Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dems "have the votes" in House; anti-abortion Stupak Amendment passes

The Hill and Politico are reporting that Democrats have the 218 votes necessary to pass the health-care reform bill.

As CNN is reporting, the awful Stupak Amendment passed 240-194 earlier this evening. It "bans federal funds for abortion services in the public option and in the insurance 'exchange' the bill would create." This is the trade-off for securing 218 votes, as it pulls in anti-abortion Dems, but it's a bitter pill to swallow. Lest we forget, after all, abortion is legal, and what this amendment means is that millions of women, most of whom don't have the resources to buy expensive, high-end private insurance, will be cut off from abortion as an option. But who care about the poor and the indigent who will suffer the most from this? Not the Republicans, of course, nor the Democrats who put their anti-abortion fanaticism before the health and well-being of women.

More to follow...

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President Obama is absolutely right: Voting against health-care reform won't protect Democrats from the abject viciousness of Republicans

Sam Stein at HuffPo:

In a final push to get health care reform through the House of Representatives, President Barack Obama warned lawmakers on Saturday that a vote against the legislation would not immunize them from Republican attacks.

The president, according multiple attendees, played the role of political prognosticator during his roughly 30 minute address before Democratic caucus members on Capitol Hill. Addressing, implicitly, those conservative Democrats who are worried about voting for a nearly trillion dollar health care overhaul, he insisted that they would not be safe from partisan attacks even if they opposed the bill.

Yes, yes, yes. This is a point I and many others have been making for a long time.

If you're a Democrat and you're ideologically opposed to the bill, fine, I get that.

But if you're a Democrat and you're opposed to it for personal political reasons, that is, because you're putting your political survival before all else and think that voting against reform will increase your chances of being re-elected, especially in a right-leaning district, you're just deluding yourself. Your opponent and his or her party, the GOP, will target you relentlessly and mercilessly, especially if they think they can take back a right-leaning district. You will be able to go to the voters and stress your opposition to reform, but what good will that do you? Your opponent will have been against it, too, and he or she will attack you simply for being a Democrat, linking you to the rest of your party whether you like it or not.

So why not vote for the bill? Stand to be counted with your party, and the president, as history is made.

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Rape, racism, and Republicans

By Capt. Fogg

A friend of mine used to have the job, back during the Vietnam war, of flying a helicopter over dangerous areas so as to draw fire from hidden gun emplacements, flushing out the enemy so that we knew where they were. Barack Obama has been a bit like that and sad to say, I've now identified far too many enemies, some that I thought were friends.

I got another e-mail this morning, from someone I would hardly call a redneck: a northeasterner, ex military intelligence with a long career at the Pentagon. "I despair for the country" was the title and it had a link to a YouTube video wherein the President confesses to being a Muslim. It's an obvious cut and paste job that wouldn't fool anyone who didn't want to be fooled -- and there's the rub. Too many want to be fooled and bask like pigs in the warm and stinky deception. The hate and fear of our President long preceded his election and for some it preceded his birth. The closeted racists of America desperately need such insultingly stupid stories as a defense against the obviously true accusations of racism.

I grew up in the 1950s and I'm no stranger to segregation or blood in the streets for that matter, but still I'm amazed at the breadth and depth of the long concealed and highly fermented racial and ethnic hatred that's been lurking in the jungle and is emerging like tracer bullets whose dotted line shows the way, right to their source.

I can't count the outraged e-mails and comments I've seen about the recent California schoolyard rape, which of course has allowed the haters to vent their paranoid fear and loathing of Hispanics. It was of course a Hispanic girl who reported it, not a "regular" American as Archie Bunker would have said, but no matter. Hate has its own sort of statistics and only needs an example to declare it "typical." Indeed, it doesn't even have to be true if you have even a mediocre shareware video editing program.

In its own way, this sick and disgusting incident seems not to be out of context of what is happening in many disparate groups, even of white, Anglo-Saxon protestants, marching in the streets for lower taxes as though Obama had actually raised them; showing pictures of Nazi death camps as though any sane person connects piles of murdered bodies to a government administered health plan -- the people who call the Democratic health care bill "Obamacare" but never think to call Social Security Roosevelt Retirement or identified the GI bill with Communism or call the public library the Socialist Book Store -- or identify the recession with Republican economic policies. These things and more are part of the Us against Them view where the government is "them," the 15% fringe element and the corporate lobbyists are "We the people," the government is the enemy and only illegitimately exercised authority is legitimate.

The twenty or so witnesses to this crime, if they had any compassion at all, were prevented by the entertainment value and hatred of police and the Maverick mentality from doing anything or reporting anything. The criminals are The People, the cops are not and the law is the enemy because it interferes with our freedom to commit crimes ad libidum. Is that really different from not caring how many innocents are killed abroad in a war started and continued under false pretenses and appeals to fear and patriotism? Is that different from not giving a flying damn how many millions die, how many sick children clog the emergency rooms and drive up the cost of insurance and spread disease, or how many lives are ruined by insurance companies? Its them against us and 'them' are the unfortunate, the minorities, the sick the old and unemployed. Who wants the damned law and the government to help them even if it protects us too?

Perhaps you find the connection tenuous or even far-fetched, but I don't. There is no "us" in the US any more unless it's in the context of us against them and that miserable, militant and malicious group who flatter themselves with the stolen title of 'Conservative' are as much to blame as anyone for the rape that is our for-profit, cartel run health "system." Anyone who brings the government in is a "snitch."

Oh no, it's those liberals who insist any criticism of the President is racist and we're not racist at all - it's just that he's a foreign born, Marxistnaziterroristracist who "hates white culture" (whatever the hell that is) and murdered his grandmother and wants to murder yours. It's because he's trying to reconstitute the Auschwitz death camp by giving us health insurance, not because he's a Ni - I mean black.

Hey, we're not responsible for not reporting a vicious and nearly fatal rape, it's because we can't trust the cops, the cops are the problem, the government is the problem and we want less government, you know.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Delay and disrespect: Republicans try to silence women on House floor during health-care reform debate

This morning, the House began consideration of the rule for debate of the House health care bill. As the Democratic Women's Caucus took to the microphone on the House floor to offer their arguments for how the bill would benefit women, House Republicans -- led by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) -- repeatedly talked over, screamed, and shouted objections. "I object, I object, I object, I object, I object," Price interjected as Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) tried to hold the floor.

In an effort to delay and derail the proceedings, the Republicans continually talked over the Democratic women for half an hour. They sought to prevent the debate by calling for unnecessary "parliamentary inquiries" and requests for "expanding the debate" by an hour.

It amazes that any woman would vote Republican, let alone be a Republican, but of course there are many women who support policies that, in my view, work against women's best interests. But let's leave that aside here. The behaviour of Republicans in the House today was simply appalling. They sought to silence women from speaking in support of reform, women who are their own colleagues in the House, and generally sought to block meaningful debate on reform.

The anti-choice Stupak Amendment is terrible -- it would, as Jon Cohn explains, "[make] it more likely that millions of American women will no longer be able to purchase insurance that covers abortion services." (Of course, it could still be stripped out of the final bill, but pro-choice supporters of reform may have to accept this compromise, and setback, if they want reform to pass.) What is also terrible, though, is that Republicans have given up even pretending to be civil in their opposition to reform, and their treatment of the Democratic Women's Caucus showed clearly how little respect they have for women and women's issues. There will no doubt be much more of this as the various bills work their way through Congress.

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Top Ten Cloves: Things Disney should consider for Mickey Mouse makeover

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: After Mickey's Makeover, Less Mr. Nice Guy

10. High Tech - Tie Mickey Mouse into Twitter, speaking in 140 characters, or less

9. Give Mickey a perpetual tan, like John Boehner

8. Like The Commander Guy, he should have an Ek-A-Lec-Tic Reading List

7. Scandalous - Put PR out he's in Carrie Prejean's home sex tape

6. Lots of security - No matter what the makeover is, Kayne West is likely to pop up,.and step all over it

5. Presidential - Give Mickey "Obama Ears," but downside is he would still have a couple of cab doors

4. Make him over as a Northwest pilot - All they have do is let him sleep!

3. For the launch of the makeover, with cellphone cameras, claim Mickey is floating away in a tinfoil weather balloon

2. Have him lose, and gain, weight, just like Oprah

1. Only one way to go - Bruno!

Bonus Links

Judann: Pollack: How Would You Remake Mickey Mouse? ...Disney Giving Corporate Icon a Makeover

Rebecca Tushnet: You blow my mind: Mickey Mouse makeover

Generous King: Disney’s Epic Mickey Mouse Gets Makeover; He Looks Meaner Now, Just A Steamboat Willie Inspired Design That’s All!

Andy McSmith: Mickey Mouse to get a makeover

(Cross Posted at The Garlic.)

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Blood and bigotry: Conservatives attack Obama, scapegoat Muslims, and shamelessly use Fort Hood massacre to score partisan political points

Here's what I tweeted yesterday:

I can't wait for the right's all-out anti-Muslim take on the Fort Hood massacre. You know they'll fit the blame to their biases.

And later:

The rush to judgement by conservatives is disgusting. But, then, so is their bigotry. Is it any wonder Muslims question America's motives?

And then:

Lesson #1 from Fort Hood? We don't really know a fucking thing yet.

Lesson #2 from Fort Hood? The world can be a crazy, violent place. And sometimes there is appalling bloodshed.

Lesson #3 from Fort Hood? Things are much more complicated than right-wing propaganda and spin would have us believe.

I've spent a good deal of time -- too much time -- going through the conservative reactions to the Fort Hood massace, and it's all pretty much as expected. I just don't have energy to provide a comprehensive round-up, but here are a few of the more appalling examples:

-- Jerome Corsi wrote at WorldNetDaily that Nidal Malik Hasan "played a homeland security advisory role in President Barack Obama's transition into the White House." Actually, he did nothing of the kind, as Jason Linkins explains at HuffPo. Clearly, some on the right are trying to pin this on Obama, or at least to implicate Obama, and the left, in the massacre.

-- Hasan may have seen the war on terror as a war on Islam -- an understandable mistake, I suppose, given how Bush conducted the GWOT -- but that doesn't mean he was a jihadist and that his killing was an act of Islamist terrorism. Conservatives have jumped all over this.

-- Hasan may have shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) before shooting, but that doesn't necessarily make him a jihadist any more than what he seems to have been: a deeply troubled, disturbed, emotionally wounded man who simply cracked. Needless to say, conservatives have also jumped all over this.

-- Allen West, a retired colonel and rising Florida Republican, claims that "the horrible tragedy at Fort Hood is proof the enemy is infiltrating our military": "This enemy preys on downtrodden soldiers and teaches them extremism will lift them up. Our soldiers are being brainwashed." West has no evidence of this, and there is no evidence that Hasan was preyed upon and brainwashed by the "enemy."

-- Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, quoting NPR, reports that Hasan was "disciplined for proselytizing about his Muslim faith with patients and colleagues." Once again, conservatives are making a lot of this, but how is such "proselytizing" any different, or worse, than the aggressive Christian ministries that operate in the military?

Otherwise, other than attacking Obama, conservatives have predictably been lashing out at Muslims generally, as if Hasan was somehow a stand-in for Muslims everywhere. Media Matters:

Right-wing media figures have used the shooting at Fort Hood as an excuse to attack Islam and American Muslims in particular, with Debbie Schlussel, for example, urging readers to think of the alleged shooter "whenever you hear about how Muslims serve their country in the U.S. military." Additionally, commentators have blamed the shooting on "political correctness," with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade suggesting the implementation of "special debriefings" for Muslim American soldiers to prevent future attacks.

The point is not just that conservatives are jumping to conclusions, fitting their attacks to their bigotry and their ideology, but that we still don't know a lot about what happened at Fort Hood, about why Hasan did what he did.

I'm not saying we should ignore what we know, or write the massacre off as an entirely meaningless incident, which would only let the right control the narrative, as Jason Zengerle rightly argues at The Plank, and there may very well be more to this, but rushing to bigoted judgement, calling Hasan a terrorist, and scapegoating Muslims is, while predictable a right-wing response, deeply irresponsible, as is trying to use the massacre to score political points against Obama and the Democrats.

Enough already. We all need to know a lot more about what happened, and why, before assigning blame, if that is even what ought to be done.

For more reaction, see Memeorandum.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

If I were an independent, I'd want David Brooks to stop stereotyping me and claiming to speak for me

On the surface, a lot of what David Brooks says and writes seems to make sense. And, to be fair, the whole cultural-social stereotyping thing that has propelled him to widespread punditocratic fame, perfected with the Patio Man and Realtor Mom of his exurban paradise, can be quite amusing.

Beneath the surface, though, when you get past the thin veneer of an amusing exterior, is, not to put too fine a word on it, bullshit. And the bullshit is on full display in Brooks's NYT column today, a typical fluff piece that makes grandiose statements based on limited, if non-existent, empirical evidence.

Specifically, Brooks asserts that the results of Tuesday's elections, as well as of recent public-opinion polls on a variety of major issues, show that independents, whom of course he treats as a monolith without any nuance or allowance for diversity whatsoever, have become more conservative. He concludes:

Independents support the party that seems most likely to establish a frame of stability and order, within which they can lead their lives. They can't always articulate what they want, but they withdraw from any party that threatens turmoil and risk. As always, they're looking for a safe pair of hands.

Uh-huh. Whatever.

First, Brooks doesn't seem to consider that shifts in public opinion, including for independents, do not happen in a vacuum. If independents are upset about too much government regulation, perhaps it's because economic uncertainty has them lashing out at those in power, specifically at Obama.

Second, independents could just be wrong. They're more conservative on global warming and immigration? I take that to mean they're a) stupider, given all the evidence against conservative denialism on global warming, and b) more xenophobic in a time of economic uncertainty, desperate to blame someone, anyone, especially a widely vilified Other, for their apparent demise.

One thing about independents is that they're not so much independent as they are self-absorbed egotists who want politicians to cater to their every whim and tend to be easily manipulated. Sorry, that's just the way it is. They're just not the self-aware, generally right-leaning ideal of Brooks's wacky imagination.

For more, see Noam Scheiber at The Stash. I agree that, in general, independents are "just pissed off about the economy." They may say there's too much government regulation and too much government interference in the market, but they don't have "well worked-out views about the proper size of government" and they aren't "supremely self-aware about where they stand on the ideological spectrum, and where politicians stand relative to them at any given moment." They're just not that sophisticated, and it's silly of Brooks, if typical of him, to attribute sense to them where there is, for the most part, just knee-jerk senselessness.

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"Oh Camilla, you truly are my candle in the wind..."

Guess who's currently on a (royal) tour of Canada? That's right, it's Charles and Camilla. Hoo-wah!

You non-Canadians (and perhaps even some of you Canadians) out there may not know that our head of state is actually the British monarch, that is, Queen Elizabeth II, which means that, for better but mostly for worse, we have to put up with the comic freakshow that is the British royal family.

I used to be a monarchist, that is, I used to support keeping the British monarch as our head of state (without any real authority), through a viceregal governor general appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister, but no more.

I am British in addition to Canadian, and, well, I suppose I'm not opposed to Britain keeping its royal family, but what's the point for Canada? Tradition? But Canada is a nation that has evolved significantly over the course of its history, separating itself from its past, and from its British roots. A connection to Britain? But Canada isn't British anymore, it's a nation of two founding peoples (British and French) with a savagely brutalized third (Aboriginal), and it's now deeply multicultrual, even if its institutions and dominant cultural mores are still British? That connection to the Commonwealth? But who cares about the Commonwealth anymore? I don't.

I'm not sure what could replace the British monarch. A parliamentary system, which is what we have, should have a head of state more or less independent of the head of government (here, the prime minister). One option would be to elect a figurehead president, as Germany does, but that carries risks, such as the partisanizing of the office. So maybe we'll have to stick with QEII, Philip, Charles, William, Harry, and the rest of the madhouse simply because there isn't a desirable alternative. (And I actually quite like Charles, who does a lot of good, much of it unknown to most. He should certainly be king.)

Got any better captions?

(Photo from The Globe and Mail.)

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In Afghanistan, troop numbers should be based on strategy

Guest post by Jared Stancombe

Jared Stancombe is a 2009 graduate of Indiana University, where his studies focused on peace and conflict studies in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. His other academic interests include counterinsurgency and complex military operations. He is currently an analyst for a U.S. government agency responsible for national security and is in the officer selection process for the United States Marine Corps. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Ed. note: This post is the second in a series by Jared on Afghanistan and the Afghan War. You can find the first here. -- MJWS


Critics of President Obama have continuously stated that he is hesitating in sending tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan where they are "needed." But Obama realizes he must be careful. He also realizes that any further deployment of military forces should be oriented around a clear strategy. He does not want to repeat the same mistakes of the previous administration. However, the strategy of the Obama Administration and the U.S. military in Afghanistan remains unclear. There are two options -- counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency, and both require vastly different assets in scale and scope.

Counterinsurgency warfare is inherently costly in terms of lives, resources, and political will. Obama must calculate whether or not the American public is willing to see a counterinsurgency through. It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars in both military and non-military expenditures. Combat would take a lateral role along with humanitarian aid, economic development, and government capacity-building as the Afghan government and International Security Assistance Forces try to separate the population from the insurgents.

Counter-terrorism would require more of a fine-toothed comb rather than the coarse brush of counterinsurgency. A counter-terrorism strategy would be oriented around defeating, capturing, or killing al Qaeda insurgents wherever they reside. Special Forces would take a primary role as direct action and foreign military assistance in terms of training and assets would be primary tactics to disrupt and possibly eliminate the insurgents' ability to operate.

Troop numbers must be allocated within a framework of strategy. Counterinsurgency takes orders of magnitude more troops than counter-terrorism. If Obama chooses to continue with the counterinsurgency strategy, he must devote any and all resources necessary to see the strategy through. The decision to send troops into harms way should never be a political decision, and if the strategy calls for 60,000 more troops, then 60,000 troops should be deployed. If Obama chooses the counter-terrorism strategy, then troop numbers should be based upon how many are needed to support security operations, direct action raids to kill or capture insurgents, and to train the Afghan National Security Forces.

Obama may take on a hybrid approach that takes into account the lack of development and the lack of population density in the country. Counterinsurgency is inherently "population-centric," meaning that military forces seek to isolate the insurgents from the population. However, in extreme rural areas where insurgents find safe haven, counter-terrorism tactics may be necessary. Obama has recently ordered a review of all provinces in Afghanistan , and his administration is in the process of creating a winnable strategy that is based upon the situation, rather than politics or ideology.

The strategy should dictate the amount of troops needed. While the situation on the ground is becoming more dangerous seemingly by the day, U.S. policymakers should not send troops based upon knee-jerk reactions. Obama is doing the right thing by taking the whole situation in context, rather than by basing his decisions upon recent tragedies. Cool, calm leadership is needed, even as the situation becomes worse. But the situation will become increasingly worse if we have troops in Afghanistan with no clear strategy.

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Obscene holocaust exploitation, teabagger-style


Notice this poster that equates Holocaust victims with national healthcare reform. Protestors displayed this poster today at a rally near the Capital steps, an event sponsored and organized by House Republicans. More than tasteless hyperbole, it goes far beyond all boundaries of civility and decorum. It is obscene to exploit the Holocaust to score a political point, and it offends me to the core! There are times when a non-violent Octopus would like to smack a tea bagger, and this is the time!

Minority Leader John Boehner (OH), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (VA), Roy Blunt (MO), Jeb Hensarling (TX), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Michele Bachmann (MN) -- a key organizer of the event, Virginia Foxx (NC), Ginny Brown-Waite (FL), Jean Schmidt (OH), Sue Myrick (NC), among others.

One would think Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the U.S. Congress, would have shown better judgment than to associate with such shameful imagery. Noo! How do you spell s.c.h.m.u.c.k. ? If any of these reprobates appear on our beach, drown them at once!

(Cross-posted at The Swash Zone.)

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

So the Republican health-care plan is -- surprise, surprise -- an abysmal failure

As Ezra Klein explains, the House GOP's new plan, presented as an alternative to what the Democrats have offered, falls... well... a tad short:

Republicans are learning an unpleasant lesson this morning: The only thing worse than having no health-care reform plan is releasing a bad one, getting thrashed by CBO and making the House Democrats look good in comparison.


The Democratic bill, in other words, covers 12 times as many people and saves $36 billion more than the Republican plan. And amazingly, the Democratic bill has already been through three committees and a merger process. It's already been shown to interest groups and advocacy organizations and industry stakeholders. It's already made its compromises with reality. It's already been through the legislative sausage grinder. And yet it saves more money and covers more people than the blank-slate alternative proposed by John Boehner and the House Republicans. The Democrats, constrained by reality, produced a far better plan than Boehner, who was constrained solely by his political imagination and legislative skill.

This is a major embarrassment for the Republicans. It's one thing to keep your cards close to your chest. Republicans are in the minority, after all, and their plan stands no chance of passage. It's another to lay them out on the table and show everyone that you have no hand, and aren't even totally sure how to play the game. The Democratic plan isn't perfect, but in comparison, it's looking astonishingly good.

While the Republicans continue to look astonishingly bad. Can we now, at long last, stop paying attention to them and move forward with a reform package that would actually do what reform is supposed to do?

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By Creature

I have no problem with the media's resurgent Republican meme. If Republicans want to believe it, great. The reality coming out of Tuesday, on a national level, was that the Dems picked up a seat. While the 2010 mid-terms may not be great for the Dems, it won't be due to a resurgent Republican party. It will be due to a depressed Democratic base. To remedy this the Dems better step-up their game and pass stuff. Important stuff. If not, the resurgent Republican meme will become reality. And resurgent Republicans will have nothing to do with making it so.

The Democrats can only beat themselves at this point. Something I fear they are good at.

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Same-sex marriage setback in Maine, hope for the future

Washington voted for domestic partnerships, but Maine, a similarly blue state (despite having two Republican senators), voted against same-sex marriage.

There is no denying that the vote in Maine is a setback for gay rights. Simply put, the anti-gay forces of the right mobilize well, as they showed in California last year, playing to lingering bigotry and fear, and they did again here. Furthermore, there was little support for the same-sex marriage law in rural, more conservative parts of the state. There will eventually be legalized same-sex marriage in Maine, but, clearly, there is much work to be done.

And yet, there is also no denying that, despite such setbacks, the country is, on the whole, moving towards a full acceptance, including under the law, of gays and lesbians as equal members of society who, among other things, can marry and have their marriages recognized by the state.

Providing perspective, allow me to quote two of my favourite bloggers, Andrew Sullivan and Pam Spaulding:

Somehow losing by this tiny margin is brutalizing. And because this is a vote on my dignity as a human being, it is hard not to take it personally or emotionally. But I also know that the history of civil rights movements has many steps backward as forward, and some of those reversals actually catalyze the convictions that lead to victories. A decade ago, the marriage issue was toxic. Now it divides evenly. Soon, it will win everywhere.

I know for many younger gays and lesbians, this process can seem bewildering and hurtful. But I'm old enough now to be able to look back and see the hill we have climbed in such a short amount of time, and the minds and hearts we have changed. Including our own.

Know hope.

We should find solace in the fact that the children and grandchildren of those who voted to rollback the rights of fellow Mainers will be embarrassed that their relatives were so short-sighted, duped by entities that exist solely to discriminate using the ballot box as a weapon -- and making money off of the hate with great gusto.


LGBTs -- and more importantly, allies -- need to come out of the closet advocating for equality in ways large and small. It's the only way to move many voters, particularly the ones who think they don't know someone who is gay. Too many politicians who support us privately still don't have the spine to step up their game when our rights are under attack. That has to change.

There is a lot that all of us can do, in large and small ways, to overcome the bigotry that still wins at the ballot box. There is reason to hope, and there is reason to expect, and demand, change.

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As Maine went...

By Mustang Bobby.

Yes, I am disappointed that Maine voted down keeping the marriage equality law that was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor last May. Any time a referendum that limits the rights of people gets a majority of the vote, I'm disappointed.

Beyond the analysis of who voted for or against the measure and what part of the state they lived in, one of the questions that arises is whether or not such a question should even be put to a popular vote. Are there some rights that are so fundamental that leaving them up to the whims and the machinations of the campaign trail puts them in danger? Do you really think that the people of Kansas would have repealed state laws that allowed school segregation in 1954? What would the state of civil rights be if, in 1964 and 1965, Congress had not passed federal legislation that established fair housing and voting rights and had instead left them up to the states? Would Virginia have repealed their miscegenation laws without the ruling from the Supreme Court in 1967? Would women have the right to vote had it been left up to the states like it was in 1920 before the passage of the 19th amendment?

The response of a lot of people is that the voters should have the final say, and if they pass a referendum, that's it. That is a noble sentiment, but that's not the system we have. We have a representative democracy; we elect people to go to the city council, the county commission, the state house, and the United States Congress to do our business for us and to do more than just be a rubber stamp. And we have an equal part of our government in the judiciary that oversees whether or not the laws that are passed by the people or the legislature are fair or are equally applied. Just because a majority of voters cast a vote for an issue doesn't make it right; our history is replete with unjust laws that have been voted through. Case in point, Colorado's odious Amendment 2 that "would have prevented any city, town or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action from recognizing gay citizens as a Protected class." It took a Supreme Court ruling in 1996 to say yes, indeed, in some cases, gay citizens have the same rights as everyone else and can sue for discrimination. In short, the voters can -- and have -- made mistakes. They can be swayed by emotional arguments that have no bearing on the law, and as is the case of marriage equality, fear and loathing of Teh Gay isn't far beneath the surface.

The opponents trot out the old canards such as the "slippery slope" that same-sex marriage leads to all sorts of iterations of marriage, including polygamy; except that even someone whose only legal education is watching re-runs of Law & Order knows that a contract can be legally limited to the number of people in the contract. If the state wants to say only two people can be married to each other at one time or set an age limit to the parties involved, that's legal. What should not be legal is limiting the parties based on something that is innate such as gender identification or race.

They claim that people will be able to marry their dog. However, in order to have a valid contract, both parties have to be able to understand the terms of the contract and sign it. If you can find a dog that does understand the terms of the contract and can write his or her name, then getting married would probably not be a priority; you'd have a talking dog with opposable thumbs, and your next stop would be David Letterman.

They say that allowing same-sex marriage would require that schools teach about all the aspects of said marriage, complete with descriptions of intimate behavior. But since the contents of the public school curricula are left up to the state and local school boards and there are likely very few of them that already teach the granular aspects of heterosexual marriage to elementary school children, the chances are remote that the passage of marriage equality would require the overhauling of school curricula.

They claim that marriage equality would force churches that are doctrinally opposed to such unions to perform them or face legal action. But since churches are already free to not perform marriage ceremonies for straight couples that are not part of their congregation -- for example, the Roman Catholic church can refuse to marry a man and a woman if either one of them is not Catholic -- then they are perfectly within their rights to do the same for a same-sex couple. Besides, having the blessing of a religious ritual is not a prerequisite for a valid marriage. All you need is a license and witnesses. The rest is, so to speak, icing on the cake.

The most insidious argument is that somehow same-sex marriage is a perversion of "traditional marriage." Yet they never tell you what tradition they are talking about. Marriage throughout the ages has been more of a business deal, and to read about it in the Old Testament, it was between a man and as many wives has he could afford to accumulate. In the biblical tradition, fathers sold their daughters off to their friends as a trade-off for real estate (which led to the old Henny Youngman one-liner, "I got a dog for my wife. Best trade I ever made"). Arranged marriages were the norm for all classes of people -- where do you think King Henry VIII got his first wife? -- and in some cultures, they still are. The idea of a marriage based on love alone is both a modern and Western invention that is out of step with history and tradition; it's only Christian chauvinism and capitalism that makes it an inviolable tradition.

As for same-sex marriage being a "perversion," that's based on the theory that being gay or lesbian itself is a perversion, and that, above all, is the unspoken truth of the matter. All of the previous arguments are just excuses; a lot of people still have to overcome their own ignorance and homophobia before they can objectively look at the idea of applying all of the laws, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship including marriage to all citizens. When it comes right down to it, no one has yet put forth a valid reason for denying marriage equality -- or all of the other rights that are by law denied to gays and lesbians, such as child adoption in Florida -- to the LGBT community other than the arbitrary canards listed above. Not one. And yet they are able, by lung power and fear-mongering, to get voters to pass laws that do exactly that.

What the election in Maine proved is that even in a state that is known for its practicality and common sense, people can be swayed by lies, misinformation, and religious dogma. It should be obvious that the next recourse has to be through the courts and a chance to make the case for marriage equality based on the facts, not on the emotions. While same-sex marriage has an 0-31 record at the hands of the voters, it has prevailed in the courts in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Iowa and made into law. The opponents claim that "activist judges" are making up the law and imposing their will on the people; they should only interpret the law as it is written. Well, here is how the law is written:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

If it is activism to live up to the simple precepts of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, then let us make the most of it.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Reaction election coverage

The last couple of days have been busy here at The Reaction, with a lot of coverage of Tuesday's votes in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maine, and Washington, among other places.

Here's a handy list of our posts:

-- Election lesson (Creature)

-- Tales of Hoffman (Capt. Fogg)

-- The good, the bad, and the upsets (J. Kingston Pierce)

Check 'em out.


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Dick the Impaler

By Capt. Fogg

We seem to have forgotten about torture. Comedians and far right shamans still make jokes about how those still left in the cages at Guantanamo are the "worst of the worst." People are heavily against giving them any amenities like flu shots and some have the audacity to say we treat them too well, even though so many of them have never had any case proved against them or have been cleared: so many are guilty of little more than being Muslim or accused of something by an enemy.

That Dick Cheney, the once and in his own mind future Führer pokes fun at the idea that we ever engaged in torturing prisoners and although he's not well liked by any but the most extreme subhumans, he has never suffered any consequences for having directed and promoted things we used to hang people for when I was a boy: kidnapping, torture and murder. Republicans prefer to believe him, many of the rest of us believe so much in our essential virtue that we just don't want to hear any more of it.

It's not that there is no evidence of the Bush Administration's capital crimes, not at all. We have imprisoned and tortured many people with essentially no evidence against them, but there has been a constant flow of increasingly horrible information about kidnapping and the kind of torture even Limbaugh or Dick the Impaler himself couldn't pass off as a frat-boy prank. Crain Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan now tells us, says Raw Story, that the people the CIA sent to secret dungeons there were raped with broken bottles and/or boiled alive until they "admitted" to being affiliated with Al Qaida. Some were forced to watch their children being tortured and all so that the Bush administration could justify destroying Iraq to the eager war lovers back home.

"I'm talking of people being raped with broken bottles,"

he said at a lecture in October that was re-broadcast by the Real News Network.
"I'm talking of people having their children tortured in front of them until they sign a confession. I'm talking of people being boiled alive. And the intelligence from these torture sessions was being received by the CIA, and was being passed on."

I'm not ashamed to say that I'm ashamed of my country. I'm ashamed not so much by the monsters and tyrants and murderers of children some of us still revere as heroes and patriots, but by the way we still support what they did, still can't accept the horror, don't want to be told about it, still want to continue crimes as hideous as any ever committed, because after all, these people are "suspects." These people are "the worst of the worst" whether guilty or not and most of all they aren't Christian, like us. It's not really important anyway, not like gay marriage or insurance company profits or ACORN or tax breaks for Cheney and Bush.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Throwing bad money after worse

By Carl

You'd think investors would have learned a harsh lesson. Let's talk about that
after the break:
Concerns are mounting that efforts by governments and central banks to stoke a recovery will create a nasty side effect: asset bubbles in real-estate, stock and currency markets, especially in Asia.

The World Bank warned Tuesday that the sudden reappearance of billions of dollars in investment capital in East Asia is "raising concerns about asset price bubbles" in equity markets across Asia and in real estate in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. Also Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund cited "a risk" that surging Hong Kong asset prices are being driven by a flood of capital "divorced from fundamental forces of supply and demand."

Behind the trend are measures such as cutting interest rates and pumping money into the financial system, which have left parts of the world awash in cash and at risk of bubbles, or run-ups in asset prices beyond what economic fundamentals suggest are reasonable.

Prices are surging across a host of markets. Gold, up about 44% this year, soared to a record high Tuesday. Copper is up about 50% in the past year. In the U.S., risky assets are rising rapidly in price: The risk spreads, or interest-rate premiums, on low-rated junk bonds have narrowed to about where they were in February 2008, before Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers fell, according to Barclays Capital.

Before I start talking about the "why", let me sum up what you just read because, in truth, my eyes glazed over the first four times I read it, and I'm supposed to be interested in this stuff for a living.

In short, there's a lot of free capital out there that is not being reinvested in companies, or infrastructure, but in speculative investments. The laws of supply and demand, while imperfect, do apply here: opportunities are created when there is more money available than can reasonably be invested/spent.

Those bonuses at Goldman Sachs, that could be lent to struggling shopkeepers or small manufacturers are only the top of the iceberg of available cash that is being used creatively to whip up yet another frenzy.


Fair question, and a simple answer: addiction.

Greed is a drug. It is like alcohol or heroin, only greed destroys more lives than either of those.

When you've spent the past thirty years receiving double digit percent returns on your invested capital (yes, we've been in an overheated market for that long, despite the occasional bump and drop), you're not going to suddenly accept money market rates of 1 or 1.5% on your money.

You're going to force higher returns. You're going to look for pockets where the worldwide recession has not hit yet, and cycle your money in and out quickly.

How do I know this is what is happening? Personal experience.

Over the past three weeks, I have seen no fewer than three investment funds offer investors refunds on their invested capital. They've called for too much and were unable to complete investments they believed they could close on at an appropriate return.

They were, in other words, outbid by people willing to accept a lower-but-still-healthy return.

How does that work? Here's a thought experiment.

I'm willing to accept a 5% return so I bid to invest one dollar, expecting to get back $1.05.

I do this knowing that I'm faring better than the bank, who would give me a $1.01.

Someone else realizes they'd be willing to accept a 4% return, and so offer to invest $1.01, to get back the same $1.05.

The investment would be foolish to accept less money to pay back more in interest. After all, they get to keep an extra penny themselves.


Basically, this is one step up from a Ponzi scheme. And it signals that we are far from out of the woods in this economy.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Part of me would like to see stronger oversight of the markets, but that might stifle true innovation. After all, green energy ain't gonna be financed at the prime rate for the foreseeable future. Neither is stem cell research.

On the other hand, the anarchist in me would like to see the entire capitalist system go cold turkey on stupidity. But that would destroy us in the process, and that kind of violent change only begets more violence.

This is not going to be pretty.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Quote of the Day: Lindsey Graham on conservatism and the GOP

Every once in a while, the somewhat eccentric Republican senator from South Carolina says something that makes a lot of sense. Like this:

To those people who are pursuing purity, you'll become a club not a party. Those people who are trying to embrace conservatism in a thoughtful way that fits the region and the state and the district are going to do well. Conservativism is an asset. Blind ideology is not.

Graham was reacting in part to NY-23 and conservative efforts to control and purify the Republican Party, a process that is well underway.

I would like to remind the senator, though, that it was his good buddy McCain who put Sarah Palin on the ticket last year, giving her, and everything she stands for, both personally and politically, a national platform and catapulting her to stardom in the GOP.

There are some sensible Republicans left, and Graham is relatively sensible, an occasional voice of reason in the insanitarium (whatever his many faults), but their numbers are dwindling.

The Republican Party has become the party of the far right, well outside the mainstream of American society. It's the party of Limbaugh and Beck, Hannity and O'Reilly, Coulter and Malkin, Palin and the teabaggers, the birthers and the rest. Even the Republican establishment is on the right, or playing to the right, as we saw last year despite McCain's victory, a victory many conservatives worked hard to prevent, and that we have seen in full force since Obama's inauguration.

This is what Graham's party has become, and Graham himself is hardly blameless. And while he may now be fighting to take back his party from the blind ideologists of the far right, it is more than likely that there will be many more Doug Hoffman's in the years to come.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Good Satire Alert -- Al-Qaeda announces move to CD/DVD

By J. Thomas Duffy

We got hip, recently, to the site Cap News, which bills itself as "News satire and parody, covering comedy and humor from politics to sports and health to technology."

For our money, it is sharper, and more sophisticated than The Onion, targeting current events daily, versus the latters "Average Man Shocked To Discover He Has Above-Average Problems"-type stories.

And today Cap News delivered another howler:

Al-Qaeda Announces Move To CD/DVD

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CAP) - Following continued complaints of poor audio quality and amateurish video, al Qaeda has announced a deal with Sony Corp. to begin distributing its terrorist messages in the CD/DVD format.

"We're proud to announce this strategic initiative with one of the world's leading terrorist organizations," Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer said in a prepared statement. "We understand the extreme importance of communication in their industry and the explosive risks of failure and are prepared to meet those head on."

Go to Cap News to check out the full piece, as well as others.

And we recommend signing up for their daily email.

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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The good, the bad, and the upsets

By J. Kingston Pierce

Much hand-wringing and tea-leaf-reading is destined to follow yesterday’s U.S. elections. Most of those exercises are probably meaningless. Although the GOP would like to spin the capture of the governor’s mansions in New Jersey and Virginia as indicative of its comeback from Southern regional partyhood, such prognostications are more than a bit of a reach.

Virginia has not only demonstrated a habit over the last three decades of electing governors from the party that does not hold the White House, but the governor’s seat there has switched back and forth between the two major parties on a pretty regular basis ever since 1970. Former State Attorney General Bob McDonnell campaigned as a moderate Republican, and despite a brouhaha over his 20-year-old graduate thesis -- in which he “described working women as ‘detrimental’ to the traditional family ... criticized a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing contraception for unmarried couples, and decried the ‘purging’ of religion from schools” -- he managed to duck the tarring his Democratic opponent, state Senator R. Creigh Deeds, tried to give him. McDonnell outpolled Deeds during most of that contest, and even the White House was heard recently grumbling about how poorly Deeds had followed the successful campaign examples provided by the commonwealth’s two most recent governors, Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. Deeds’ willingness to curry favor with right-learning Independents by criticizing President Barack Obama -- who last year became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia in 44 years -- and his disinterest in promoting progressive reforms probably didn’t help him drum up Democratic support, either.

The dynamics in New Jersey were rather different. Former U.S. Senator and first-term Governor Jon Corzine was down in the polling early on against his GOP challenger, ex-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. And despite a seesawing between the two for front-runner status, Corzine was never able to pull far enough head to guarantee a hold on his job. It didn’t help any that he labored under the burden of being a former Goldman Sachs CEO, at a time when Wall Streeters aren’t exactly popular.

In both Virginia and New Jersey, exit polls showed that voters made their decisions based in some part on anxiety over the state of the U.S. economy, but in little or no part on the basis of what they think about President Obama. Republicans who want to paint yesterday’s results as some kind of referendum on Obama are definitely barking up the wrong tree.

More interesting than either of those contests, though, was the upset in New York’s northernmost congressional district, the 23rd, which has been a Republican stronghold ever since the mid-19th century. That race to fill the seat left vacant after GOP congressman John M. McHugh left to become Obama’s secretary of the Army, began as a face-off between Republican Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava and attorney Bill Owens, the Democrat, but turned into a testing ground for right-wing Tea Party insurgents. Despite having been blessed with the GOP’s endorsement, Scozzafava was harshly criticized for being even more liberal than Owens, and finally dropped out of the race after a third-party candidate, accountant Doug Hoffman--who didn’t even live in the district he hoped to represent--won the endorsements of such limelight-loving right-wing pols as half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and ex-U.S. Senator Fred Thompson. Even disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- who can dampen his finger and hold it in the political winds as well as the next schmuck -- switched his endorsement to Hoffman after it became obvious that Scozzafava didn’t stand a chance against someone who called Glenn Beck his “mentor.”

The supposition was that free-floating right-wing anger, coupled with the 23rd district’s history of electing Republicans, would catapult Hoffman into McHugh’s former seat; this, despite efforts by the White House on Owens’ behalf and Scozzafava’s last-minute endorsement of her erstwhile opponent. And some surveys did make a Hoffman victory appear inevitable. However, in the end Owens won with 49 percent of the vote; Hoffman trailed with 45 percent. Regardless of post-game struggles to paint Hoffman’s loss as a win -- with the supposition that it will compel the GOP establishment to tap more “ideologically pure” conservative candidates in the future -- the prospect of more Doug Hoffmans running in the future, and thus driving the already beleaguered and out-of-favor Republican Party farther and farther from the American mainstream, seems like a losing strategy. That may be especially true north of the Pennsylvania border, where, as The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen notes today, there are “51 congressional districts representing 34 million people” and “Republicans have a whopping two seats.”

Local contests here in Seattle and across Washington state offer favorable tidings, as well. Longtime anti-tax zealot Tim Eyman’s latest ballot initiative, which would have placed a cap on public funds available to city, county, and state governments -- and thereby driven budget deficits skyward -- is going down to defeat. A referendum to expand Washington’s domestic-partnership law appears to be headed for a win, despite opposition from voters living in the state’s more conservative eastern counties. (This victory won’t make up for Maine voters repealing a state law that would make same-sex marriage legal there, but it’s a small sign of hope for equal rights supporters -- and one step toward what is likely to the nation’s eventual legalization of so-called gay marriage.) And Democratic King County Council chair Dow Constantine, angling for the county executive seat vacated earlier this year by Ron Sims (who’s now the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), declared “overwhelming victory” over his opponent, ex-TV news talking head and closet Republican Susan Hutchison. Political newcomer Hutchison’s refusal to concede the race, even though she’s behind by 13 percent or more, just demonstrates why she hasn’t the class or temperament to hold public office.

So, as President Obama today celebrates a full year since his historic winning of the White House, he can look around the country with some confidence that favorable changes are taking place, even though there’s still considerable work to be accomplished. And the rest of us can go back to our normal lives -- until the mid-term elections next year, of course.

(Cross-posted to Limbo.)

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Not a bad day at all

By Carl

What to make of the off-year elections that people were focusing on?

Well, on balance, while not a stellar performance, one has to believe Obama actually gained a little ground yesterday.

Huh? Wha?

You heard me. Here's why:

1) Governor of Virginia -
Virginia went 53-46 for Obama last year. However, of the last five elected governors (including McDonnell now) three were Republicans, all elected with a Democrat in the White House. Add to that fact that Creigh Deeds was a nearly unknown state senator and ran a campaign so egregiously bad that even the White House wrote him off weeks before the election, a landslide was all but inevitable.

2) Governor of New Jersey - Chris Christie barely held onto a lead going into the voting booth, and many polls had this as a toss-up. Over the past thirty years, there have been six elected governors: three Republicans, three Democrats. To call New Jersey a Democratic stronghold at the state-wide level is ludicrous. Now, Obama did put in some energy into campaigning for Corzine, but the billionaire lost to the multimillionaire largely because of outside assistance from the right wing of the Republican party.

This was no slam dunk election that was Corzine's to lose, in other words. The entrance of Chris Dagget probably hurt Corzine more than Christie, altho his vote total probably would not have changed the outcome.

IN NEITHER OF THESE TWO ELECTIONS WAS OBAMA A FACTOR! Voters chose based almost strictly on local and statewide issues, not the national scene and in no way should either of these elections be considered as part of a larger "Republican Rescusitation"

3) The key race for Obama's fortunes, however, was
NY State's 23rd. There, in a stunning reversal of Republican fortunes, Democrat Bill Owens stunned the right wing of America by kicking the ass of Neoconservative darling, Doug Hoffman.

Hoffman held a significant four point lead in polling over the weekend, so he lost seven points in support in the blink of an eye.

Hoffman was heavily touted by Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the
Fucking Republican Loons. This has to strike terror into Sarah Palin's heart, because she so closely tied her Presidential fortunes to the outcome here. It makes her look like a loser who can't even get a Congressman elected in a heavily Republican, very conservative district that is filled with military types!

Pawlenty at least had the smarts to be a little on the QT when he endorsed Hoffman! But Palin?

Ooo-la-la! She shot her chances in the foot with this boo-boo! She pissed off the Republican leadership and still lost the fucking election!

Too bad, so sad, it's ours, Mooseburger...

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Killer bear kills militants in Kashmir cave killing spree

The title of this post says it all. But here are the details:

A bear killed two militants after discovering them in its den in Indian-administered Kashmir, police say.

Two other militants escaped, one of them badly wounded, after the attack in Kulgam district, south of Srinagar.

The militants had assault rifles but were taken by surprise -- police found the remains of pudding they had made to eat when the bear attacked.

It is thought to be the first such incident since Muslim separatists took up arms against Indian rule in 1989.

The militants had made their hideout in a cave which was actually the bear's den, said police officer Farooq Ahmed.

Oops. Not a smart move. How can these militants be expected to take over Kashmir if they can't even run their own cave without, you know, getting killed by a bear?

Otherwise, I wonder what Colbert thinks of bears now. Are they an even greater threat, or are they on his side at long last?

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