Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Cheney Legacy

By J. Thomas Duffy

This guy just has no self-awareness.

And, our society ... Letting him run around, shouting his mouth off ...

It is almost the level of, say, giving Jeffrey Dahmer airtime on the Food Network.

The background.

You remember this;

On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

"Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.

Not sure, in classic debating guidelines, that is acceptable, however, for Darth Vader, it is his proudest moment;

Cheney: Telling Leahy to ‘f*ck’ himself was ‘sort of the best thing I ever did.’

On Dennis Miller’s radio show today, Cheney suggested that his Leahy f-bomb was “the best thing” he had ever done:

MILLER: By the way, my, I also want to thank you, on the list of things I feel I should thank you for, almost kicking Patrick Leahy’s ass. Thank you very much.

CHENEY: Hehehehe.

MILLER: I love that move. One of my favorite stories. Muttering that.

CHENEY: You’d be surprised how many people liked that. That’s sort of the best thing I ever did.


I would have thought the mushroom clouds, or the never-happened Prague meeting lies would be up there ...

Or, shooting your friend in the face ...

Or, wait, wait ...

Exposing a covert CIA agent, for the purpose of getting back at her husband, for his exposing of your lies, would have grabbed the top spot ...

Your lackey, Little Scooter, almost went to jail for that one ...

The fact that you said this, with Dennis Miller, perhaps, and we'll have to check into it, the Has-Been Miller was simply auditioning new chimps to be his sidekick.

BarbinMD is shocked, that she actually agrees with Cheney;

Compared to the long list of heinous acts he perpetrated against this country, he's right. Being a total ass is the best thing he's ever done.

While Cheney can pat himself on the back, that using an invective was his greatest accomplishment, we, as a country, will have to wait a bit longer for ours.

That being, seeing this person, on trial, for his War Crimes.

I believe, when it's over, and he's carted off to prison, Cheney, and perhaps Miller, will be "surprised how many people liked that."

Bonus Darth Vader Cheney Riffs

James Mann: The Armageddon Plan

Source Says Secret Cabal Not In White House, But In Cheney Secret Bunker ...Wing of VP Hideout Dedicated To Iraq War, Neocon Strategy; Decisions Made Over Coffee and Krispy Kremes

Libby Trial Update - The Scooter and Cheney Show Theme Song

Top Ten Cloves: Slogans and Tag Lines For Caffeine-Free Diet Sprite – If Dick Cheney Was Pitchman

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Even tame Palin protest too much for conservatives to handle

The right-wing Gateway Pundit has an unintentionally funny post up, by one Jim Hoft, with the following title: "Leftists Wave Vile, Violent Signs At Sarah Palin in Oregon... Media Silent."

You see, there's been a good deal of attention, and rightfully so, on the vileness and violence of conservatives, and so the intent here, one supposes, is to show that it's the left, not the right, that is actually vile and violent -- except that the (leftist) media intentionally refuses to report on it.

I know, I know... stupid. But conservatives these days live in an unreality of their own, one in which all the shit they believe to be true, or that makes up the propaganda they spoon-feed to their followers, is actually true.

But let's go in with an open mind... Did a bunch of leftists show up at a Palin event with "vile, violent signs"? Is it true?

Take a look at the photos here. They're the two photos that accompany the post in question. Here are what some of those signs say:

-- "Eugene: A Hate Free Zone";
-- "Hope She Chokes";
-- "Sarah? How Do You Keep Track Of All Of Your Lies";
-- "Beauty Fades Lies Are Forever";
-- "Your Tea Party Is A Giant Flop Go Home, Sarah"; and
-- "Pathetic Arrogant Ludicrous Ignorant Never Ever President."

Oooooh... Aaaaah....

What's the worst here? That she's being called a liar? (She is.) That she's being called pathetic, arrogant, ludicrous, and ignorant. (She is, on all four counts.) That she's hateful. (How is she not?)

Hoft focuses on the "Hope She Chokes" sign. Ummm... does he really not get it? It's not choking as on a piece of food, it's choking as in failing to perform effectively, as she did, say, during the Couric interview. Palin's critics don't wish death upon her, they wish failure upon her.

So how is any of this vile or violent? It's neither. It's pretty tame, actually, and just the sort of thing you'd expect from political activists protesting a public appearance by a well-known political figure.

And it's nothing compared to what we've seen and heard from the right: the n-word hurled at civil rights heroes, attacks on constituency offices, death threats, etc. (For more on this, see here.)

So what exactly should the media be reporting? That some people showed up holding signs critical of Palin? Sorry, but that's not news. Not only is there no equivalency here, not even close, the balance of vileness and violence tips way to the right. Besides, it's not like the supposedly left-wing media has refused to cover the whole Tea Party "movement." They have, and they have done so enthusiastically. Some of the reports have turned negative, but that's only because so many on the right, including at those tea parties, are so negative, and so hateful, with vileness and sometimes violence directed at liberals and progressives.

Conservatives, though, seem to have such thin skin these days. They can dish it out with all the venom they can muster, but they can't take it in return, even when it's as benign as some common criticism of Sarah Palin.

How pathetic. And how incredibly lame.

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Anything but genocide: Obama, Turkey, and the Armenian Holocaust

I appreciate the fact, reported by Laura Rozen, that President Obama used the proper Armenian term, Meds Yeghern (or "Great Catastrophe"), when referring today to the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks, which took place between 1915 and 1917, but it is telling that he refused to call it what it was: genocide.

"On this solemn day of remembrance, we pause to recall that ninety-five years ago one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century began," Obama said in a statement. "In that dark moment of history, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire."

"I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed," he said. "It is in all of our interest to see the achievement a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts."

"The Meds Yeghern is a devastating chapter in the history of the Armenian people, and we must keep its memory alive in honor of those who were murdered and so that we do not repeat the grave mistakes of the past," Obama said.

Yes, it was "one of the worst atrocities" of the last century. Yes, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed. Yes, it was "a devastating chapter in the history of the Armenian people." Yes, "we must keep its memory alive."

But that's not good enough. As Laura explains:

Obama's use of Meds Yeghern "is an elegant dodge to avoid using the 'g-word' -- but the substance of what he states about what happened gives no comfort to those who cling to the Turkish official version," says Harvard University's Andras Riedlmayer. "1.5 million Armenians were rounded up and massacred or marched to their death. Despite the passive construction, that assumes intentionality."

Nevertheless, such nuance was not appreciated by the Armenian American lobby group, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), which rapped Obama for "disgraceful capitulation to Turkey's threats" and of "offering euphemisms and evasive terminology to characterize this crime against humanity," in a press release Saturday.

I have written about this issue a couple of times:

I was critical of Bush, but I've been critical of Obama, too:

I wouldn't describe Obama and those in his administration as deniers, but they're certainly doing much the same thing the previous administration did, namely, refusing to acknowledge publicly that what happened in Armenia was genocide, and all because of those ever-so-delicate, ever-so-important American-Turkish relations, which apparently couldn't survive an admission of truth.

For its part, Turkey has been waging a decades-long campaign to deny the genocide, a shameful refusal not just to take responsibility for one of the most horrendous massacres in history but even to admit that it really happened. And its reaction when challenged, this time as always, suggests a level of collective national immaturity that is truly appalling.

In other words, while I suspect that Obama knows full well that it was genocide, and that the Turks are, on this issue, a nation of collective revisionists (and liars), he is effectively contributing to the Turkish campaign, perpetuating Turkey's massive lie, taking Turkey's side against efforts in Congress to call it genocide, and all because he wants to avoid annoying the Turks and risking... what?

Yes, what exactly? Is he afraid that Ankara won't return his phone calls? Is Turkey such an essential ally that it must be appeased no matter what? Would Turkey really refuse to do business with the U.S. and/or support U.S. foreign policy if Obama actually took a firm stand and called it genocide? Sure, the Turks would whine and complain and threaten to sever diplomatic ties, as they've done before (even over non-binding committee resolutions in the House of Representatives), but so what? Does anyone honestly think Turkey can do without America? Please.

Honestly, I wish the president would pull a Jon Stewart and tell the Turks to go fuck themselves. Diplomatically, of course.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

AZ gov signs "papers please" bill into law

By Creature

I said this on the Twitter and it bears repeating: I'm embarrassed for my country. I look forward to some serious protests here in NYC.


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Let the Maurkice Pouncey era begin!

For a sports fan, there was a lot to choose from on the teevee last night -- hockey and basketball playoffs, as well as baseball, and I have a digital package that includes every NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB game -- but what kept me glued was the NFL draft. Sure, it's a manufactured, overhyped, made-for-prime-time event (this year, for the first time), and I don't pay much attention to college football anymore, but I just can't get enough of all the pre-draft mocking, with all the various attempts to figure out who's going where, and the draft itself makes for great drama. I flipped back and forth between TSN, Canada's main cable sports network that was showing the ESPN coverage, and the NFL Network. I opted mostly for the latter, even if the former is a much better production, given that I prefer Mike Mayock to Mel Kiper Jr. and Rich Eisen to Chris Berman.

Anyway, I won't get into analyzing the first-round picks here, as this post would go on far too long, but let me just say that as a Steelers fan I think the pick of Florida center-guard Maurkice Pouncey is fantastic, just the sort of improvement they need for their often less-than-impressive o-line.

I wanted them to deal Ben Roethlisberger, of whom I've had more than enough, like many other Steelers fans, but I suppose it was impossible for them to get a fair deal (maybe the Rams' first overall pick, though I hardly think Sam Bradford is a sure thing, or maybe some Raiders picks) and there's something to be said, I suppose, for standing with, and supporting, a key member of the franchise, the guy who led you to two Super Bowls during this challenging time. He seems to be something of a scumbag, and ridiculously immature, but I sincerely hope that everything that has happened will compel him to grow up, realize that what he has done is simply not acceptable, accept responsibility, and become a better person.

Roethlisberger wasn't charged in Georgia, but the NFL has punished him, the Steelers organization (including the Rooney family) and Steelers fans everywhere have expressed their anger and disappointment, and he has been publicly shamed. He will sit out at least the first four games of the regular season, but it could be six. I'm willing to forgive him, and to move on, but he must show us all that he is serious about changing. And he would do well to apologize to all those he has hurt, the women he has left in his wake.

(Oh, let me just add that the Broncos gave up way, way, way too much for Tim Tebow. I realize he's got the hype, and that he's a great character guy (if you like those Christian fundamentalists), but he's not going to be a great NFL QB. But it's too bad the Bills, our local team here in Toronto, didn't get him.)

Anyway, a trade was not about to happen yesterday and the Steelers did well to take Pouncey. I hope they address a couple of their other weak areas in the second and third rounds this evening by taking a defensive back or perhaps even a running back to back up Rashard Mendenhall. They also need depth at linebacker. Or how about a QB? Hmmm. We shall see.

(Photo of Pouncey from the St. Petersburg Times.)

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The progressive FinReg fight

By Creature

I really don't like the direction FinReg is going. If a bipartisan bill means no floor vote on the Brown-Kaufman SAFE Banking Act then, as usual, screw bipartisanship. Enough of this watered-down crap. The progressive fight is Brown-Kaufman. Let's have an up-or-down vote. Please.

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What Democrats are doing about the environment

From our friends at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee: 

The Clean Energy and Environmental Accomplishments of Senate Democrats in the 110th and 111th Congresses

As the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day approaches, many people will reflect on the significant steps the nation has taken to improve the environment and protect our natural resources. While real progress has been made since the first Earth Day in 1970, work continues to help provide current and future generations with cleaner air, cleaner water, reductions in pollution, the elimination of hazardous waste sites, and stronger natural resource protections.

Senate Democrats have been honoring those efforts since regaining the majority in 2006 by aggressively promoting a legislative agenda that includes strong clean energy, environmental, and natural resource protection provisions. This Fact Sheet details the many legislative clean energy and environmental accomplishments Senate Democrats have achieved during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

111th Congress

110th Congress

Needless to say, there is still much to be done, including meaningful legislation to address climate change, preferably one with a robust cap-and-trade system, as well as a national commitment to green technology similar to the past commitment to the space program, yet even broader given the economy- and society-wide implications of changing America's energy production and consumption, but the Democrats, unlike the party across the aisle, have done a great deal so far to move the country towards environmental responsibility.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quote of the Day

By Creature

"Sorry, Lucy. Looks like Charlie Brown just told you to go fuck yourself." -- commenter sherifffruitfly at TPM on Harry Reid's decision to move forward with the FinReg vote.

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There aint nobody here but us chickens

By J. Thomas Duffy

Sue Lowden is a godsend.

The Second Coming ... The Holy Grail.

Who would have thought, in such a short time, less than two-years, we would have such a strong, strong contender, to The Wasilla Whiz Kid, and her partner in denseness, one of our favorite Ignorant Dolts, Michele Bachmann, as the dumbest politician roaming the land?

This is a goldmine.

I recall, last week, Lowden, for her Healthcare platform, suggested "bartering", which most in the press gave her a pass, the benefit of the doubt, saying she must have meant "haggling", doing a little wheeling-and-dealing on the price.

She erased that notion, prompting Jed Lawson to herald "Sue Lowden delivers quote to launch a thousand ads."

We'll let Dave Dayen, over on Firedoglake, tell the tale, from his "LowdenCare: Is This Sue Lowden’s Macaca Moment?";

Sue Lowden was the front-runner for the GOP nomination for US Senate in Nevada. She was favored to defeat Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and go to Washington in just under a year.

I’m putting this in the past tense after her statement to a local station in Nevada that should, at least, be disqualifying for any public service job.

I’m telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house. I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.

Say What!

Pay for your healthcare with chickens?

(You can view the video HERE)

The operative word yesterday, throughout the blogosphere, was "doubling down".

Steve Benen;

This is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard from a candidate for statewide office. If there wasn't a video, I might not even believe it. According to nearly every recent poll, Lowden is the clear favorite to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in November, but that was before she started talking about trading livestock for medical care. It's a permanent credibility-killer. It's one thing to be a confused, far-right candidate. It's another to be a laughingstock.

Steve M, over on No More Mister Nice Blog;

James Carville is reported to have said, "When your opponent is drowning, throw the son of a bitch an anvil." Lowden slipped into a bit of water, but she's not drowning yet; as I said a while back, the notion of barter isn't regarded as completely crazy by a lot of people.

But it is crazy in this case, for a lot of reasons. One is that it offers no help to people in desperate life-or-death situations that require far more treatment than painting a house could possibly offset. The other is that she hasn't thought through the implications of just what some people might offer in trade for health care -- nor have most of the citizens of Nevada.

Somebody needs to make the implications explicit. That's the anvil. And you'd better believe that if the parties were reversed, some GOP-friendly operative wouldn't hesitate to do just this.

And, Matthew Yglesias has this;

Lowden could very plausibly be representing Nevada in the US Senate a year from now, so it’s worth noting how terrible this would be. Checkups for chickens might work if we were all farmers, but what’s a blogger supposed to do? Maybe I could offer the guy free publicity with a few posts touting his services. A Web designer could build a website for the doctor. But what does the designer do if he needs to see the doctor again? Or what if the doctor needs to run a test that costs money, do you mail a chicken to the lab? It’s frightening that anyone this ignorant of how a modern economy works could be anywhere near political power.

Last night, on 'Countdown', sub host Lawrence O'Donnell wryly wondered, since Lowden is an executive at at gaming investment company, if she has gone to her bosses to ask if people can pay gambling debts with chickens.

We do have some ambivalence here.

While we don't want to see the Democrats majority dip in the Senate, on one hand, we pray, we get down on our hands-and-knees, to beseech the high heavens, to get Sue Lowden elected.

You gotta believe the "chickens for healthcare" only scratches the surface.

And Sue, we have your new campaign theme song.

Go with it ... Run with it ... Bask in it ...

Take it away, Louis Jordan!

There Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens-Louis Jordan

Bonus Links

John Amato: Sue Lowden's 'Chicken For Checkups' health care plan is Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs

Greg Sargent: Dems To Attack Sue Lowden With “Chickens For Checkups” Web Site

Greg Sargent: Sue Lowden Triples Down, Says Doctors Support Chickens For Checkups

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Boehner: Reform Is 'TARP Forever'

By Creature

Someone needs to ask John Boehner what he would like done to regulate Wall Street. If he's against the Wall-Street-funded liquidation pool then what is he for? Breaking up too-big-to-fail? It's the only other option, but that would put him on the hippie side of the argument and that's never gonna happen.

Of course, Boehner's real aim is to Luntz the whole bill, hence the answer to the question "what would he like done" is rhetorical in the end.

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It's all about Freedom

By Capt. Fogg

Yessuh, the Tea Party Right is all about freedom and keeping big government out of your private life so that big corporations can act like feudal robber barons or brown shirted beer hall bullies and do as they please to you without interference. Take the Lizard for instance -- you know the fellow who does the voice-over for the Geico Gecko. Seems somehow he thought he had the freedom to leave a message of disapproval on the voice mail of FreedomWorks, one of those Tea Party organizations who tell you it's all about freedom while polishing their hobnail boots, cleaning the weapons and making misspelled signs. A simple little lizard hardly has a chance against a TeaParty Tyrannosaurus and it's ability to intimidate Geico into firing him on the spot. Perhaps I shouldn't say forced, since Geico really had a choice here - just as I have a choice never to do business with them and recommend to everyone I know that they take 15 minutes to call Geico at 800-871-3000 and tell them that they just lost a potential customer. Here's your chance to be Dr. Ben Marble for a day. 15 minutes could save your country. Retaliation -- that's what did to actor Lance Baxter. They published his phone number and asked their teabag terrorists to harass him and call his employer to demand his dismissal. Nice people! Just the kind of people you want telling you about what's wrong with America: too damned much freedom! (Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010


By Creature

[Via Cole]


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No doubt, Peggy Noonan is very, very happy today

By J. Thomas Duffy

Likely, it's a multi-orgasm day.

Her beloved Gipper, back up on the, well, the little, on-line screen.

John Meroney has a great post up, over on The Atlantic;

Ronald Reagan and James Dean: Rare Video From 1954

Today, it's an astonishing, even eerie, scene: the icon of modern American conservatism, whose rise to political prominence was galvanized by the cultural rebellion of the 1960s, fighting off an attack-at-gunpoint by the quintessential modern American rebel. But when "The Dark, Dark Hours" episode of General Electric Theater aired live from Hollywood on December 12, 1954, Ronald Reagan and James Dean were just two actors yet to find the roles that would define them.

No one has seen this episode in the decades since; the kinescope has been locked away, until now. My friend Wayne Federman, a writer for NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, unearthed the broadcast, condensing it from its original 23 minutes (without commercials) into the six-minute version you see below. (Federman is planning a retrospective of Reagan's television career for next year's Reagan centennial.)


A decade before Reagan's political career took off, with a nationally televised speech supporting Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, and months before Dean started filming Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, both of these Midwesterners seem to be rehearsing future roles—Reagan as the happy warrior who could, in a moment, turn fierce ("I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!") and Dean as teenage angst writ large ("You're tearing me apart!").


Less than a year after this episode aired, Reagan was a major primetime presence whom millions tuned in to see each week. Dean was a tragic, what-might-have-been figure, dead at age 24 from an automobile crash.

Go check it out, and play the video, it's a hoot.

Bonus Peggy Noonan Riffs

Peggy Noonan, Next Stop, Willoughby!

It's All Junkies and Guns, Says Peggy Noonan

My Ronny Can Do Anything ...Or; "Oh Ronny, If Only We Had Your Steady Hand

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Just a closer Armageddon with thee

By J. Thomas Duffy

Let's see, last year, Mommy Moose was riding the Dead Campaign Express... Currently, she's saddled-up with the Tea Party Express ...

Now, it seems, she out launching the Holy Roller Express.

And, I wonder, if they know about it, and will the Russians object to Sarah Palin's "Prayer Shield" in due time?


A certain former half-term governor appears to be drifting even further away from the American mainstream. Over the weekend, appearing at an evangelical Christian women's conference in Louisville, Sarah Palin rejected the very idea of separation of church and state, a bedrock principle of American democracy.

She asked for the women -- who greeted her with an enthusiastic standing ovation -- to provide a "prayer shield" to strengthen her against what she said was "deception" in the media.

She denounced this week's Wisconsin federal court ruling that government observance of a National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional -- which the crowd joined in booing. She asserted that America needs to get back to its Christian roots and rejected any notion that "God should be separated from the state."


The amusing aspect of this is the notion that the United States would return to its roots with support for National Day of Prayer observances. That's backwards -- Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days. I'll look forward to the conservative explanation of how the Founding Fathers were godless socialists.

I also can't wait to hear how right-wing voices who want smaller government believe it's appropriate for the federal government to issue decrees encouraging private American citizens to engage in worship.


The Wasilla Whiz Kid was really painted herself into a corner.

Since she "likes all the founding fathers", I would fork out for Pay-Per-View to see her explain this one away.

Greg Sargent, over on The Plum Line weighs in;

But I’ve got a full transcript of Palin’s remarks, and it’s worse than you might have thought: She cited the Founding Fathers as proof that God shouldn’t be separated from the state. Peter Smith, the Courier-Journal reporter who broke the story, sends over the full context of her remarks:

I beg you, Women of Joy, to bring light and be involved, loving America and praying for her. Really, it is our solemn duty. Praying for true spiritual awakening to overcome deterioration. That is where God wants us to be. Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our Founding Fathers, they were believers. And George Washington, he saw faith in God as basic to life.

This is substandard history. In reality, the separation of church and state, thanks in part to the efforts of those very same Founding Fathers, is enshrined in the Bill of Rights


There was a time when this sort of thing would provoke widespread media mockery and perhaps even be seen as a potential disqualifier for the presidency.

Ahh, not when you have a "Prayer Shield" there, Greg.

Where do you get a "Prayer Shield" - Home Depot, Lowes, Lands End Catalog?

Or, is a government thing, something provided by the Secret Service?

Is it something she demands, in her Contract Rider?

Crooks and Liars has video of the speech, and a link that could be more worrisome, "Heads Up: Prayer Warriors and Sarah Palin Are Organizing Spiritual Warfare to Take Over America".

Oh My!

We're talking Prayer Shields, and Prayer Warriors.

Sounds like a "District 9" kind of thing, sans the Sci-Fi stuff.

I knew there was a reason we tagged her "Elmera Gantry".

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Chicken Lady

By Creature

Imagine what medical services one could get with this chicken! Open heart surgery, anyone?

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Supreme Court strikes down law banning depictions of extreme animal cruelty

I'm all for free speech -- in fact, I consider myself a firm civil libertarian in this regard -- but some "speech" isn't really speech and shouldn't be free.

Take, for example, the case of videos depicting extreme cruelty to animals:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday forcefully struck down a federal law aimed at banning depictions of dog fighting and other violence against animals, saying it violated constitutional guarantees of free speech and created a "criminal prohibition of alarming breadth."

The 8 to 1 ruling, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., was a ringing endorsement of the First Amendment's protection of even distasteful expression. Roberts called "startling and dangerous" the government's argument that the value of certain categories of speech should be weighed against their societal costs when protecting free speech. 

Again, I'm all for the First Amendment, but, to me, animal cruelty videos should be considered akin to child pornography:

The law was enacted in 1999 to forbid sales of so-called crush videos. They appeal to a certain sexual fetish by depicting the torture of animals -- cats, dogs, monkeys, mice and hamsters, according to Congress -- or showing them being crushed to death by women wearing stiletto heels or with their bare feet. While dog-fighting and other forms of animal cruelty are already illegal, Congress said the legislation was necessary to stop the production of videos for commercial gain.

What was Roberts' objection?

Roberts' opinion said the court was not passing judgment about whether a narrower statute limited just to crush videos and "other depictions of extreme animal cruelty" might be constitutional.

But the court said the legislation passed by Congress was far too broad. Anyone who "creates, sells or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty" for commercial gain can be imprisoned for up to five years. A depiction of cruelty was defined as one in which "a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded or killed."

Roberts wrote that the definition was so loose that it could include all depictions of wounding or killing animals, even hunting videos or magazines. He said the law's exemption for works of "serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value" was not enough protection, and the court was not reassured by the government's argument that prosecutions were rare.

That's just silly. The law in question is clearly aimed at depictions of extreme animal cruelty, not depections of hunting (which I consider cruel but certainly not at the level of what is depicted in these "crush" videos). And so I actually find myself in agreement with Justice Alito, the lone dissenter:

He said the law was enacted "not to suppress speech, but to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty." He said that the entire law need not be found unconstitutional, and that the "practical effect" of the ruling would be to spur production of crush videos, which opponents such as the Humane Society of the United States said had decreased with passage of the 1999 law.

As Wayne Pacelle, the head of The Humane Society of the United States, wrote at HuffPo, "[t]he Court got hung up in a stream of hypothetical scenarios, imagining that the law as worded might sweep up the sellers of hunting, bullfighting, and other videos that the federal lawmakers never intended to address." Furthermore:

Justice Samuel Alito dissented, noting that the majority has struck down "a valuable statute that was enacted not to suppress speech, but to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty -- in particular, the creation and commercial exploitation of crush videos, a form of depraved entertainment that has no social value." Justice Alito explained that "the animals used in crush videos are living creatures that experience excruciating pain. Our society has long banned such cruelty, which is illegal throughout the country."

With the Court issuing a disappointing albeit carefully crafted decision, it seems that Congress can step in and write a more narrowly tailored federal statute to prohibit the commercial sale of videos depicting extreme and illegal acts of cruelty. Clearly, it should not be legal to stage a dogfight in your basement and then sell the video of this criminal action. It is illegal to molest a child and sell a video of this sort of child pornography, and the same should be true for the most extreme and widely criminalized acts of animal cruelty.

With this ruling, a narrower statute is certainly necessary and ought to be enacted as soon as possible. Surely even ardent civil libertarians could get behind that.

And I would add this: While depictions of such animal cruelty ought to be banned, those who inflict the cruelty and those who party to it ought to face significant punishment under the law. There are laws in place, yes, but they are not nearly strong enough, and we ought to take the welfare of animals far more seriously than we do.

As for these disgusting "crush" videos, which I had no idea even existed before learning of this case, Alito is right, they are "a form of depraved entertainment that has no social value." But who are the utterly depraved individuals who make them, and who enjoy them? I realize that there is extraordinary depravity out there, and I realize that depravity is a matter of perspective (consider those ignorant bigots who think that homosexuality is depraved, for example), but surely there is a line than can be drawn. It is one then when consenting adults engage in certain activities with each other, quite another when children or animals or even adults who are in no position to consent are abused, tortured, and, in this case, killed.

There should be zero tolerance for such abhorrent behaviour.

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By Creature

Ezra boils it down:

What matters here is whether they think the politics of fighting the bill are better than the politics of supporting it. That, and not policy disputes, is what's driving this process.

And, it seems, today the GOP has decided that the politics of fighting the bill are not on their side. Tomorrow, who knows. Dems, be prepared.

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Your papers please

By Capt. Fogg

I admire Arizona's own particular brand of conservatism. Some would rather have it called Libertarianism but whatever you call it, I don't think it goes far enough. To give license to any policeman to assume probable cause to stop and search and demand papers of anyone who looks foreign is all well and good, but if it's confined to Arizona it just ain't enough. We need to follow Arizona's lead and make it national policy and any cop from Athol Massachusetts to Zebulon Georgia should be able to stop and demand papers of anyone below a certain level of blondness.

Because of Arizona's proximity to sources of ethnic pollution all cars with AZ plates should be stopped and searched and all air passengers arriving from Phoenix should be shunted aside for special handling. If even one leaf blower wielding, dish washing, fruit picking, leprosy carrying insurgent is stopped, it's worth the minor inconvenience. Of course there are those who need to be exempted from the rule - take New Mexico Governor Richardson or former Attorney General Gonzalez. We could have RFID transponders injected under their skin to identify them as trusted members of suspicious races so no celebrities, lawyers or politicians will be Tasered, beaten or otherwise humiliated in the process.

Again, Arizona leads the way in demanding that all candidates for President must present proof of US birth to be on the AZ ballot. Libertarians who profess to be strict constitutionalists may find a problem here, but I'm sure that the gravity of the problem will change their minds. It's also very important to define the nature of the proof lest the candidate furnish a state certified certificate attested to by the governor and director of vital records and attempt to fool State officials with it. It will take some work, but it can be done. In fact the bill gives the Arizona Attorney General discretion in the matter. According to the bill passed by the Arizona House on Monday, partisan or racial or ethnic suspicion alone is probable cause to reject the candidate and keep him off the ballot. Fortunately, House Republicans were able to pass the bill before Tuesday so as not to give Liberal terrorist supporters (if you'll forgive the redundancy) a chance to say it was done in honor of Hitler's birthday.

There are some Hitler loving, Maoist Liberal heretics in Arizona however. It's hard to believe but Phoenix Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema thinks all this is making Arizona a laughing stock, but that's easily countered by a sustained barrage of hysterical accusations of Communism, Fascism and palling around with terrorists. Works every time. It's like shooting Liberals in a barrel.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Will Obama name a progressive nominee for the Supreme Court?

This sounds very promising:

President Obama thinks Republicans will engage in a full battle over his Supreme Court nominee regardless of the person's ideological leanings, and in some ways "that realization is liberating for the president" to choose whomever he pleases, an administration official told TPMDC.

In comments that are at odds with the conventional wisdom about what Obama needs to do to make sure the Senate confirms his nominee to replace John Paul Stevens, a White House official involved in the confirmation process tells TPMDC that the President isn't taking a cautious approach to selecting a nominee. Despite having one less Democrat in the Senate than when Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed last year, the administration isn't limiting itself to reviewing only centrist candidates for the court vacancy, the official said.

"It doesn't matter who he chooses, there is going to be a big 'ol fight over it. So he doesn't have to get sidetracked by those sorts of concerns," the official told me. The GOP has attempted to obstruct "anything of consequence" put forth by the Obama administration since he took office, the official said. "The president is making this decision with a pretty clear view that whoever he chooses is going to provoke a strong reaction on the right," the official added.

That's exactly right -- and I hope it accurately reflects Obama's thinking. Particularly since health-care reform passed, the Republicans are in no mood to compromise, and they'll engage in a vicious campaign to defeat, or at least to smear mercilessly, any nominee, even a relatively moderate one. Of course, much of that effort will come from outside the Senate, where propagandizing conservatives portray Obama's generally centrist policy agenda as a radical socialist overturning of everything American, and one can expect Republican senators, on the whole, to be somewhat more respectful, if not deferential, even if, on the whole, they are more extreme in ideological terms than they once were, but the 41 Republicans in the Senate aren't about to give any nominee a free pass. With all that is at stake in replacing Stevens, they have a lot to fight for, and it would take Obama selecting a Republican to keep them from waging a full-scale political battle. If nothing else, they need to keep their base angry and motivated heading into November.

All of which is to say that Obama should pick the person whom he thinks is best for the job, not try to appeal to Republicans with a less desirable (because less liberal, less progressive) nominee. He's done the bipartisan thing, after all, and look where it got him. In the end, Democrats had to go it alone on health-care reform, just as they're having to go it alone on Wall Street reform, and while I think it has made sense for him to appear to seek Republican support, and perhaps even to be sincere about it, he seems to have learned a valuable lesson here. I have always thought that Obama knows full well how the game is played and that his bipartisan efforts, however sincere, were framed by a sound understanding of how Republicans operate. He could let them turn him down, after all, which has only made them look bad, and, in rejecting his efforts, they have revealed what they really are, which is a party of procedural obstructionists and ideological extremists. And he may let them do the same here by nominating a widely respected jurist whom they will look bad in opposing.

But now is not the time for caution, or at least not caution at the expense of picking the best person, and there is no need, it seems to me, to let Republicans have any influence, even indirectly, over who is nominated. Yes, they can filibuster, but they might not have the votes, given that Obama will likely nominate someone who is at least somewhat appealing to the few Republican moderates in the Senate, and, besides, a judicial filibuster would likely be unpopular. Just let the Republicans do it. Let them have to defend their opposition to a solid nominee. They'd only end up looking even worse than they do now. All the more reason for Obama to pick whomever he pleases.

It's not that Obama finally gets it, because I think he's gotten it all along, it's that, if this anonymous "official" is to be believed, he's finally getting over his bipartisan inclinations and finally going to try to get his own way by being truer to his liberal-progressive self.

Or is he? I realize that the White House is floating this for a reason, and that reason may be to try to convince his liberal-progressive base that he's taking its interests seriously and that he's seriously considering selecting a non-centrist nominee. In other words, this may all be for show, so that when he nominates a Republican-like centrist, which is quite probable given his inclinations, he'll be able to say that he considered a wide range of candidates and that this particular centrist is the best choice even if he or she is really just his own ideological preference.

For now, I suppose I'm still willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he really will nominate an admirably progressive jurist. Perhaps he really will tell the Republicans to shove it, more or less, and perhaps he really will finally do what needs to be done without reaching across the aisle to a party that has no interest helping him or supporting him in any way. But let's not delude ourselves into thinking that he's turned a corner and that, going forward, all will be as it should have been all along. Let's see who the nominee is, and perhaps then we can get a better sense of just where his priorities are.

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Fire in the Sky

I'm a gettin' tired of Armageddon. Yes, the earth will become incapable of sustaining life some day and the sun will die and the Universe might just be torn apart by some sort of dark energy stuff. Sure sometime between Wednesday and 50 million years from now we're likely to get whacked by another chicxulub sized asteroid but if and when, it won't have anything to do with Giving America the same health-care plan Communist-enslaved places like Massachusetts and Switzerland enjoy.

"There has been plenty of fear-mongering and overheated rhetoric, and if you turn on the news, you'll see that those same folks are still shouting about how the world will end because we passed this bill. This is not an exaggeration. Leaders of the Republican Party have actually been calling the passage of this bill 'Armageddon.' They say it's the end of freedom as we know it," said President Obama in Portland, Maine, shortly after the bill passed. "So after I signed the bill, I looked up to see if there were any asteroids headed our way. I checked to see if any cracks had opened up in the ground. But you know what? It turned out to be a pretty nice day."

I think even the people who publish crazy stories for crazy people are a bit shy of endorsing the latest meteorite to be noticed as a sign that God really is going to destroy mankind and probably animal and plantkind because his own most special country in all this vast universe has been polluted by reigning in the insurance companies and is eventually to allow the poor, sick, underage and temporarily unemployed to have medical insurance. But World Net Daily did take pains to note that it wasn't such a nice day in China or and that all the other earthquakes and underground rumblings and ash clouds of the last few days might indicate that all has been foretold by John of Patmos, patron Saint of Psychotics.

Nonetheless, WND was careful to point out the uppity nature of that comment and how that uppity president was very insulting to "conservatives," who of course are the only ones likely to believe this medieval insanity about signs and portents in the sky -- and in fact do believe it. What could he do that wouldn't insult them when the basic facts of history, Chemistry, physics, paleontology, geology, meteorology, and cosmology make their hairy palms sweat with righteous anger and desperate denial.

Don't get me wrong. I put conservatives in quotes because they aren't that at all. Some of them just play conservatives on TV and radio and in places like World Net Daily because they make a lot of money on the slander circuit. Others are just ignorant, bigoted, superstitious, and misinformed -- and some are just substantially subnormal. If there are real conservatives about these days, they're in hiding, unwilling to be associated with the Idiot's Crusade, and the few who remain, like George Will, for instance, are sure to provide great entertainment in trying to rationalize their inevitable opposition to brokerage, mortgage, and banking reform so they won't be called Communists too.

The rest won't try nor will they need to, pseudo-conservative memories being as short and malleable as they are. All they know and all they will need to know is that locking up Wall Street crooks must somehow be a danger to our "freedom," an offense to God and another bit of proof that the liberals are leading us straight to a future of fire and brimstone falling from the sky.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Quote of the Day: Marco Rubio on Israel and Iran

Marco Rubio, the presumptive Republican nominee for Senate in Florida, is, as you may know, an extremist, and therefore well within the new mainstream of the GOP.

The anti-tax, anti-government Club for Growth, Grover Norquist's outfit, loves him, and he was celebrated at CPAC, by the inmates of the Insanitarium, as one of the new stars of the right.

At CPAC, to rapturous applause, he sought to prove his right-wing national security bona fides by spouting reductio ad Cheneyesque absurdum nonsense:

We will do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to defeat radical Islamic terrorism. We will punish their allies like Iran. We will stand with our allies like Israel. We will target and we will destroy terrorist cells and the leaders of those cells. The ones that survive, we will capture them. We will get useful information from them. And then we will bring them to justice in front of a military tribunal in Guantanamo -- not a civilian courtroom in Manhattan.

As I wrote back then, "what does it mean to do 'whatever it takes'? What does it mean to 'punish' Iran? There's so little substance behind such rhetoric, so common on the right. It's neoconservative bullying with a penchant for torture and brutality, but, however nonsensical, it is dangerous and destructive in the wrong hands, as we witnessed over the course of two detestable terms of George W. Bush."

Actually, he sounded quite a bit like Rudy Giuliani -- shameless exploiter of 9/11, would-be torturer-in-chief, and neo-fascist thug, not to mention presidential campaign failure -- another Republican celebrity without any genuine national security experience, let alone credibility, a warmongerer who so desperately wants to prove to the Cheneyacs that he's one of them.

And he -- Rubio, that is -- has been at it again, telling a Florida blogger the other day that an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran would be a-okay with him:

Israel has to do whatever Israel needs to do for their own national security. You would hope the United States, by taking a stronger role, would prevent that from needing to happen. But ultimately, I don't think any of us are going to blame Israel if they take it upon themselves to ensure that the security and well being of their people is safeguarded. 

Now, I have defended Israel's right to defend itself, and I consider myself a friend of Israel, or at least of the more liberal, non-Netanyahu Israel, but actually a lot of people would criticize Israel for acting pre-emptively against Iran and thereby unleashing a massive security crisis in the Middle East.

By "us," of course, Rubio may mean "us" Republicans, or "us" right-wing zealots, or whatever, not necessarily "us" Americans or "us" thoughtful people who care about securing a lasting peace in the Middle East and who don't think that bombing the shit out of the Iranians is the way to go, but the point is clear, and the point is that Rubio thinks Israel should have carte blanche to do whatever it thinks it needs to do to defend itself no matter the repercussions, no matter what anyone else might think, including Israel's neighbours, Europe, and the U.S.

That's carte blanche for reckless aggression and mass destruction, but also for chaos and violent blowback, with Iran and its allies, including its terrorist allies, responding with as much force as they can muster not just against Israel but against Israel's allies as well, including possibly the U.S., and all because Israel acted out in supposed self-defence.

But bloodthirsty bomb-bomb-bomb Iran enthusiasts like Rubio don't seem to worry about such possibilities, however likely they may be, nor do they ever seem to consider the possibility, and likelihood, that their plans could backfire badly. For them, it's all about letting Israel, or rather it's conservative leadership, do whatever the hell it wants to do, and -- let's not overlook this -- having Israel wage wars as America's surrogate, much as various right-wing dictatorships did during the Cold War.

And so in supposedly being responsible, with Israel's national security as their stated concern (if not exactly the whole truth), Rubio and his ilk are actually being deeply irresponsible. But of course this sort of rhetoric plays really well within the confines of the Insanitarium, and one should expect nothing else from the inmates and their demagogues.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

By J. Thomas Duffy

Today was, as Kevin Drum's post reminded me, "Weed Day," and, beset with allergies, I don't think lighting one up was going to be of much help.

However, a link in the post did enlighten me to something that comes up, now and then, whenever I see it referenced.

That being, what hell is "420"?

Ryan Grim, at Huffington Post, tells the story:

420 Meaning: The True Story Of How April 20 Became 'Weed Day'

The origin of the term 420, celebrated around the world by pot smokers every April 20th, has long been obscured by the clouded memories of the folks who made it a phenomenon. 

The Huffington Post chased the term back to its roots and was able to find it in a lost patch of cannabis in a Point Reyes, California forest. Just as interesting as its origin, it turns out, is how it spread.


The flyer came complete with a 420 back story: "420 started somewhere in San Rafael, California in the late '70s. It started as the police code for Marijuana Smoking in Progress. After local heads heard of the police call, they started using the expression 420 when referring to herb - Let's Go 420, dude!"

It had nothing to do with a police code -- though the San Rafael part was dead on. Indeed, a group of five San Rafael High School friends known as the Waldos - by virtue of their chosen hang-out spot, a wall outside the school - coined the term in 1971. The Huffington Post spoke with Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave and Dave's older brother, Patrick, and confirmed their full names and identities, which they asked to keep secret for professional reasons. (Pot is still, after all, illegal.) 

The Waldos never envisioned that pot smokers the world over would celebrate each April 20th as a result of their foray into the Point Reyes forest.


It goes like this: One day in the Fall of 1971 - harvest time - the Waldos got word of a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his plot of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. A treasure map in hand, the Waldos decided to pluck some of this free bud.

The Waldos were all athletes and agreed to meet at the statue of Loius Pasteur outside the school at 4:20, after practice, to begin the hunt.

"We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It originally started out 4:20-Louis and we eventually dropped the Louis," Waldo Steve tells the Huffington Post.

The first forays out were unsuccessful, but the group kept looking for the hidden crop. "We'd meet at 4:20 and get in my old '66 Chevy Impala and, of course, we'd smoke instantly and smoke all the way out to Pt. Reyes and smoke the entire time we were out there. We did it week after week," says Steve. "We never actually found the patch." 

Go read all of Grim's post, as there's much, much more to it (especially, if you are a "Dead Head").

Bonus Riff

Chew'em If You Got'em!

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)


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Take Texas

By Capt. Fogg

Sometimes I don't know whether to keel over dead from laughing at the people insisting I think Barack Obama is a Messiah and trying to force that sour confection down the throats of Democrats or to have a fatal stroke yelling at them about how they've been trying to shove messiahs of their own up the other end.

Of course, America is always looking for a hero and wants one so badly we've made heroes out of some strange characters, but one man's hero is always the other man's Devil and nowhere more so than in the USA. Did FDR save us from complete economic collapse and a likely shift away from faith in the Capitalist economic model, or did he make it far worse because he was in fact only a puppet: like Truman and Eisenhower, a Quisling serving his Soviet masters? As I said, one man's Messiah is the other guy's Satan. At least he and Ike and Truman didn't succeed in handing over the reigns to Stalin or Kruschev -- or did they? It depends on the definition of Communism and what looks like a free market to one person is obviously not to another. There will be no reconciliation until long after it becomes moot and the US is a distant memory to be made into an object lesson for propagandists yet unborn.

At any rate the longing for some kind of return to a past that didn't happen as described is alive and thriving like bacteria in some Texas bus station men's room and making it impossible for us to be a real nation rather than the loose confederacy of Hobbsian States they envision. Take Texas - please.

Newsweek says that the tenacity of Texas Governor Rick Perry tells us much about America in the age of Obama. I think it tells us a lot about America in the age of James Buchanan; divided irrevocably on issues that now seem morally and legally obvious to most of us.

The US in the mid-19th century was a cultural hodgepodge, filling up with immigrants speaking many languages, publishing papersk and supporting theaters and associations using German, Polish, Italian, Russian, Czech, French, and other languages. Governor Perry thanks that "hodgepodge" sapping our "moral strength" today. It's strange to behold when in my lifetime civilization was on the brink of collapse because of the far right Utopian dream of ethnic and linguistic "purity." It's a strange kind of freedom that is allowed only to people of certain ethnic and religious backgrounds, but Texas is a strange kind of place.

Governor Perry worries that our country is run by government bureaucrats, instead of the Confederate model where it was run by wealthy landowners, and the current Republican model where free elections don't legitimize a candidate they don't like and where the country should be run by a confederation of wealthy Corporations and perhaps officially sanctioned religious leaders.

Am I making unfair comparisons to pre-Civil War era conditions? Keep in mind that Perry, when asked by Newsweek to explain his Capitol Steps talk about secession, only mumbled about long term debt and "what this administration is doing from an economic standpoint."

No, the government is the enemy unless the government is the enemy: "wants to be the epicenter and one size fits all... we have very, very different ideas about the structure of this country and how it should work," and as far as I can see, they're pretty much the same as those of Jefferson Davis and bear an uncanny similarity to the ideas of many America royalists who quite liked the state religion and its forced conformity, heresy laws, witch trials, and all.

"I don't care how hard you work. We are going to take more," are the words he puts in the mouth of the Democratic Demon. He needed to since it wasn't there in the real world he's such an alien to: the world where the Yankee president is going to take your slaves and let them whistle at white girls and where Obama is gonna take your guns even though he ain't. The Yankees are gonna make it hard for us to use public schools to teach far out fringe conjectures about a 6,000 year old universe and magic creation of men out of mud. Of course, if we taught them that Allah made us out of a blood clot, you'd soon hear the tune change from their "god given right" to teach our children to another assumed right to demonize other people's rights and lie about the data.

So how do you argue with someone for whom the truth is like silly putty; where you need absolute proof of some things and sneer about the entire idea of proof or even ignore evidence with other things: someone who believes in absolute authoritarianism yet decries absolute authoritarianism in democracy? How can the smug insistence that huge debts and massive borrowing is just fine unless it's done by Democrats?

You don't.

How do you argue with someone who insists the Depression started with Roosevelt and not with Hoover's huge tax cuts: someone who insists that FDR's spending didn't end or ameliorate the depression but admits WW II did because of the huge government deficit spending? How can you make him tell you why we should be more patient about seeing results from trillions spent to do unnecessary nothings in Iraq than about seeing a complete economic turn around after 15 months. How do you argue with someone who will defend unto death, or at least until the Thorazine kicks in, that contradictions and unanswerable questions weaken an argument, that freedom is all about ethnic and religious purity, that orchestrated demonstrations of inchoate anger are an acceptable way of petitioning for redress of grievances and undoing elections?

You don't and I can't and I'm tired of trying. I'm tired of listening to How Obama has squelched our freedom of speech, how the midwest meteorite and the earthquake in China are the result of health insurance reform and other totally imaginary, seditious things, many of which are the deeds of previous administration and even supported by Conservative leaders. I'm disgusted to live in a country that allows itself to be eaten alive from the inside and won't lift a finger to help itself.

This won't end well, if it ends at all. It won't end as long as we entertain ourselves with new and ever changing diatribes of just what liberals do and just what liberals did and just what liberals are. No one but the innocent are ever burned as witches, but moreover, we'll never be able to be constructive, we'll never be able to have a democracy that works and I have to believe that the people behind this insanity know it quite well and wouldn't have it any other way.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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