Saturday, March 13, 2010

Goodbye, Bart

By Creature

I've been meaning to contribute to Bart Stupak's primary opponent all week, and I'm thrilled that the House leadership is finally ignoring him, but it wasn't until his ridiculous claim that the Dems want to kill his amendment because it's cheaper to abort babies than provide them health care that I got my credit card in gear. Enough of this man and his lies. Feel free to join me and my wallet here.

For more, here's Rachel, setting the record straight...again.

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God is not religious?

By Capt. Fogg

And invoking God on our currency is not religious either, or so say the judicial theologians sometimes known as the Federal Appeals Court. The California court decided 2 to 1 to overturn their own 2002 ruling that sided with atheist Michael Newdow's complaint that doing so established a State Monotheistic religion and violated the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. Did they see the light, or did they feel the heat?

Why? It may seem hard to us to accept that God is not a religious figure or concept, but the reasoning behind the decision: that the government's power is limited by God's power, certainly is a religious atatement and even more certainy is at odds with the Constitution and the philosophy behind it. In fact the Biblical God seems very much against the idea of choosing leaders by popular vote if you remember the fate of Saul and that European Christians could be excommunicated for voting well into the 19th century.

The "pledge of allegiance" is also constitutional said the majority.
"The pledge of allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive,"

the two judges said. An interesting concept seeing as both of these shibboleths are rather recent and the founders of the Republic would have started a second revolution if they were around. I never feel more disunited with my countrymen than when at various club functions I have to stand up like a schoolchild and swoon over a symbol and affirm somebody else's religious delusion. Of course I always say "Under Fogg" but that's another matter.

As I've reminded my readers many times, the pledge was not originally about God or its relationship to our Republic, it was about the flag and nationalism and freedom and justice, two out of four of which are good ideas. Forcing children to swear to pray to God in a public school is an abomination and an attempt to punish people who do not believe. That everyone else has come to see this as a part of every public and private meeting or convocation is just silly, but the real comedy is watching federal judges bend over so far backward to be fair to people of superstition that their heads might just as well be fully inserted.

(Cross posted from Human voices)


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Friday, March 12, 2010

Born in the USA

By Capt. Fogg

Everybody's a Communist. Everything you say or do or want or don't want is Communism. The sun comes up in the Communist East and sets in the Communist West. Hamburgers are Communist, hot dogs, apple pie and motherhood. Reality itself is Communist according to Beck, the bombastic blond Aryan brother from Fox.

And that includes the song that's become all but a second National Anthem, Springsteen's Born in the USA. It's Anti-American propaganda because it's about the bittersweet truth of growing up in a country that fights wars for war's sake and abandons the worn out warriors to live in the streets; a country that's racist here and abroad, a country where some struggle and never get anywhere but a country we're proud of in spite of itself, like a prodigal child we love even through our despair.

The truth actually is Anti-American and Communist according to Glenn Beck because true Americanism is all about constant rage and hatred toward Americans and the government they choose and the contempt for civilization, the contempt for anyone different than Glenn Beck. In fact the Constitution is anti-American, the law, the truth: history is anti-American and so it's patriotic to lie and patriotic to distort, to defame, to libel and slander and bear false witness while fake tears run down his fat face. To be a "real" American, when Bruce and I were young, used to mean supporting the Vietnam war. Now it means supporting war for war's sake - just to show the world how tough we are. Now it means unalloyed hatred of the Black, Kenyan Muslim secretly in league with atheist communism and theistic radical Islam.

It's patriotic to pretend that we have nothing and never had anything to apologize for, that the age of white male suffrage, Jim Crow, lynchings, segregation and misogyny laws was a golden age. We were better off when half us lived in poverty, most of us died indigent, minorities knew their place, monopolies ripped us off and banks regularly collapsed. It's patriotic to be ignorant.
"It's time for us to wake, wake up, out of our, um, dreamstate." Said Beck, quoting Adolph Hitler's book. "Wake up out of the propaganda. The, you know, this is the thing that, people who come from the Soviet-bloc or Cuba, they're all saying, 'How do you guys not hear this? How do you not see this?' Well, that's 'cause we don't ever expect it."

No, it's true, we didn't expect that Bruce Springsteen hated America until you told us and we didn't expect it because it's a God damned lie like every word out of your mouth, you sick, greedy, ignorant treasonous bastard. We didn't expect that someone could make millions by doing what Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw Haw once did. We didn't expect such evil from any American.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Karl Rove "proud" U.S. tortured detainees

Karl Rove says he is "proud we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists... Yes, I'm proud that we kept the world safer than it was, by the use of these techniques. They're appropriate, they're in conformity with our international requirements and with US law."

Of course, the U.S. did a lot of nasty things to its detainees, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and a lot of what it did amounted to torture as defined by any decent human being.

What Rove was specifically focusing on, though, was waterboarding, which he does not consider torture. This is how they get around it. Bush repeatedly said the U.S. doesn't torture, but it only doesn't torture if you don't consider waterboarding torture. It's just a form of "enhanced interrogation," a horrible euphemism.

But it is simply incorrect to assert that what the U.S. did conforms with "international requirements" (under the Geneva Conventions) and American law. Unless, of course, you define waterboarding down -- that is, unless you lie about what waterboarding is.

Well, a lot has been written about waterboarding, but Mark Benjamin's recent "Waterboarding for dummies" piece at Salon exposed the brutal truth about waterboarding and the use thereof by U.S. interrogators. It's a must-read, though a deeply disturbing one.

It's hardly the harmless "dunk in the water" Cheney said it was:

[R]ecently released internal documents reveal the controversial "enhanced interrogation" practice was far more brutal on detainees than Cheney's description sounds, and was administered with meticulous cruelty.

Interrogators pumped detainees full of so much water that the CIA turned to a special saline solution to minimize the risk of death, the documents show. The agency used a gurney "specially designed" to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner's nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking – and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing.

The documents also lay out, in chilling detail, exactly what should occur in each two-hour waterboarding "session." Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath. They could use their hands to "dam the runoff" and prevent water from spilling out of a detainee's mouth. They were allowed six separate 40-second "applications" of liquid in each two-hour session – and could dump water over a detainee's nose and mouth for a total of 12 minutes a day. Finally, to keep detainees alive even if they inhaled their own vomit during a session – a not-uncommon side effect of waterboarding – the prisoners were kept on a liquid diet. The agency recommended Ensure Plus.

And so on.

Remember that the use of this "enhanced" technique, a favourite of the Nazis, was approved at the highest levels of the Bush Administration.

You have to be an utter idiot to think waterboarding isn't torture. (Maybe Rove has convinced himself it isn't, or maybe he knows it is but spins his denials anyway, or maybe he really is an ignorant fool.)

And you have to be an utterly despicable human being, not even really human at all, to be "proud" of using torture, this and other forms of it, to inflict pain and suffering on, and to break, another human being.

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Yes, John Roberts really is spineless

As you may know, I'm a blogger over at The Huffington Post. I usually put up two posts a week there, most cross-posted from here (though often revised somewhat).

You can find my HuffPo page here. It includes my post archive.

Well, I cross-posted my Reaction post on the spinelessness of Chief Justice John Roberts there yesterday, and, well, it generated a lot of feedback, more than any of my previous posts. As of right now -- I'm writing this at 11:51 pm Thursday evening -- it has 180 comments, and it's been a steady rise throughout the day. Most of them, thankfully, are positive.

If you're interested in checking out that post, as well as the comments, you can find it here.

Alright, enough self-promotion. Let's get back to blogging.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Amusing Photo of the Day: Attack of the Giant Ukrainian Transformer!

Photo from The Globe and Mail: "A car passes by a giant transformer, made of discarded old cars and scrap metal, outside the town of Yuzhny, Ukraine, some 40 km south of the Black Sea port of Odessa."

Forget the Missile Gap. Forget the Mineshaft Gap. How about the Transformer Gap? Were the Soviets developing an invincible army of massive transformers to overrun Europe? Don't we need to know more about this?

Seeing this, it's a wonder the Cold War ended the way it did.

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Democrats who suck: Looking back at '04

Jon Chait looks back at the 2004 Democratic presidential field and, well, finds it wanting:

Just how awful was the 2004 Democratic primary field? Go through the list, and try to imagine any of these men as a presidential nominee, let alone (shudder) a president:

Howard Dean, who's been spending the last year on and off trying to kill health care reform.

Dick Gephardt, who's now a corporate whore.

John Edwards, who's, well, John Edwards.

Wes Clark, last seen insisting that "New York money people" were pushing for war with Iran.

Dennis Kucinich, also trying to kill health care reform.

Joe Lieberman: [photo of Lieberman at McCain rally -- enough said]

and, of course, Al Sharpton.

At the time, I was disappointed that Kerry prevailed. And it's certainly true that Kerry lacked the communications skills to be a presidential nominee. But compared to that field, he was a giant. He's the only candidate you can imagine actually serving as president without bringing about some enormous disaster. And he's handled himself pretty well since losing the race. Indeed, the only other 2004 candidate who's actually raised his stature among Democrats is Sharpton.

Dean was the exciting candidate, and many in the base supported him, but I hesitantly backed Kerry and was anything but disappointed when he won. I came to admire him a great deal during the campaign, and I admire him still. (I later came to support Edwards, before turning to Obama early in the '08 primaries.) And certainly, when you think back to that bunch, he seems all the more impressive.

Let's not be too revisionist, though. At the time, Gephardt and Lieberman were respected figures in the party, Clark (a distinguished military man) and Edwards (a Southerner with a vote-winning populist pedigree) were rising stars, Dean was, in a way, Obama before Obama, and Kucinich, who never had a chance, was widely regarded, as he is still, as the leftist conscience of the party. Only Sharpton was a joke, or worse.

It's an embarrassing roster of candidates when you look back on it now, but was it so bad back then? Sure, you think the Democrats could have fielded stronger candidates (Kerry aside) given Bush's vulnerability, but the strength of the '08 field more than makes up for the weakness of the '04 one. The fact is, the Democrats were in rudderless disarray back then with the Clinton-Gore years behind them and with Bush skating along with 9/11 still fresh in everyone's mind and the Iraq War not yet the utter disaster it would soon become.

There is still some disarray, of course, but, at the presidential level, with candidates who could compete one day for the White House, they're in a much better position now than they were then. Or so I think. It's rather hard to tell, with a Democrat in the White House and with no one in the party seriously challenging him, but I just don't see the same vacuum of leadership, and forward-looking leadership potential, that I saw in '04 and that is so much starker now in retrospect.

Besides, take a look at the possible GOP field in 2012 if you want to see mediocrity, and worse: Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Paul, Pawlenty, Jindal, Santorum, Pence, Thune...

Now there's "some enormous disaster" waiting to happen.

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Obama to impose ban on fishing

By Capt. Fogg

I feel left out. The hysterical e-mails about Obama's latest evil deed usually hit my in-box before Fact or Urban or get around to debunking the latest scoop from the bottomless crock. Surprising indeed since nearly everyone where I live has a boat and loves to fish. Stuart, Florida, where my boat lives is the Sailfish capitol of America. This time I got wind of it before the fishy smell stank up my e-mail client

Obama, you see, wants to ban fishing. That's right, out of pure African-American freedom hating Marxist malice, Opie will have to throw away his bamboo pole and the Cat Fish House on Rte. 1 will have to close and of course we'll believe it because we'll believe anything that feeds our racism and anarchist paranoia. The public has a right to fish, you see, just like I have the right to kill every last damned bird in the federal sanctuary I live next to. The Bible agrees.

The real story of course is that an Obama administration task force charged with developing a comprehensive plan for managing U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems stopped taking public input so it could prepare its final report. The deadline for writing letters simply ran out. That's right, just like the income tax is pure Marxism ( or Fascism if it suits your particular dementia better, ) scientific fish and wildlife management usually supported by sportsmen, is now a ban on commercial and recreational fishing.

It's all a case of slippery slopes, the fallacy behind virtually all Republican "principle' these days. Adjust the deer hunting season in Georgia, extend the snook season in South Florida and it will inevitably lead to an outright ban and therefore it IS an outright ban regardless of whether we've had such seasons and controls for a hundred years and regardless of the fact that we owe the continued existence of game fish and other wildlife to scientific management.

Will they ever tire of the daily lie? Not until you do.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Contra Kucinich

I generally have quite a bit of time for Dennis Kucinich, even when I disagree with him. But his self-defeating opposition to Obama's health-care reform package, and to the Democratic plan in Congress (Senate bill + minor patches passed through reconciliation), is, at this point, simply indefensible.

Advocate for a better bill, including a robust public option? Sure.

Threaten to vote against the only bill that has a chance of passing, hoping to bring it down? What the hell is he thinking?

Well, he's thinking like Ralph Nader, and we know how that turned out in 2000.

And so I'm with Markos Moulitsas on this (video below):

[Kucinich] is not elected to grandstand and to give us this ideal utopian society. He is elected to represent the people of his district and he is not representing the uninsured constituents in his district by pretending to take the high ground here...

What he is doing is undermining this reform. He is making common cause with Republicans. And I think that is a perfect excuse and a rational one for a primary challenge.

Like it or not, this is where we are. As I put it the other day:

It is a bitter thing, I know, to have to swallow a compromise bill written to appeal to "ConservaDem" support, and to accept demands made by the likes of Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman. It doesn't seem like a win. But it is, and it's a big one, and it's time, long past time, to put aside our differences and to accept that this is it, like it or not, that it's much better than nothing, that it contains some genuinely progressive elements, that millions of people will benefit from it, and that it could very well be the start of a major shift in America towards greater justice and fairness not just with respect to health care but more broadly within society as a whole.

That, it seems to me, is worth fighting for -- and, to that end, worth uniting for. 

It's time for Kucinich to get on board -- or else. As Jon Chait writes, "this is an extreme circumstance, and the Democratic base needs to let its representatives know that they will intentionally work to defeat members who try to save their own skin in a way that just gets everybody (including themselves) killed."

There's just too much at stake here, not just for the Democratic Party, and for individual Democrats, but for millions and millions of Americans. This historic opportunity to pass meaningful and progressive reform of an unjust and unfair system must not be allowed to be tossed into the dustbin.

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Quote of the Day: Glenn Beck on (being duped by, or rather told the truth by) Eric Massa

Give Eric Massa some credit. As critical as we may of him -- and I, for one, have been deeply critical -- his truth-telling performance in Glennbeckistan the other night was remarkable. (I won't get into the great details, but, if you missed it, make sure to check out Jon Stewart's hilarious take last night.) Beck wasn't amused, of course, and he signed off by acknowledging to his viewers that he'd wasted their time. On his radio show, he went further:

America, have you ever heard of a 50-year old man having a tickle-fight -- five men tickling each other so hard that they can't breathe? I think we found out who he is, someone who can't be trusted to tell the truth about his life.

Well, that's partly true. (I'll leave aside the first part. Are men not allowed to tickle each other? I suppose not, in Glennbeckistan.) Massa has been deeply dishonest about many things. But, when challenged by Beck, who only wanted Massa to spill and beans and reveal corruption at the heart of the Democratic Party, he wasn't so dishonest. Indeed, it was his honesty, his directness, that put Beck on his heels and seemed, briefly, to suck the spirit out of him. He wasn't forced out, Massa stressed, he forced himself out. Was he guilty of groping? Yes. Etc. Etc. Combine that with his defence of progressivism and, in retrospect, it was, in a way, awesome.

I almost said, "I think we could, but you've wasted enough of my time, get out," I almost threw him out of the studio three times... What a waste of time this man was!

Now that we spent the hour, we don't have to ever pay attention to this man ever again.

Well, perhaps not, and none of this really matters anymore -- not with Massa no longer in Congress and with the story dying down (even if both Stewart and Colbert covered it last night, even if it retain a certain strange, lingering fascination) -- but Beck and all those other conservatives who salivated over Massa have rather a lot of egg on their faces. They brought this upon themselves, after all, with their quest for dirt on the Democrats -- and with their relentless smear campaign against anyone and everyone who opposes them.

Some people, it seems, just can't handle the truth, including when it's told by a liar whom they so desperately wanted to believe was the defector of their dreams.

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Stuff to Read (3/11/10): empathy, imagination, and gay rights

Just one recommendation today, a piece from Monday that I've been meaning to highlight here.


Slate: "Why Has a Divided America Taken Gay Rights Seriously?" by Dahlia Lithwick, reviewing University of Chicago philosopher and law professor Martha Nussbaum's new book, From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law. I can't speak to the book, which I haven't read, but Lithwick's review certainly makes me want to read it, and it certainly seems to be a book that ought to be taken seriously.

Nussbaum's argument, in a nutshell, is that, to quote Lithwick, "much of the political rhetoric around denying equal rights to gay Americans is rooted in the language of disgust." It is through "greater public empathy and imagination," including in the courts, that disgust, which can turn others into "subhumans," can be overcome:

In a country more polarized than ever on virtually every social issue, we have been curiously willing to take gay rights seriously.

Perhaps that's because, as Nussbaum suggests, we have been so willing to hear compelling personal narratives, ranging from the fictional Will of Will and Grace to the stories of politicians and athletes and friends. She especially credits the arts -- such as Sean Penn's exuberant portrayal of Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's film Milk -- with sentiment-shifting power. She also assigns a catalytic role to the courts. Nussbaum invokes the dawning public awareness of how black schoolchildren experienced "separate but equal" as an assault on their self-image in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. She cites the striking down of anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia as another turning point, spurring a broader recognition that the pursuit of passion, fulfillment, and happiness belongs to all couples. It has often been the judiciary that has pushed Americans to imagine a reality, and a dream of equality, larger than their own experience.

Read the review in full. Even if you don't end up reading Nussbaum's book, there's much food for thought here.

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Your moment of Rachel

By Creature

She's not letting up on Bart and I thank her for it.

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A spineless chief justice: John Roberts and the denigration of American democracy

If Chief Justice John Roberts can't take it, he should resign.

Roberts found it "very troubling" that President Obama would criticize the Supreme Court -- or, more specifically, a single ruling of the Supreme Court, and an awful one at that -- in his State of the Union address?

Last time I checked, the checks and balances outlined in the Constitution, the separation of powers of the three branches of government -- do not insulate the Supreme Court from criticism. The State of the Union wasn't "denigrated," as Roberts put it, and Obama didn't turn it into "a political pep rally." Of course, there was partisanship on both sides, but that's just the way Congress is. And no one forced Roberts to attend.

Now, I realize that the judiciary should be detached from such partisanship, and that perhaps the justices felt somewhat uncomfortable, and I certainly do not wish them to be partisan cheerleaders, and I do not want all of their rulings to be subjected to the partisan cauldron, but what is wrong with the president taking a position on a Supreme Court ruling and expressing that position in front of the justices themselves? Are they somehow so supreme that they mustn't be challenged to their faces?

And, indeed, what is troubling is not what Obama did but how the Supreme Court ruled. Robert Gibbs:

What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections, drowning out the voices of average Americans. The President has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government. That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response.

The Supreme Court had its say. The people's representatives, including the top one, have every right to respond. Glenn Greenwald:

It's not actually a unique event of oppression or suffering to have to sit and listen to a speech where someone criticizes you and you can't respond that very moment (but are able, as Roberts just proved, to respond freely afterward).  Even in the State of the Union Address, it's completely customary for the President to criticize the Congress or the opposition party right to their faces, while members of his party stand and cheer vocally, and -- as the reaction to Joe Wilson's outburst demonstrated -- "decorum" dictates that the targets of the criticism sit silently and not respond until later, once the speech is done.  That's how speeches work.  Only Supreme Court Justices would depict their being subjected to such a mundane process as an act of grave unfairness (and, of course, Roberts' comrade, Sam Alito, could not even bring himself to abide by that decorum).

What makes Roberts' petty, self-absorbed grievance all the more striking is that this is what judges do all the time.  It's the essence of the judicial branch.  Federal judges are basically absolute tyrants who rule over their courtroom and those in it with virtually no restraints.  They can and do scold, criticize, berate, mock, humiliate and threaten anyone who appears before their little fiefdoms -- parties, defendants, lawyers, witnesses, audience members -- and not merely "decorum," but the force of law (in the form of contempt citations or other penalties), compels the target to sit silently and not respond.  In fact, lawyers can be, and have been, punished just for publicly criticizing a judge.


Supreme Court Justices, in particular, have awesome, unrestrained power.  They are guaranteed life tenure, have no authorities who can sanction them except under the most extreme circumstances, and, with the mere sweep of a pen, can radically alter the lives of huge numbers of people or even transform our political system (as five of them, including Roberts, just did, to some degree, in Citizens United).  The very idea that it's terribly wrong, uncouth, and "very troubling" for the President to criticize one of their most significant judicial decisions in a speech while in their majestic presence -- not threaten them, or have them arrested, or incite violence against them, but disagree with their conclusions and call for Congressional remedies (as Art. II, Sec. 3 of the Constitution requires) -- approaches pathological levels of vanity and entitlement. 

Brilliantly put.

Roberts should be strong enough to take some of his own medicine, and should grow a spine. But he should also start respecting the constitutional and political system of which he is an integral part, a system that prescribes and protects the independence of the judiciary but that does not put it on a platform above the democratically elected, shielded from any and all direct criticism.

That's just the American way, whether he likes it or not.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

So, I took a night off...

By Carl 

...and went to Nerdstock last night.

There's been a theme running around my mind, and apparently other people's minds, about the psychologic future of America and Americans (read the comments in the thread in particular). 

Mourning has come to America. The instillation of fear by the right wing (and by some on the left) is complete. We seem paralyzed.

Barack Obama's election was supposed to be about hope and change, but the GOP marched in opposition, and threw all their considerable financial weight behind the astroturfed Teabaggers, and succeeded in punching holes in that optimism, at least for now and at least to enough of an extent that it has become a narrative in the Mainstream Media.

How does this tie into Nerdstock? The lecturers at this event, Drs. Joseph LeDoux and Daniela Schiller, lectured about fear: how it works in and on our brains, the psychochemical processes, and more important, how experiments have dictated a new way to overcome fear.

The lectures, while generally at the lay level, got a little technical even for my massive manly brain-the-size-of-a-planet, but I can boil out a few bromides (err, no pun intended):

1) Fear is instantaneous learning. Evolution dictates that the engagement of the amygdala (the brain's center of fear) bypasses rational thought and creates an immediate and immediately learned response to fear. You can't afford to get it wrong a second time.

2) Fear is very hard to unlearn. It takes only one event, say a terror attack, to learn fear. It takes any number of similar contextual stimuli without the fear-inducing event for the body to relax (the classic Pavlovian experiment where a rat is shocked when it hears a tone, and then hears the tone without shock: it still responds to the shock and it takes many repetitions to minimize the reaction).

3) Fear is usually controlled with medications: serotonin or Valium, as examples. 

4) The research that the doctors performed suggests that another, more effective and less pharmaceutical therapy might be to replace the stimulus/response with another similar stimulus/response mechanism, but this time, one that will have less impact on the individual's daily life. 

A click went off in my head as I listened. If the right-wing is instilling fear, and that fear is intrasigent in the American psyche then the only way, short of dumping a boatload of LSD (which short-circuits the amygdala) into the water supply is to replace that fear with another, equally fearsome boogieman. 

Right now, the object of fear is Barack Obama, who represents the left and all that is wrong with the left wing in America: socialist, unAmerican, minority. All the things that play right into the fear response of middle Americans. 

What we need to do is to pair Obama in the minds of these low-normals with another object of fear, and let that object gradually draw the fear away from Obama to itself. 

What we need, in other words, is something the right wing could truly be afraid of, thus framing Obama as a more moderate and therefore more acceptable choice. We need a sacrificial lamb to run a left-wing opposition to Obama's policies and to be taken seriously. 

But who? 

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Reform rising

Jon Chait notes that popular support for health-care reform appears to be on the rise, with a new Economist poll "showing a majority (53-47) support for President Obama's health care plan." More than that, the trend across polls is pretty clear, and it's headed in a positive direction for Obama and the Democrats.

Chait explains:

Why is support rising? My guess is that it's related to Obama's emergence as the primary advocate of reform. For months, the message was mired in Congressional sloppiness and deal-making. Obama is far more popular than Congress, and he commands a stronger platform to communicate the virtues of reform. The best way to win the battle for public opinion is to pass the bill. Then you get a signing ceremony, media coverage of how the legislation will work (the details are popular) rather than the grimy lawmaking process, and a chance to unify support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who have felt the bill doesn't go far enough.

I think this is exactly right. (Plus, people may be tiring of Republican negativity.)

Of course, health-care reform is remarkably popular, including the Obama plan, when people actually know and understand what's in it (i.e., no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions). (And that's true of seniors and independents, two key groups, as well, as Chait's colleague Jon Cohn finds.) Once you get reform away from legislative sausage-making and Republican propaganda, people really like it.

Regardless, the clear trend among the more general polls, even granting that the Economist poll may be an outlier, is seriously encouraging. And one hopes that Democrats, many of whom remain on the fence, convinced that they'll feel the wrath of their constituents in November, will take encouragement from it.

The "battle for public opinion" isn't over yet, and, with passage and an effective communications strategy, the Democrats could well win it going away.

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The Public Option Act

By Creature

Allowing the public to buy into Medicare should have been the plan all along. I know this is liberal-pony-hunting, but it's certainly worth a shot. Alan Grayson should be praised. [Via Matt.]

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Rush being Rush

Eric Massa has resigned. New York Gov. David Paterson will soon name a replacement. Cue Dear Leader Rush:

LIMBAUGH: So, David Paterson will become the massa --


LIMBAUGH: -- who gets to appoint whoever gets to take Massa's place. So, for the first time in his life, Paterson's gonna be a massa. Interesting, interesting.

No, racist, racist. The mind reels, even if we've come to expect such ugliness from the de facto leader of the Republican Party and one of the key movers of the conservative "movement."

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The irreversible ratchet

By Capt. Fogg

The barber shop I frequent looks like something out of the old West, or at least a Hollywood version of it. Cowboy movie posters, ammunition boxes -- It has more old guns and shooting paraphernalia on display than most small gun shops and indeed Bob the barber is a licensed gun dealer.

So anyway, there I am waiting my turn along with one deputy and the rest of my disreputable contemporaries and reading American Rifleman -- and the first thing I see is an article by Wayne LaPierre of the NRA telling us that the "irreversible ratchet" of gun control has been turned back in Canada after their gun registration policy has cost a fortune and produced no measurable results. Why am I laughing? It's because that "camel's nose" and "irreversible ratchet" argument has been used to death since I can remember to counter any gun control laws at all, reasonable and unreasonable. It's because all I hear from NRA sources is that Obama is a gun grabber and he's so close to grabbing your guns that you'd better stock up on ammo and bury it in the back yard because here we go down the slippery slope to disarmed totalitarianism. Catalogues are selling books on just how to do that and ammunition prices are sky high, along with the prices of military surplus waterproof containers. Shops can't keep AK-47s on the racks.

Then if one looks at the news and realizes that under the current administration gun rights have been expanded to allow concealed carry in the national parks, as they are in most state parks and nearly everywhere else, that the last bastion of handgun banning, Chicago, Illinois, may be about to fall and that 309 members of Congress and a majority of Americans approve -- one has a hard time believing that there is a nationwide confiscation program being planned or that any gun control measures are by nature irreversible. Nearly all the states now issue concealed carry permits while crime continues to decline, so if that policy of citing the slippery slope fallacy has been debunked, where is the apology for all the fear mongering? were they wrong? Did the will of the majority actually prevail over the evil gun grabbing liberals just like it's supposed to?

No, the ratchet works both ways, the camel isn't interested in your tent and the slope wasn't so slippery after all. Do I suspect that the worst thing that could happen to the NRA would be a definitive affirmation of the second amendment of the individual's right to keep and bear arms and a legislative branch inclined to go along with them? Does a redneck shoot in the woods?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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The Kiss

Apparently, this photo (see below), published on the front page of The Washington Post as well as online last week, has caused quite a stir, upsetting readers and driving some of them to hysterics.

As Ombudsman Andrew Alexander explained:

Typically, the complaints quickly subside. With last Thursday's photo, they continued into Friday, through the weekend and even today. Early this morning, before D.C. Superior Court began issuing licenses to same-sex couples who had applied, a caller phoned to warn that he would cancel his Post subscription "if I see another photo of men lip-locking."

A few of the readers have engaged in rants, often with anti-gay slurs. One called me to complain about "promoting a faggot lifestyle." Another complained about the photo in an e-mail to the two Post reporters who wrote Thursday's story about the licenses: "That kind of stuff makes normal people want to throw up. People have kids who are being exposed to this crap. I will be glad when your rag goes out of business. Real men marry women."

But most simply said The Post had offended their sensibilities by publishing the photo, especially on the front page.

Hey, I'm "normal," more or less, I have kids, I'm married to a woman, and I'm a "real" man, broadly speaking, but you know what, I'm not an ignorant bigot. 

But, then, these are the sort of people who objected to seeing a black woman sit at the front of the bus.

Most Post readers, I suspect, can take the sight of two men kissing. Some hopefully even celebrate it -- and celebrate D.C.'s legalization of same-sex marriage.

I know I do, which is why I post the photo. As for the bigots, they can shove it.

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Frack you: The self-aggrandizing dishonesty of Eric "The Groper" Massa

Yesterday, I called Eric Massa the Worst Democrat of the Day for a variety of reasons.

Well, Massa went to Glennbeckistan last night and admitted to having "groped" and "tickled" a male staffer at his 50th birthday party:

He also said he'd used rough language when he shouldn't have and that he had jokingly told a male staffer at a wedding reception that he'd rather have sex with him than with one of the bridesmaids.

But, Massa told Beck, "I did nothing sexual."

He said he had done "things that were wrong," but he suggested that his only real sin -- aside from "salty" talk -- was that he had allowed himself to become too familiar with his staff.

Uh-huh, sure. Is he lying or is he really that (self-)delusional?

Because it seems that there was more going on than the ex-Congressman would care to admit:

Not long after Eric Massa joined Congress in January 2009, several male staff members began to feel uncomfortable with the sexually loaded language their boss routinely used, according to accounts relayed to the House ethics committee.

As the months passed, rumors began to circulate in Congress that the married New York Democrat had sexually propositioned young male staffers and interns in his office, allegations, according to two sources with knowledge of the inquiry, that included Massa groping at least two aides. In the second week of February, Massa's deputy chief of staff contacted the office of Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer for help in dealing with the accusations.

According to two sources familiar with the investigation, Ron Hikel, Massa's former deputy chief of staff, provided the information about the staffers' allegations to the House ethics committee three weeks ago. Hikel had earlier sought advice from Hoyer's office about internal complaints, the sources said, and had been urged to report the allegations to the panel.

Upon becoming aware of the claims, Hoyer (D-Md.) gave Massa an ultimatum, his office confirmed: report the staffers' complaints to the ethics committee within 48 hours, or Hoyer would do it for them. Last week, the panel's investigation became public, and Massa resigned, effective Monday. 

And yet Massa insists on lashing out at Rahm Emanuel and blaming his situation, claiming he was forced out, on the Democratic House leadership, which, in his polluted mind, wanted him out so as to have one less No vote on health-care reform?

Uh-huh, sure. Does anybody outside of Glenn Beck and his ilk actually think this guy's story is credible? He refuses to take the blame for anything, only vaguely admits to doing some "wrong" things, like "tickle fights" and "inappropriate language," and, offender that he is, tries to direct the focus elsewhere, anywhere else but on himself, attacking his own party and turning to Beck to spin his nonsense (like that it's all about his health-reform vote when, as we know, this all started long before his vote mattered).

Massa may very well be "a very sick person," as Nancy Pelosi put it, referring to his health problems, but it would seem that he's also sick in a different way, either deeply delusional or deeply dishonest -- or perhaps both.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In praise of Scott Brown (again)

First, just a couple of weeks ago, it was for voting with the Democrats to move a jobs bill forward, now it's for announcing he'll vote to end a Republican filibuster on an unemployment benefits and tax credits bill. It's for coming out generally against the filibuster and for supporting simple majority rule even when it means he, and his party, will lose:

I have very serious concerns about the overall cost of the bill, but my vote for cloture signals that I believe we need to keep the process moving... [T]here has been a week of debate and allowing this bill to receive an up-and-down vote, would be a step, I feel, in the right direction.

Well done, Sen. Brown, Republican from Massachusetts. Maybe you're more of an independent than many of us thought you were.


Look, it's not that I've done a 180 on Brown.

Let us not forget that, shortly after 9/11, he voted against Red Cross volunteers.

Let us not forget that he ran aggressively against Democratic health-care reform (even though his own state has a system, introduced by fellow Republican Mitt Romney, that is close to Obama's).

And let us not forget that he has a history of playing to the Palin-teabagging far right and that he won Ted Kennedy's seat largely because he successfully tapped into seething Republican anger and resentment (oh, and because Martha Coakley was a horrible, horrible candidate).

He may have an independent streak in him, but that doesn't necessarily make him any less noxious.

Still, his opposition to the filibuster, and more specifically to Republican filibusters, is admirable, and, for that, he deserves some serious praise.

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Breaking News: Costa Rican Legislature convenes emergency session to ban Limbaugh

Country united in not wanting right wing hatemonger; OAS sends out advisory calling for similar action

By J. Thomas Duffy

Even though it may not occur for five-years, Costa Rica is not taking any chances, its' legislature convening in an emergency session today, voting unanimously to ban controversial radio clown Rush Limbaugh from entering the country, or, otherwise establishing "any type of domestic residency," as he has stated he may do.

President Óscar Arias quickly signaled his endorsement of the vote, citing "the protection of our citizens from this drug-addict hatemonger is our utmost concern."

The country's Judiciary branch, the Supreme Court, in an unusual, and non-scheduled session, also voted unanimously, that the bill passed by the legislature is valid, and completely legal and, in strongly worded language, stated it would "not entertain any challenges" to the ruling.

Limbaugh, on his radio program yesterday, continuing to bash the pending healthcare reform package in Congress, vowed, if the bill passes, he will leave the country.

Think Progress has the details;

CALLER: If the health care bill passes, where would you go for health care yourself? And the second part of that is, what would happen to the doctors, do they have to participate in the federal program, or could they opt out of it? [...]

LIMBAUGH: My guess in even in Canada and even in the UK, doctors have opted out. And once they’ve opted, they can’t see anybody Medicare, Medicaid, or what will become the exchanges. They have to have a clientele of private patients that will pay them a retainer and it’ll be a very small practice. I don’t know if that’s been outlawed in the Senate bill. I don’t know. I’ll just tell you this, if this passes and it’s five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented — I am leaving the country. I’ll go to Costa Rica/

In a developing related matter, the Organization of American States (OAS) issued an rare advisory to its' member nations, urging them to adopt, and pass, similar legislation as Costa Rica.

In the advisory, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza stated it should be "our goal to keep this racist, cheeseburger-that-sweats, wind bag out of our hemisphere."

In a flash survey conducted by The Garlic, over 89% of Limbaugh's Dittoheads contacted believed that "Costa Rica" was a "new, discount department store for Illegal Aliens" and over 65% wanted to know of the closest one in their area.

Bonus Limbaugh Riffs

NFL Singing Rush's Tune?

Jesus, It Sounded Like A Violation of the Rico Act!

Top Ten Cloves: Things Overhead While The Nobel Peace Prize Committee Reviewed Rush Limbaugh's Nomination

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Transparency, huh?

By Mustang Bobby.

Mark Thiessen, the Washington Post's newest columnist, defends Liz Cheney's witch-hunt of the Justice Department.
Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would -- and rightly so.

Yet Attorney General Eric Holder hired former al-Qaeda lawyers to serve in the Justice Department and resisted providing Congress this basic information.


Yet for raising questions, Cheney and the Republican senators have been vilified. Former Clinton Justice Department official Walter Dellinger decried the "shameful" personal attacks on "these fine lawyers," while numerous commentators leveled charges of "McCarthyism."

This is McCarthyism in and of itself. In his opening sentence, Mr. Thiessen jumps to the conclusion that the attorneys defending the suspects are sympathetic to their clients' beliefs by comparing them to "mob lawyers" in charge of prosecuting mob cases. He carries on, citing an investigation by Fox News as his source of information that these attorneys are somehow unpatriotic, and compares the situation to the attacks when "fine lawyers like John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Jim Haynes, Steve Bradbury and others came under vicious personal attack" during the Bush administration. In other words, the men who basically said that the president has the power to do whatever he wants to get information out of suspects, up to and including torture and killing, were vilified for their positions. Aside from the fact that the two situations are in no way comparable, the attorneys defending the al-Qaeda suspects were doing what lawyers do and what the Constitution requires, whereas John Yoo and Jay Bybee were clearly skating out onto thin ice, both legally and morally. And to lump David Addington, the man who helped out Valerie Plame, in with them is, to be generous, a stretch of right-wing logic that doesn't even pass the laugh test. Since Mr. Thiessen's previous employment was as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, it's pretty clear that his acquaintance with the canon of ethics for lawyers and the interpretation of the rule of law is, to say the least, problematic.

Mr. Thiessen is also ignoring the fact that a slew of former Bush administration lawyers and the Hero of the Clinton Impeachment, Kenneth Starr, think it is McCarthyism.

"We consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications," wrote the 19 lawyers whose names were attached to the statement as of early Monday.

The statement cited John Adams's defense of British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre to argue that "zealous representation of unpopular clients" is an important American tradition.

The attacks on the lawyers "undermine the Justice system more broadly," they wrote, by "delegitimizing" any system in which accused terrorists have lawyers, whether civilian courts of military tribunals.

The one thing that's clear in Ms. Cheney's crusade and Mr. Thiessen's enabling of it is that neither of them give a flying rat's ass about "transparency" or the "right to know." It's a malicious attempt to tear down the Department of Justice for political gain. It's nothing new for the Cheneys, and Mr. Thiessen is just another one of their Wormtongues.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Blanche Lincoln blinks

By Creature

With a primary challenge to her left, Blanche Lincoln is now willing to see what's in the companion bill before she decides on the merits of using reconciliation. Amazing what a little push from the left will do.

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Sarah Palin: "We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada."

If there's one part of Canada that's right for Sarah Palin, it's Alberta, our embarrassing bastion of right-wing insanity and one-party Conservative rule. It's hardly a surprise that she was welcomed so enthusiastically in Calgary on Saturday.

As she explained to the "sold-out, largely adoring crowd," though, she actually found a lot to like in Canada when she was younger:

We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada. And I think now, isn't that ironic?

Uh, yeah, that's one way to put it. She used to take advantage of what we had to offer, when she needed it, but now she's a right-wing extremist railing against "socialism." Hilarious.

And, let us remember, there she was, just last November, attacking our health-care system, one of the best things about this country, and calling for it to be reformed, with "the private sector" taking over.

It's like when Dear Leader Rush -- Limbaugh, that is -- recently received treatment in Hawaii, which has the most progressive health-care system in America. Upon leaving the hospital, he praised it as "the best that the world has to offer." Later, upon realizing that the truth didn't fit his anti-reform narrative, he attacked Obama, and implicitly Hawaii's health-care system, and exposed himself once more as a moral and intellectual fraud.

Did Palin not do pretty much the same thing, if less blatantly and with her characteristic twinkle of charm and stupidity, Saturday night?

Basically, what Palin said speaks to what's so wrong with American health care. If you've got money, lots of it, it's great. You can buy some of the very best treatment in the world. There are great doctors, great clinics, great hospitals, great medical schools, great research facilities, etc. But if you're not rich or otherwise don't have access to the best the system has to offer, that is, if you're like the vast majority of Americans, millions and millions of whom don't have any insurance coverage at all, you're screwed. There may be a market and there may be "choice," and those who can buy what they want may ramble on endlessly about freedom and liberty and the evils of socialism, which they don't understand, but you, you're pretty much at the mercy of a profit-oriented system that is anything but merciful.

And so maybe, if you can, like Sarah Palin, you "hustle over the border" into Canada, where we treat people like human beings, where there's a civilized and decent and just and fair system that doesn't neglect the plight of millions. Or maybe you go to Hawaii. Or maybe even to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts.

Obviously, Sarah Palin is too dim to have learned anything even from her own life experiences.

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Blackboard Jungle

By Capt. Fogg

So let me get this straight -- a congressional bill designed to keep untrained school personnel from tying your kid to a chair or radiator and choking the life out of him is a bad thing, even though a 2009 report from the GAO found
"hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of these methods on school children during the past two decades."

"These methods" according to Raw Story, include a teacher sitting on a kid, mechanical restraints that might choke or restrict breathing and methods that in at least some cases, have killed children. "These methods," particularly when used against children with disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy have had grave and even fatal results and I'm quite sure that any of you with children would have something to say had your kid been strapped into a chair or held face down and suffocated. The Keeping All Students Safe Act, H.R. 4247 passed 262-153 in Congress and is designed to:

(1) prevent and reduce the use of physical restraint and seclusion in schools;

(2) ensure the safety of all students and school personnel in schools and promote a positive school culture and climate;

(3) protect students from—

(A) physical or mental abuse;

(B) aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety; and

(C) any physical restraint or seclusion imposed solely for purposes of discipline or convenience;

(4) ensure that physical restraint and seclusion are imposed in school only when a student’s behavior poses an imminent danger of physical injury to the student, school personnel, or others….

Perhaps Congressmen don't have children or perhaps they are simply psychotic enough to see any federal action or regulation of any kind as a threat to freedom so grave that basic human rights are worth ignoring. 145 Republicans voted against the bill last week; only 24 voted yea. Iowa Representative Steve King probably spoke for many in insisting that the Keeping All Students Safe Act would be a first step toward a "federal takeover of the education system." We heard that scummy excuse in the 50's when schools were being desegregated and "states rights" became a euphemism for depriving people of freedom, justice and sometimes even life.

Do we have hypocrisy here, or just garden variety dishonesty -- or maybe it's more of that congressional multiple personality disorder that has these august idiots equating the abusive abridgment of civil rights by a school principal with freedom, but the Constitution's promise; the upholding of humane treatment or the very right to life of students is called a "federal takeover." When the government itself and the Republican party specifically is so afraid of the federal government that it will refuse to protect children from possibly lethal abuse by local government, perhaps it's time to sit on these dangerously disturbed, irresponsible, stupid and incompetent partisan child molesters and see how they like it.

Yes, we all want a government that has little to say about our personal choices and conduct, but that feeling is quite universal, as much as Republicans claim it for their own. What is not universal amongst sane and honest people is the desire to give the power of life and death to local school board Death Panels to prevent a wholly imaginary "federal takeover" and if there ever was a reason to restrain or isolate and punish anyone this is a perfect example.

If there is one thing clear and easily visible in American politics today, is that there is a political party that has been insisting 'it's a jungle out there' for so long, they've made America into one.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)


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