Saturday, February 19, 2011

Libya clamps down

There may be reason for cautious optimism in Bahrain, not to mention in Egypt and Tunisia, but Libya has so far been responding to anti-government (and specifically anti-Gaddafi) protests with bloodthirsty violence:

The number of people killed in three days of protests in Libya has risen to 84, according to the New York-based group Human Rights Watch.

The main focus of the demonstrations against Col Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule has been the second city Benghazi, where security forces are said to have attacked protesters again on Saturday.

On Friday, one hospital in the city reported 35 deaths.

State media have warned of retaliation if the unrest continues.

All the more reason not to get ahead of ourselves in celebrating the coming of liberal democracy to a part of the world that doesn't exactly have much (or rather any) history of it. There is a certain domino effect going on, with pro-democracy movements in one country learning from, and building, movements in other -- made easier with social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter -- but we do need to treat these movements, and these events, on a case-by-case, country-by-country basis, particularly because the tyrants/governments who are being challenged are responding in vastly different ways to those who would overthrow them.

It will be especially difficult, it seems, in Libya, where, unlike in Egypt, shots are being fired, but that means there's all the more reason to show our support for the demonstrators, and to press our own governments to do all they can do to persuade/compel Gaddafi to pull back.

(For more, see Aljazeera's live blog.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

People power in Bahrain

The NYT's Nicholas Kristof reports from the ground (Manama, Bahrain) on some encouraging developments in the tyrannical Middle Eastern state:

There's delirious joy in the center of Bahrain right now. People power has prevailed, at least temporarily, over a regime that repeatedly used deadly force to try to crush a democracy movement. Pro-democracy protesters have retaken the Pearl Roundabout – the local version of Tahrir Square – from the government. On a spot where blood was shed several days ago there are now vast throngs kissing the earth, chanting slogans, cheering, honking and celebrating. People handed me flowers and the most common quotation I heard was: "It's unbelievable!"

When protesters announced that they were going to try to march on the Pearl Roundabout this afternoon, I had a terrible feeling. King Hamad of Bahrain has repeatedly shown he is willing to use brutal force to crush protesters, including live fire just yesterday on unarmed, peaceful protesters who were given no warning. I worried the same thing would happen today. I felt sick as I saw the first group cross into the circle.

But, perhaps on orders of the crown prince, the army troops had been withdrawn, and the police were more restrained today. Police fired many rounds of tear gas on the south side of the roundabout to keep protesters away, but that didn't work and the police eventually fled. People began pouring into the roundabout from every direction, some even bringing their children and celebrating with an almost indescribable joy. It's amazing to see a site of such tragedy a few days ago become a center of jubilation right now. It's like a huge party. I asked one businessman, Yasser, how he was feeling, and he stretched out his arms and screamed: "GREAT!!!!"

Many here tell me that this is a turning point, and that democracy will now come to Bahrain – in the form of a constitutional monarchy in which the king reigns but does not rule – and eventually to the rest of the Gulf and Arab world as well. But some people are still very, very wary and fear that the government will again send in troops to reclaim the roundabout. I just don't know what will happen, and it’s certainly not over yet. But it does feel as if this just might be a milestone on the road to Arab democracy.

I hope so, I really do. Certainly the recent developments in Egypt suggest that even the most entrenched tyrants can be overthrown (or at least forced out), even if so much uncertainty remains -- like, in Egypt, will there actually be liberalization and democracy or military rule and another strongman?

But there's reason to be optimistic. This isn't Islamism on the rise, after all. These pro-democracy movements -- in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Bahrain, and elsewhere -- are generally liberal/progressive and somewhat Western-oriented, and they might just manage to reshape the entire Middle East, if not the Muslim world generally. And it's not happening because Bush called for regime change and invaded Iraq, as the neocons would have us believe, but because courageous men and women have had enough and are standing up for their freedom, and what we're witnessing may very well be a sort of domino effect as the recognition that now is the time is spreading from one country to another.

It won't be easy. There will be a lot more bloodshed and it may take a long time for liberal democracy to take hold in some of these places. Consider how long it took in Europe, albeit long before the days of Facebook and Twitter. But these steps are necessary, the first steps to shed the yoke of tyranny, and this could well be an amazing moment in the history of freedom.

(You can find more at CNN, Aljazeera, the NYT (photo below), and the BBC.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Zach Wahls, Iowa, and the struggle for marriage equality

I'm way late coming to this, but I think this clip is still worth posting.

On February 1, as you may remember, the Iowa House voted 62-37 in support of a resolution that would ban same-sex marriage in that state by way of an amendment to the state constitution. (For a history of same-sex marriage in Iowa, see here. On August 3, 2009, the state Supreme Court struck down a 1998 law that restricted marriage to heterosexual couples, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.) The resolution will now go to the Senate, where Democrats, in the majority, will likely block it.

Before the House vote, there was considerable public testimony for and against. I recently came across this clip, a deeply moving statement against the resolution by Zach Wahls, a 19-year old student at the University of Iowa, and the proud son of a married lesbian couple. As the House vote indicates, bigotry is a powerful force, but ultimately I believe that justice, full marriage equality, will prevail, not just in Iowa but across the U.S., just as in Canada and elsewhere.

This is what is needed to prevail, the voice of truth. It's awesome:

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jazz legend George Shearing dies

(Ed. note: It's been a long week. This is a sad post, marking the death of a music legend, but let's also take the time to bask in some great music. -- MJWS)

I heard this on the radio the other morning, and it shadowed the beginning of the day in sadness:

Announcing the death due to heart failure at Shearing's home in Manhattan, his agent, Dale Sheets, said: "He was a totally one of a kind performer. It was something wonderful to see, to watch him work."

I had the good fortune to catch Shearing a few times, both in club and festival settings, and it was always a delicious treat, the crowd hushing to the point you could hear a pin drop, settling in for the unique Shearing sound.

The Shearing sound — which had the harmonic complexity of bebop but eschewed bebop's ferocious energy — was built on the unusual instrumentation of vibraphone, guitar, piano, bass and drums. To get the "full block sound" he wanted, he had the vibraphone double what his right hand played and the guitar double the left. That sound came to represent the essence of sophisticated hip for countless listeners worldwide who preferred their jazz on the gentle side.


By his own estimate Mr. Shearing wrote about 300 tunes, of which he liked to joke that roughly 295 were completely unknown.

He nevertheless contributed at least one bona fide standard to the jazz repertory: "Lullaby of Birdland," written in 1952 and adopted as the theme song of the world-famous New York nightclub where he frequently performed. Both as an instrumental and with words by George David Weiss, it has been recorded by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Bill Haley and His Comets, who improbably cut a version called "Lullaby of Birdland Twist" in 1962.

And who else remembers the television commercial (for a Pioneer LaserDisc), featuring Ray Charles, delivering the punchline "I liked it so much, I got one for my friend, George Shearing" -- the joke being Shearing was also blind.

RIP George Shearing, it was great having you around.

And here's a personal favorite:

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Jeb Bush talks up Mitch Daniels for 2012

The supposedly smarter Bush brother:

Jeb Bush likes Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' 2012 presidential prospects. The former Florida governor told a private gathering of Jacksonville business leaders that Daniels is the only potential candidate he's heard who demonstrates a willingness to face up to harsh realities.

"Mitch is the only one who sees the stark perils and will offer real detailed proposals," he said, speaking at a reception held before he took the stage in front of a crowd of real estate professionals.

Well, look, Daniels is certainly one of the saner Republicans these days -- which admittedly isn't really saying much -- and his one and a half terms as Indiana governor have proven him to be a relatively responsible fiscal conservative. Not that I go for such policies, but he's preferable to most others in the GOP.

But Jeb's got the year wrong.

In terms of the Republican nomination, this isn't 2008, when a moderate could win as the sitting vice president to continue the Reagan presidency (Jeb's dad), or 1996, when a long-time leading establishment figure could win to face a popular president at a time of economic health (Dole), or 2000, when a safe conservative could win after eight years of Clinton and things generally looking good both domestically and internationally (Jeb's brother), or 2008, when another long-time establishment figure, if also something of a former maverick, could win with the party bitterly divided after eight years of Bush II, defeating a fairly weak primary field (McCain).

This is, or will be, 2012, and, as we saw last year, and as we continue to see now, the Republican Party has changed. It has moved, and is moving, further and further to the right and the Tea Party has become a major player across the country, booting out even credible hardcore conservatives who haven't met their far-right agenda or conspiratorial predilections. The Tea Party has its members on Capitol Hill now, but it's bigger in the base -- and you have to win the base to win the nomination. And it's not just the Tea Party. While there is significant overlap, the Republican Party is also the party of the Birthers. And of course it's not just fiscally but socially conservative in the extreme.

And Daniels just doesn't cut it. He's raised taxes, after, even going so far as to propose a tiny tax increase on the wealthy (a one percent increase for one year) that was rejected by his own party. And while he's socially conservative, he's not an activist social conservative. As Nate Silver noted recently, Daniels "has called for a "truce"... on social issues, and expressed a willingness to consider tax increases to rectify a budget deficit." I see how Jeb might like all that, but Republican primary voters certainly won't, should he even decide to run.

2012 just won't be his year, not as a relatively sane "moderate" in a party that is speeding away from him to the distant right.

(photo -- Daniels is the short one in the middle.)

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Milk matters: Palin and Bachmann, sinking to new levels of idiocy, attack Michelle Obama for encouraging breast-feeding

Yes, yes, Palin keeps hinting at a possible presidential run, but that's all there ever is, a hint here and hint there, as if she's just trying to keep the speculation going, and I remain convinced, or almost convinced, that she won't end up running, not with so much at stake, not with so much to lose, including her status as Tea Party shadchan and party kingmaker.

Sarah Palin followed in Rep. Michele Bachmann's footsteps and took a swipe at Michelle Obama on Thursday, mocking her efforts to get mothers to breast-feed their children.

"No wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody, 'You'd better breast-feed your baby,'" she said at a Long Island appearance on Thursday, after slamming President Barack Obama for rising gas prices and other items -- like milk -- since he took office. "Yeah, you'd better, because the price of milk is so high right now."

The comments come two days after Bachmann accused the first lady of trying to implement a "nanny state."

"To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump for my babies? You wanna talk about the nanny state, I think you just got a new definition."

Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and tea party favorite, added that the first lady's agenda is "very consistent with where the hard left is coming from."

What a pair of ignorant, hyper-partisan morons.

How is Obama responsible for the price of milk? He certainly is more powerful than we all imagine if he can really influence consumer product costs so directly. (Palin must think he's some sort of god, pulling strings and controlling our lives.)

And what's wrong with breast-feeding? How is it inappropriate for the first lady -- who, by the way, is clearly not making policy or pushing legislation -- to promote something (and all first ladies promote things, that comes with the job) that is not just medically sensible but naturally human? How is that "the nanny state" run amok?

There's nothing wrong not just with the first lady but with the president or any other government official making suggestions and encouraging healthy choices (like exercising, not smoking, etc.). It's only the nanny state when government actually seeks to micro-regulate behaviour, prying into aspects of society that are better left private. (Which is precisely what theocratic social conservatives like Palin herself seek to do, not liberals like Obama and not even more left-wing progressives, who while advocating bigger government are nonetheless committed to civil liberties and individual choice.)

Oh, and how is preferring breast-feeding a "hard left" thing? It is because it takes profits away from the Big Baby Formula companies?

(Umm... wasn't it Nancy Reagan, wife of the supposedly greatest Republican ever, who had that whole "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign? Talk about the hard-left nanny state! Or how about Laura Bush and literacy? Another left-wing plot? Well, maybe, given how much the right hates book learnin'.)

Honestly, this is just pathetic, and it shows just how low the likes of Palin and Bachmann are willing to go in their non-stop efforts to score political points. I suppose their admirers on the right love this sort of thing, but it's hard to imagine this charge being taken seriously by anyone who deals with reality (and human nature) on a regular basis.

All these two do is continue to embarrass themselves. It's amusing, to a point, but also evidence of astounding idiocy. And it's telling that they're both such huge celebrities, especially Palin, in today's Republican Party.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Haley Barbour and the KKK: A perfect Republican match?

The other day, I withdrew my support for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

It was a difficult and sad thing to do, and it's not a decision I made lightly. I came to it only after serious reflection and delirious soul-searching. I want what's best for the Republican Party, after all, and I really thought that Barbour, the seemingly perfect Republican, was the best.

But, you know, if you support and lobby for amnesty for illegal immigrants, if you show even the tiniest speck of humanity towards the many hard-working people who just want to make a better life for themselves in America, as well as for their children, you're just not a good enough Republican, and you certainly don't deserve the lofty, Reaganesque honor of being your party's nominee for the highest office in the land.

But maybe I was too impulsive. Maybe I didn't think the thing through. Maybe I didn't give Boss Barbour enough credit.

Maybe -- yes, maybe -- I was wrong. And maybe I need to send him a big fat apology.

Because he really is a great Republican, and it took something he said just this week to remind me of that:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday he won't denounce a Southern heritage group's proposal for a state-issued license plate that would honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Barbour is a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

Questioned by reporters Tuesday after an energy speech in Jackson, Barbour said he doesn't think Mississippi legislators will approve the Forrest license plate proposed by the Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The group wants to sponsor a series of state-issued license plates over the next few years to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War - or in its words, the "War Between the States." The Forrest license plate would be slated for 2014.

Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson said it's "absurd" to honor a "racially divisive figure" such as Forrest. Johnson has also called on Barbour to denounce the license plate idea.

Asked about the NAACP's stance Tuesday, Barbour replied: "I don't go around denouncing people. That's not going to happen. I don't even denounce the news media."

As Jonathan Chait notes, it would appear that, for Barbour the news media are even worse than the KKK. Such crazy anti-media sentiment certainly reinforces his Republican cred.

But it's also his refusal to denounce the effort to honor not just a major Confederate figure but a leader of the KKK that really sends his star back into orbit. While he said that "there's not a chance it'll become law," and hence that there won't be a state-issued licence plate (though it's not clear if he himself supports the idea or if he just thinks the Mississippi legislature won't approve it), it's that refusal that supersizes his Republican cred.

No, he's not perfect. Alas. There's still that "amnesty" blip, and he won't be able to run away from that, just as Romney won't be able to run away from health-care reform in Massachusetts.

But he's a good Republican, a very good Republican, and very much a model for how Republicans should conduct themselves. I doubt he'll run, and maybe he's not Teabagger enough for the far right, but the party could do a lot worse, and I really hope all Americans, especially independents who may need some help deciding between the two parties, come to identify him with the Republican Party.

He deserves no less. And neither does the GOP.


Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Rove warns Republicans about Birthers

Poor Karl Rove. What is he to do? He's just so worried about his beloved GOP:

Former Bush adviser Karl Rove is calling on GOP politicians to avoid falling into the "birther" movement trap and to stop fueling rumors that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

"Within our party, we've got to be very careful about allowing these people who are the birthers and the 9/11-deniers to get too high a profile and say too much without setting the record straight," Rove said Wednesday night on Fox News.

"We need the leaders of our party to say, 'Look, stop falling into the trap of the White House and focus on the real issues,'" he said. Spending time and energy on -- and getting media attention for -- comments about where the president was born is a distraction that discredits the lawmakers and candidates making the remarks, he said.

Hold on... my sides are splitting.

This is the genius who thinks that the key to Republican electoral success is to play to the extremist right-wing base and to get that base to turn out in massive numbers, right?

And he does know he's a Republican, right? And that Birtherism is huge in the Republican Party? (I mean, if you take the Birthers out, what's left?)

You know what they say about reaping and sowing and making beds and all that. Poor Turd Blossom, living a nightmare of his own devising, is just getting what he deserves.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Glenn Beck uncovers new evidence of worldwide leftist conspiracy

Yes, it appears that even Little Bunny Foo Foo is conspiring with Google to take over the world. When will this madness end?

All together now!

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

How stupid do you have to be?

By Carl 

Michelle Bachmann stupid, apparently... 

Michele Bachmann won't say whether she thinks President Obama is a citizen and a Christian.

"Well, that isn't for me to state," the conservative Minnesota House Republican said today on ABC's Good Morning America. "That's for the president to state."

Obama and aides have repeatedly said the president was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961, and is a Christian.

"We should take the president at his word," Bachmann said, but she declined to weigh in herself, even when pressed by GMA host George Stephanopoulos. 

Look, Mickey... I should take you at your word that you're a woman, but you know, maybe you need to offer up proof? I challenge you to appear naked on the next talk show (that's not on FOX, because I'd like to be able to tune in).

Even John Boehner, who gave a particularly clumsy answer when David Gregory pressed him this past Sunday on a similar topic (i.e., repudiating rank-and-file Republicans of this mistaken belief), was able to say he took the president at his word. 

David, it's not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That's good enough for me. The president says he's a Christian. I accept him at his word. 

See, Mickey? Even a klutz like Bonehead can be just a little flat, rather than a half-octave off!

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anti-abortion South Dakota moves closer to legalizing murder

A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus -- a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion -- even if she wanted one. 

Look, I get the opposition to abortion. I get what the "pro-lifers" are fighting for. I get they think that abortion is murder and must be stopped. But abortion is legal, within certain parameters, and there's no way killing a doctor who happens to perform abortions is justifiable.

Now, Jensen claims that his legislation has nothing to do with abortion and would not legalize such killing. As he told Greg Sargent, "It would if abortion was illegal. This code only deals with illegal acts. Abortion is legal in this country. This has nothing to do with abortion."

Right. Then what's the point?

As Miriam argues at Feministing, "[t]he problem is, the language in the bill is really vague, leaving all sorts of interpretation up to the courts if the bill becomes law. This is an often employed tactic–make language vague, say something different about your intent, but hope for other consequences."

There's no doubt that the extreme (and violent) anti-abortion right would welcome such legislation and would take it to its extreme conclusion. Yes, of course, you should be able to defend yourself if you're pregnant and someone is threatening you and your unborn child, but this bill would go much further than that, regardless of Jensen's supposed objections.

"For all the ridiculous paranoia on the right about creeping 'sharia law,'" writes Steve Benen, "here we see a Republican plan at the state level to make it legal to assassinate medical professionals as part of a larger culture war."

It seems unlikely that such a law would ever hold up under judicial scrutiny, but you never know, particularly in a state like South Dakota. Regardless, it certainly tells us a great deal not just about the anti-abortion right but more broadly about the theocratic extremism of the GOP.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

If you lose your job, John Boehner might just tell you to go fuck yourself

You may lose your job, but John Boehner doesn't give a shit:

If House Republicans succeed in cutting tens of billions of dollars in discretionary spending over the next six months, some of the most immediate victims will be federal employees, many of whose jobs will be slashed as their agencies pare back.

At a press conference in the lobby of RNC headquarters Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) shrugged this off as collateral damage.

"In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," Boehner said. "If some of those jobs are lost so be it. We're broke." 

As Brian Beutler notes, "Boehner didn't cite a source for the claim that Obama had added 200,000 employees to the federal payroll. And he said he didn't have an estimate of how many jobs would be lost as a result of the GOP cuts." In other words, he doesn't really know anything, he was just talking out of his ass.

But there's nothing funny about people losing their jobs, and Boehner's lack of concern, his utter disregard for real people dealing with real problems, is appalling.

As Steve Benen notes, even with all the talk right now about jobs and unemployment, Boehner "by his own admission, prefers a budget plan that would make unemployment worse, on purpose." He "intends to force thousands of teachers, police officers, medical professionals, and food inspectors from their jobs, and... said he doesn't much care." 

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Republican Party!

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Craziest Republican of the Day: Connie O'Brien

Even when we expect the worst, Republicans somehow seem to keep amazing us with their capacity to scrape more and more off the bottom of the barrel. Take, for example, the astonishing racist ignorance of Connie O'Brien, a Kansas Republican:

One week ago, the Kansas House Federal and State Committee held a hearing about in-state tuition being granted to the children of undocumented immigrants, which has been the policy in the state since 2004.

Speaking in favor of repealing the law, Rep. Connie O'Brien (R-KS) began telling an anecdote at the hearing about how her son had difficulty in getting financial assistance to attend college. She explained that she took her son to a financial aid office, and as she was waiting in line, she believed there was a girl waiting in line with them who was "not originally from this country." Fellow committee member Rep. Sean Gatewood (D-KS) asked O'Brien how she knew this student was "illegal." O'Brien replied that she knew because the student "wasn't black, she wasn't Asian, and she had the olive complexion": 

REP. O'BRIEN: My son who's a Kansas resident, born here, raised here, didn't qualify for any financial aid. Yet this girl was going to get financial aid. My son was kinda upset about it because he works and pays for his own schooling and his books and everything and he didn't think that was fair. We didn't ask the girl what nationality she was, we didn't think that was proper. But we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country. [...] 

REP. GATEWOOD: Can you expand on how you could tell that they were illegal? 

REP. O'BRIEN: Well she wasn't black, she wasn't Asian, and she had the olive complexion. 

The olive complexion?

Yes, watch out, all you Olives, they're gonna getcha, because you're the wrong color, and you clearly don't belong.

Yes, anyone with an "olive" complexion is an illegal Mexican immigrant, no questions asked. Wow. How do you even deal with that sort of stupidity?

I bet her gaydar is fantastic, too.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Curveball throws a change-up, Bush swings and misses

But Bush wanted so badly to swing that it didn't really matter who was pitching and what the pitch was. Any evidence of Iraqi WMDs, even the fabricated testimony of a largely discredited "source," would do:

The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials who dealt with his claims, has told the Guardian that he fabricated tales of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, from which he had fled in 1995.

"Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right," he said. "They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy."

Well, he got what he wanted, but at a pretty high cost, and of course in the process Bush and the American warmongers squandered pretty much the entirety of America's credibility, something Obama has worked to win back, if not entirely successfully so far.

But it wasn't all about Curveball. He was just willing to lie at the right time and conveniently provided the unsupported "evidence" the warmongers (and the intelligence community) were looking for. The decision to go to war had already been made, shortly after 9/11 but really long before in the minds of Wolfowitz et al., and the warmongers were going to find something, anything to support their reckless cause. It didn't really matter.

Bush and the rest were duped, yes, but they were willing to be duped, that's the point, and they either allowed themselves to believe that this was incontrovertible evidence or knew it wasn't and built their public case for war on it anyway. Either way, the American people were misled by leaders who had their own not-so-secret agenda, a terrible and terribly mismanaged war was launched, and the rest, as you know, is disastrous history, even if Saddam is no longer in power.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Birthers (heart) Palin

Well, obviously. But Greg Sargent has the numbers:

The new poll from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling finds that a majority of likely GOP primary voters falsely believe Obama wasn't born in the United States. But this breakdown of their attitudes towards Sarah Palin is of particular interest:

A 51% majority of national GOP primary voters erroneously think President Obama was not born in the U.S. 28% know that he was. With the latter, Palin's favorability rating is 41-52 -- other than Ron Paul, the only candidate these voters view negatively. But with birthers, she has a soaring 83-12, far higher than for any of the others.

Birthers like Palin more than all the other 2012 GOP hopefuls to an overwhelming degree. And she is the only 2012 hopeful aside from Ron Paul who is viewed negatively by Republicans who know the President was born in America. I'd say this tells us a lot about the secret to Palin's appeal and about who she appeals to.

In other words, if you're a Republican, the crazier you are, the more you like Palin. But we knew that already, right?

Otherwise, things aren't looking good for the less-than-one-term governor:

Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin report[ed yesterday] that polls show Palin trailing significantly among GOP primary voters in early-voting states, folks who tend to take their role in picking a presidential nominee rather seriously. As Smith and Martin speculate, this suggests that Palin's general popularity among GOP primary voters -- which remains very high -- is rooted less in a desire to see her elected to a position of awesome responsibility and more in her ability to give voice to their contempt for Democrats.

Yes, that may well be right. She has her ardent followers, of course, and I'm sure many Birthers, Teabaggers, and others on the far right would support her were she to enter the race, but it does seem that more sensible Republicans either don't like her or would prefer she remained on the sidelines, where she can snipe away at her leisure at her (and their) hated opponents. Maybe even those who like her get that she's not presidential material and would be an embarrassment, not only to herself but to them and their party, were she actually to win the nomination, and would even be an embarrassment in the primaries.

Who knows what she's thinking, but I repeat what I've said again and again, namely, that she's not going to run. She simply has too much to lose -- and she'd likely lose a lot. Sure, she's surrounded by sycophants, and she may well be delusional enough, with their added persuasion, to think that she could actually win, but surely someone will tell her that she's have a tough time even winning hardcore Republican primary voters (unless, of course, the field is so weak, with the likes of Romney and Pawlenty, that they'd vote for her by default and in spite of their concerns). Or maybe not. Who knows what goes on inside the Palin bubble?

It's not like an appreciation for reality is one of her strengths.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Causalities Of War

By Carl
Before I begin today's piece, I want to firmly state that in no way should any of the ruminations I post in this piece be taken as a defense or plea for compassion for the perpetrators of the assaults on the women involved. I do not in any way condone or defend their behavior. I grieve for the women involved, and had I been there in person, would have done what I could to prevent the attacks.
The nexus of cases of Lara Logan, who was sexually assaulted as Egyptians celebrated the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, and the women involved in the lawsuit against the Pentagon for rapes and sexual assaults that occured in war zones, no less, as well as non-combat military functions, draws attention to one of the more odious, bilious parts of a man's psychology.
There is an undeniable connection between aggression and sex.
It seems to be innate, perhaps even genetic. That they combine so easily tells me there's some neurochemical bond that is enhanced in the brain, particularly the male brain.
One is tempted to excuse it by saying that it's genetic, that our deep ancestry, going back beyond our ape ancestors, equates conquest with, well, conquest. In order to diversify the gene pool, one had to look outside one's immediate surroundings, which usually meant incurring on some other male's turf, and that led to fights and the winner usually got the spoils, including sex with more females.
The nature of the beast, as it were. 
That temptation, no matter how right it appears, is wrong (and simplistic, but that's for someone far better versed in paleopsychology than me to discourse upon.) 
We have other genetic predispositions that we are able to overcome. For instance, it's been shown that babies are born with two fears: falling and reptiles. Yet, people skydive by the millions and goodness knows, enough people own snakes and lizards. 
And people have a deathly fear of falling (like me) and reptiles (well...sort of like me). 
What I'm saying is that these behaviors can and should be overcome. And perhaps I'm making too little of the fact that, in the, tens of millions...of men involved in these two stories, a small handful were guilty of not overcoming these urges.
This does not excuse them. If anything, it makes their actions that much more disgusting. Millions of their brothers were able to treat these women as human beings, not playthings. 
But it does point out two things: we've grown a little as a world in the past fifty years and we still have much growth ahead. 
The trigger of violence is what intrigues me in both these stories: men with guns or in a mob or somehow or other over-empowered, will tend to pick on the weaker members of their tribe. First it was television crews in Egypt. These were folks, men and women, who were encumbered by heavy equipment and who were there to cover a story, not because they necessarily supported a cause. The gatherings were violent, angry, passionate. That same passion was sure to fuel other manifestations. 
CBS, in other words, probably should have provided Logan with a beefier bodyguard or contingent. The signs were there. 
Similarly, aggression in the military towards "friends" did not start with the sexual assault these women suffered. Let's be clear on this: the culture of the military is to actively encourage the depersonalization and dehumanization of people, to train the soldier's mind to discard thoughts of compassion and humanity, to kill.
To kill someone is the ultimate act of dehumanization, and the devastation to the mind of the killer is enormous (not ignoring the devastation to the victim). The training a mind has to go through to be able to do that is a process that is guaranteed to dehumanize the soldier.
So again, the warning signs were there, and they were enhanced by the fact that so much discipline among the ranks is in the form of peer-to-peer aggression. The "Code Red", made infamous in A Few Good Men, even just cross-shouting about cleaning the barracks or turning the music down before a sergeant shows up, these are all ways of reinforcing that depersonalization, to force normative behavior.
To conform or be outted.
I realize I open a door to an argument here against repealing DADT or the admission of women to combat roles, so let me say this: there is nothing in this process that cannot be changed at this time. The strategies and tactics of fighting wars have become so depersonalized already, firing from miles if not continents away, that the need to train a soldier to kill face to face, hand to hand, and to do so efficiently and without remorse has been lessened to almost non-existent.
The ironic part of the Iraq and Afghan wars is, the men and women who had the least amount of psychological training, Reserves and Guardists, were the ones who were most on the front lines.
See, here's where a little knowledge is dangerous. It would not surprise me if the bulk of the assaults in this story are by relatively rookie soldiers, still young and still combat untrained (or generally so). My suspicion is, once you reach a certain experience level, you learn when to turn off the emotion chip and when to turn it back on. The combination of hormones still raging, still unsupressed by humanity and maturity, and fear is probably a powerful violence aphrodisiac.
Sadly. Regretfully. Disgustingly.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

Bookmark and Share

Do Republicans hate freedom?

When it's for Muslims, yes, certainly, most of them do.

Perusing CPAC, the WaPo's Eugene Robinson finds a lot of love for Mubarak and the bigoted conviction that Muslims just can't handle democracy.

Part of it is that Republicans oppose Obama no matter what, so when he supports the protesters (or seems to), they oppose them.

Part of it, too, is that Republicans (and conservatives generally) had a hard time coming up with a coherent response to the Egyptian uprising, and really were never able to and so remained deeply divided.

But a lot of it, obviously, is anti-Muslim bigotry, including the misguided view that Islam is inseparable from theocratic sharia rule.

"These conservatives are arguing that the world's 1.2 billion Muslims cannot be trusted to govern themselves," writes Robinson. "That's not what I call loving freedom."

No, it's called being Republican.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

About those "Seeds of Democracy"

By J. Thomas Duffy

Well, this isn't exactly a Captain Renault moment:

Defector admits to WMD lies that triggered Iraq war

The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials who dealt with his claims, has told the Guardian that he fabricated tales of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, from which he had fled in 1995.

"Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right," he said. "They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy."

Since Obama has chosen not to look in the rearview mirror, we can only hope that history will not be so kind and place the Bush Grindhouse and its legacy in the appropriate light -- The President of Shitdom.

And the Flying Monkeys over at the Right Wing Freakshow still want to headline that it was all that "planting seeds of democracy" bullshit.

Bonus Riffs

John Cole: You Told Me you Loved Me, But I Don’t Understand

Adam Serwer: Conservatives keep hogging credit for Mideast protests

For The Want Of A Lie

It Will Never Be A Happy "Mission Accomplished" Day

"Son of A Dog!"

(Cross-posted on The Garlic.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

I hereby withdraw my endorsement of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination

I've described Haley Barbour as the perfect Republican, given his corpulence (he's got the right Republican look), his racism, his anti-abortion extremism, his fealty to corporate profiteering, his corporate lobbying, his reality-denying corporatism, his pro-Confederacy views, and his white Southern roots, as well as Barbour-Bachmann as the perfect Republican ticket in 2012.

But it seems he's not all Boss Hoggery after all -- and, indeed, that on one key issue he runs counter to the Republican line:

Barbour may be eager to showcase his record, but one of Barbour's foreign lobbying clients could cause him some troubles in the 2012 Republican primary, if he decides to run. According to a State Department filing by Barbour's former lobbying firm, The Embassy of Mexico decided to retain Barbour's services on August 15, 2001, to work on, among other things, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for foreigners living illegally in the United States -- what opponents of immigration reform call "amnesty."

Now, to Barbour's credit -- and I can't quite believe I'm giving him credit for anything -- his views on "illegal" immigration are rather more enlightened than those of your average Republican:

I don't know where we would have been in Mississippi after Katrina if it hadn't been with the Spanish speakers that came in to help rebuild. And there's no doubt in my mind some of them were here illegally. Some of them were, some of them weren't. But they came in, they looked for the work. If they hadn't been there — if they hadn't come and stayed for a few months or a couple years -- we would be way, way, way behind where we are now... A lot of it is just common sense. And common sense tell us we're not going to take 10 or 12 or 14 million people and put them in jail and deport them. We're not gonna do it, and we need to quit -- some people need to quit acting like we are and let's talk about real solutions.

Of course, what this suggests is that what Barbour values is cheap immigrant labour. But, again, at least he's against deportation, against the extremist anti-immigrant views so prevalent on the right these days -- and at least he wants to talk about "real solutions," something very few Republicans do.

And yet this alone probably disqualifies him from the Republican nomination -- were he to seek it, though I don't think he will -- given that "amnesty" is one of the dirtiest words in the GOP lexicon and that appealing for primary votes means appealing to the anti-Mexican bigotry of the party base.

No matter that immigrants like the ones Barbour was talking about work hard and contribute to America. If you're serious about being the Republican nominee for president, or the Republican nominee for pretty much any elected office, your playbook needs to include the scapegoating of Mexican immigrants, and particularly the undocumented ones, not just as the new Other (along with Muslims) but (as with Muslims) as the gravest of threats to American national security and the well-being of real (i.e., white) Americans.

And so, I'm sad to say, Haley Barbour may no longer be considered the perfect Republican and should not headline the 2012 ticket -- unless he pulls a Romney and sprints off to the far right.

I hereby withdraw my endorsement. That's what happens when you show a speck of humanity in the dense, dark morass of Republican medievalism.

I applaud him, but he's just not Republican enough for my liking -- and for the extremists who run the GOP.

Go back to Mississippi, you good-for-nothin' Commie!


Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Long live Birtherism!

As Politico reports, Birtherism, the claim that President Obama was not born in the U.S. and is therefore in office illegitimately, is alive and well all across the country:

The opening of 2011 state legislative sessions has been accompanied by a spate of birther-related bills, the clearest indication yet that the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's place of birth will continue to simmer throughout his reelection campaign.

Lawmakers in at least 10 states have introduced bills requiring presidential candidates to provide some form of proof that they are natural-born citizens, a ballot qualification rule designed to address widespread rumors on the right that Obama was not born in the United States.

On the face, this is basically meaningless. For Birther legislation to have been introduced in 10 states, all you need is 10 crazy right-wing conspiracy-mongering Republican legislators. And ridiculous legislation pops up all the time -- like, for example, proposing that South Carolina should have its own currency.

Certainly some such legislation could pass in a crazy Republican-dominated state -- like, for example, South Carolina -- but the bigger problem is that Birtherism has essentially become pretty standard fare in the GOP, even as its leadership sends mixed signals about it, as is the equally ridiculous claim that Obama is a Muslim. (He's not. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Unless you're a Republican, in which case you probably think there is.)

Take how John Boehner shuffled his way through some admirably tough questioning on Meet the Press on Sunday:

GREGORY: Do you not think it's your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?

BOEHNER: David, it's not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That's good enough for me. The president says he's a Christian. I accept him at his word.

GREGORY: But isn't that a little bit fast and loose? I mean, you are the leader in Congress and you are not standing up to obvious facts and saying these are facts, and if you don't believe that it's nonsense?

BOEHNER: I just outlined the facts as I understand them. I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian, I'll take him at his word.

GREGORY: But that kind of ignorance over whether he's a Muslim doesn't concern you?

BOEHNER: Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can't -- it's not my job to tell them.

GREGORY: Why isn't it your job to stand up and say, no, the facts are these? Didn't John McCain do that in --

BOEHNER: I just --

GREGORY: When you're saying "it's good enough for me," are you really standing up and saying, for those that believe that, or who would talk about that -- you had a member of Congress, you had a new Tea Party freshman, who was out just yesterday speaking to conservatives and he said, "I'm fortunate enough to be an American citizen by birth and I do have a birth certificate to prove it." That was Raul Labrador, a new Congressman from Idaho. Is that an appropriate way for your members to speak?

BOEHNER: The gentleman was trying to be funny, I would imagine, but remember something  -- it really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe and what do think. There's a lot of information out there, people read a lot of things, but I --

GREGORY: You shouldn't stand up to misinformation or stereotypes?

BOEHNER: I've made clear what I believe the facts are.

Well, maybe, but of course he wants to have it both ways. Boehner obviously knows -- not just believes -- that Obama was born in the U.S. and is a Christian -- but also realizes that he can't dismiss the anti-Obama movement in his own party, given how prevalent it is in the base. And so he hedges: He takes Obama at his word, but, hey, maybe Obama's word shouldn't be taken. He believes he knows the facts, but he could be wrong. In other words, he's covering both sides of his ass, talking bullshit to make it seem as if he's the sane leader of an insane party while refusing to say anything definitive, anything that might upset the Birthers and Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim crazies. Indeed, far from condemning them, he's actually legitimizing them, and their views, by refusing to take a stand for the obvious truth. (Yes, they have a right to their views, but that doesn't mean all views are equally legitimate or that you can't criticize any views at all.)

And don't even get me started on that whole "we're here to listen to the American people, not tell them what to think" stupidity. Please. That's pure dishonesty, and, lamely defending himself on national TV, a ridiculous cop-out. If that's what he thinks political leadership is, or leadership of any kind, he should resign immediately. But not before voting to un-repeal the Affordable Care Act, which even around the elections last November, when Republicans took back the House, had the support of a majority of the American people.

Are you listening, Speaker Boehner? Stop the insanity.

(Although, come to think of it, I'm fine with the Republicans embracing all the insanity they can handle. And if that includes more and more Birtherism, hey, why not? The Democrats, including the president himself, just look better and better by comparison as Republicans move further to the right and further into the clutches of demented and deeply bigoted conspiracy theories.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wait, is that Michael Medved talking sense?

How about we make this Elephant Dung #18? That's our ongoing series tracking the GOP civil war. For an explanation of the series, see here. For previous entries, see here.


Well, some sense, yes -- as he speaks truth, some truth, to right-wing power.

The former (highly mediocre, if not worse) movie critic turned conservative talk-radio host spends much of his op-ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal criticizing the right's anti-Obama nonsense.

He actually defends the president against "some of the current charges" against him, charges he finds "especially distasteful" and "destructive to the conservative cause." He criticizes Sarah Palin for saying that Obama is "purposefully weakening America," and he even goes so far as to challenge Dear Leader Rush's ridiculous claim that Obama is "presiding over the decline of the United States of America," seeking "payback," as a black man, for America's ugly past:

Regardless of the questionable pop psychology of this analysis, as a political strategy it qualifies as almost perfectly imbecilic. Republicans already face a formidable challenge in convincing a closely divided electorate that the president pursues wrong-headed policies. They will never succeed in arguing that those initiatives have been cunningly and purposefully designed to wound the republic. In Mr. Obama's case, it's particularly unhelpful to focus on alleged bad intentions and rotten character when every survey shows more favorable views of his personality than his policies.

It takes guts to call anything Limbaugh says or does "imbecilic," I'll give Medved that.

Now of course, you'll notice that Medved's argument rests largely on respecting the office of the presidency and its history, not Obama himself, and that he is counselling Republicans to take public opinion into account:

Americans may not see a given president as their advocate, but they're hardly disposed to view him as their enemy -- and a furtive, determined enemy at that. For 2012, Republicans face a daunting challenge in running against the president. That challenge becomes impossible if they're also perceived as running against the presidency.

Medved certainly seems to object to the substance of the crazy right-wing attacks on Obama, but he is more concerned that Republicans are simply going too far and thereby endangering their 2012 electoral prospects. 

So let's give him some credit, but not too much.

And let's note, too, that his casual assessment of presidents past is littered with partisan judgement: Kennedy may have had a "sex addiction" and Carter was one of the worst, but Harding didn't really benefit personally from all that corruption and is now more favourably appreciated by historians, while Nixon "almost certainly lied about Watergate." Er, almost certainly? And who was it exactly who brought Egypt and Israel together?

Oh, never mind.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share