Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sarah Palin thinks she might just have won in '08

Take a seat. And a deep breath. And try to keep your sides from splitting as you read this:

Republicans would have been more successful in the 2008 presidential elections if she was at the top of the ticket, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin suggested Saturday.

Speaking at the India Today Conclave in New Delhi, Palin was asked why the GOP ticket did not defeat then-Sen. Barack Obama (D). Palin said that Obama ran a strong campaign and effectively billed himself as a change candidate.

Pressed by India Today editor Aroon Purie that she also represented change, Palin replied, "I wasn't at the top of the ticket, remember?"

The 2008 vice presidential nominee said she was not claiming she should have been the nominee over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but her comments provide a glimpse of her potential appeal to voters should she choose to run for the nomination in 2012.


First, why was Palin invited to speak in India? What could she possibly have to say? I suppose her "star" is her appeal, but I doubt she's ever given the slightest thought to anything Indian, with the possible exception of outsourcing and, perhaps less possibly, food.

Second, she may not have been said she should have been at the top of the ticket, but you don't have to read too deeply between the lines -- her message is clear. She thinks the McCain campaign disrespected her and that it failed in large part because it kept her on the sidelines. She is nothing if not a massive egotist, after all, a self-aggrandizing, self-glorifying fool. And just imagine what it would have been like had she been at the top. She wouldn't have been able to hide from the media after those embarrassing interviews with Katie Couric et al., and she would only have embarrassed herself further. At least McCain had some legitimate bona fides as something of a maverick (however faux) and had some credibility on foreign policy. Palin had nothing, and it was only a matter of time, a short amount of time, until that initial burst of popularity blew up.

Third, the "change" Americans wanted in '08 wasn't the sort of change Palin was offering, which really wasn't change at all but more of the Bush-Cheney same with a bit more social conservatism thrown in and much less of an appreciation for reality (not that Bush and Cheney appreciated reality all that much, but at least they had a sense of the world -- yes, even Bush).

Fourth... oh, enough Palin for now.

Once again, all we're getting is the same old maybe-maybe-not bullshit about running for president. But her popularity has plummeted. He still has her ardent admirers on the right, in the deepest recesses of the GOP base, but pretty much everyone else, including not just independents but once-mainstream Republicans and establishment conservatives, wants her to go away.

She won't, of course, but her days as a legitimate contender, if she ever was one, are well behind her.

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Top Ten Cloves ... Charlie Sheen is so winning that...

10. The tsunami that hit Japan asked his permission first

9. He gave LeGone James the talents to take to South Beach

8. When he goes on Twitter, system gives him as many characters as he wants

7. The protesters didn't push Hosni Mubarak out of office, a simple, short-and-sweet phone call from Charlie did it

6. He gets full-functionality, 4G iPhone service with just two Dixie cups and a string

5. He's the only person Keyser Söze fears

4. When he goes swimming in the ocean, sharks can only smell winning in the water and leave Charlie alone

3. Spilled milk cries, but only if it's Charlie who spilled it

2. He gives ice cream  brain-freeze headaches

1. He can get Superman to deliver Kryptonite

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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The new same-sex marriage majority

Perhaps it was only a matter of time. Whatever the case, the time has come:

More than half of Americans say it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry, a first in nearly a decade of polls by ABC News and The Washington Post.

This milestone result caps a dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes. From a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, support for gay marriage has grown to 53 percent today. Forty-four percent are opposed, down 18 points from that 2004 survey. 

Of course, the issue remains divisive, with the divisions largely generational and ideological. Republicans and especially evangelical conservatives oppose same-sex marriage, as do older age cohorts.

But the trend is clear: support for same-sex marriage is growing and the majority will continue to expand. It's only a matter of time before same-sex marriage becomes part of the American social landscape, accepted as, for lack of a better word, "normal."

Conservative opposition will remain, but, even there, it will weaken, just as conservative opposition to, say, civil rights has weakened over time. Ultimately, even conservatives (or future generations of conservatives) come to accept, however reluctantly, that which they vehemently opposed. Perhaps their energy wears out, perhaps they simply come to accept the new social norms, and, even if they don't admit it, come to see their opposition as retrograde bigotry.

Many younger Americans who support same-sex marriage now will get more conservative as they age, but this poll indicates that opposition among older Americans is weakening. Simply put, generations are, for the most part, getting more liberal.

And even those groups with the staunchest opposition are seeing changes:

The issue remains divisive; as many adults "strongly" oppose gay marriage as strongly support it, and opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans and conservatives and 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants, a core conservative group. But opposition to gay marriage has weakened in these groups from its levels a few years ago, and support has grown sharply among others – notably, among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men. 

Looking ahead to the American future, there are many reasons to despair. Thankfully, though, there are a few indicators of progress. This is one of them, and America will be a much better place once it legalizes same-sex marriage -- from Alaska to Florida, from Hawaii to Maine -- and puts an end to the institutionalized bigotry of sexual orientation for good.

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10,000 posts

I forgot to mention, we reached the 10,000-post milestone here at The Reaction the other day. (It was my "Unblogging" post, wherein I apologized for not blogging enough this week -- and also a post that discussed nuclear nightmare in Japan and the possibility of another war in the Middle East.)

I must say, I'm very proud of what we've accomplished here, and it's amazing to think we've done that many posts. I still remember that first one, way back when.

A huge thank you, as always, to my wonderful co-bloggers, past and present, as well as to the many other fantastic contributors we've had over the years. It's been my privilege and pleasure to blog alongside so many great people, and to have been able to turn this blog into a place where so many different voices could be heard. It's my name on top, but I really do consider this a team effort.

Let's hope we make it to 20,000, and beyond.

But who knows what the future will bring? Honestly, I had no idea what would become of this blog when I started it, mostly because I really had no idea what blogging was all about. It's been an incredible experience. No, this isn't one of the "major" blogs, but I do think we've built it into something really good, something of extremely high quality, something respected in the blogosphere, even if we're not huge. I just hope that we keep getting better, that we keep growing, and that we keep having fun doing it. And I hope all of you keep coming back to check us out.

To all, thank you for your support. Even if you just came here once, from a Google search or something, it's a genuine pleasure to welcome you to our blog. And to those of you who are regular readers, well, all I can say is that I'm humbled.

10,000 posts. Wow. Seriously... wow!

Now let's keep it going! Stay tuned.


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Friday, March 18, 2011

Judge blocks Wisconsin's anti-union law... for now

Well, we knew there was something quite possibly illegal about how Republicans rammed through their anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, and a judge agrees that, at the very least, there needs to be a full hearing on what happened:

CHICAGO — A judge issued a temporary restraining order on Friday that prevents Wisconsin's new law cutting collective bargaining rights for public workers from taking effect, at least for now.

The decision, issued by Judge Maryann Sumi of the Dane County Circuit Court, temporarily bars Wisconsin's secretary of state from publishing the controversial law, one of the procedural requirements for it to come into effect in the state. Publication had been expected late next week, but Judge Sumi’s ruling delays that until at least March 29, when she plans to hold a full hearing on a lawsuit that questions the validity of the collective bargaining law based on the speedy manner in which it was carried out earlier this month. 

I'm hardly an expert on such matters, but I suspect that the law, or rather the process by which the law came into being (or almost came into being, as it's not a law yet), will be upheld. Republicans certainly engaged in any number of shenanigans, including ripping out the money elements of the bill so that, as a non-budgetary matter, it didn't require the necessary quorum of senators for passage, but I'm just not sure there's enough to reject the legislation altogether.

No, while "[o]pponents of the measure said they hoped the decision was but the first of many that would ultimately undo legislation that has split the state and drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators to the state capital over a matter of many weeks," the place to fight this legislation is not in the courts but in the court of public opinion and then at the polls. And that means not just voting out Gov. Walker and Senate Republicans but, where possible, recalling them even before they're up for re-election.

Don't get me wrong, it may very well be worthwhile to keep fighting this in the courts, I'm just not sure that's where Democrats and other opponents of the legislation are most likely to be successful.

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Just say no

By Capt. Fogg

No, no, no - we just can't believe scientists when they tell us about the dangers of radiation any more than you can trust them about climate change. The only way to evaluate data is through the kind of transubstantiation wherein facts turn to Fox feces and vice versa.

Take people like Lyin' Bill O'Reilly. You can have all the data and expertise of a hundred lifetimes studying nuclear engineering, the effects of low-dose radiation on humans and global wind patterns, but you can't be sure which way the wind blows unless you ask Bill and Bill, the Holy Father of Denialism likes to say no. It's so much easier than being informed and of course Fox Folk can feel superior by just saying no to things they're too dumb or lazy or ignorant to understand - things that might cost them something or change their convenient opinions or save their country.

Tsunami, Earthquake -- what's the connection? None at all, it was God, the same guy who makes the tides go up and down. What did you think it was, the moon? Who put the moon there anyway, and gravity? That liberal hoax?

But of course Denialism, you know that cheap, imitation conservative intellect thing; Bill is hardly the only prophet. Take Beck who got his knowledge of plate tectonics from sleeping in a cheap motel and has the nerve to speak for God to John McCain who laughed out loud at the very concept of nuclear safety when his opponent stressed the need to put away the gasoline before playing with matches. "Blah, blah, blah;" perhaps the most intelligent thing he said in that whole campaign.

Just say no and let's repeal "Obamacare" says Mike Huckabee who's been clogging the arteries of my flatscreen for the last few days. "It will do irreparable damage to our country" and never mind that Massachusetts and Hawaii are still with us while countless Americans have to resort to buying their medications from Canada and Mexico while Republicans in the private health care business ship their profits to the Caymans to avoid exposing them to taxes and communism. It's "against the will of the people" and never mind that they not only supported it but wanted more of it than they got.

Just say no - it's just not a laughably stupid approach to drug use, it's an epitaph.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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I'm sorry there's been nothing new from me the past couple of days. I've had to deal with some other priorities that unfortunately have prevented me from blogging.
Thankfully, there have been, as usual, some great posts from my co-bloggers.

I hope to be back at it later today.

In the meantime, I'll just note that the U.N. has approved military action against Libya. This would obviously be far preferable to, say, unilateral U.S. action. I consider myself something of a liberal interventionist, and I could be persuaded to support such action here, but, needless to say, serious questions remain.

I would also note -- though I'm sure you're paying attention to this -- that the situation in Japan continues to be, well, bad. And apparently getting worse. (I've spent some time the past couple of days reading up on nuclear power. We all think we know something about it, but of course most of us don't really know how it works. For a quick overview, both on how nuclear reactors work and what happens during a meltdown, I'd recommend this slideshow.)

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Thursday, March 17, 2011


By Carl
The fallout from Coward James O'Keefe's latest stunt is starting to build.
I mean, it's hard to add to Glenn Beck's deconstruction...yes, Glenn Beck...of the 11 minute faux NPR sting that O'Keefe cobbled together out of two hours of tape. I'm surprised O'Keefe is still standing and not curled up in some corner, sucking his thumb.
Comes now Time Magazine:
In the video, NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller and a colleague met with two members of a fictional Muslim group dangling a $5 million donation. Prodded by the "donors," Schiller said liberals "might be more educated" than conservatives, described Republicans as "anti-intellectual" and said the GOP had been "hijacked" by the "racist" Tea Party.

Or did he? After the tape became national news, and after NPR hastily sacrificed its CEO to appease critics, a video editor at the Blaze—a website founded by Fox News host Glenn Beck—compared the edited sting video and the two-hour original, also posted online.

Schiller did say some bad things, the Blaze found. But the short video took them out of context, like a bad reality show, and made them sound worse. It transposed remarks from a different part of the meeting to make it seem as if Schiller were amused by the group's "goal" of spreading Shari'a law. It left examples of his complimenting Republicans on the cutting-room floor.

And that Tea Party quote? Schiller was, for at least part of it, describing the views of some Republican friends.

This article will appear in this week's Time, on newsstands tomorrow. This will be the first many Americans even hear of the tape, aside from some watercooler and barroom bullshit their Teabagger friends have railed at them.

This is not good news for O'Keefe, his bear...I mean, mentor...Andrew Breitbart, the Teabaggers, or the GOP in Congress who are trying to cut NPR funding.

Amen. They all deserve to be kicked down a metaphorical flight of stairs.
Or for FOX News, either. Eventually, as Barnum would say, you can't fool some of the people all of the time if you keep fooling them and they find out about it. Barnum's greatest skill was not in the illusion, but in the escape. He left town (sometimes on a rail) before people realized they had been had.
Good snake-oil salesmen do that. Take the money and run, because if they catch up with you, they'll tear you limb from limb. You can take a little from a lot of people and they won't be bothered to track you down, but take a lot, especially over time, from people, and they form posses.
Keep running, O'Keefe. Keep running.

Somehow I doubt he's that smart, though.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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The end, again -- and again

By Capt. Fogg

A friend just drove back from Orlando and reported seeing billboards proclaiming, once again, that the "end of the world" was at hand. I'm never quite sure what these idiots mean by "the world;" whether it's human life, the habitability of the planet or perhaps the existence of existence itself which would be a problem far too complex to discuss, even amongst sane and intelligent people. Let's say I don't really suspect these apocalyptic birdbrains of either virtue.

Might I remind you, if you're one of these folks, that the recent quake and tsunami is insignificant when compared to things that happen regularly on this our only planet? But of course you may be one of those New Earth, 6 day creation idiots, but even then it's pretty small as compared with the explosion of the Santorini volcano or Krakatoa. Even in human times, the ancients weren't as populous and certainly didn't build nuclear power plants. But why discuss reality when the tantalizing lure of doom has the lemmings in thrall?

People have been predicting these things for as long as we have records; some to sell normative religion and others for what seems to be the pure thrill of it. Is there some inherited "daddy's going to whip your ass when he gets home" instinct or is it put there by our Mesopotamian religious heritage? I suspect the former since it creeps up in Norse mythology as well, but who knows? It persists because it makes money and gives power, at least temporarily -- particularly for those prophets who offer early destruction and provide dates and times. Some of those have to suggest mass suicide to avoid embarrassment as time inevitably rolls on past the deadline.

I can't wait for 2012, which I suspect won't mean the "end of an error" or the end of anything really important. 1982 came and went at the same petty pace and the end of the last millennium passed as smoothly as last Wednesday. I'm willing to bet we'll stop attributing all that cosmic wisdom to the Mayans by 1/1/13 but of course, I can't lose that bet, can I?

The Rapture idiots, followers of the lunatic of Patmos are still passionately with us, because gibbering John offers more of an "any time now" promise with clues like: "wars and rumors of wars" that obtain to every moment in history, just like earthquakes, floods, famines and outbreaks of disease. Since there's a new crop to replace the ever disappointed dimwits, perhaps nothing short of a true planetary catastrophe will rid us of them.

There are times when I wish for it, particularly if I survive long enough to watch the expression on their non-raptured faces. But I look forward to being here for a number of years, watching them reshuffling the cards, re-reading the entrails, consulting omens and shamans in their shameless way, world without end.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)


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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We Really Are Fucking Idiots

By Carl
Really? It's come down to this?
Americans are rushing to grab medicine against a threat that, if it even exists, is so miniscule as to be laughable?
Think about it: Chernobyl occured some 25 years ago and spread radiation as far south as Spain. No noticeable uptick in radiation disease was ever reported. Cancer rates remained reasonably stable.
That radiation cloud was immediately over densely populated areas.
Any Japanese radiation cloud that gets released would have to cross an entire ocean. An entire storm-laden, wind-driven, rainy-season ocean.
Yes, radiation would likely hit the States, certainly the far West like Alaska and Hawaii but in a nation where motorcycle helmet laws are debated, where guns are dispensed almost as easily as candy, where the First Lady is regularly raked over the coals for having the temerity to suggest that heart attacks in teenagers are a dangerous epidemic in the making, we're panicked over a few rems of radiation?
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Michigan power grab

By Mustang Bobby.

Via Steve Benen comes a story about the new governor of Michigan being granted basically limitless power to do anything he wants.

Newly elected Republican governor, Rick Snyder, is set to pass one of the most sweeping, anti-democratic pieces of legislation in the country -- and almost no one is talking about it.

Snyder's law gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed "Emergency Managers" in their stead. But that's not all -- whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn't get much more anti-Democratic than that.

Except it does. The governor simply has to declare a financial emergency to invoke these powers -- or he can hire a private company to declare financial emergency and take over oversight of the city. That's right, a private corporation can declare your city in a state of financial emergency and send in its Emergency Manager, fire your elected officials, and reap the benefits of the ensuing state contracts.  [Italics in the original.]

Ironically, this was the kind of thing all the tea-partiers were screaming about last year that President Obama was plotting to do with the stimulus and healthcare law: he's a tyrant who will stop at nothing to take away the power from the people and turn it over to the bureaucrats and the evil Soshulists.  So, naturally, you'd think that the tea-folk in Michigan would be apoplectic about this.  Well, you would be wrong.  They're delighted with it.

One of the Republican state lawmakers who supports this effort characterized the plan as "financial martial law" -- and as far as he's concerned, that's not a criticism, that a defense for this little scheme.

Rule Number 1 of Dictators: It's not tyranny when we do it; it's "emergency powers." (See: Mubarak, Hosni; Castro, Fidel & Raul).

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Obama is a tax-cutting, budget-slashing socialist

President Obama is an unabashed socialist, and the Democratic Party is an unashamed guerrilla band of anti-business, tax-and-spend liberals bent on destroying the American Dream by punishing hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners in order to pay for social services benefitting the weak, the lazy, and the government-teat-suckling post-hippie stoner generation of anti-capitalistic communists, flag burners, and lifetime welfare recipients.


Isn't that what the right is always accusing? Is that not the sole purpose for Rupert Murdoch's creation of the Fox News Network – to tell these truths to the American people and open their eyes to the devastation socialism is bringing to the United States?

Let us assume for a moment that everything that comes out of the mouths of Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Megyn Kelly is irrefutable fact.

Why is it, then, that Democrats have, as of this writing, agreed to cut more than $50 billion from Obama's 2011 fiscal year budget proposal?

If Republicans are stereotyped as fearmongering war profiteers, corporate lackeys, and radical Bible thumpers, it's fair to say Democrats are most often stereotyped as anti-business, tax-and-spend defenders of big government.

And yet, it was the Democrats in Congress who voted for a bill in December, signed into law by Obama, to extend tax cuts for all Americans, even the richest income earners. And now they're negotiating with Republicans to reduce government spending in order to quell the conservative base, whom Republicans promised during the 2010 midterm campaign to cut spending by exactly $100 billion.

Are we to believe Democrats are so afraid of a government shutdown they're willing to abandon the core tenets of their ideology, even though the history of 1995 tells us that a shutdown spurred by uncompromising fiscal hawks will pay huge election dividends to the party defending against such massive cuts to social programs? Do they actually believe – as, apparently, a strong bloc of conservative voters did in 2010 – that the deficit is so disgustingly high that Chinese debt collectors will foreclose our homes, repo our cars, and sell the bone marrow they sucked from our children's spines if we don't get our fiscal house in order?

Does any American, particularly the most patriotic among us (those within the Tea Party, of course), actually believe that the deficit monsters will go back into hibernation if Democrats accept the nice, round $100 billion in budget cuts proposed by House Republicans? Will that gargantuan 3.7 percent reduction in the deficit keep us safe from the financial collapse Republicans warned us about in 2010?

Of course, these are all rhetorical questions. The only reason the deficit is a concern is that Republicans made it a concern as part of a carefully orchestrated campaign strategy designed to scare the masses out of their recliners and into the voting booths. Congratulations, GOP. It worked.

When the Federal Reserve announced in February of this year that it had increased its economic growth predictions to as much as 3.9 percent for 2011, the problem of the national deficit suddenly looked less apocalyptic than it had in November, when projections for 2011 growth were a respectable but unflattering 2.7 percent.

Higher economic growth means more government revenue, which means a lower deficit. At 3.9 percent growth, the deficit would fall to $113 billion in 10 years, according to a Time magazine analysis. That doesn't include the hundreds of billions the nation will save at the end of 2012, when tax cuts for the rich are set to expire. (Obama and Democrats have vowed to allow this expiration, although they have supported extending the cuts for Americans making less than $250,000 annually.)

Complete the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and end the occupation of Afghanistan by 2014, and we're looking at a government surplus by the time Obama leaves the White House... in 2016.

But that's all beside the point. The apocalyptic deficit forecasts during the campaign served one purpose for the Republicans Party, and it wasn't to raise awareness about any real threats to American sovereignty.

The point is that we've allowed the media to portray the Obama Administration's emergency response to the recession as a sign of his socialist governing philosophy even though he agreed to the GOP's demands to spend $800 billion on tax cuts largely benefiting the rich and spending cuts to social programs largely benefiting the working class, the poor, and the elderly.

That said, don't expect the Republican sound machine to take it down a notch on the socialism rhetoric. Fox has a business to run, after all. 

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

Credits: cartoon, graph.

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Evan Bayh, ex-"Democrat," joins Fox News

How fitting. The former Indiana senator, a "centrist" Democrat but really more of a Republicrat who took most of his shots at his own party, will be adding Fox News contributor to his post-Senate lobbying career.

Yet another reason to despise him, it would seem.

When he first announced that he was stepping down from the United States Senate, Evan Bayh cited a lot of high-minded reasons for the decision. So high-minded was his talk that Ezra Klein was moved to remark that "Evan Bayh might have been an ordinary politician, but he's proving an extraordinary retiree.' It turned out, however, that his main plan was to get rich as a lobbyist. Today we learn that he'll also be acquiring a secondary gig as a conservative television pundit...

Note that there's considerable synergy between Bayh's job at McGuireWoods LLP and his Fox gig. This way business enterprises hoping for regulatory favors or subsidies from the federal government can hire McGuireWoods not only to take advantage of Bayh's influence and knowledge on the Hill, they'll also be gaining on on-air television spokesman, presumably one whose client affiliations won't be disclosed to the viewing public. And since as best we can tell Fox has no journalistic standards, it'll be an ideal venue for peddling whatever nonsense he likes.

And America sinks a little bit lower into the abyss. Just super.

(See also Benen and Cole.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Virgil Peck

What's the matter with Kansas? Well, this asshole, for starters:

— A legislator said Monday it might be a good idea to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled -- with hunters shooting from helicopters.

State Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, said he was just joking, but that his comment did reflect frustration with the problem of illegal immigration.

Peck made his comment came during a discussion by the House Appropriations Committee on state spending for controlling feral swine.

After one of the committee members talked about a program that uses hunters in helicopters to shoot wild swine, Peck suggested that may be a way to control illegal immigration.

Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said Peck's comment was inappropriate.

Rhoades said he thought Peck was joking, but added, "Hopefully he won't do it again."

Asked about his comment, Peck was unapologetic. "I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person," he said.

Um... really? Is that how they speak in that apparently retrograde part of the world? (Should Kansans not take this as a vicious insult, or would they rather prefer to be lumped in with such abhorrent views? You can find the audio clip here.) 

Maybe I just don't get nativist, gun-crazy Republican humor.


By the way, I can't confirm this, but Virgil may very well be related to Walter:

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By Carl
One of my passions in life is connections. I like to grasp how an event both occured and the consequences of that event by studying the ripples from and to other events.
For example, when Bush got elected, 9/11 happened. It probably would not have happened had Gore been confirmed as the duly elected President, because he would have continued Clinton's policies against Al Qaeda instead of taking his eye off the ball.
Bush being elected also created the biggest single national debt in human history, turning from a surplus that would pay off what was then a troubling debt (and imagine if we had those five trillion in the bank when the housing crisis hit) into a debt that not only consumed any possible budget residual but created a scenario where Bush was forced to encourage Americans to go deeply into debt, running up credit card balances and mortgages, whereby the nation is at the edge of the cliff of destruction.
Natural disaster like Katrina and the Sendai tsunami are a little harder to trace in terms of their antecedents. One can blame global climate change for Katrina, but that's not entirely true either. They are not called "acts of God" for nothing. Sometimes, shit happens.
But we can start to see the ripples of the Japanese disaster unfold, and it makes for an interesting thought experiment to expand on some of those.
Clearly, the economic impact has been so staggering that its only just now starting to come into focus. Not only is this impact being felt in Japan, but it's spreading beyond the borders quickly. China having problems with one of its main trading partners will hit us hard, as reliant as we are to the Chinese economy. Indeed, our two nations were already locked into a death spiral that threatened to send us to one war or another. Now, we're both going to swirl down and it's not an unlikely scenario that China will push down on our shoulders to keep their head above water (e.g. start calling in American debt).
The health and social concerns alone from the Japanese nuclear plant meltdowns could be another area of deep concern in Japan. If the disaster at Chernobyl is any indication, it could be twenty or thirty years before that region of Japan is habitable again. Worse, Chernobyl was home to only some 14,000 residents. By contrast, the most recent blast in Okuma immediately affects 10,000 people. Onagawa is home to 11,000 and if the Tokai plant goes, that's 35,000 more people affected. All will have to be permanently relocated and it's not like Japan is that large a nation to begin with. It's possible that 100,000 people will be refugees, and they'll have to go someplace.
Many of them will be ill with starvation and diseases like cholera and other sicknesses that crop up when disasters strike. If Haiti is any gauge, we could be looking at millions of critically sick Japanese over the longer term.
That's going to put enormous strain on the medical care system of Japan which, while very well run and very privatized, is still overseen by a government that may be forced to ration healthcare.
And that will happen after the private insurance companies have already set up their own "death panels."
More fallout (maybe that's a bad choice of word)...
Just as the world economy is starting to recover from the latest shocks to the system out of the Middle East comes word that semiconductor production will be affected due to the quake. This is no small matter as technology purchases have helped drive the world economy over the past ten years as nations try to leap from the 19th century to the 21st. Who knows what effect this will have on the world?
GM and Ford stand to benefit if the Japanese production lines are silent for too long. Even though many models of Toyota and other Japanese cars are made in America, many if not most of the components are shipped here from Japan. 
We've discovered yet another role for social media like Twitter and Facebook: disaster relief, survivor searches, mass communication of immediate current status, and a group hug.
And perhaps the longest term ripple from the disaster: a renewed debate and fresh look at our own energy policies.
And none of this takes into account what's happening elsewhere in the world as our attention is focused in Japan.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Elephant Dung #22: Judd Gregg warns of Palin's road to nomination

Tracking the GOP Civil War

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

(For an explanation of this ongoing series, see here. For previous entries, see here.)

I'm not sure anyone really cares what former New Hampshire Gov. and Sen. Judd Gregg has to say, not least within the right-wing Republican base, but he is a prominent figure in New Hampshire, that key early primary state, and so perhaps he does matter somewhat. And it seems he doesn't much care for Sarah Palin:

Prominent New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg says that Sarah Palin just might have a clearer path to the Republican presidential nomination next year than commonly understood – an event he warns would lead to President Obama's clear reelection.

Gregg, the former senator and governor of the Granite State, says the muddled GOP presidential field means it's more likely than ever there won't be a clear consensus candidate before the party's nominating convention in August of 2012. If that happens, says Gregg, Palin and her army of supporters might have the upper hand when it comes to settling on a presidential candidate.

"A candidate who runs second or third in a great many primaries could go into the convention with a sizable block of delegates," writes Gregg in an Op-Ed in The Hill newspaper Monday. "Who would this favor? Does Sarah Palin come to mind? Although she is not viewed by most as strong enough to win, she is viewed by many as a person worth voting for to make a statement."


"Finishing second and third isn't really a big deal – until you get enough delegates to be the nominee," writes Gregg. "And picking a nominee who it seems would be easily defeated by President Obama might not be the best statement."

Well, it's not clear if he doesn't like her or if he just thinks she isn't electable, but I suspect the former as much as the latter. Add him to growing list of establishment Republicans, including pundits and intellectuals, who are hoping to keep Palin on the sidelines in 2012, and understandably so, and who are taking admittedly mild but increasingly aggressive shots at her.

Then again, the 2012 Republican field looks incredibly weak at the moment, and Palin, for all her faults, is one of the few, if not the only one, who could stir it up a bit and excite the party's rabid base. (Santorum's trying to be the Palin alternative, but he can't exactly match her star power.)

Oh, does Gregg have an agenda of his own? Of course. He's a Romney supporter, and obviously he'd like to keep out anyone with the potential to beat his man. Which is pretty much everyone, given Romney's standing with grassroots conservatives, what with his Mass. health-care reform and moderate past and all.

So maybe, as he pathetically tries to play GOP kingmaker from his perch in New Hampshire, we'll get Gregg op-eds -- you can read his anti-Palin one here -- against every possible Romney rival. Romney unchallenged, after all, is perhaps the only way he can win.

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Japan's new nuclear nightmare -- in progress

As if the earthquake and tsunami weren't bad enough, Japan is facing a worsening situation with regard to its nuclear facilities damaged in last week's disaster. Here's the latest:

Japan's nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to the statements of Japanese government and industry officials. In a brief address to the nation at 11 a.m. Tokyo time, Prime Minister Naoto Kan pleaded for calm, but warned that radiation had already spread from the crippled reactors and there was "a very high risk" of further leakage. Fortunately, the prevailing winds were sweeping most of the plume of radioactivity out into the Pacific Ocean, rather than over populated areas.

The sudden turn of events, after an explosion Monday at one reactor and then an early-morning explosion Tuesday at yet another — the third in four days at the plant — already made the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl reactor disaster a quarter century ago. 

I don't really have anything to add. Like so many others, I'm just watching and reading about what's going on, trying to make sense of it all. There was some hope that pumping in sea water would keep the reactors cool, but it's not clear that will work, nor how much radiation has gotten out and will get out in the days ahead:

The critical two questions over the next day or so is how much radioactive material is spewed into the atmosphere, and where the winds carry it. Readings reported on Tuesday showed a spike of radioactivity around the plant that made the leakage categorically worse than in had been, with radiation levels measured at one point as high as 400 millisieverts an hour. Even 7 minutes of exposure at that level will reach the maximum annual dose that a worker at an American nuclear plant is allowed. And exposure for 75 minutes would likely lead to acute radiation sickness.

The extent of the public health risk depends on how long such elevated levels persist — they may have declined after the fire at No. 4 reactor was extinguished — as well as how far and fast the radioactive materials spread, and whether the limited evacuation plan announced by the government proves sufficient. 

We may not be witnessing another Chernobyl, a massive disaster at a facility without adequate safeguards, but it's still way too early to determine just how damaging this will be.

For more, see our recent posts by Distributorcap and Capt. Fogg.

* It's a nightmare, yes, but obviously not another Hiroshima or Nagasaki. That was a different degree of nuclear nightmare altogether.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Bill Kristol pushes for war with Libya, but there are more sensible alternatives

Bill Kristol -- and this should hardly come as a surprise to anyone -- is pushing for war with Libya, arguing, like a broken record, that a no-fly zone wouldn't be enough and that the U.S. should "take out [Qaddafi's] ships in the Mediterranean" and "take out tanks and artillery," but more sober minds are, understandably, rather more hesitant to intervene so recklessly.

At Slate the other day, for example, Fred Kaplan asked all the right questions:

But let's say Obama was fine with taking the risk, assuring the nation and the world that he wouldn't fall into the escalation trap—that he'd order U.S. fighter planes in the area (an air base in Italy, an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean) to enforce a no-fly zone and go no further. There would still be some things to figure out. For instance: How much of Libya do you want to restrict? (All of it? Just the Mediterranean coastal area? Just the eastern territories?) What are the rules of engagement? (Do we shoot down all aircraft that enter the zone, fixed-wing and helicopters? What if a Libyan pilot fires back? Do we destroy their air defenses ahead of time or just when they turn on their radar? If Qaddafi's planes keep flying, do we bomb his runways? If the planes are down but Qaddafi sends in tanks, do we bomb their tanks?) Will other nations send their planes, too, or just their blessings, if that? How long do you want to keep this up?

These questions, and many more, have to be answered before the military can even begin to plan a campaign.

But even before any of these questions can be asked, there's a more basic question still: What is the desired goal of this action? Is it to pressure Qaddafi to stand down? Is it to provide air cover to the rebels, so they can fight Qaddafi's ground forces on more equal footing? Whatever the goal, if the no-fly zone doesn't get us there, should we try other means? And if not, why not? As Clausewitz wrote, war is politics by other means. War is fought for a political objective. If that objective is important enough to justify one form of military intervention, why not another form? What is the goal? How far are you willing to go to accomplish the goal? How important is the goal?

And at The Washington Note, Steve Clemons expressed concerns over a possible no-fly zone:

In short, a no-fly zone is a high cost, low return strategy that doesn't necessarily create a military tipping point in favor of the Libyan opposition. Gaddafi is at war with his own people, and it's natural and important to try and protect and help unarmed protesters and innocent victims -- but a no-fly zone may harm the situation more than help.

If the US and NATO impose a no-fly zone, it gives Gaddafi a frame he thrives in: Libya against what he calls the imperialistic and neo-colonial interventions of evil America and the West. Last week at the TED 2011 meeting in Long Beach, Al Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar underscored the significance that the protests shaking the entire Middle East were occurring without the clutter and distraction and potential delegitimization of foreign intervention.

This is important. A no-fly zone changes what appears on TV and changes the entire frame. What is happening in the Middle East will instantly become about what the West will do and won't do -- rather than on what the citizens who have had enough are doing for themselves.

I still believe we should help and there are ways to do so without a large military footprint.

Among these and perhaps most importantly is sharing real time intelligence with the Opposition, from targeting to what Gaddafi's movements are. Stop the flow of mercenary goons into the country. Consider a blockade. Perhaps look at facilitating third countries helping to re-arm and supply the military stocks of the Opposition with no US weapons visibility -- which will only stoke the conspiracy theories that run rampant that the US has become Messianically obsessed with regime change and will tilt outcomes in directions it wants rather than what the public is calling for.

Send food, water, shelter and medical supplies to support those in need -- on the borders with Egypt & Tunisia -- as well as inside Libya.

Knee jerking wildly as usual, Kristol doesn't seem to be considering the situation with that sort of considered perspective. Ultimately, yes, the goal may very well be regime change -- i.e., something other than Qaddafi, though Kristol obviously want that "something" to have his stamp of neocon approval -- but the question is how to get there without making the situation worse and without the U.S. sinking into yet another quagmire. Kaplan's questions need to be answered satisfactorily before any military intervention should be started, but, before that even, other alternatives, such as the ones Clemons mentions, should be pursued.

This isn't about being soft on Qaddafi. He is indeed a "monster... at war with his own people," as Clemons says, and we (those of us in the West but also those in the Arab world) do need to try to "stop him from slaughtering people as he moves east across the country," as Kristol argues. But, again, heavy-handed military intervention -- and perhaps even unilateral intervention, or yet another military misadventure in a part of the world that isn't exactly sympathetic to American objectives and the imposition of American power -- hardly seems to be the answer.

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In Madison, the voice of Main Street speaks for America

Conservatives will continue to spread their dishonest nonsense that the "voice" of the Tea Party is the voice of "real" America, but, on Saturday, a newer movement, rising up in response to the right-wing assault on labor in Wisconsin (and on working people everywhere), spoke loud and clear, giving voice to the forces of justice and fairness against the plutocratic Republican effort to keep them down:

Police estimated up to 100,000 people turned out in Madison, WI [on Saturday] to protest Gov. Scott Walker's (R) assault on unions, making it bigger than any protests the city has witnessed, even those during the Vietnam War. The Madison rally is part of a much larger Main Street Movement of average Americans demanding fairness in labor laws, social spending, and taxation that has emerged in Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, and elsewhere. But [Saturday]'s rally in Madison is noteworthy because at 85,000-100,000, it was bigger than the biggest tea party protest, the September 12, 2009 rally in Washington, D.C., which turned out only an estimated 60,000-70,000. A photo of the Madison rally [on Saturday]:

For two years, tea party activists and their allies in the GOP have claimed that the hard-right movement represents the true beliefs of the American people. But the crowd in Madison and numerous polls tell a different story.

And, of course, the media establishment -- whether suckered by or sympathetic to conservative objectives -- will continue to hype up the Tea Party into far more than it really is. Yes, to be fair, the protests in Wisconsin have garnered a great deal of attention, but we know what narrative the media will push.

All the more reason why the Main Street Movement must not let up. It must demand to be heard -- and must demand real change the American people, and not just Tea Party fanatics, can believe in.

Remember that slogan, Mr. President? It used to mean something. Maybe 100,000 people in Madison, along with the voices of the middle class, not to mention the poor, who are usually dismissed entirely, throughout the country, will make it mean something again.

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America: Home Of The "Free"

By Carl
Scott Walker has managed to purge Wisconsin of one of the few entities capable of standing up to his long range plans: to economically rape the state.
A really good analysis, with historical perspective, can be found here:

Economics textbooks, along with Fox News and shout radio commentators, spread the myth that fortunes are gained productively by investing in capital equipment and employing labour to produce goods and services that people want to buy. This may be how economies prosper, but it is not how fortunes are most easily made. One need only to turn to the 19th-century novelists such as Balzac to be reminded that behind every family fortune lies a great theft, often long-forgotten or even undiscovered.

But who is one to steal from? Most wealth in history has been acquired either by armed conquest of the land, or by political insider dealing, such as the great US railroad land giveaways of the mid 19th century. The great American fortunes have been founded by prying land, public enterprises and monopoly rights from the public domain, because (to paraphrase Willie Sutton) that's where the assets are to take. Throughout history the world's most successful economies have been those that have kept this kind of primitive accumulation in check. The US economy today is faltering largely because its past barriers against rent-seeking are being breached.

Nowhere is this more disturbingly on display than in Wisconsin. Today, Milwaukee – Wisconsin's largest city, and once the richest in America – is ranked among the four poorest large cities in the United States. Wisconsin is just the most recent case in this great heist. The US government itself and its regulatory agencies effectively are being privatised as the "final stage" of neoliberal economic doctrine.

Warren Buffet famously observed that no one is a self-made man: we all rely on other people and free resources to create our wealth, and we appropriate it as ours. Indeed, studies have shown that if we factor in the replacement costs for things that nature provides to our economic activity-- sunlight, air, water, pollination and so on-- we could easily double the costs of manufacturing in America (some studies show these costs are actually twice as high as the artificial production costs, thus tripling the costs to produce.)

George Will (of all people) also observed further that the American economy is one where profits are privatized but losses are spread out to society as a whole.

American history truly IS about theft for wealth. If it's not out and out piracy of someone else's property, then it's a grab for land and resources that no one else either wants or knows what to do with, without appropriate reimbursement.

Think about all those cowboy movies you saw back as a child where the ranchers battled the farmers over water rights, or mining companies would steal farms from families, and so on. Or even just ponder the tragic concept of slavery.

We've run out of the "free" resources, and so now have to cannibalize each other. This is the America we've left to ourselves. Rather than learn to live within our means, we've consistently expanded our resources so that we delay the inevitable accounting for what we've done to the land and to each other.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Torture and the truth in Obama's America

There's a lot to like, I suppose, about Obama's America, or, at least, about Obama's high-falutin' (and idealistic, if not delusional) rhetoric about America. It would seem to be a better place, than, say, Bush's America.

But not by much.

Sure, Obama deserves much of the credit for health-care reform (even if he didn't ever push for a public option and, on this as on pretty much every other issue, gave in to Republican demands without much of a fight and certainly without ever using his bully pulpit to achieve more progressive ends) and for pulling the economy back from the brink of utter catastrophe and for improving the country's standing around the world, but otherwise, as we look back over his first two-plus years, he has extended Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, protected Wall Street from being held accountable for the financial meltdown, and, much to his and the country's discredit, continued Bush's anti-democratic and illiberal national security state.

On this last point, here's yet another shameful case in point, via Glenn Greenwald:

On Friday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denounced the conditions of Bradley Manning's detention as "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid," forcing President Obama to address those comments in a Press Conference and defend the treatment of Manning. [Yesterday], CNN report[ed], Crowley... "abruptly resigned" under "pressure from White House officials because of controversial comments he made last week about the Bradley Manning case." In other words, he was forced to "resign" -- i.e., fired.

So, in Barack Obama's administration, it's perfectly acceptable to abuse an American citizen in detention who has been convicted of nothing by consigning him to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, barring him from exercising in his cell, punitively imposing "suicide watch" restrictions on him against the recommendations of brig psychiatrists, and subjecting him to prolonged, forced nudity designed to humiliate and degrade. But speaking out against that abuse is a firing offense...

Of course, it's also the case in Barack Obama's world that those who instituted a worldwide torture and illegal eavesdropping regime are entitled to full-scale presidential immunity, while powerless individuals who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing and illegality are subjected to the most aggressive campaign of prosecution and persecution the country has ever seen. So protecting those who are abusing Manning, while firing Crowley for condemning the abuse, is perfectly consistent with the President's sense of justice.

As always, here's the problem? What's the alternative? This, but even worse, under Republican rule.

And so we who abhor what is going on -- the government's authority to invade privacy, among other things, under the Patriot Act; the treatment of Bradley Manning; Gitmo remaining open with detainees kept indefinitely and subjected to military "trials"; etc. -- end up backing Obama (and his Democratic enablers) just because the other side is worse. Which is hardly much of an endorsement of the president.

That's my pragmatism speaking. Ultimately, the choice is clear.

But that doesn't make this any better.

Whatever good it will do, if any at all, we must keep up the pressure on Obama and expose the injustices that are being committed under his rule, injustices for which he himself must be held accountable.

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