Saturday, October 10, 2009

Now what?

By Mustang Bobby.

In all the attention that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama is getting, it's easy to lose perspective. Right now a lot of the noise is coming from pundits who are still outraged that he won, even including some on the left such as Howard Zinn who think that by carrying on with Bush's wars, it's a cruel irony to award him a Peace Prize. The right, of course, is still wrapped up in their resentment that people they think should have won it -- George W. Bush in particular -- were snubbed. But the Nobel Committee has passed over some people you might think worthy -- Mahatma Gandhi, for instance -- and given it to people who's dedication to peace was problematic -- Yasir Arafat comes to mind.

So it might be a good idea to step back and consider the Nobel Peace Prize not for what it means in terms of accomplishments or even in political terms. As the president said, it is often awarded to those who aspire to achieve peace and effect change in the world through peaceful means, but who, at the time, haven't gotten there yet. Many people and organizations have won the prize while they were still far from achieving their goals: the Northern Ireland peace movement, Amnesty International, and the IAEA, to name just a few. Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who battled against apartheid, got the prize ten years before the end of segregation in South Africa. Lech Walesa won it long before the fall of the Communist government in Poland. Aung San Suu Kyi won it in 1991 for her fight for democracy in Burma and she's still under house arrest. As Doug Saunders of the Globe and Mail points out, it has gone to politicians who have barely gotten their careers off the ground.
A young politician, not yet fully tested, makes important and history-altering moves on the international stage – moves whose long-term outcomes remain uncertain – and is surprised to find himself with a Nobel Peace Prize.

That describes Lester B. Pearson in 1957. It describes Barack Obama in 2009.

Mr. Pearson's role in creating a United Nations peacekeeping force to resolve the first Middle East conflict won him the award six years before he was prime minister. It didn't change attitudes among Arabs or Israelis, but the Norwegian judges felt it was a symbolically important action that had a good chance of creating lasting peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Obama's leadership in uniting all the world's powers around total nuclear disarmament, his ending the impasse between Russia and the West and his goal-driven engagement with Iran and the wider Muslim world have not yet borne fruit, but the Norwegian judges believe the nature of the world has been significantly altered for the better.

The Nobel Peace Prize is not a lifetime-achievement award. It tends to honour actions that change the way the world functions, the way countries engage or publics think about a conflict. They should be important, historic actions, but the prize does not wait for results.

Another point that became clear in the discussion of the Nobel Prize was how amazingly self-centered the American reaction was. It was as if the Nobel committee was based here and should have only considered those candidates who were natural-born citizens of the United States (there's another morsel for the birthers to throw into their cauldron). But it's not; it's a prize held and awarded by Europeans, and their perspective on the world is, not surprisingly, different than from those of us here in the West.
The Nobel Peace Prize is a European prize. The world outside North America sees Afghanistan, Israel and the embers of the Iraq conflict amid a far wider array of threats and worries. There are larger issues at stake. Some of them involve the fate of the world.

Mr. Obama's decision to cancel the U.S. missile-defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and thus to end a simmering conflict with Russia and make nuclear disarmament possible, was an enormous development to Europeans.

His leadership of a UN Security Council summit that called for total nuclear disarmament – unanimously, for the first time – and launched a strengthened nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, just before sitting down with Iran, was probably the headline of the year outside North America.

His Cairo speech opening dialogue with the Middle East and putting international relations back on political and economic terms – ending the “clash of civilizations” and “axis of evil” confrontation of previous years – was received as a historic epiphany in much of the world.

His talks with Iran, with Russia's and Europe's help, and his recognition that Iran is a long-term problem rather than an immediate threat, have signalled a new recognition that change can be made to happen, as it was in 1989, by playing a long game built on shared values. That, for the rest of the world, was a big deal.

It could be dismissed as mere talk. But it is precisely the sort of initiative that has defined the Nobel Peace Prize, and that has led it to honour, with a few embarrassing exceptions, the great developments of our age.

It is also worthwhile to consider Mr. Obama's award from the perspective of someone who has themselves won it. We've heard from Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, but perhaps hearing what Elie Wiesel, who won it in 1986, might have to say as well. He was interviewed by Steve Inskeep on NPR:
Mr. WIESEL: After all, he's the president of the United States. But at the same time, seriously, he made history by allowing the American people to correct its own old racial injustices. After all, he's the first black person to have been elected to that high office, and in doing so he did bring hope and dignity to the fact, to the very position. And therefore I think he gave something to the Nobel Prize.

INSKEEP: He added to the Nobel Prize rather than the other way around.

Mr. WIESEL: It goes both ways. But in this case, really, for the president of the United States, a sitting president, who is nine months in office, it's true that he tries and tries - I'm sure he tries in many areas to do the right thing, and he will succeed, but in this case the prize will add or increase his moral authority.

INSKEEP: Moral authority. Well, let's talk about that. Because this is a president who has begun many efforts around the world and the Nobel committee cited them, from reducing the threat of nuclear weapons to reducing nuclear arms stockpiles, efforts to bring peace in different parts of the world. But it's been widely noted this morning that although many efforts have begun, none have really been concluded. Do you think it will make a big difference in those efforts that the peace prize goes to the president?

Mr. WIESEL: First of all, I think he is being recognized for his efforts and his beginnings, as you say. But I am a person who loves beginnings, I love beginnings. The mystery of beginnings is part of Jewish mysticism. And in this case, in politics, of course, because it's also - it's also politics - it is a good thing, it's a promise. The Nobel committee says that he represents a promise and I'm sure that he will try to fulfill it.

Several conservative commentators grumbled that Ronald Reagan, who they say ended the Cold War, was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But Mikhail Gorbachev, who was Mr. Reagan's counterpart, did get it in 1990. It would seem that Mr. Gorbachev, at least in the eyes of the committee, not only did as much to end the Cold War as Mr. Reagan did, he had a lot more at stake. He was there to engineer the controlled demolition of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and he faced the threat of a military coup in 1991 for his troubles. Ronald Reagan made a lot of speeches and rattled a lot of sabres, but in the end it was Mr. Gorbachev who did the heavy lifting. In other words, the right wing wanted Mr. Reagan to win for the same reasons they say Mr. Obama did.

It seems to be a uniquely American mindset that when someone wins an award, be it a Nobel or an Oscar or a Pulitzer, that it is the destination and now they can relax. In fact, just the opposite is true. As anyone who has achieved a recognition like that will tell you, the hardest part -- and the truest test of character -- is going on and proving that you were worthy of it in the first place. And therein might be the lesson -- and the warning -- for President Obama. He may have won the prize because of his potential, but he still has to achieve the goal. Instead of asking, as the critics of the president have been doing, "What has he done to deserve it?", the question really should be, "What will he do now?"

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Guns, Guts and Nuts

By Capt. Fogg

I hardly cringe any more when they call it Floriduh. All I can do is shake my head in agreement and defeat. I'm quite sure we have as many brilliant residents as any other state, and looking at all the billionaires and retired intellectuals and scientists we have, perhaps we don't rank as low on the intelligence totem pole as we do on the latitude scale, but nevertheless -- we have our idiots in Florida. We surely do.

I don't think it's a big deal that The Southwest Broward Republican Club would choose to hold their monthly meeting at a shooting range. Of course I'd rather see my politicians doing something worthwhile along the lines of community service, or self education or discussion of our problems, but I'm from planet Earth after all and I don't expect it. It's more productive not to be associated with problems anyway since it might prompt people to ask for answers rather than gleefully to participate in the business du jour: mockery and macho posturing.

It's just that Club President Napolitano explained the idea by hinting at armed resistance to a democratically elected government and democratically approved legislation once more.
"Without the Second Amendment, I don't think the other amendments would hold up. I think they would just be suggestions that the government would decide to do whatever they want."

Even though we're certainly no more democratic or less oppressed than Norway or Belgium for instance, I guess he would know because the last Republican administration did just that and much of what they wanted was unconstitutional. Of course if we're talking revolution we hardly need to elect anyone in the first place, but OK, I understand the usefulness of such gestures. They're hoping to retain the Cracker vote by playing with guns although Broward county is a rather urban setting these days and overwhelmingly Democratic, yet still, it's a choice, a strategy even if it's a childish, stupid and certainly poorly thought out one.


How much pre-frontal lobe capacity does a politician need to realize that shooting at human shaped targets with the initials of one's political opponents isn't really appropriate behavior for an adult, much less a candidate selling the idea of his wisdom, maturity and mental stability?

"One of the shooters at the Tuesday evening event was Robert Lowry, a Republican candidate hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. Lowry's target had the letters "DWS" next to the silhouette head."

says the Sun Sentinel. A joke, said Lowry and if I were 7 years old I might agree. I might think the targets portraying a turbanned "terrorist" carrying a rocket launcher was funny too, but I'm not 7 years old and feel no affinity for the giggling idiots who think it's a riot.

I'm fond of shooting sports myself and the ranges I go to have as many real country and backwoods people there as well as more urbane sophisticates from Hobe Sound and Jupiter Island, none of whom has ever exhibited a "personalized" target although Republicans dominate around here. Could it be that Broward County Republican Brats can't measure up to the maturity and manners of my friends from Yeehaw or Osowaw Junction?

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Top Ten Cloves: Things about NASA crashing rocket into Moon

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: NASA scientists crash rocket into the Moon in search for water

10. This was NASA's first "Twitter" mission - All programming codes were 140 characters, or less

9. Moon immediately appealed to Obama Administration, for Stimulus Funds, to repair area where rocket crashed

8. Crash ended up cutting off Dr. Edgar Mitchell's phone line

7. Reason looking for water on Moon is to find place to extradite Neocon Dolphins to

6. Not sure why, but David Letterman apologized for rocket crashing into Moon

5. Crash wasn't intended - Astronauts drunk again

4. Big Hoax ... Just a stunt to get new footage for "Star Wars in Concert" show this Fall

3. Wasn't actually a NASA Mission, but a left-over prank from Yuri Night

2. It's really a Quid Pro Quo - Moon will crash rocket into Oklahoma, looking for signs of intelligence

1. Even Man-On-Moon was asking "Why did Obama win Nobel Peace Prize?"

Bonus Links

NASA Almost Missed Photo Coverage Of Shuttle Mission; One-Hour-Photo Corp. Aids Agency; Builds Stand Inside Cape Canaveral

Top Ten Cloves: Most Surprising Things NASA Discovers With Deep Impact and Comet Tempel 1

Top Ten Cloves: Other Things That NASA's Cassini May Find On Saturn's Moon Enceladus

Top Ten Cloves: How Bush Administration Reacted To News of The Death Star Galaxy

All I Want For Christmas Is ... A Killer Asteroid?

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Obama's Nobel win -- "a call to action"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Whatever you think of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize win -- I tweeted on it quite a bit yesterday, and, with reflection, I think that, while many others were just as if not more deserving (like Chinese pro-democracy dissidents, for example), if seen as an "aspirational" award, that is, if the Nobel Committee was sending a message (which it certainly was) that Obama represents the sort of change the world needs, that what he is and what he stands for is at this point more significant that what he has accomplished (which is, admittedly, very little so far), there's nothing wrong with his win other than that it raises expectation levels even higher than they already were and sets him up for failure -- he handled himself brilliantly in accepting the award:

For more, make sure to read James Fallows's astute reading of Obama's acceptance speech at The Atlantic. In making it not about himself, he struck just the right note. The award is "an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations." It is "a call to action" and "a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century." Obama interpreted his win just the right way, and it is clear that he will do his utmost to follow through with his commitment to address those challenges in constructive ways.

Does this mean that he is without fault? No, of course not. He may very well soon escalate the war in Afghanistan with a significant troop increase, for example, and his vaguely Bush-like record on national security at home, including with respect to government secrecy, is hardly reassuring. Still, the award should be taken both as approval and as encouragement: approval of what he stands for, encouragement to move forward. Let's hope he does just that. If his win really is "a call to action," he has no excuse not to act.


Let me add that what I especially like about Obama's win is how it seems to be driving conservatives even more insane than they already were. They had no idea how to respond to it, were all over the place with their partisan knee-jerk reactions, and ended up spewing a discombobulated mix of confusion and rage. (It ought to be noted that Obama did not give himself the award. So whether he deserved it or not, it's not his fault. The conservative rage/outrage directed at Obama is thus thoroughly, if unsurprisingly, misplaced. Obama won the award. He has done the most with it so far. That's it.)

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Round Up of Reactions to Nobel Peace Prize for President Obama

By Carol Gee

My sentiments exactly -- The first thought of many of us was that this will drive the Republicans crazy. Matt Yglesias tweeted: "They should institute a Nobel Prize for driving conservatives crazy." As a matter of fact it is making the Right Wing even crazier than they were before. With a HT to Matt Cooper for this link, showing typical arrogance, The Weekly Standard invites you to "meet the people who were passed over for Obama." Politico quoted several very critical conservatives including RNC Chairman Michael Steele and strategist Craig Shirley. The publication also quotes Rush Limbaugh's reaction: "'greater embarrassment' than losing Olympics." To quote further,

"This fully exposes the illusion that is Barack Obama," Limbaugh told POLITICO in an e-mail. "And with this 'award' the elites of the world are urging Obama, THE MAN OF PEACE, to not do the surge in Afghanistan, not take action against Iran and its nuclear program and to basically continue his intentions to emasculate the United States."

Limbaugh continued: "They love a weakened, neutered U.S, and this is their way of promoting that concept. I think God has a great sense of humor, too."

Later more sane reactions -- The Huffington Post linked to President Obama's Nobel speech, and provides more analysis of the selection of Obama, headlining that "Twitter explodes in response to the Obama Nobel win." New York Times "The Lede" gathered world reaction "to a Nobel surprise." McClatchy gives out "more updates." Matt Cooper spoke of President Obama's "elegant remarks" from the White House rose garden.

Earlier items -- The White House was surprised by the announcement, according to NPR. Taegan Goddard at the Political Wire reported on Twitter that "Obama will make a statement on the Nobel prize in the Rose Garden at 10:30." (It was just been delayed until after 11:00). Goddard also provided a round up of reactions to the Oslo announcement. Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic rounds up some fascinating opinions on why Obama should turn down the prize.

In conclusion -- Those who would disparage the Committee's award as merely honoring the President's "aspirational" sentiments dismiss it too lightly. One cannot be a peacemaker without engendering hope for peace in those who are in conflict. Those who dismiss the award as "not George W. Bush -- thank God he's in Dallas," diminish the strength of Obama's influence over people who do not live in the United States. Those who dismiss the award because we are still fighting in Afghanistan should take note of how much trouble the President is taking to figure out how to narrow the conflict and find ways to build bridges to the people of Afghanistan, including reconcilable members of the Taliban. Those who feel the President does not deserve the Peace Prize because of his civil liberties shortcomings should take note of his long commitment to denuclearizing the world. Those who dismiss the award because the President has yet to fulfill his campaign promises should take note of the unusually long list of serious problems he inherited from the previous administration. Sometimes it is enough to be hopeful, respectful of others, inspirational and willing to tackle anything. That is the elemental stuff of which real peace can be made.

Reference to the Nobel Committee announcement that President Barack Obama is their selection for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Vancouver 2010 Olympics vs. Canadian conservative commentator's "white man's burden" lament

By Grace

Right now, there's a lot of media coverage on Chicago's failed 2016 Olympic bid and the unexpected political storm left in its wake. I'd like to draw attention to a more current sporting event - the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, which will begin in February of next year.

As a Canadian, a curler (I'm rooting for Kevin Martin to qualify for Team Canada, but that's an entirely different story), and as someone who's been working on and off for an official Olympic sponsor, I'm very excited. I even have my own little official mascot key chain (who doesn't love a fuzzy sasquatch wearing earmuffs?), and I'm eager to get my hands on some of the apparel (trapper hat, anyone?). Yes, I've caught Olympic fever and you can sense the enthusiasm growing in this country as we get closer to the games.

A few days ago, however, the Telegraph published this opinion piece by Rachel Marsden, who accuses Canada of not "
fighting to ensure that the immigrants of European descent are adequately represented" and "ignoring them completely".

Marsden states that without European colonialism, "[Vancouver], and indeed..., Canada, was pretty third-worldish until... Europeans arrived and started planning and building infrastructure and government," and that without them North America "would look somewhat like Africa".

I don't think I have the time to even delve into her astoundingly condescending and outdated colonialist mindset. The idea that Europeans improved every country they entered is largely erroneous and colonialism's very function was meant to exploit the land and resources of the native citizens whom they oppressed and denied civil rights. In many cases, it took years for former colonies to recover from their "improvements," and in a few countries, they're still rebuilding themselves.

In the article, Marsden takes issue with the Vancouver Olympic mascots, which are a sasquatch, a sea bear, and an animal guardian spirit, as well as the logo (an Inukshuk), all of which were inspired by traditional symbols of Canada's First Nations. She dismisses them as ridiculous on the basis that they're not European, or rather not Caucasian enough.

Racism? Dare I say white supremacy? Take your pick.

Can't we as Canadians be proud of and honour the First Nations aspect of our culture and heritage? Celebrating it doesn't necessarily mean the denigration or disrespect of our English and French background in the process. In fact they're as much a part of our traditions and history, just as Canadian as the "Europeans" are.

Europeans "forgotten" in Canada? Perhaps she's forgotten that our entire federal government is a British-based Parliamentary system. Or that our official languages are English and French. Or that we pride ourselves in our multiculturalism and cultural diversity here.

Anyhow, if Marsden is so concerned about the "European" influence being left out in the Olympics, she should worry no more. The official Team Canada uniforms were recently unveiled by the Hudson's Bay Company (incorporated by the British!) and are distinctly hoser chic. There are some complaints that the outfits are too stereotypically Canadian, but I like their vintage vibe. Throw in the ad, and I think it's representation enough:

Interestingly enough, there are no First Nations people in the clip, despite the fact that they played a key role in the fur trade. But, I digress.

Marsden, get over it and stop complaining. It's not very Canadian.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Tom Coburn (with his hatred of political science)

For seeking to "cut off money for the National Science Foundation's political-science program," as The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting. Said his press secretary:

Political science would be better left to pundits and voters. Federal research dollars should go to scientists who work on finding solutions for people with severe disabilities, or the next generation of biofuels, or engineering breakthroughs.

Look, there's nothing wrong with "finding solutions for people with severe disabilities" (though I would argue that biofuels are not the answer to America's energy woes, nor to global warming). Obviously, research dollars need to go to programs that have at least some practical use, at least for the most part. I would define "practical" fairly broadly, though.

And yet, even in a stricter sense, how is political science not useful. Coburn's office claims that some programs funded by the NSF "in reality have little, if anything, to do with science," but science, of course, isn't so narrow. The medical, energy, and engineering fields are "science," but the social sciences are a legitimate field of study -- one worthy of federal dollars.

Coburn actually dismisses political science altogether: "Americans who have an interest in electoral politics can turn to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the print media, and a seemingly endless number of political commentators on the Internet." In other words, politics is not a science, is not worth studying, and is certainly not worth funding. This is anti-intellectual philistinism in typical Republican form. If you really think watching cable news is the same as studying political science, you've never studied political science, and you certainly have no appreciation for its many invaluable contributions to society. (I say this as someone who studied political science for a long time and who has an advanced degree in it, but I know what I'm talking about -- more than Tom Coburn, anyway.)

In the end, though, what seems to be driving Coburn is not just anti-intellectualism but right-wing ideology. What he objects to, it seems, is not so much political science itself but the findings of political science, which -- as you may well imagine -- are often (usually, if not always) at odds with his conservative views.

The truth shall set you free, you see, and political science, like any other legitimate science, can be liberating. The senator from Oklahoma, however, like so many of his right-wing ilk, would rather we live in darkness.

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Conservative craziness on climate change

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I love it when conservatives find one global warming denying "scientist" and pump him and his (or her) crazy ideas out of all justifiable proportion, as if a single denier is enough to overturn almost the entire edifice of legitimate and mainstream scientific thought.

Paul Bedard, author of right-leaning U.S. News and World Report's right-leaning "Washington Whispers" blog, did just that a couple of days ago, "reporting" -- in a neutral tone but with a clear bias -- that a geologist named Leighton Steward "has turned his attention to convincing Congress that carbon dioxide emissions are good for the Earth and don't cause global warming."

I kid you not.

Apparently, this geologist -- and it's not clear how exactly he's a climate expert -- has "a mountain of studies and scientific evidence that suggest CO2 is not the cause for warming" at his disposal. Apparently, all those scientists among the overwhelming majority of the scientific community that has concluded that carbon dioxide emission by human beings (or, rather, caused by human beings) is in fact the leading cause of global warming either aren't aware of this mountain or choose to ignore it, preferring instead to spin a lie. Apparently, this "noted geologist" knows the truth, namely, that global warming is actually caused by solar activity. Apparently, he actually thinks "CO2 levels are so low that more, not less, is needed to sustain and expand plant growth."

You want crazy? There's crazy.

You want more crazy? Here you go:

In taking on lawmakers pushing for a cap-and-trade plan to deal with emissions, Steward tells Whispers that he's worried that the legislation will result in huge and unneeded taxes. Worse, if CO2 levels are cut, he warns, food production will slow because plants grown at higher CO2 levels make larger fruit and vegetables and also use less water. He also said that higher CO2 levels are not harmful to humans. As an example, he said that Earth's atmosphere currently has about 338 parts per million of CO2 and that in Navy subs, the danger level for carbon dioxide isn't reached until the air has 8,000 parts per million of CO2.

His preoccupation with taxes gives away his political agenda -- and his credibility (not that he had much to begin with). He's solidly in the James Inhofe camp.

But the rest of that? Come on. It's one thing to offer an alternative scientific theory, quite another to make shit up. We're not talking about what is immediately poisonous to human beings, we're talking about rising CO2 levels to the point where the global climate is changing, precipitating potentially disastrous consequences. No, higher levels may not kill human beings directly, but they may cause, will cause, are already causing changes that are certainly harmful to human beings. Ask the residents of the Gulf Coast, for example, if stronger hurricanes caused by rising seawater temperatures are harmful. Ask the residents of Canada's north if changing migration patterns are harmful to their way of life. Ask the residents of low-lying areas of the world, notably in poverty-stricken, densely-populated regions, if the flooding they are experiencing and will experience even more strongly in future is harmful. It isn't just the scientific community that would disagree with Steward.

Of course, Steward has a culprit: solar activity. I'm sure he, his debunked theories, and his do-nothing approach will find a receptive audience among Republicans on Capitol Hill. And that's the real danger. He gives them what they want, which is token scientific support for their conservative agenda, and they'll defend that agenda with the weight of this supposed "mountain" of studies and evidence.

Democrats, and the rest of us who live in reality, would do well not just to dismiss him as a hack with a partisan agenda but to continue to summon to our side the full weight of the scientific community. There are dissenters, to be sure, but the overriding consensus is clear.

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O'Reilly and Bachmann, a perfect match

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Michele Bachmann doesn't "drive the far left crazy" because she's "attractive," "good-looking." In fact, she doesn't drive the far left, or the left, or liberals, or progressive, or Democrats, or any of her other opponents "crazy." We laugh at her, you see, because all the evidence -- and she supplies it on a constant basis -- points to her being the crazy one, an embarrassment to the Republican Party and to anything and everything that calls itself conservative. And while we laugh, conservatives like O'Reilly fall all over themselves whenever a supposedly attractive woman enters the picture, be it Bachmann or Palin or Coulter or whomever. They swoon, you see, seduced by whatever sexual appeal these woman have. Which, I might add, they overstate to comic degree.

Really, Bachmann? Personally, when I look at her, all I see is insanity, paranoia, and fundamentalist fervour. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, and I'm sure O'Reilly beholds her differently, but she certainly doesn't drive me crazy. Nor does Coulter, who is simply repulsive. Nor even does Palin, whom I admit is fairly attractive. In her case, conservatives really did succumb to a sort of adolescent lust when she emerged on the national scene last year. The rest of us just thought she was stupid, or at least not remotely qualified for the national stage, not to mention a bit of a thug. If anything drives us crazy, it's that these women get more attention than they deserve, not just because conservatives lust after them but because the media do, too.

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Quote of the Day: Arlen Specter on the public option

By Michael J.W. Stickings

He may not support the sort of universal single-payer system that many of us would prefer, but his vocal support for a public option in any reform bill is nonetheless admirable, not least coming from a former Republican:

I urge my Senate colleagues to support a robust public option plan. It's important that the President's ideas on the public option be implemented to maintain a level playing field.

The public option will create competition in the marketplace and will help to provide affordable choices for American families. It will also allow us to greatly expand the number of Americans with health insurance, and that is an imperative.

Shouldn't that count, sort of, as bipartisanship? (Seriously, given how narrow the GOP has become, so much a party of the far right, shouldn't "bipartisan" also mean anything that receives the support of moderate Democrats, centrist Democrats, and former Republicans like Specter? I suppose a bipartisan reform bill with a robust public option would ideally also receive the support of moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe, but the Democratic spectrum in Congress is sufficiently broad these days that it cannot be written off as narrowly partisan. Indeed, it seems to me that any reform bill that receives support across the party, including from the likes of Specter, ought to be considered to be, in a way, bipartisan, even if no Republicans sign up for it.)


For more public option news, see Josh Marshall. I must say, I don't like this whole "opt-out" compromise being tossed around -- Chuck Schumer says it's being "very seriously considered," Howard Dean says he'd vote for it -- but Steve Benen may be right that states might only threaten to opt out:

I can't help but wonder exactly how many states would go through with the opt-out. When the stimulus debate was underway, plenty of right-wing governors said they had no intention of accepting the recovery funds. They changed their minds when partisan spite was overwhelmed by policy necessity.

The same could happen here, especially given the national popularity of the public option. It's even easier to imagine some states opting out, and then opting back in when they see other states benefiting from the public-private competition.

Of course, there would still be the possibility of millions of Americans, those unlucky enough to live in one of the opting out red states, would be left without a public option, and hence without health insurance. Which is reason enough to oppose it.

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Quick hit: Three Four elected US Presidents have now won the Nobel Peace Prize. (ed. note: I forgot about Woodrow Wilson)

All Democrats.

Economic expansion historically occurs only under Democratic presidents.

Democrats = Peace + Prosperity

There's your bumper sticker,
Gov. Kaine.

Congratulations, Mr President!

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Photo of the Day!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Wet Eyes/Handkerchief Alert.

Little Soldier Girl "Didn't Want to Let Go"

Four-year-old Paige Bennethum really, really didn't want her daddy to go to Iraq.

So much so, that when Army Reservist Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum lined up in formation at his deployment this July, she couldn't let go.

No one had the heart to pull her away.

Redmond, over at Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog! Go!, said: "Explain No-Bid Contracts to Her."

Or, how's about The Bush Grindhouse's cruel Stop-Loss Policy for his criminal lies to invade and occupy a country so his NeoNitWit cronies can get boners over America's Might?

Let's hope we see another picture of little Paige Bennethum, wrapped in her daddy's arms, upon his safe return.

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Politico and partisanship: The very stupid attempt to link Roman Polanski to Obama and the Democrats, via Hollywood

By Michael J.W. Stickings

How it is relevant, Politico, that "[m]ovie industry types calling for the release of director Roman Polanski last year gave $34,000 to Obama's presidential campaign and the Democratic Party, FEC records show"?

Is the not-so-subtle implication that rape apologists are pro-Obama Democrats?

Clearly, this is stupid. While I -- as I have indicated strongly here on numerous occasions -- am opposed to the effort to "free" Polanski and find Polanki's Hollywood supporters misguided, to say the least, in their efforts, I do acknowledge that there is a legitimate case to be made on Polanski's behalf and that supporting Polanski's efforts to be "freed" does not mean supporting, or approving of, rape. It's not like Martin Scorsese ever said, I like rape; therefore, I support Roman Polanski. And it's not like Darren Aronofsky ever said, rape should be legalised, and what Polanski did was awesome.

So what if some of those who now support Polanski -- Politico only names seven -- gave to Obama and the Democrats last year? Politico is obviously trying to draw a connection, where none exists, to discredit Obama and the Democrats, to paint them as being the candidate and party of rape apologists from the Hollywood elite. The main donor by far, though, was Harvey Weinstein, who "gave $28,500 to the DNC and its White House Victory Fund." Scorsese, for his part, gave only $3,300 to the Obama campaign.

It's not like Obama and the Democrats were funded by neo-Nazis or other fringe extremists. And it's not like they were funded by rapists. A lot of people make political contributions -- and they do so for many different reasons. Yes, connections can be made when, for example, anti-abortion groups give to Republicans and pro-choice groups give to Democrats. Is there any such connection here? Well, movie industry "types" tend to be ideologically liberal or progressive, and hence Democratic in their party political orientation. And so it makes sense that some of the Hollywood "types" who have some out in support of Polanski supported Obama. But that's it. There is no direct connection from Polanski (and rape) to Obama via Hollywood.

Many liberals, like myself, have been strongly critical of Polanski, as well as of those in the film community who have rallied to his side since his arrest. It is ridiculous to suggest that these Hollywood "types" should be defined politically by their current support for Polanski rather than by the totality of their political views. It is outrageous to contend that their support for Polanski is akin to their support for Obama and the Democrats. And it is insulting to imply that support for Obama and the Democrats -- that being a Democrat -- means apologizing for, and excusing, rape.

But I suppose that's Politico for you.

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Gunfight at the Oy Vey corral

By Carl

this is stupid:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to kill hundreds of bills unless the Legislature delivers one bill on water.

[...]It's ugly. But it's an available political tool that the governor would be derelict not to use when an issue as critical as water is at stake.

The state water system is clogged and rusting. It's a matter of time before the California aqueduct, which funnels Sierra snow runoff from the Sacramento Valley into the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, is shut off. The principal water tank, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is threatened with potential levee collapses, earthquakes, floods and global warming. And the ecology already is crumbling.

The estuary's fishery is fast disappearing. The endangered delta smelt is a red herring -- a pet target of San Joaquin farmers and the governor who resent federal judges holding back water to save the tiny critter. The real economic tragedy is the decline of the once-abundant king salmon. Their plight has caused a two-year cancellation of commercial fishing for the popular fish, idling boats and shuttering processing plants all along the North Coast.

Nobody argues that the waterworks don't need major repairs and remodeling. But there is a delicate balance that Capitol negotiators have yet to find. It's the balance between investing in a reliable, environmentally friendly water supply and trying to achieve what really must be the state's No. 1 priority: living within its means.

So everyone agrees, this is a worthwhile project. Everyone agrees, the money needs to be spent. Everyone agrees that not to act quickly on this bill can and will endanger the very water supply that allows 2/3 of California's to remain in their homes, and not be forced to evacuate to Oregon and Washington.

The problem? Democrats versus Republicans, and both versus Ahnuld.

Check this out:

Senate Republicans have proposed a $12.4-billion bond issue that would be paid off by all taxpayers. It would include $4 billion for two or three dams. Additionally, users of the newly developed water would kick in at least that much dam-building money.

But Assembly Republican Leader Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo disagrees. He would prefer a bond closer to $8 billion.

"We're in the biggest recession of our generation," he says. "We need to spend only what is necessary to solve the problem as quickly as possible . . . without some of the Christmas ornaments and largesse -- a scaled-down package that isn't the ultimate solution for every water problem anyone can imagine, funding every possible stakeholder who has a dog in this hunt."

Democratic leaders basically agree. But they would cut back on dam funding before they would eliminate some of the things Blakeslee would, such as groundwater monitoring and treatment plants. "Much of this bill is a wish list of the far left," the GOP leader asserts. "Frankly, I don't think this is the time for a wish list."

Ironic, isn't it? The Republicans are actually willing to outspend the Democrats by $4 billion, except for the one Republican who actually counts, who wants to match the Democrats funding proposals but eliminate the wrong projects!

And here's Governor Schwarzenegger, basically threatening to shut down significant portions of the state on Sunday if there's no bill by then. Which has pissed the Democrats, who control the legislature, off.

Here's the real cruz of the problem, and it reflects the national positions of both parties: Republicans want to fund the entire $12 (or $8) billion through bond issues to be paid out of general tax revenues. Democrats want to correctly assign at least part of the burden on the people who most benefit from the improved and more secure water supplies, levying a small usage tax on them to help pay for the repairs and upgrades.

Of course, to be perfectly honest, both groups are spending money that they don't have, but the Democrats proposal is clearly more in line with the sentiment of California taxpayers and their mantra of limiting taxes: reducing the cash available to pay for the day-to-day operations of the state is cutting your nose to spite your face, while even the most conservative Glibertarian can wrap their heads around a "pay for play" plan.

And yet, Schwarzenegger, by threatening to veto some 700 bills including a bill that prevents health insurers from dropping their customers at all, unless fraud can be proved, and to retrofit some bridges in earthquake prone regions.

Um. Hm. Talk about cutting one's nose to spite one's face...

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Climate change -- a national security challenge

Guest post by Rafael Noboa Rivera

Rafael Noboa Rivera is a writer and combat veteran. He served in Iraq from April 2003 to March 2004. This post originally appeared at The Hill's Congress Blog.

"You never have 100% certainty. If you wait till you have that, you'll fail."

The evidence is unmistakable. We have hard choices before us. As the impact of irreversible climate change and the need for cheap energy increases, you'll see more resource conflicts, more epidemics, and more deaths.

In short, life as we know it – for millions of people, including us – will become nastier, more brutish, and perhaps shorter. As an Iraq War veteran, I've dealt with the consequences of our energy needs in ways few have.

Acknowledging that our gnawing desire for cheap energy compels our involvement in the Middle East doesn't cheapen my sacrifice; it doesn't attenuate my service. It places it in rich context. Our energy posture is disastrous – economically, diplomatically, and militarily. It's a national security crisis. Our future depends on resolving this.

The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do.

President Obama was talking about health care; it could've been about energy and climate.

The gathering storm – the magnitude of the threat before us – demands your attention. If you haven't paid attention before, you must now. The price we're bound to pay – in treasure, and, yes, in the lives of our uniformed services – is much too high. We must change our course.

We will – if people like me are paid heed. We must change. Doing so will result in security and wealth for America. Our present course can only end in failure and ruin.

(Cross-posted from Operation FREE.)

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By Michael J.W. Stickings

Not much blogging from me today. I've got a bad cold, or whatever it is that seems to be going around.

I'll be back later with new posts. In the meantime, make sure to check back for more from the co-bloggers, as well as for a guest post coming up soon.

-- Michael


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Afghanistan is a riddle wrapped in an enigma for the U.S.

By Carol Gee

Afghanistan is grabbing its share of headlines this week. Multiple intense meetings are taking place at the White House. Various of the key players have come down publicly on one side or the other about what to do next. Violence continues in "Af-Pak," as it became known early in the Obama administration. Defining who the primary adversaries are in the region has not been settled. Friction is being between the military and civilian elements within the governments of both the U.S. and Pakistan. And everybody is weighing in with opinions. Today's post is my attempt to clarify the basic elements of the current situation.

A suicide car bomb killing at least 12 people was intended for the Indian embassy in Kabul, according to the New York Times (10/8/09). The previous day the same paper published an analysis by Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt that explains that the Afghan war debate now leans towards a plan to focus on a campaign against Al Qaeda in Pakistan. It is not known whether this view is accepted by the entire Obama war cabinet.

The central debate question seems to hinge on the nature of the current relationship between the Taliban and Al Queda. The administration pointed out to the Times in an anonymous interview that there are fewer than 100 Al Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan. Recent successes with surgical strikes against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan may make that country less central to U.S. strategy. Another anonymous official characterizes the strategy as one of viewing the Taliban, militants local to Afghanistan and jihadist Al Qaeda as very different. President Obama has reiterated that his goal is to protect the United States and to prevent the jihadis from getting safe haven. Mark Knoller reported on Twitter that "a WH official says Obama received a 'comprehensive intelligence and counterterrorism assessment' on political & diplomatic situation in Pakistan." The unpredictability of the future of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan has to eventually be settled by the President.

President Obama requested an early look at General McChrystal's troop request from Defense Secretary Gates, according to McClatchy on Wednesday. The President wanted to read it before the top military officials reviewed it so that it would not be leaked to reporters as was McChrystal's Afghanistan assessment. This may suggest friction between the military and the commander in chief. And there has certainly been friction between General McChrystal and his superiors because of his public stances, and because of the leak -- source unknown.

Pakistan's army has similarly objected publicly to the conditions in the $1.5 billion U.S. (Kerry-Lugar) aid package still to be signed by the President, McClatchy reported. The objection, according to McClatchy, caught the administration by surprise and comes at a time just prior to a planned offensive towards militants in the border region of Waziristan. And it pits the military "against the fragile civilian government of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which has championed the U.S. assistance deal," as well as against the opposition in parliament. The bill has a number of requirements including, "monitoring and certification of Pakistan's action against terrorism. . . requires the country to work to prevent nuclear proliferation and to show that its military isn't interfering in Pakistani politics." Pakistan's Foreign minister, on a trip to Washington, played down concerns over the bill, while acknowledging that the language could have been more sensitive to Pakistan's sovereignty. Marc Ambinder posted this on Twitter:

"RT @nickschifrin: Is the Pakistani military statement of doubt about the Kerry-Lugar bill in #Pakistan a game changer?" It was linked to a related BBC News story explaining more about the nature of the Pakistani military's objections.

Finally, many of us remember Charlie Wilson's War. Huffingington Post reports that Wilson now thinks that we ought to consider a new strategy regarding the war in Afghanistan. "I'd probably shut it down, rather than lose a lot of soldiers and treasure," noting the President's "very tough situation." See the interview at the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Afghanistan is a very difficult region of conflict, with no simple answers for the U.S. Pakistan, and even India, are all parts of one puzzle. Pakistan's weak government will probably not fall over its own internal dissension, and the Waziristan campaign will probably begin. The President is not going to withdraw troops from Afghanistan or aid from Pakistan. His plans for a strategy will emerge in the next few weeks. It will almost certainly be a very complicated plan, as it should in these enigmatic circumstances.

"Gross: Massive Fraud in Afghanistan Election," is by Nasrine Gross at Juan Cole's Informed Comment (10/7/09).

"Robert Kaplan on the Regional Dimensions of Afghanistan," is from Steve Clemons' The Washington Note (10/7/09).

"Guest Post by Michael Cohen: The Trouble with Counter-Insurgency," is from Steve Clemons' The Washington Note (4/1/09).

"Battle of Books rages in Afghan debate," is from The Wall Street Journal at Memeorandum (10/7/09). Regards Lessons in Disaster and A Better War.

" 'Code Pink' rethinks its call for Afghanistan pullout," is from the Christian Science Monitor at Memeorandum (10/7/09).

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bully pulpit

By Carl

Interesting poll was put out yesterday by the Associated Press, one that warms my heart a little that maybe
this nation is paying attention after all:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Most people still think the country is headed in the wrong direction but a new poll says there are more optimists than before and President Barack Obama's numbers are also on the upswing.

An Associated Press-GfK poll says 56 percent of those surveyed in the past week approve of Obama's job performance, up from 50 percent in September. It's the first time since he took office in January that his rating has gone up.

And those who disapprove of Obama are down to 39 percent, down from 49 percent last month.

While a majority of those surveyed remain pessimistic about the direction of the country, the poll found 41 percent now believe the U.S. is headed in the right direction, compared with 37 percent in September.

Of course, that being a FOX affiliate, you still haven't read the good news:

The latest Associated Press-GfK poll has found that opposition to Obama’s health care remake dropped dramatically in just a matter of weeks. Still, Americans remain divided over complex legislation that Democrats are advancing in Congress.

The public is split 40-40 on supporting or opposing the health care legislation, the poll found. An even split is welcome news for Democrats, a sharp improvement from September, when 49 percent of Americans said they opposed the congressional proposals and just 34 percent supported them.

Anger about health care boiled over during August. Lawmakers returning home for town hall meetings faced outcries that the government was trying to take over the system, ushering in higher costs, lower quality — even rationing and euthanasia.

The key, of course, is that last paragraph.

During the month of August and early September, the astroturfed "Tea Bagger Party" movement made significant inroads in the public dialogue about healthcare by making asses of themselves publicly.

Utilizing the rusty saw "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," these whiny cogs stalked and harassed public officials and raped the public dialogue.

This created an atmosphere where people were not only afraid to speak out in opposition to this brutal patriarchal behavior, but to even agree to abide with it, much like a kidnap victim eventually admires her captors.

No longer, and while I suspected this might turn around, the fact is, it happened so suddenly and with so little reaction from the Obama administration that I began to be concerned if in fact he was getting the point.

I guess he did. Strategically, he must have felt that no one was going to pay attention to him when they were going to the beach or the mountains, but that once he could command a prime time fall television audience, he'd begin to win back the folks who in their hearts want to see the country do better by doing good.

The key to this turnaround has been a full-court press to persuade older Americans that Medicare will not be endangered, and that an extension of Medicare-like coverage to all Americans would not be a bad thing.


Too, there's an energy aspect to this strategy: rage usually burns out quickly, leaving a deep-seated sense of embarrassment. Here, I think, is the underpinning to the turnaround in Obama's polling numbers, which sunk as low as Bush's in August 2001.

People just got tired of being angry. Anger is fear and fear is exhausting, and people want Obama to do well (despite the reprehensible and disgraceful cheer that arose when Chicago was eliminated by the IOC).

Too, I think middle Americans watched Glenn Beck all but spew venom with respect to Obama, watched as Tea Baggers all but lynched Obama in effigy (haven't seen that yet, so some credit has to be given the racist contingent), and watched the silliness over Obama's slightest move to relax, and just remembered the Moron-In-Chief who preceded him and said, "Hmmmmm, this is not the side I want to be on."

Kudos, Mr. President. You've done well.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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"I'm against it"

By J. Kingston Pierce

Finally, a unifying theme song for America's flailing Republican Party, aka "The Party of No." Hit it, Groucho...

(Cross-posted from Limbo.)


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Quote of the Day: Tom Shales on David Letterman

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't watch Letterman as much as I used to -- in fact, I rarely watch him at all these days, what with Colbert on at 11:30 -- but he's always been, by far, my favourite of the mainstream (network TV) late-night hosts. There just isn't much to say about the blackmail revelation and the admission of affairs with staffers -- he did what he did, he seems genuinely sorry for it, and I'm not going to judge him or his private conduct -- but I think WaPo television critic Tom Shales gets it right in his assessment of Letterman's place in the culture, and of the context of this story:

One of many sad things about recent stanzas in the ballad of David Letterman is that now, in all media, Dave will be lumped in with other sexually misbehaving celebrities, even though he stands head and heart above most of them.


Letterman's misadventures contain potential harm, pain and injustice only for the individuals specifically involved -- and since there have been no allegations about the sex having been nonconsensual or any partners having been underage, it's all unpleasant but hardly some sort of threat to the public welfare.


What Letterman has done, or allowed to happen, is foul up our perception of him by allowing his private self to share air time with Public Dave, the one we know and love -- the wisecracking, self-deprecating, overgrown adolescent who has one of the keenest, cleverest and funniest comic minds of all time.

Agreed. Now let's put this behind us and move on.

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The coming (Democratic) victory on health-care reform

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I think TNR's Jon Chait, like his colleague Jon Cohn, has done some fantastic work writing on the health-care reform issue, and one of his latest posts at The Plank is worth quoting in full:

The biggest story in health care reform this year has not been the town hall meetings, or President Obama's big speech on health care. It's that the Senate Democrats have decided they're going to pass a bill. You just haven't heard much about this story because it’s mostly taken place behind closed doors.

Yesterday's Roll Call has some details. Here's what I think is the key passage:

As a fallback, Senate Democratic leaders have stepped up their pressure on centrists to stick with the party on procedural votes. At a minimum, leaders have asked all 60 Democrats to allow them to bring a health care bill to the floor in order to make sure Republicans cannot filibuster it.

Democratic Senate aides familiar with the thinking of Conference moderates said centrists want to vote for a health care reform bill -- even one that is politically problematic -- because it appeals emotionally to their inner Democrat.

A month ago I wrote that it's nearly impossible to see health care reform failing because it would entail a Democrat voting to filibuster the central progressive goal of the last sixty years. That proposition was looking shaky for a while because there were some Democratic Senators who acted as if they actually wanted to kill health care reform. (Hi, Senator Conrad.) But they're all now pretty clearly acting like they really want to pass something.

It's very strange. We've had months of sturm and drang, and massive attention focused on the question, Whither health care reform? It's just quietly turned into a fait accompli.

I hope he's right -- and I think he is. Though I worry about the remaining holdouts -- Nelson, Lincoln, Landrieu, etc. -- I do think Democrats will ultimately pull together to overcome a Republican filibuster, meaning that there will be a vote on the floor on a reform package likely with a public option component (given that Reid seems to be committed to it now).

And I think a lot of this shift has to do with Obama's re-entry into the fray with his address to Congress, as well as, and even more significantly, with his campaigning behind the scenes. Some centrist Democrats may think that coming out against reform benefits them politically, given that they represent heavily red states and need to prove their conservative bona fides to win re-election, but I actually think the reverse is true. Swing voters in their states won't vote against them if they oppose reform, they'll vote against them if Democrats fail, and if Obama fails, that is, if they fail to get things done, notably with respect to health care and the economy. What good would it do for them to campaign essentially on a record of voting against Obama and their own party? Would their constituents actually reward them for that? Unlikely. Much better, it seems to me, to side with Obama and their party, and to hope -- and it's a reasonable hope -- that the economy continues to stabilize (and perhaps begins to show signs of improvement) and that health-care reform (with a public option) proves to be as popular as the polls suggest it might very well be (once people get past the Republican lies and actually understand what's in it for them, and for the country).

What I wonder is how much Obama's huge political machine, the one he built so successfully during the campaign last year, plays into this. Surely these holdouts know that a vote against Obama could be a vote against their very political survival. After all, in return for their support, Obama could unleash his machine in support of them in their re-election efforts. But if they were to vote against the sort of robust reform package Obama seems to want, and that the overwhelming majority of Senate Democrats are pushing for, including the leadership? Do they really want to sacrifice Obama's support, and everything his machine can bring them, just to try to win over some of their Republican-leaning constituents?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves -- or, rather, let's tone down our expectations. Democrats may "want to pass something," but it's not entirely clear what they a) want to pass, and b) will be able to pass. All we have to go on, as of right now, is a lot of talk, a lot of internal party division, and reform proposals, like Baucus's, that are hardly all that desirable.

So while I think Chait is right, and while my optimism is going strong, I still have my nagging doubts. There is still so much to be done, and the opposition is fierce.

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Sexism, plain and simple

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to a new National Republican Congressional Committee press release, referring to Nancy Pelosi, Gen. Stanley McChrystal ought to "put her in her place."

Which means what exactly? That the strong military man ought to ship the uppity woman back to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, disenfranchised and disempowered?

So it would seem. Why else use that sort of language?

It's a reprehensible and indefensible slur, to be sure, but, as Steve Benen points out, what is also troubling is the actual content of the press release:

[T]he substantive nonsense of the NRCC press release is likely to be overlooked given this ugly condescension towards the House Speaker, but it's worth noting that the Republicans' campaign committee also argued that leading policymakers should simply "listen to a four-star general's assessments" on Afghanistan, and not consider their own judgment.

In other words, what the Republican Party -- and this isn't just some random Republican, it's a party committee -- is saying is that civilian leadership ought to kowtow before the military. Which is, when you think about it, rather un-American.

Or, rather, it ought to do so only when it's Democratic. When it's Bush and Cheney running the show, along with their rubber stampers in Congress, it's fine for civilian leaders to push around the military.

Hypocrisy? Double standard? -- You expected something different?

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Breaking the Senate health care deadlock

By Edward Copeland

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and I believe there can be only one, last-ditch solution to shake the U.S. Senate from its torpor, its sense of entitlement, and its addiction to the purse strings of the health insurance industry and other big money lobbyists.

Effective immediately, all members of the Senate must be whisked from D.C. and stripped of their health insurance cards and anything that identifies them as a senator. They will not be allowed to take any aides, cell phones, BlackBerries, etc. Each senator will be flown to an emergency room in a state that is not their own, complaining of nonspecific symptoms and claiming no insurance. They are not allowed to tell who they are or contact their real doctors. Since the majority are well past the prime of life and hospitals love to take tests, odds are they will find something and the senators will be admitted.

These won't be the cushy hospitals they are used to. These will be the types of hospitals real people end up in, where profits are more important than patient care. They can witness first-hand as the understaffed nurses can't answer their buzzes in a timely manner. They can eat what passes for food. They can witness the races for thermometer and blood pressure equipment because everyone has to share and there aren't enough to go around and some time vital signs don't even get taken. They can enjoy being awaken early in the morning for blood tests. They can enjoy the isolation. Maybe it will wake them the fuck up about what a mess health care is in this country while they play their games and worry about re-election. Give them a visit from a staff psychiatrist while they are in the hospital. If the experience hasn't changed them, commit them.

P.S. Any doctors in the Senate can't do any backseat medicine or tell anyone of their profession or we'll place them in a medically induced coma.

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By Carl

The Great Wall. The Pyramids. The Louvre.

In a thousand years or so, archaeologists will dig up the remnants of the great culture that was the Third Milennium, and wonder, "What the hell were they thinking?"

We've learned to accept a certain amount of... kitsch...i n our city centers, I suppose. There's a McDonald's across the street from the Empire State Building, as an example, and a block-long shopping center catty-corner to that, with rotating retailers like Victoria's Secret and other mall-centric operations, leading up to Macy's in Herald Square.

Nothing wrong with that. But Pizza Hut and KFC
next to the Great Pyramid? That's going to cause some consternation, to be sure.

McDonald's is IN the Louvre, and, in a fit of majestic irony, under the Museum of Communism in Prague. Starbucks next to the Great Wall, and I'm not sure if the irony or the coffee is more bitter.

The best of American culture has become so pervasive that historians will debate whether KFC predated Cheops, or if Starbucks was around in the Mongol uprising.

America was always great at absorbing culture and cuisine. Think about it: those great "American" foods -- the hamburger, the hot dog, pizza -- are all European.

And now we've digested them, repackaged, them, and repurposed them, and sent them on their merry way to infest and infect the rest of the world, so much so that I expect we'll start seeing terror attacks involving fast food restaurants more frequently.

We have in our history symbolized great excess and a squandering of wealth, but now we squander majesty and heritage, as well.

That can't be a good thing.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Peter Schiff

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Schiff is the former Ron Paul advisor who's running -- as a Republican, of course -- for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut. And, well, he's rather full of himself:

I'm interrupting my career. It's not like I want my new career in politics. But I'm willing to interrupt it the same way that somebody interrupted their career and joined World War II and went off to fight the Nazis.

Whether he wins or not -- and he'll surely lose -- I'm looking forward to the Spielberg biopic of Schiff's life. Should be a real Saving Private Ryan-ish barnburner, the inspirational tale of one man's fight to defeat the dastardly Democrats.

In related news, I cut my toenails last night and awarded myself a Silver Star for "gallantry in action." (No, I'm not "that heroic," to quote Schiff, but "it's the same principle." Trust me.)

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