morris for example) unfair responses to Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Senate confirms Sotomayor, Republicans commit mass seppuku on Capitol steps" -- Michael analyzes the reasons for our new Justice's rather easy confirmation vote, concluding that President Obama had a "remarkably good week" despite his falling poll numbers.

By Carol Gee: "This week's Senate update" -- A roundup of Senate action on confirmation of nominees, health care reform, emerging political news, and the outlook for recess activities.


By Capt. Fogg: "The quiet American" -- The Captain effectively takes on former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, for his "pathetic and childish and disgusting and embarrassing" criticism of President Clinton's successful mission to North Korea. See also Carl's wonderful: "The Big Dawg!"


By Carl: "Choices and decisions" -- Carl humbly asks his readers to "forgive the indulgence" of his (wonderfully warm and insightful) "thought piece" on choices, in which he rightly asserts that "you act upon those things you love."

By Capt. Fogg: "Birthers, believers and bananas" -- Fogg's excellent post concludes, ". . . for the bigots, for the believers, for the people who equate fact and reason, law and decency with fascism. . . If it feels good believe it. If challenged by the facts. . . never give up, never surrender, never stop hating."


By Mustang Bobby: "Kristol channeling" -- Bobby' great post asserts that NYT columnist Ross Douthat compares favorably to William Kristol, when it comes to gross generalizations and silly comparisons between Repubs and Dems, contrasting Texas with California. See also, Going South.

By Carl: "Plagues and pestilence" -- Carl skillfully surveys the latest "nasty bugs" and a new strain of HIV, concluding that "things are a bit scary."

By Carol Gee: "The future of health care reform" -- A set of predictions regarding what is likely to happen legislatively by the end of the year, citing political news sources and offering personal opinions.


By J. Thomas Duffy: "The tsunami to come" -- Incomparable Duffy is not going to buy the Michael Jackson Lithographs, at any price.

(Cross-posted at Behind the Links.)

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"Death Panel"

By Creature

This today from our almost-vice president:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

It's shit like this that has me wanting to disconnect completely. I just can't take the lies.

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Not a bad week

By Creature

Yes, it was a pretty good week for the president.

The president's remarks today help cap what's been a pretty good week for the White House. Isaac Chotiner noted this morning that "in the face of declining poll numbers and stalled health care negotiations," the president has seen some encouraging developments this week. Today's improved unemployment numbers are part of it, as are the death of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, the renewal of the "cash for clunkers" program, the release of two American journalists from North Korea.

The polls are looking a little better, public confidence is looking a letter stronger, and his most rabid critics have spent the week embarrassing themselves with thuggish tactics.

Not a bad week.


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I have seen the enemy: America's mega-corporations and their media shills


Before Octopus inks the aquarium, let me start this diatribe with a quote from Noam Chomsky:

Personally I'm in favor of democracy, which means that the central institutions in the society have to be under popular control. Now, under capitalism we can't have democracy by definition. Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think of it in political terms, fascist; that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level (…) Just as I'm opposed to political fascism, I'm opposed to economic fascism. I think that until major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it's pointless to talk about democracy.

Before the seas turn black from enraged cephalopod ink, let me quote myself from this comment thread under Capt. Fogg’s recent post, Regulation is bad for business:

All too often we forget that cable news is a product of media conglomerates … in other words “corporatists” … that depend upon other corporations for their advertising revenues. Thus, our news services do not serve the interests of citizens and voters, merely the interests of corporate advertisers.

Here is what happened -- CNN Refusing To Run Health Care Ad Critical Of Insurance Industry:

Americans United for Change [UAC], a top White House ally in the health care wars, tried to book time on CNN and MSNBC for the ad, which hits the insurance industry for wanting to preserve the status quo and levels harsh criticism at insurance giant Cigna’s CEO, Ed Hanway.

“Why do insurance companies and Republicans want to kill health insurance reform? Because they like things the way they are now,” the ad says, and then slams Hanway’s annual salary of over $12 million and golden parachute retirement package of over $70 million.

Jeremy Funk, the spokesperson for AUC, points out that CNN would be more than willing to accept paid advertising from Cigna; yet CNN turns down paid advertising critical of the company for their role in trying to kill health insurance reform.

See where I am going? Last year, we worked hard to elect a new president who promised change, who promised healthcare reform, who promised investments in alternative energy to free us from dependence on OPEC.

This year, the Empire strikes back. Our health management insurers want to protect their greedy franchises. Our fossil fuel suppliers want to preserve their filthy energy infrastructure. Corporations don’t vote but citizens do. Yet, corporations have the means to manipulate public opinion, and there are always idiots ready and willing to oblige.

Manipulating public opinion is easy … when you are the CEO of a corporation and have money and lobbyists and crooked politicians in your pocket ... and an ignorant electorate are all too willing to sell themselves short, sell-out their own interests, and serve as sycophants on behalf of their corporate masters.

Corporations need not dirty themselves when they can hire proxies like Dick Armey to do their dirty work, when their proxies can recruit goons, malcontents, and nut jobs to stifle public debate. This is how corporations assert their interests, nullify the popular will, and derail democracy.

The hooligans have taken over; the corporations have won. The American experiment in democracy is dead. Does anyone reading this diatribe doubt what I say?

(Cross-posted at
The Swash Zone.)

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Fighting the Teabaggers

By Creature

Sure the logical argument to confront these Teabaggers with is Medicare. It's socialized, they use it, and wouldn't want to lose it. But they are also being hammered with the message that Medicare is bankrupt. So, despite their own positive experience of it, they still think it's a failure. The bigger problem here is a lack of logic (they've turned off that gene) and, even more so, it's that the Teabaggers can't accept that a black man is president.

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Sen. Martinez to resign

By Mustang Bobby

(Update: For more, see CNN. -- MJWS)

From the Miami Herald

TALLAHASSEE -- Sen. Mel Martinez told friends and supporters Friday in an e-mail that he'll step down from the Senate as soon as a replacement is appointed to fill out his term.

''My priorities have always been my faith, my family and my country and at this stage in my life, and after nearly twelve years of public service in Florida and Washington, it's time I return to Florida and my family,'' said Martinez, who had already ruled out a run for re-election in 2010.

In an extraordinary turn of events, Gov. Charlie Crist, the leading Republican to replace Martinez in the U.S. Senate, will have the power to appoint someone to fill the remainder of Martinez's term.

Crist has denied that he'd appoint himself. He's expected to make an announcement on a fill-in before the end of the August recess when the Senate returns to Washington. Some names already surfacing: former Sen. Connie Mack, former Gov. Bob Martinez and former Secretary of State Jim Smith.

Some speculate that Crist might step down as governor, thereby elevating Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who could then appoint Crist to the Senate.

Crist will hold an already scheduled press conference at 2:30 p.m. Martinez will be available for a 3 p.m. press conference.

Here in Miami, I haven't read much more than just what's in the Herald, but my gut tells me that Martinez probably wants out just because he's tired of the shit.

As for Charlie Crist, if he follows the precedent set by Wendell Anderson in Minnesota in 1976, he's asking for oblivion. Gov. Anderson had been hankering after the Senate for a while, and when Walter Mondale, then a senator from Minnesota, became Jimmy Carter's vice president, Anderson resigned so that his Lt. Governor Rudy Perpich, now Gov. Perpich, could then appoint him to Mondale's seat. It screamed of opportunism, and Anderson lost his bid for election for re-election in 1978 to plywood king Rudy Boschwitz. Charlie Crist may have his flaws, but I don't think he's that craven.

I would be really surprised if he appointed someone prominent like Jeb Bush, or someone with ambitions for the full term; perhaps someone retired and basically bland like Clay Shaw. That would keep the race in 2010 open so that he could win the seat in an election and confer an aura of legitimacy on his term.

Stay tuned.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Stop the fearmongering

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Oh, please. The Obama Administration isn't setting up some Orwellian-totalitarian database to keep track of internal enemies of the state, as Byron York is alleging.

There won't be any monitoring of dissent, as Sen. John Cornyn is alleging, nor is there any threat to "free speech and public discourse." And there isn't any "data collection program."

What the White House has launched is a campaign to rebut the various lies -- "misinformation," as Robert Gibbs put it -- that are being viciously hurled about by the right to try to knock down health-care reform.

The fearmongering is yet more evidence of how Republicans operate, following up lies with yet more lies. There is, evidently, no low to which they will not stoop.

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"Punkin' the Birthers: Priceless"

By Michael J.W. Stickings


It's looking more and more like the forged "Kenyan birth certificate" released by Orly Taitz on Sunday was a prank by a supporter of President Obama. Politijab points to an anonymous blogger at FearlessBlogging, who has uploaded four photos of the original forgery and a mocking declaration:

Fine cotton business paper: $11

Inkjet printer: $35

1940 Royal Model KMM manual typewriter: $10

2 Shilling coin: $1

Pilot Varsity fountain pen: $3

Punkin' the Birthers: Priceless

Such gullible morons these "Birthers" are.

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Ben Stein's money

By Capt. Fogg

I have to say I loathe Ben Stein, so I was pleased to hear that The New York Times has fired him for conflict of interest. Dispensing financial advice from the Sunday Business Section while being a spokesman for, which offers free monthly credit reports for only $359, seems reason enough, but of course there was the financial advice itself. Ben gets his prognostications from the same source on Neptune that Jim Cramer does:

I’m writing this on Aug. 13, 2007… the stock market is cheap on a price-earnings basis, profits are fabulous… and in the long run, both here and abroad, stocks are a lovely place to be. [emphasis mine]

That's classic Ben Stein bad advice and bad enough to suggest seppuku to a more honorable man. In fact, it closely mirrors the bad advice of his close friend Cramer and to the point where Stein was willing to tell us all that Jon Stewart had "yelled and cursed" at him when in fact, it was not true. That's classic Ben Stein projection -- or outright lie, if you prefer. I did mention that I loathe him, didn't I?

For anyone who still thinks Ben has ever had much to offer beyond the faux elitism, the wildly dishonest
defense of creationism and enduring belief that Richard Nixon was not a crook, I will refer you to the Ben Stein Watch archives, about to close it's "doors" now that the mission has been accomplished. Let's hope it really has been.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Angry Sanchez: CNN anchor takes on leading health-care reform opponent

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yesterday, I suggested that CNN, hardly a most trusted name, may, with respect to health-care reform, be in bed with Big Insurance. (Say it ain't so! Sanjay Gupta's network would never sell out! Of course not.)



Rick Sanchez.

Who admirably and justifiably, and with the facts at his side, yesterday slammed Rick Scott, a former hospital CEO who's now, predictably enough, one of the leaders of the anti-reform movement.

Watch the video below. One of the highlights:

Some would argue, and it would be hard to say they're wrong, that you would be the poster child for everything that's wrong with the greed that has hurt our current health care system.

Well put, Rick Sanchez. (I realize that he doesn't speak for the network itself, but it's refreshing when the media don't spend all their time spewing right-wing talking points or otherwise resorting to the usual banalities.)

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John Hughes (1950-2009)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

He wasn't a cinematic master, by any means, but he was one of the most distinctive American filmmakers of his generation, and it is indeed difficult to imagine American cinema in the '80s without him.

John Hughes died yesterday at the age of 59.

I was a bit too young, at the time, for his early seminal movies, such as Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), and even Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) and Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), and yet I came to love the last two of those movies a great deal, especially Ferris Bueller, which I would rank among my favourite comedies ever -- I've seen it countless times and never tire of it.

And just consider some of the other movies he didn't direct but wrote, classics of the time like Vacation (1983), Pretty in Pink (1986), and Home Alone (1990) (another movie that, however silly, I never seem to tire of, and that I'll watch whenever I happen upon it on TV).

No, there aren't any great films there -- no one would ever mistake Hughes for Scorsese or Coppola or Lumet -- but he captured, or indeed helped to manufacture, the youth zeitgeist in a way that far exceeded anyone else of that era. Wall Street may be the definitive American movie, if far from the best, of the '80s, in terms of capturing what that decade was all about, but, looking back, Ferris Bueller is as much an icon, and a far more likeable one, as Gordon Gekko. As with so many of Hughes's memorable characters, Bueller is both a product of the time and universal. It was a more innocent time, perhaps, at least in the way Hughes depicted it, but the appeal is precisely that we could all, and can all still, relate to John Hughes's universe.

His work had tailed off badly in the '90s, and he hadn't done much in recent years, but it is to his prime -- 1983-1990 -- that we turn, and it is with sadness that I learned of his death.


Go back and watch -- or re-watch for the umpteenth time -- some of those classics. Hughes influenced so many of today's leading cinematic comedians, like Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith, but his movies still stand tall on their own, these many years later.

To quote Ferris: "Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself."

There, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of John Hughes, the essence of the movies of our youth.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Senate confirms Sotomayor, Republicans commit mass seppuku on Capitol steps

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Alright, I made that last part up. While conservatives shot a few loads Sotomayor's way in a smear campaign that was racist and personal -- she's an affirmative action case, she's not up for the job -- most Republicans kept their fire to themselves, even if most of them in the Senate voted against her. (Even Mitch McConnell said some rather nice things about her, before falling back on the silly notion that her "personal" and "political" agenda prevents her from being a fair judge, as if it is possible for anyone not to have personal/political preferences -- even neutrality, strictly speaking, constitutes an agenda. For more on this, see my lengthy critique of this conservative view.)

This afternoon, the Senate voted 68-31 in support of confirmation. (Only Ted Kennedy, alas, a man who has done so much to promote racial equality and a just society did not vote, given his poor health.)

The fact is, she was a solid nominee, with an impeccable record and distinguished credentials, and there wasn't anything Republicans could do to prevent her from being confirmed. What's more, the risk of further alienating Hispanics was simply too great. Republicans have already burned so many bridges beyond their narrow right-wing base, but attacking her too vociferously, not to mention viciously (as conservatives in the media were doing, like Dear Leader Rush), would have been a bridge too far even for them. Their largely symbolic votes against her hardly came with much verve.

While Sotomayor's confirmation was largely inevitable, and rightly so (although I would like to see the whole conformation process taken more seriously, with serious questions being asked and answered and without so much grandstanding from senators), today's vote was nonetheless a notable achievement. Obama's poll numbers are down this week -- largely, I think, because of effective Republican propaganda over health-care reform, and with the Beltway media establishment continuing its long tradition of regurgitating right-wing talking points -- but the vote continues a pretty remarkable week for him, what with the successful release of the two journalists held in North Korea and now the confirmation of his first Supreme Court nominee.

Well done, Dems.

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The Big Dawg!

By Carl

Long time readers of this blog, and friends of Actor212, know that I am in the tank for former President Bill "Greatest. President. Ever." Clinton.

So it should come as no surprise that today's column will be
about The Big Dog:

You'd need to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the sight of Laura Ling and Euna Lee coming off that plane yesterday.

During those moments, as the two journalists embraced their families for the first time in nearly five months, questions about diplomacy and politics seemed to vanish. They were two human beings, caught at the wrong time in the wrong place, spared 12 years of hard labor and back on their native soil. Laura Ling's choked-up words of gratitude just added to the drama.

Clinton was asked in by his former Vice President (and former friend, apparently) and Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore, the employer of the two captured and convicted journalists. This was in an unofficial capacity, to be sure, although one suspects that a former President and husband of the current Secretary of State would not lightly be sent into enemy territory without a full briefing by the White House and State Department, as well as a shopping list to present to Kim Jong Il.

So we'll call it a happy accident of circumstance and individual. If anyone could bring North Korea to the table, it had to be Bill Clinton.

It's been interesting over the past thirty years to see how ex-Presidents handle themselves in private life. Clinton (and now Obama) is a relatively young man and has one would hope a long retirement to assist the nation he lifted out of economic depression and turmoil-- apart from his own character flaws, of course. He's committed to his foundation, which is trying to bring smart solutions to intractable problems like malaria and hunger.

Jimmy Carter, of course, has his Habitat for Humanity, building homes for the poor, bringing onwership and a sense of community to people without hope and with despair.

Even George H.W. Bush has been committed to foreign policy solutions and to being a globe trotting goodwill ambassador for American interests and enterprise. No, not precisely a giving cause, but it promotes some of the good qualities America has: a can-do attitude, a willingness to step in and grab an opportunity to fix things.

Ronald Reagan rode a horse. George W. Bush bought an apartment in Houston.

And now Bill Clinton is saving Americans. Whoda thunk?

It was done without threats, without sabre-rattling, without hectoring from the White House. It was done sotto voce, respecting that even a knuckleheaded moron like Kim deserves to be treated as the head of a sovereign nation, no matter how despicable we may perceive him or how much we would like to remove him from office.

Clinton, former President of the United States and ex-officio member of the State Department inner circle, apologized, or so it has been reported by the North Korean press agencies (the government, basically).

The diplomatic signals the trip sent-- for example, he was greeted at Pyongyang airport by North Korea's top negotiator on its nuclear program-- are intriguing and this mission does give the North a propaganda victory, to be sure. And an "apology" by a former President, however couched in vague generalizations and as subject to multiple interpretations as it may have been, is a small humiliation for a superpower.

After all, if you were held in a hostile nation whether you earned it or not, you'd want to know that
your government isn't worried about saving face in its efforts to return you safely, and given the eight years we've spent calling this nation "evil" and Satanic and who knows what else, however true it was, we sort of deserved to have the chip on our shoulders knocked off.

I think the way this will play out is a good one for America, for Barack Obama and for the Clintons. After all, who hasn't seen the video of Laura Ling talking about her reaction when she saw Bill Clinton standing there in the room where she was told of the release? Who hasn't imagined, even briefly, that powerful feeling that Clinton appeared as Superman, rescuing her?

And I think it signals a willingness on the part of the Obama administration to continue the Clinton doctrine of engagement, but not appeasement, which worked so well in Iraq, and Iran (where we actually saw moderate presidents elected!), and even in Korea, where we saw actual progress towards a working agreement on nukes, albeit one that Kim tested regularly.

Which is a good thing.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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This week's Senate update

By Carol Gee

Where are they now? The House is out; the Senate is in. Today the Senators will probably cast enough votes to approve Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the United States Supreme Court, and GOP Rep. John McHugh, nominated as Army Secretary. And it is possible that an additional $2 billion will be added to the wildly popular "Cash for Clunkers" program. The Senate can be very pleased that some things are working out well.

On health care reform -- The Senate Finance Committee has not yet reported out a health care reform bill, but Senators are still hard at work on the issues, this week it regards Medicaid. Predictably Politico reports that top Senate Democrats have decided to move ahead in the fall, with or without Republican support. As background we are reminded, according to CQ Politics, that "Nearly four dozen members of Congress have spouses employed in the health care industry—ties that lawmakers acknowledge are influencing their thinking about how the health system should be overhauled." The only big question seems to be how comprehensive the reform will be, not whether something or other will pass and be signed into law this year.

News of select individual lawmakers -- U.S. Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) is officially set to take on Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) in the 2010 election. Reports are that he loves being the underdog. And U.S. Senator William Jefferson of Louisiana was finally convicted of 11 of 16 criminal charges of accepting bribes, racketeering and engaging in money laundering. He could get more than 20 years in prison. He will be appealing and is free on bail.

Recess planned next week --
Town Hall meetings marked by organized Republican disruptions may have people from both the far left and right complaining about health care reform by now, according to CQ Politics and Politico. Legislators might adopt virtual town halls as an alternative. And millions of dollars' worth of paid advertising by stakeholders will saturate the airwaves during the recess. Unless you have something to say to your Senator or Representative, you may as well declare a congressional news blackout until they come back into session. It is going to be just awful out there.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Is CNN in bed with Big Insurance?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So you know how CNN's medical guru, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is a Big Pharma flack? Well, it looks like, at least when it comes to health-care reform, the whole network is in the pocket of Big Insurance as well.

As Greg Sargent reports at The Plum Line, CNN has refused to air an ad from Americans United for Change criticizing "insurance companies and Republicans."

The official excuse is that the ad targets a specific insurance CEO by name, Cigna's Ed Hanway, who makes over $12 million a year (with a $70 million retirement package).

But that, as Greg notes, is the point of the ad (which will run on MSNBC): "AUC maintains that the mention of Cigna's CEO was necessary to dramatize the enormous stake the insurance industry has in the health care wars."

Makes sense -- but, of course, the official excuse may not be the real reason, which is quite possibly that CNN, formally or not, is in cahoots with, or at least sympathetic to, Big Insurance, Big Pharma, and the various other opponents of reform.

There could be political and ideological reasons, but mightn't it also have to do with the fact that Big Insurance is a major advertiser itself? (One wouldn't want to risk one's bottom line, would one, even for the health and well-being of the American people?)

Here's the ad, which deserves to be widely viewed:

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Looking for an outlet

By Creature

So, if this healthcare reform bill turns out as shitty as the Blue Dogs and Baucus (and maybe even Obama) want it to be, you think the Teabaggers would accept me? I may need to vent too.

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How astroturfing and town-hall hooliganism will destroy American democracy


What Rachel Maddow describes is called “astroturfing,” the subject of this hastily prepared post. I say “hasty” because this is an important topic deserving of immediate and sustained discussion in the blogosphere.

The goal of astroturfing is to create the illusion of public opposition to pending legislation or reform. Astroturfing is organized by professional public relations firms financed by corporations, their lobbyists, and trade associations to oppose any legislation that threatens corporate interests. Astroturfing creates the illusion of a popular and spontaneous uprising but, in fact, is a carefully orchestrated and covert operation that utilizes deception, disinformation, scare tactics, fear-mongering, and outright forgery to achieve its goals.

Examples of astroturfing are the recent Tea Bag protests; the “Dead Seniors” campaign designed to sabotage healthcare reform; and the “Birther” movement that seeks to undermine the legitimacy of an elected president.

Astroturfing is sometimes called “stealth” marketing, “viral” marketing, or “ambush” marketing. Cynical and unethical in the extreme, it is specifically banned in the Code of Ethics published by the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators. However, ethics never seemed to bother former House Majority Leader Dick Armey or the billionaire lobbyists who pay him to sabotage pending legislation and reform.

Recently, astroturfing has taken a more sinister form reminiscent of the violent street tactics that gave birth to the Third Reich. A rightwing organization called Right Principles has published a “
political action” memo that shows supporters how to disrupt town hall meetings, harass and heckle members of congress, and shout down and drown the opposition:

"pack the hall... spread out" to make their numbers seem more significant, and to "rock-the-boat early in the Rep's yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early ... to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda ... stand up and shout ... "

According to Rachel Maddow, this memo is a prescription for hooliganism and intimidation.

Dick Armey’s client list includes major pharmaceutical firms such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, a trade group representing major insurance companies, a front company representing fossil fuel interests, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Prime Minister of the UAE), and Freedom Works (the tea bag protest organizers), among others. Astroturfing represents a threat to democracy because it serves the interests of corporations but NOT the will of citizens and voters, thus undermining the meaning and purpose of elections.

This is my greatest fear: A rabble minority employs stealth and guile to thwart the will of the majority. Better to rule in Hell, as Milton says, than serve in a democracy.

Sometimes, when I am awake at night, I think of how our culture pushes the boundaries of taste and decorum further into the wilderness, and wonder about the tipping point beyond which there is no return, like those who cross an abyss and sink forever into tyranny, the point where “the falcon can longer hear the falconer.”

When my daughters were growing up, I taught them this: Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. Responsibility earns freedom, not the reverse. I am afraid we are reaching a tipping point where we lose both.

(Cross-posted at
The Swash Zone.)

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So this is what Michael Steele's RNC has come to?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Phone pranks?

The Republican Party. Where petulant children run the insanitarium.

(I realize the Democrats were playing politics, too, encouraging their supporters to phone the RNC (while also addressing the issue in question, it must be stressed), but couldn't the RNC have found a more mature way to respond (while responding to the substance of the issue)? -- No, you're right. Probably not.)

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How the conservative critics of Clinton's trip to North Korea are both heartless and stupid

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I tweeted a bit on this last night, but I must stress again: The right's response to Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea to free the two American prisoners is simply appalling. Apparently, Krauthammer, Bolton, Morris, and their cruel and unusual ilk would rather Laura Ling and Euna Lee have rotted away in a totalitarian labour camp.

They claim, without actually knowing any of the specifics (they're full of idle, partisan speculation, as usual), that the U.S. must have given up too much to secure the prisoners' release (more on this below), but what they can't abide, and will not acknowledge, is that Clinton, Gore, and Obama actually succeeded. Had Bush done something like this, they would have kowtowed before his diplomatic ingenuity with genuflective obeisance. Forget, as Jon Stewart rightly noted last night (hilariously, and with indignation), that Iran-Contra was an egregious and illegal diplomatic quid pro quo. Forget that famous shot of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam, or Reagan's support for any number of tyrannical regimes around the world. What these conservatives want us to believe is that Clinton's trip, along with whatever concessions were required to secure the release, was an expression of American weakness, and that, basically, the U.S. should have sacrificed the two women for the sake of its own image (and for the neocon agenda).

This is silly. First, what exactly do they think the U.S. gave up? A lot, according to Krauthammer, who doesn't have a clue (again, speculation). (What, did Clinton give them Mississippi or something? Did he promise them some of the Wall Street bailout money?) But is the U.S. really so incredibly weak that it can afford to give up nothing? Hardly. It is possible to negotiate from a position of strength, which is precisely how the U.S. ought to approach North Korea. (Indeed, diplomacy now would allow the U.S. to take a harder line, if necessary, down the road, especially if/when international support is required for sanctions.)

Second, did the trip grant North Korea any of the legitimacy in the international community it so desires? Look, whether we like it or not, North Korea is a sovereign state. Either you deal with that fact, or you don't. If you don't, all you have is your bullying righteous rhetoric, which won't do anything to help solve the problem, which is not just that North Korea is a totalitarian regime that brutalizes its own people but that it is a relatively powerful nuclear state with the capacity both to disseminate its technology to more formidable foes and to destabilize the region (not to mention to retaliate against South Korea and possibly Japan in the event of an American attack).

The only viable solution rests with serious diplomacy, and what is important here is not what Clinton may or many not have been authorized to give up (such as an apology) for the sake of the release but what a gesture of good will his trip may have signalled. Fred Kaplan has more on this at Slate. Just as Jimmy Carter's trip to Pyongyang in 1994 paved the way for the Agreed Framework, which could have been effective had Bush not dismantled it, Clinton's trip may pave the way for serious diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea down the road. In that sense, the trip may have been not just about the release of the two journalists but about the bigger picture of relations with North Korea, specifically focused on its nuclear program. The release was obviously a good in and of itself, but there is now the possibility that the whole incident could have provided the opportunity for progress with respect to one of the world's most pressing crises.

No wonder conservatives are aghast. They want nothing to do with such diplomacy, for any sort of negotiation, let alone a one-on-one deal, between Washington and Pyongyang. But what other options are there? It will be diplomacy, and a deal, or it will be nothing -- and, if it's nothing, the problem only gets worse.

These conservatives aren't just heartless, they're stupid.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Back home, blogging and tweeting

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, I'm back home again after a lovely 2-week-plus vacation on Prince Edward Island, settling back into the old routine, back to normalcy. (But, then, what is "normal"?)

I'll have some posts up later tonight, or, if not, tomorrow, but be sure to check back for more from my fantastic co-bloggers and contributors. I thank them profusely for stepping up during my absence, especially Creature for making sure everything ran smoothly. I was able to blog a few times, but it was nice to take the time off without having to worry about this place. It was in good hands.

You may also notice, if you look over to the top of the right sidebar, that I'm now -- gasp! -- on Twitter. (Yes, I've succumbed.) What I post there will, apparently, be posted here, but only the most recent five tweets, and I invite you to follow me there, where I hope to tweet regularly. (It is surely a Sign of the Apocalypse that "tweet" and "twitter" have entered our vocabulary like this.) What could be better than the wit and wisdom, such as it is, of yours truly in 140 characters or less? (Yes, I know, a lot of things are better than that, but follow me anyway. The more the merrier. So spread the word. You can find me @mjwstickings -- or just click on the link.)

See you later.

-- Michael

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Wow. Really?

By Carl

This is a rather startling survey:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans appear split over President Barack Obama's health care proposals, according to a new national poll.

Fifty percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday morning say they support the president's plans, with 45 percent opposed.

The results indicate a generational divide.

"Obama's plan is most popular among younger Americans and least popular among senior citizens," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "A majority of Americans over the age of 50 oppose Obama's plan; a majority of those under 50 support it."

And the children shall lead them.

Instinctively, I would have expected the opposite. After all, a big portion of the population of un- and underinsured Americans is comprised of young adults who, in their arrogance of assumed immortality, simply decline health insurance since it would crimp their disposable income better utilized for drinking, smoking and driving fast on the highways.

And people over 50, like me, would be more inclined to want some form of relief from the burden of ever-increasing premiums to cover an ever shrinking pool of participants. Single payer or at least national health care reform seems to me to fit that bill nicely, if nowhere near perfectly.

There is a bright spot to the survey, one that bodes well for healthcare reform:

The poll indicates that only three in 10 of all Americans think the president's health care proposals will help their families. Another 44 percent feel they won't benefit but that other families will be helped by the president's plans, and one in five say no one will be helped.

So roughly 80% of Americans feel that the reform would assist someone who needs it, which means that the vast majority of Americans feel healthcare in this nation is out of whack.

Good. That's a good sign and it bodes better for the future that younger people are taking such a practical and pragmatic view about what a government owes its people.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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By Creature

That's the percentage of people who think they personally will not benefit from healthcare reform. This is astounding. At a basic minimum all premiums should go down or stay steady. Is that not a benefit? And, this does not even start to talk about not losing your insurance over pre-existing conditions and the like. I don't think this number is a symptom of the Democrats not getting their message out, but that the Rights's fear tactics are that much louder (and, of course, scarier).

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The quiet American

By Capt. Fogg

Normally, the rescue of captured Americans gets tremendous coverage; launching over-dramatized movies and mini-series and giving politicians a platform for unrestrained self adulation and patriotic buffoonery -- but not always. Sometimes we puff up a story until, like Jessica Lynch, the hero has enough of the lies and walks away. Sometimes we make the hero look like a traitor. Welcome to the ugliness of American tribalism.

When the rescue is facilitated by someone the Republicans need as a symbol of inaction and incompetence; when a political enemy walks into the lion's den and returns with two young women many had given up for lost, it becomes necessary to bring in the creeps. That starts with C and that rhymes with B and that stands for Bolton.

Perhaps it was the short notice that explains it. John Bolton went on the air almost instantly after Fox's report that Clinton along with Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta had pulled off a rather John Wayne gambit and had secured the immediate release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee who had been arrested for espionage and sentenced to hard labor in a very nasty North Korean prison. Perhaps it was simply the desperation one feels when one's enemy leaves one on the sidelines throwing tantrums like Yosemite Sam while the damsels in distress are rescued from the dragon. Perhaps the Republicans are simply jealous of the international prestige of Clinton when compared to any president since Eisenhower. Perhaps Bolton just had no other tools with which to try to dismantle the story and rebuild it as a straw man, but that's just what he did.

It's "rewarding bad behavior" said he. It's "negotiating with terrorists" said he. It's "legitimizing the regime." It's going to make them kidnap more Americans so they can get visits from ex-presidents. It's pathetic and childish and disgusting and embarrassing to listen to him, but then, he's only repeating the line the GOP has used for decades -- even while Saint Ronald was selling arms to someone at war with us.

Whatever one might say about Clinton and his liberal commandos, we got our fellow Americans out of there without beating our chests like impotent apes, waving our dicks and threatening nuclear annihilation unless the country disbands and turns its assets over to Halliburton. What could be more emasculating and humiliating to Republicans?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bill Clinton's mission accomplished

By Capt. Fogg

George W. Bush may have looked good in his tailored flight suit with the sock stuffed in his pants when he pretended to have just made a carrier landing all by himself, but in terms of courage, the guy who denied having got drunk and crashed his car and walked away from National Guard duty couldn't, as Charles Bukowski used to say, carry Bill Clinton's balls in a paper bag.

President Clinton is now returning home with the two young American reporters being held at hard labor in that stinkhole North Korea. Mission Accomplished.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Choices and decisions

By Carl

This is another of those wool-gathering thought pieces that I am compelled to write from time to time to straighten my own head out a little. Please forgive the indulgence.

We are, it is said, defined by our choices. But what are choices? Are they goals? Are they actions? Are they thoughts? Are they half-measures, items of convenience?

It's hard to say. One can spend a lot of time thinking about something, but never come to a choice about it. On the other hand, one can leap into action and make a choice. On the other other hand, one can make bad choices impetuously and leap into action. On the other other hand, one can deliberate for weeks and see an opportunity lost.

See what I do there? Where is my choice in that paragraph?

And I think that's the point behind choices. You can't think your way to what you want. You have to act. On the other hand, no one is more capable of deluding you than yourself. So how do you know when to act on a choice and when not to?

I think it comes down to this: you act upon those things you love. Sometimes that means setting priorities. If I love writing more than I love bike riding, then I will probably write rather than ride if I am confronted with that choice. And if my friend whom I love needs to talk with me, well, then I put the pen down and the bike away and talk, rather than edit or pedal.

After all, the book might make me rich, the bike might make me healthy, but ultimately, that person's friendship is more rewarding and if they choose to reflect that friendship and love, then it will have been worthwhile.

When one has a full life, one must make sacrifices. There are only so many hours in a day, so many weeks in a year, so many years left in life. You can't have your cake and eat it too, you can't make plans without shutting the door on other choices and opportunities.

Actions define choices. You can regret your choices, you can think about other choices, but bottom line is, you take action on those choices you deem most important, which means the other choices are unimportant.

Period. One must commit to one's choices fully, despite the regrets or reservations one has about them or lost opportunities.

And this, I think, is why the saying is we are defined by our choices, because it is those things we act upon where we reveal what our true feelings are.
(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)


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Birthers, believers, and bananas

By Capt. Fogg

There are those -- a lot of those for whom any hint of apology for or embarrassment about the United States of its actions is treason and unforgivable. That's unforgivable and perhaps sometimes treasonous since it tends not only to reward, but promote our bad behavior.

Of course, there is no way that I can apologize to the world for the "Birther" phenomenon, its psychotic proponents and demented followers, but it's surely embarrassing to contemplate the way the world sees us, which must be very much how we would see some naked savages from Papua New Guinea who happened to have nuclear weapons they were constantly threatening us with. Pardon my unforgivable frankness, but I'm embarrassed to be an American -- once again.

Of course, it's worse in the South, the former Slave States where segregation, lynching, and Jim Crow policies were only stopped with great effort and physical force in my youth and where even NASCAR and college football take a back seat to believing as a popular sport. Believing without evidence generates disbelieving despite the evidence and so early poll data in Virginia seems to show that almost half of Virginians believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that the official State data showing he wasn't, was planted over 40 years earlier in the hopes that he could one day run for president:

[A] result making me want to bang my head against the table, the first round of calls for our Virginia poll this afternoon founds voters in the state almost evenly split on whether they thought the President was born in the US.

said PPP communications director Tom Jensen. I can well imagine.

Whether Public Policy Polling, which conducting this poll is or is not a good prognosticator or data gatherer, responses to their announcement at their web site were centered around personal attacks and obscene comments about the snottiness of elite liberals rather than the data or the apparent insanity and delusional condition of the Birthers. Not one of them gives a damn about facts. Not one is capable of self doubt.

Of course, believers rarely if ever choose what to believe without assistance and an examination of the obviously mental inventors of the libel such as Orly Taitz can make you want to put a noose around your neck -- or hers depending on your proclivities. If this woman gave you a used Rolls, would you even sit in it without a hazmat suit? None of the "birthers" would be imaginative enough to cook up this story, they got it the way Germany got Fascism: from a band of brownshirt organizers and disruptors and hooligans.

No problem for the bigots, for the believers, for the people who equate fact and reason, law and decency with fascism: Southern Whites, who for over 150 years have stood on their beliefs, on what they have been told by hatemongers to use against freedom for anyone but white males. No problem at all. If it feels good, believe it. If challenged by facts, slime the challengers, but never give up, never surrender, never stop hating.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Kristol channeling

By Mustang Bobby

When William Kristol left his job at the New York Times in January after a year of error-riddled and gobsmackingly goofy op-eds, he must have left the keys to that filing cabinet for Ross Douthat. His column today is so full of gross generalizations and just plain silly comparisons between Republican and Democratic states and what it portends for the Obama administration that you have to wonder if Mr. Kristol didn't sneak in to the editing room and have at it.

Mr. Douthat compares the status of two big states -- California and Texas -- and guess which one comes out smelling like a rose:

In the Bush years, liberal polemicists turned the president’s home state — pious, lightly regulated, stingy with public services and mad for sprawl — into a symbol of everything that was barbaric about Republican America. Meanwhile, California, always liberalism’s favorite laboratory, was passing global-warming legislation, pouring billions into stem-cell research, and seemed to be negotiating its way toward universal health care.

But flash forward to the current recession, and suddenly Texas looks like a model citizen. The Lone Star kept growing well after the country had dipped into recession. Its unemployment rate and foreclosure rate are both well below the national average. It’s one of only six states that didn’t run budget deficits in 2009.

Meanwhile, California, long a paradise for regulators and public-sector unions, has become a fiscal disaster area. And it isn’t the only dark blue basket case. Eight states had unemployment over 11 percent in June; seven went for Barack Obama last November. Fourteen states are facing 2010 budget gaps that exceed 20 percent of their G.D.P.; only two went for John McCain. (Strikingly, they’re McCain’s own Arizona and Sarah Palin’s Alaska.) Of the nine states that have raised taxes this year, closing deficits at the expense of growth, almost all are liberal bastions.

As long as we're making gross generalizations, let's throw in one more: California and Texas both have Republican governors. And if California truly was a "liberal bastion," it wouldn't have passed Prop 8. Just because a state voted for Obama last year doesn't make it a liberal bastion, either; North Carolina also went for Obama, as did Florida. California's budget woes go back a lot further than just the current recession, back through administrations of both parties. Meanwhile, Texas may have a balanced budget, but that also may be due to the fact that the state doesn't spend a whole lot of money on things like education, and it shows. He also throws in the knock on universal health care and points out that the president is pushing "a health care plan that looks a lot like the system currently hemorrhaging money in Massachusetts." What Mr. Douthat forgets -- or ignores -- is that the Massachusetts plan was promoted and signed by Mitt Romney, who is often mentioned as the leading contender as the GOP candidate in 2012.

To complete the Kristol-vision, he brings up the false-equivalency argument; the Republicans have their scandals with their mistresses and hikes along the Appalachian trail, but the Democrats are corrupt, too; look at Rod Blagojevich in Illinois and William Jefferson in New Orleans. Fine; no one said the Democrats were pure, but while Gov. Blagojevich has been impeached and removed from office and former Rep. Jefferson is awaiting the verdict, none of the GOP horn-dogs have resigned their offices or given any indication that they intend to. Holding up your opposition as being just as corrupt as you are is not a good place to start preaching about political purity.

Mr. Douthat concedes that "Obama is still broadly popular, and the public is still broadly sympathetic to his administration’s agenda. But the money has to come from somewhere. You can’t have a bold new liberal era without the growth to pay for it." Well, maybe if you hadn't stood silently by or cheered on the people who pissed the money away in the first place, we'd have it. And then you could complain about liberal agendas without sounding so much like a flaming hypocrite.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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