Saturday, June 30, 2012

Romney: "If you can't afford a good education, like I can, you're screwed."

Remember that neologism Dave Weigel came up with a while back?

Romneying: "Accidentally bragging about your place high up in the economic stratosphere."

Romney does it all the time. So does his wife.

Well, sometimes it spills over into policy, giving us a sense of what he really believes and what he'd do as president, and when it does it takes on a rather more nefarious hue. As, for example, in what he said yesterday on the campaign trail about education and opportunity:

Let me tell you though, there's one thing the President said in his speech I agree with. He said that every American deserves a fair shot and I could not agree more. I think this is a land of opportunity for every single person, every single citizen of this great nation. I want to make sure we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot, they get as much education as they can afford, with their time they're able to get it, and if they have a willingness to work hard and the right values, they ought to have a shot at realizing their dreams.

I've bolded the key line.

Basically, he starts out agreeing with Obama, and in an agreeable way. I, too, think America should be "a place of opportunity" in which everyone has "a fair shot." But look where he goes from there: what opportunity means is that everyone gets not a fair shot but what he or she can afford. So if you have a lot of money, you get all the education you want and all the opportunity you need to stay on top of the socio-economic heap. Like Mitt himself. And if you're born into a lot of money, like Mitt's kids, well, aren't you fucking lucky.

Below that, though, well, your access to education, and specifically to the sort of quality education that can really help you get ahead, closes as you go down the socio-economic ladder. Regardless of merit, if you can buy your way into the right private schools and the Ivies, you've got it made. If not, well, too fucking bad. At least if you're somewhere in the middle you might be able to live in an area with a decent public school, and then maybe you can get into a decent state school or maybe even get some financial help to go to one of the better private universities. You won't be able to buy your way into a Harvard, for example, but maybe the top few will make it in. But that's about it. And if you're below that, your opportunity is pretty much non-existent. You might as well pick up a trade and then maybe you'll be lucky enough to be fired by Mitt Romney one day.

This is Romneying, but worse. Romney's rich, as he implicitly reminds us here, and so he has every opportunity you can imagine. And his policy platform is basically all about expanding opportunities -- and specifically money-making opportunities -- for himself and his plutocratic ilk.

But don't believe for a second that he really wants everyone to have a fair shot. Sure, he may argue that everyone has a fair shot in the unregulated market of his dreams, but that's bullshit. Opportunity comes with money, and he wants to keep it that way, America as a Hobbesian state in which the rich get what they want, profiting and dominating and fulfilling their avaricious desires, while everyone else fights for the scraps and struggles for survival.

The alternative to this isn't necessarily enforced socio-economic equality, the plundering of the rich to create equal outcomes. No, the alternative in a liberal American context is a system with progressive taxation, sufficient entitlement programs and safety nets, and government that provides help to those who need it -- including high-quality public education and affordable higher education -- so that how much money you have doesn't determine entirely how much opportunity you have. (This is Obama's view, and the view of most sensible, compassionate, civilized people.)

There's something remarkably un-meritocratic, and un-American, about Romney's view that the rich should rule simply because they're rich. But that's just the sort of guy he is.

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Romney: "This is what I did as governor. I promise I won't do it as president."

Health care is a real problem for Romney. Jon Stewart might be the first to point out that the Republican idea is to keep all of Obamacare that is popular but trash the provision that pays for it. And Romney has to do all this without breaking down and admitting that the Massachusetts health care plan, or Romneycare, that he signed into law as governor, was wrong. For Romney didn't just sign the bill, he was deeply involved in negotiating its provisions. Romney pushed for the individual mandate:

With regards to the individual mandate, the individual responsibility program that I proposed, I was very pleased that the compromise between the two houses includes the personal responsibility mandate. That is essential for bringing the health care costs down for everyone and getting everyone the health insurance they need.

Every other governor who has ever run for president has done so by touting what good things they did in their home state and how they can do that for the rest of the country. Romney is the only governor that I can think of who has been saying, in effect: "This is what I did as governor. I promise I won't do it as president."

Hell, if Rick Perry had adopted that sales pitch, I might have considered voting for him. Come to think of it, that's sort of what Bush did in practice, as well. He came into office proclaiming that he would be a bipartisan president who would work with both parties, as he did as governor, and then he morphed into a batshit-crazy "my way or no way" wingnut. 

(Cross-posted at Just an Earth-Bound Misfit.)

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Their biggest fear

Out of all the tantrums and spluttering we heard from the Republicans on Thursday after the Supreme Court upheld the health-care law, the theme was the same: money. The individual mandate is now a tax, says the Court, and the Republicans are saying "A-ha! Obama's raising your taxes to pay for Obamacare!" Setting aside the fact that it only applies to those people who do not voluntarily comply with the law by getting health insurance, and unlike evading the IRS, there's no criminal penalty, it's interesting and very telling that all the Republicans can talk about is money. They say it will cost trillions (it won't), and they say we'll all pay more (the opposite is true). It's all about the dough. You'd think it was the only thing in the world that mattered to them, and they have done little to disprove it.

But there's more to it than that. It's that the Affordable Care Act does good things for a lot of people. The Republicans fought it tooth and nail not because they don't want a lot of people to have insurance -- they're not all evil -- but because they're not going to get any credit for it. And worse for them, President Obama will. So they did the one thing they are really good at: they demonized the bill and took it to court once it passed.

And it worked... up to a point. The lies and the boogedy-boogedy stories about death panels and rationing they ginned up made people afraid of the law, and the law is unpopular with a slight majority of the population... until you tell them what's actually in it. Then they love it. They like the idea of getting health insurance that isn't tied to a job. They like the idea of no pre-existing condition limits. They like the idea of keeping kids on their parents' insurance to age 26. And 30 million people like it that they'll now be able to get insured. That's why conservatives are really against the law: it helps a lot of people, and the government did something good; two things that are incompatible with their philosophy of self-reliance and smaller government. (Unless you have a uterus or you're gay. Then all bets are off.)

In reality, the biggest fear the Republicans have about the Affordable Care Act is that those 30 million people who can now get health insurance, and those people who can now get it even if they have a pre-existing condition, or changed jobs, or who fell into the Medicare doughnut hole, will remember in November who it was that tried all the way to the Supreme Court to take it away from them. It would be a very good idea if President Obama and the Democratic Party would remind them of that every chance they get. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Colorado on fire

This photo is of the fire near Colorado Springs. To give you an idea of the scale, that structure in the lower left is the football stadium at the Air Force Academy. It seats 47,000.

This breaks my heart. I spent many happy summers in the Rocky Mountains, including in an area that was recently hit by a wildfire near Estes Park.

A couple of weeks ago, Mitt Romney mocked President Obama for wanting to hire more firefighters. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Obamacare victory: GOP spin doctors have their work cut out for them

I must admit, I've quite stunned by the Supreme Court's upholding of "Obamacare." I've never really been a fan of Obamacare, as I would prefer a European-style single-payer system.

But still, I hugely enjoyed the High Court's decision yesterday. It will be immensely entertaining to see GOP thugs like Limbaugh and Levin desperately try to spin this news to their deluded Kool-Aid-drinking base.

The Great GOP Propaganda Noise Machine usually prevails when it targets a specific issue -- (i.e., "Reagan won the Cold War," "Obamacare is Socialism," "Obama's birth certificate is bogus," etc., etc.) I get the feeling that the Noise Machine will eventually find an angle to exploit and will work hard to try to diminish Obama's victory. (And, as it usually does, it will get the mainstream media to take the bait.)

Speaking of the mainstream media, CNN really had a spectacular failure in initially screwing up the story. I originally got a CNN alert that claimed the Supreme Court had struck down the mandate. I was quite stunned when I turned on my computer a few minutes later and saw the news that the mandate had in fact been upheld.

After months of hearing smug GOP partisans claim that "Obamacare" would be overturned, it's an enormously enjoyable feeling knowing that now all these people are sitting around shell-shocked and depressed. I normally don't take pleasure in other people's pain. But I'll make an exception for this.

Hey, Rush... how are you going to spin this one?


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Thankfully for them, neither CNN nor Fox News had much credibility left to lose

As you probably know by now, CNN and Fox News got it badly wrong yesterday morning, reporting that the individual mandate had been struck down when in fact, uh, it hadn't.

And so it should come as no surprise that we're having another "Dewey Beats Truman" moment, with these images, an iconic one from 1948 and a photoshopped one from 2012, making the rounds:

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Reactions from Wingnuttia

The reactions from the right wing to the Supreme Court ruling have ranged from the blisteringly stupid to the just plain sick.

Here's the blisteringly stupid Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY):

Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be "constitutional" does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional. While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right.

Yes, it actually does, and if you had been paying attention in Grade 8 Social Studies class, you would have known that. Talk about being too dumb to play dead in a cowboy movie...

And here's this from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN):

In a closed door House GOP meeting Thursday, Indiana congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence likened the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Democratic health care law to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to several sources present.

He immediately apologized.

Well, I should hope so. That's Rudy Giuliani's schtick, you sick fuck.

I get it that the wingers and the Orcosphere thought at 9:59 am yesterday morning that they had a slam-dunk in the making and that they were all ready not just to spike the ball but give President Obama an atomic wedgie that would have made him a one-termer. And then their hopes and dreams were curb-slammed by the Chief Justice himself. (Okay, enough of the mixed-metaphor festival.) So these spluttering reactions are not surprising. Give them a day or two and they'll come up with something reasonable... like a move to impeach the Chief Justice.

And for once, we get to do a little gloating. To quote Henry Higgins, "How simply frightful! How humiliating! How delightful!" 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court upholds (most of) Obamacare: The day the conservative dream (sort of) died

So wait. What happened today? Sorry, I was too busy thinking about the universal health care system we have here in Canada.

Something about a court case?


I'm kidding, of course.

Like many others, like many of you perhaps, I went through a sudden roller coaster of emotions when I heard the news.

Actually, when I read the headline at, about the individual mandate being struck down, and then quickly learned, via the indispensable SCOTUSblog that, oops, CNN had gotten it wrong (as had Fox News, by the way), that in fact the Court had upheld (almost the entirety of) the Affordable Care Act, including the controversial (though only because Republicans have made a partisan issue of it, not because it really is) mandate, which the Court, with Chief Justice Roberts joining the liberals (or, more accurately, those who aren't right-wing ideologues engaged in a campaign of relentless judicial activism to undo American democracy) to form a 5-4 majority, held to be a tax and so constitutional.

Great news, I thought, particularly for the tens of millions of Americans who would have been denied coverage if the law had been struck down, but also for President Obama, for whom this has become a signature achievement of his presidency.

Romney, who of course signed into law the forerunner of Obamacare in Massachusetts and who was a strong advocate of progressive (if also market-oriented) health-care reform before he decided to run for president and so needed to suck up to the increasingly extremist Republican base, gloated last night that "they're not sleeping real well at the White House," but this was a significant loss for him, one that he was at pains to address today. He insists he'll work to repeal (and replace) Obamacare, but what he offered was not just red meat for the right but blatant dishonesty about what Obamacare actually does. (As Ryan Lizza writes, repeal would be highly unlikely under President Romney. It's all just Republican fantasy.)

Indeed, it's been a bad couple of weeks for him, what with the Court striking down most of Arizona's draconian anti-immigrant bill but leaving perhaps the worst provision in, the right of law enforcement to demand proof of citizenship/residency, which was just enough to hand the president a win as well as a significant campaign issue, as he can continue to campaign against Republican extremism on the immigration issue generally while backing Romney into a corner.

And of course it didn't help Romney that Obama also implemented, by executive action, the DREAM Act, a popular measure that will prevent the deportation of the children of undocumented immigrants. It was enough to get supportive words from the right-wing likes of Marco Rubio and Bill Kristol, and with it the president only solidified, if not expanded, his hold on the Latino vote, a key demographic that could swing the election.

On this issue, as on so many others, what we're seeing is a stark contrast between Obama's principled leadership and Romney's opportunistic dithering, and it's one that will no doubt be highlighted when the campaign gets underway in earnest later this summer and into the fall.


As for today's ruling, as Richard wrote, a win is a win, and in a way it's as simple as that. For now at least, the president can claim victory -- and that justice was truly done.

And it's going to be tough for Romney to move forward, as the ruling reinforces the deep divide in the Republican Party between the absolutist right-wing ideologues to whom Romney has been sucking up and the somewhat less absolutist but still deeply ideological pragmatists who are running his campaign. While the ideologues are fired up over issues like immigration and health care, as on other social issues like abortion and, as we saw during the primaries, birth control, these are losing issues for Romney. He can't win independents and other swing voters in key states by playing so hard to the right. So what I suspect is that the more sensible people around him, including perhaps Karl Rove, are advising him to try to move away from these issues and back to the economy, where his only hope for victory can be found.

Which is to say, while there will continue to be much huffing and puffing from the right, it wouldn't at all surprise me if Romney himself didn't say much more about either immigration or health care and if his campaign went back to his meat and potatoes. If nothing else, what these past couple of weeks tell us is that Romney desperately needs to change the narrative, which has swung against him hard for the first time since he locked up the nomination.

Obama needs to do what he can to counter that effort, not least by talking about what the law, what his law, does. If he can finally sell it to the American people -- and we know its various elements are popular -- he'll benefit in November.


Anyway, there's obviously been a lot of reaction, even a lot of intelligent commentary, in response to today's ruling, and I don't intend to add to the specifics here.

Generally, right now, I'm trying to focus on the positive, on the win. But it's not all good. Not at all.

Conservatives turned quickly on Roberts, now persona non grata among the partisan ideologues, but actually the majority ruling is troubling. For two reasons, one legal and one political:

Legal: As Jon Chait writes:

[F]ive justices ruled that the Affordable Care Act cannot be upheld under the Commerce Clause. This is a bizarre and implausibly narrow reading — if Congress cannot regulate the health-care market, then it cannot really regulate interstate commerce. By endorsing this precedent, Roberts opens the door for future courts to revive the Constitution in Exile.

But Roberts will do it by a process of slow constriction, carefully building case upon case to produce a result that over time will, if he prevails, rewrite the shape of American law. What he is not willing to do is to impose his vision in one sudden and transparently partisan attack. Roberts is playing a long game.

Which is to say, this ruling may actually turn out to be a significant defeat for the federal government, and for federal authority generally, long a target of the right, not least with respect to federal efforts to impose progressive reforms on anti-progressive states. (For more on the Commerce Clause, and its possible future, see Jon Cohn, who finds that perhaps, just perhaps, what Roberts did won't actually cause much constitutional harm. Greg Sargent makes the same point, arguing that it's really not a big deal.)

Political: In calling the mandate a tax, the Court is saying that Democrats voted for a tax. And that's rarely ever good politically, particularly during the crazy days of election season.

As Brian Beutler writes:

The Supreme Court's narrow decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act's insurance mandate as a valid exercise of Congress' taxing power has reignited a spin war over whether Democrats broke their pledge not to raise middle-class taxes, and whether they misled the public by insisting the mandate was not a tax during the contentious health care reform debate.


Intent matters. And the Court essentially held that the law's authors created something that functions like a tax, but serves the purposes of a penalty.

But the GOP is weighing various repeal bills, including legislation to strip the mandate. The fact that the Court upheld the mandate on taxing power grounds will make it harder than it already would have been for vulnerable Democrats to vote against that measure.

The truth is actually quite nuanced (see Lyle Denniston for more), but when does that ever matter on the campaign trail? Look for Republicans to accuse Obama and the Democrats of imposing a new tax on the American people -- Dear Leader Rush is already leading the way -- and thereby try to score political points. It's a silly argument, but Democrats could very well find themselves on the defensive.

My quick response to the legal point is that I'm worried about what Roberts might be up to over the long haul while nonetheless celebrating the ruling, while my quick response to the political point is that it's manageable if Democrats leave the mandate aside (and avoid playing defence) and instead focus on all the good things the law does (and so go on offence, forcing Republicans to defend the indefensible status quo ante).

But while these are indeed serious matters that deserve our attention, let's pull this back to what really matters today: The Supreme Court, despite a conservative majority, voted to uphold not just one of the president's signature achievements but one of the most significant progressive reforms in U.S. history.

Whatever concerns we may have, that is reason enough to celebrate a huge victory over the forces of darkness.

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Behind the Ad: Having fun at Scott Brown's expense

(Another installment in our "Behind the Ad" series.)

Where: Massachusetts.

What's going on: I almost feel sorry for Republican Senator Scott Brown, who is in a close race with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. He made a silly comment in an interview about meeting with kings and queens as part of his political duties and now he is being made fun of. I hate to defend the man, but I understand his reference was clearly metaphorical, as in: "I meet with a lot of important people in my job as a U.S. senator."

But I guess in politics metaphors are not allowed. Everything is to be taken literally. How foolish. If I worked for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, I'd be embarrassed. And Rachel Maddow? Don't you have anything better to do with your airtime?

I guess there's something refreshing about the fact that Democrats can be stupid too.

I do like the music, though. Nice touch.

Here's the ad:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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No fast, no furious

Fortune magazine, that bastion of liberal bias and anti-capitalism (except it's anything but), reveals that there's no there there to "Fast and Furious":

Quite simply, there's a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

Memo to Darrell Issa: Your fifteen minutes are now up. Thank you for playing our game. We have some lovely parting gifts for you, including your very own home lobotomy kit.

By the way, if you're waiting for the rest of the media to pick up on this report from Fortune, go stand over there next to the folks waiting for Mr. Godot. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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"Two-thirds of Americans think Barack Obama is better suited to handle an alien invasion than Mitt Romney"

(For more on the NG poll, see here. As for me, I certainly believe in UFOs. Which is to say, I believe that some flying objects are unidentified. The real question is whether you believe there is intelligent extraterrestrial life. I do. And, yes, I'd certainly hope to befriend aliens if they showed up. -- MJWS)

Yes, that's a real headline. Apparently National Geographic asked the question and this is how people answered. Here's more from press release:

In regards to national security, nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans think Barack Obama would be better suited than fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney to handle an alien invasion. In fact, more than two in three (68%) women say that Obama would be more adept at dealing with an alien invasion than Romney, vs. 61 percent of men. And more younger citizens, ages 18 to 64 years, than those aged 65+ (68% vs. 50%) think Romney would not be as well-suited as Obama to handle an alien invasion.

I have to say, this is information I am glad I have. I wonder why they didn't ask how many Americans think Mitt Romney is from another planet. How else to explain? And we could start a whole new birther movement. It would make as much sense as their birther movement.

Anyway, this is a good excuse to post the trailer to the original Men in Black, a movie I enjoyed.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Massachusetts voters despise former local bigwig

You like me! You really like me! (Uh, no, not really.)

No, it's not an Onion headline. It's all quite real. Perhaps all too real for one Willard Mitt Romney.

According to a new PPP poll, the voters of one of Mitt's home states, the one of which he was a one-term governor, the one where I went to college... yes, that would be Massachusetts...

According to this poll, Massachusetts voters don't much care for Mitt. Obama's ahead 55-39. And that's not the end of the bad news for Mitt:

Romney does not have a good image in Massachusetts. Only 39% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 56% with a negative one. When they reflect on Romney's tenure as Governor, only 40% say they approve of the work he did to 46% who disapprove. That represents a downturn since 3 months ago when voters in the state approved of his time in office by a 48/40 spread, suggesting that the Obama's campaigns attacks on his tenure are having an impact.

Massachusetts voters don't even really regard Romney as one of their own despite his time as Governor -- only 25% say they consider him to be a Bay Stater, while 65% say they do not. There doesn't seem to be a state that wants to lay claim to Romney -- when we polled Michigan last month, only 24% of voters said they considered him to be one of their own to 65% who said they did not.

Now, Mitt (or any Republican in any presidential race) never really stood a chance in Massachusetts. Nationally at least, it's a solidly Democratic state.

But one might expect a former governor and one-time moderate, a business-oriented Republican, to be doing at least a little better there. Or at least to have a higher approval rating, to have a better reputation, to be more widely respected, to be more popular, more liked... even by Democrats.

But no. Not at all.

And so it seems, if you take how he's doing in Massachusetts and Michigan, two states that have had some experience with him, that the more people know of him the less they like. (Which is something Richard and I have been saying for a long time now.)

Of course, Utah knows him as well, what with his Mormonism and work on the Salt Lake Olympics, but that's a right-wing state, more to the right than Massachusetts is to the left, that would prefer any Republican to any Democrat (and likely any Mormon versus any non-Mormon). It doesn't refute the point, as it's an outlier.

Ultimately, the election will come down to swing states like Ohio and Virginia, not Massachusetts or, likely, Michigan. But what holds true in the latter two will likely hold in the former two. Romney will have a tough time overcoming himself, and voters, more and more, will not like what they see in him, from him, or about him.

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SCOTUS upholds Obama health care law

Well, House Speaker John Boehner said that Republicans wouldn't or shouldn't spike the ball if the health care law was struck down. But, on behalf of progressives everywhere, let me be among the first to do a big end zone dance on behalf of judicial sanity in America.

Can't say I expected it. Can't say I saw it coming. But a win is a win no matter how Obama would have spun it had the law been killed.

The key point in the decision is that justices ruled the individual mandate, which is a requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine, is constitutional as a tax.

Break out the bubbly. This is a major election year victory for President Barack Obama, another BFD. Can't wait to see how Romney reacts.

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World War III

By Carl 

You think I speak in hyperbole. I do not.

Turkey deployed anti-aircraft guns and other weapons alongside its border with Syria, state television reported on Thursday, days after the downing of a Turkish military jet by Syrian forces heightened the tensions between the two countries.

A small convoy of military trucks, towing anti-aircraft guns, entered into a military outpost in the border village of Guvecci, which faces a Syrian military outpost across the border and where Syrian forces and rebels clashed in recent months, TRT television footage showed.

Several anti-aircraft guns have also been deployed elsewhere alongside the border. Some trucks were seen carrying self-propelled multiple rocket launchers, TRT footage showed. 

As a member of NATO, Turkey has called on that group to stand with it. The NATO charter is pretty explicit: an attack on one member shall be deemed an attack on the alliance. Turkey's complaint is kind of small beer, since it's fighter strayed into Syrian airspace, except...

Except based on current foreign policy, there's strategic advantage for NATO (or at least the United States) to take an active role in Turkey. By occupying Syria, the US would have a clear path of friendly-ish nations to roll tanks through: Israel, Jordan/Syria, and Iraq.

Right to the Iranian border. Remember the first rule of chess: to control your enemy and win, you must control the middle of the board. If Syria were to fall into NATO hands, this would put Iran in an island surrounded by western forces, save for the north and nations like Kazhakstan and Uzbekistan.

Check. And if Iran does actually have nuclear weapons, there really is no telling what's next. Heck, even if they don't, Pakistan (nominally our ally) does and it's a mere hop, skip, and a smuggle to get them.

The distractions within the nation, the bombings of a Syrian television station and today's Justice Ministry bombings are indicative that the Assad regime does not have clear control. This will embolden the rebels to be sure, and that Turkey is on the border will give them a refuge in the north. In exchange, Turkey will have an antagonistic position that could come into play if they sortie across the border, then claim Syrian forces attacked them on native soil.

It doesn't matter what the facts will be, the "truth" will be that Turkey's sovereignty was assaulted.

The key development here, the one thing that could prevent now a crisis later, is a meeting in Geneva this weekend among UN special envoy Kofi Annan, the Syrian representative to the Arab League, and the heads of the Five Families, I mean, leaders from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

But I doubt it. I have serious reservations that this game of chess is anywhere near ended. Russia and China must see the threat to Iran, and given their previous support for that corrupt regime, will give it aid and comfort now. I'm not sure what would impel them to give Ahmadinejad a divorce, but one can pretty much see it's not Syria.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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I'm with Dionne: Scalia must go

First, let me say I really hope Tom Goldstein is right and the Court doesn't strike down the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate (and/or more of the law).

Of course, there's really no way the mandate is unconstitutional. And as many sensible observers have noted, not so long ago it would have been ridiculous to suggest as much, even in conservative circles, where a market-oriented reform like this one was the popular way to go.

But now is not then. Conservatives have waged a relentless campaign against health-care reforms that they themselves once proposed and have politicized the judiciary to the point where the Court is now a largely partisan body -- partisan in the sense that a conservative majority is engaging in partisan judicial activism. (James Fallows addressed this the other day. In the midst of an all-out coup, conservatives both on and off the Court are assaulting, and undoing, American democracy.)

Generally, it makes little sense, particularly for a non-expert SCOTUS watcher such as myself (like most in the popular media, where general cluelessness prevails), to make predictions. Still, while I hope Goldstein is right, I fear, and suspect, he's wrong and that the Court will narrowly vote to strike down the individual mandate at the very least.

But we'll see.

For now, second, I'll just note that I'm with Dionne on the matter of the most reprehensible figure on the Court, right-wing ideologue Antonin Scalia:

Justice Antonin Scalia needs to resign from the Supreme Court.

He'd have a lot of things to do. He's a fine public speaker and teacher. He'd be a heck of a columnist and blogger. But he really seems to aspire to being a politician — and that's the problem.

So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial. He's turned "judicial restraint" into an oxymoronic phrase. But what he did this week, when the court announced its decision on the Arizona immigration law, should be the end of the line.

Not content with issuing a fiery written dissent, Scalia offered a bench statement questioning President Obama's decision to allow some immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to stay. Obama's move had nothing to do with the case in question. Scalia just wanted you to know where he stood.


What boggles the mind is that Scalia thought it proper to jump into this political argument. And when he went on to a broader denunciation of federal policies, he sounded just like an Arizona Senate candidate.

In fact, on this matter I'm also with the Post's editorial board -- and that board is hardly a bastion of liberalism these days -- which stated, alongside Dionne, that Scalia's "lapses of judicial temperament," putting it mildly, "endanger not only his jurisprudential legacy but the legitimacy of the high court."

Conservatives, of course, are rushing to Scalia's defence, as they always do. But imagine if this were a liberal justice engaging in such partisan activity. Conservatives would be going ballistic, claiming that any such politicization of the Court runs counter to the hallowed intentions of the Founders.

But it's not liberals who are doing this, it's conservatives. They're waging a war against the very foundations of American constitutional democracy, and Scalia is right at the forefront of the war, conservatism's leading judicial advocate for right-wing judicial activism.

He must go, but that alone won't be enough. The whole conservative effort must be repelled. It's what the Founders, far more intelligent and far more liberal than conservatives would have us believe, would want.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Headline (and feel-good story) of the day: Unemployed man rescues baby

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Unemployed Brooklyn man misses job interview to save 9-month-old boy who was blown into path of oncoming subway train

Someone should give this guy a really, really good job.

Or a cape.

Or a shirt with "HERO" on it.

Or a key to the city, with access to at least one of Mayor Bloomberg's many large homes.

But preferably a really, really good job.

Like, now.

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This day in music - June 27, 1998: Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, and Bryan Adams are honoured on the Canadian Walk of Fame

William Shatner's "star":
Yes, he's one of us.
Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot and Bryan Adams were the first pop music stars to be so honoured on the Canadian Walk of Fame on King Street in Toronto, which had its original class in 1998. I live in Toronto. I have walked along King Street many times. I've seen the stars on the sidewalk. Exciting, I know.

If you are ever in Toronto and want to find the site, it consists of maple leaf-like stars imbedded in 13 designated blocks' worth of sidewalk in front of Roy Thompson Hall, The Princess of Wales Theatre and The Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street as well as Simcoe Street.

Currently there are 137 Canadians on the Walk of Fame including "athletes; coaches; actors, directors, writers and producers of movies, television and stage; singers,songwriters and musicians; playwrights; authors; comedians; cartoonists and models."

In truth, I suspect most Canadians don't pay a lot of attention to it. Canadians are like that. They don't like to make a fuss.

But it gives me an excuse to post a Gordon Lightfoot tune, which I don't think I've ever done. Here's "If You Could Read My Mind." What a beautiful song. Canadians do music very well.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Fending off failure: The International Criminal Court's new chief prosecutor

By Ali Ezzatyar

With its failure to complete a single trial or conviction, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is sinking into irrelevance less than a decade after its birth. The important idea that leaders can and should be accountable for their atrocities, even if they fail to be tried at home, also faces extinction. The reality is, the ICC's failures are a direct result of its strategy, which has been poorly crafted for its mission. With its new chief prosecutor just sworn in, and it will be up to her to save the court from ultimate failure.

(Correction: Actually, as a commenter notes below, the first conviction has now been upheld, with sentencing completed. One conviction -- same difference.)

The promise of the ICC was bold and vital: the world would come together to prevent impunity for crimes against humanity, no matter where they took place. Given the record of the ICC's precedent tribunals and the steady evolution of international criminal law, there was reason to be optimistic.

In the 1990s, criminal tribunals of Rwanda and Yugoslavia became the face of international criminal law. Previously inconceivable images of former heads of state and their cronies standing trial boosted the perception that an internationally accepted jurisprudence with respect to human rights crimes could be developed. So far, these tribunals have convicted over 100 key perpetrators of crimes against humanity; the work of these courts has quantifiably influenced the conduct of world leaders and their armies around the world.

The ICC is the natural evolution of this notion of accountability, with the Security Council mandated authority to claim jurisdiction over human rights violators no matter where their crimes are committed. It enjoys either the formal or tacit approval of most of the world's nations, with even the United States' historically lukewarm treatment of the court shifting of recent. As far as resources, the ICC has more cash on hand than it needs. Given all of this, why is it stagnant?

To begin, as an international criminal court, the ICC has failed to pursue prosecutions in a geographically meaningful way. This has contributed to its inconsequentiality in the lives of most of the world's citizens. Lead by its former chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the court seemed to have a particular penchant for African human rights violators. While crimes against humanity exist on every continent, almost all of the ICC's investigations involve Africa. This is also contributing to the notion that the court is a tool of Europe and "the West" generally.

Most importantly, though, the ICC's chief prosecutor's ambitious platform has failed to bring results. While the ICC was established with the intention of targeting the upper echelon of human rights violators, it has failed to bring the type of charges that have a meaningful chance of ever being brought to trial.

Sudan is one example. Lacking any notion of increment, the court brought charges against a sitting head of state, President Omar al-Bashir, for crimes in Darfur. Without surprise, President Bashir managed to find a network of support that has allowed him to evade arrest and escape prosecution. He has even traveled to countries who are signatories of the ICC, who have unsurprisingly been unwilling to arrest the President of a nearby country. This was totally foreseeable, and damaging to the court's reputation. At least ten other human rights violators were suggested at the time in Sudan that were more likely to be apprehended and to stand trial; this could have set an important international precedent for the court and served as a vital warning for all of Sudan's higher-ups.

In Libya as well, while the headline of a criminal investigation and referral being brought against Ghaddafi was spectacular when it emerged in May 2011, it probably did more harm than good. Such an arrest warrant should have been sealed, if issued at all. Ghaddafi's ability to find a home outside of Libya became reduced and this probably perpetuated the violence there, and made his death and impossibility to stand trial inevitable.

Perhaps out of respectable ambition, the ICC's former chief prosecutor resembled a man more interested in headlines than convictions. As a result, the narrative of the ICC being merely symbolic has found more strength amongst its critics.

With heavy influence from the United States and other Security Council members, signatories of the Rome Statute have thrown their weight behind Fatou Bensouda as Ocampo's successor. Her appointment does not come without risks of its own, however. After years of criticism from Africa that it has been unfairly targeted, Bensouda must make sure she does not merely act as a counterbalance to Ocampo's previous habits outside of Africa.

The new chief prosecutor must pursue a broader range of lower rung violators of human rights internationally, who not only should but can be brought to trial and convicted. The mission of the court cannot be implemented without an understanding of the court's genuine limits nor generation of meaningful results from its activities. At a critical juncture of its life, the ICC cannot see another decade of stagnancy, and through pressure on the next court's leader the world should see to it that it doesn't.

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Explaining "trash talk" to the clueless. That means you, Mitt.

Wow. President Obama went into Boston and took a shot at the locals about baseball. (Is he crazy?) And they responded in kind with what sounded like booing. It may have been good natured, but it was still booing.

As The Hill reported, it went like this:

"I just want to say thank you for Youkilis," said Obama at the beginning of a fundraiser at Boston's Symphony Hall Monday night, of third baseman Kevin Youkilis's recent trade to the Chicago White Sox. "I'm just saying. He's going to have to change the color of his sox."

Boos were heard echoing throughout the audience after the president's remark.

"I didn't think I'd get any "boos" out of here, but I guess I shouldn't have -- I should not have brought up baseball. I understand. My mistake," Obama added, according to remarks released by the White House.

At some point someone in the crowd yelled, "We still love you," to laughter and applause. 

But here's the stupid part: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's campaign used the incident to criticize the president for "taunting" Red Sox fans in their own home town.

Are you kidding me? Not only is Mitt Romney clueless about the basics of American sports culture, but so is his campaign. That, you idiots, is what sports fans call trash talk. It's what people who love baseball do when they're in somebody else's home town. You rib, you kid, you rub in bad news, especially when it's good news for your team. Obama is from Chicago. Get it. It's part of the fun. It's got nothing to do with "taunting."

Maybe that's what NASCAR team owners and dressage enthusiasts call it, but not real sports fans.

Here's the clip. I love it.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hopelessly Misinformed Latinos for Romney (HMLR) -- Part 2

By Miguel

(I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message. Estoy Mitt Romney y apruebo este mensaje.)

Hopelessly Misinformed Latinos For Romney takemycountrybackHola! My name is Miguel. You may remember me from my last message to Latino voters. Since then, things have changed for the better and I wanted to return once more and encourage all Latinos to vote for Señor Romney for President in 2012.

Recently, people have been saying that Mr. Romney has changed his position on immigration and that he is playing to the Latino base by walking back his original comments about sending us all back home. Mi amigos, this is nothing more than the liberal media trying to confuse you. Mr. Romney is a man of his word, and no matter what you may hear, he has not changed his stance. He still wants to help us.

Not too long ago, Mr. Romney said this:

Well, the answer is self-deportation... People decide that they could do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here.

Now, some people read this and think Mitt Romney does not support Latinos. This is wrong! In reality, Mr. Romney has big plans for latinos to do better... in our native homeland! If you read between the lines you see a man who wants to improve conditions outside the United States and bring prosperity to places that for centuries were nothing more than America's puta, a place worth less than the hourly wage of our hardworking children.

I see Mitt Romney for who he really is: an honest man who truly cares about Latinos and wants what is best for us. This is a man who has sent many of America's jobs to countries that truly needed the work. With a record like that, how can we not support him? I do not know how many of those jobs came to Tijuana, but from the looks of things down there we need a man like Mr. Romney to help put Mexicans back to work.

President Obama recently promised to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States without fear of deportation. But allowing us to stay indefinitely only prolongs the hardships that our families face back home. If more jobs stay in America, then our families back home continue to suffer. Mr. Romney has different plans. In this era of global economics, we need a leader who thinks outside of Washington and outside of the United States. We need Mitt Romney.

On election day, vote for a leader who will put us back to work globally and do for Mexico what he has already done for China. If you love your families and are proud of where you came from, then do what is right.

Vote Mitt! You won't be sorry.

Mitt Romney 2012 – A Better America.

Paid for by Hopelessly Misinformed Latinos for Romney.


By tmcbpatriot (not Miguel, but close)

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Tack room

Booman on class warfare:

I'm tired of hearing people on the right talk about class warfare and people envying success and hating capitalism and all that nonsense. I've run a progressive website for seven years and I've read a ton of progressive comments and opinions. There are always a couple of people who want to cap income or radically redistribute wealth, but they make up about two percent of the American left. The other 98% don't have any problem with Bill Gates or Steve Jobs making a cajiillion dollars. If you made a ton of money, that's great. Good for you. You want to buy a fancy car and seven or eight homes? Fantastic.

What people overwhelmingly object to is the idea that we need to balance our budget by cutting our Social Security benefits or our Medicare benefits or entirely by cutting programs that help people in need or that help people get ahead. Federal, state, and local income taxes haven't been this low since Harry Truman was president. I'm not kidding about that. They went up because of the Korean War.

In other words, the reason we can't have nice things is because it means very rich people might have to pay one or two percent more of their income in taxes. And that would mean the end of Western civilization as we know it.

I grew up in a nice suburb with a lot of well-off people. They were neighbors, family friends, and their kids were classmates. I'm pretty sure at least one or two of them had fortunes that rivaled the Romneys. But you sure couldn't tell it by the way they lived. They had nice houses, not huge palatial spreads. They drove Buicks or Ford LTDs -- no one would be caught dead in a Cadillac (even the local funeral home had a hearse built on an Oldsmobile chassis) -- and a lot of them did their own gardening and yard work. They also gave back to the community, doing work for charities that benefited all of society, and they did it with very little public recognition. Signs of ostentation and conspicuous consumption were considered to be, as my mother put it, tacky.

People who flaunt their wealth are asking for scorn and derision. It's not that the 99% are jealous or envious; it is the lack of self-awareness that showing off your extravagance might be considered boorish. And in a time when the economy of just about everyone else is suffering, talking casually about the number of homes you own, the number of Cadillacs you drive, or the tax write-off you get on a horse is just plain gauche. It doesn't mean you have to live in a shanty, but it might be a good idea to understand why the people who do live in them might not want to hear about it. And it is especially grating when they know that you earned a lot of that money by screwing over people and sending their jobs to other countries.

It's ridiculous to whine about class warfare when you don't have any to begin with.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Behind the Ad: Bain Capital still on Democrats' radar

(Another installment in our "Behind the Ad" series.)

Who: Priorities USA (Democratic supporting Super PAC).

Where: Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

What's going on: Bain Capital is back in the news and a pro-Obama super-PAC is making hey while the sun shines. Over the weekend The New York Times ran a story with the title, "Companies' Ills Did Not Harm Romney's Firm." In part, it said this:

The private equity firm, co-founded and run by Mitt Romney, held a majority stake in more than 40 United States-based companies from its inception in 1984 to early 1999.... Of those companies, at least seven eventually filed for bankruptcy while Bain remained involved, or shortly afterward, according to a review by The New York Times. In some instances, hundreds of employees lost their jobs. In most of those cases, however, records and interviews suggest that Bain and its executives still found a way to make money. [...]

He has fended off attacks about job losses at companies Bain owned, saying, "Sometimes investments don't work and you're not successful." But an examination of what happened when companies Bain controlled wound up in bankruptcy highlights just how different Bain and other private equity firms are from typical denizens of the real economy, from mom-and-pop stores to bootstrapping entrepreneurial ventures.

Bain structured deals so that it was difficult for the firm and its executives to ever really lose, even if practically everyone else involved with the company that Bain owned did, including its employees, creditors and even, at times, investors in Bain's funds.

So, some people with Democratic ties think it's unfair to go after Romney for his work in private equity. As long as the truth is told, I don't care what "they" say. The point, I would think, is to let the people decide if they want someone with Mitt Romney's business experience in the White House. Why is it wrong to tell them what that experience involved? Seems fair to me.

One more thing: If Bain Capital structured its deals to make sure it never really lost, isn't that what the right wing likes to call socialism?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Some good news but mostly bad news for Romney on immigration and the Latino vote

Given his recent dithering, and more so given his sucking up to the jingoistic, xenophobic right during the primaries, it's good news for Romney that immigration isn't the #1 issue. (A new Gallup poll places it well back of health care and various economic/fiscal issues, at least among registered voters. Latinos generally have it tied for first alongside health care and unemployment.)

The bad news for Romney is that President Obama commands a huge lead among Latinos. The same poll has him up 66 to 25 among registered Latino voters.

In other words, Obama is way up among Latinos even though immigration, an issue on which he has a huge advantage over Romney, isn't a dominant priority for them.

On the one hand, Romney could take comfort here. It likely won't get worse for him on immigration, and so he can try to work to narrow the gap with this key demographic by continuing to blame Obama for not doing enough to fix the economy and by stressing what he claims are his economic bona fides, specifically his business record.

On the other hand, it very well could get worse for him on immigration, not least given the Supreme Court's decision to uphold perhaps the most egregious part of Arizona's draconian anti-immigrant law even as it struck down most of the law on jurisdictional grounds. In response, Romney may not have gone the extremist right-wing Scalia route and railed against illegal immigration (proving that he is fully ideologue and partisan, not dispassionate jurist), but his refusal to take a stand on the ruling, similar to his refusal to take a stand on Obama's executive action implementing the DREAM Act, was telling. He wants nothing to do with immigration as an issue because he knows it's a losing issue for him, but he likely won't be able to avoid it. At some point, he'll have to side with the right-wing extremists who dominate the issue in the Republican Party or take a more sensible approach and alienate Republican voters.

Add to this the fact that most people aren't paying attention (and won't until the campaign gets underway in earnest later in the summer) and Romney's "support" among Latinos could very well go down once Romney's dithering/pandering is contrasted to the president's strong, sensible positioning (and clear personal views), including on yesterday's ruling.

But even if the numbers stay roughly the same, that would mean Obama winning this demographic by an overwhelming margin, putting even more pressure on Romney to pick up even more support among white males, his core demographic. He's well ahead among white males, to be sure, but the question is whether he'll win by enough to offset his losses elsewhere.

Perhaps it won't matter in 2012. Perhaps the Latino vote won't be the difference one way or the other. For Republicans, though, the fact that this fast-growing demographic is overwhelmingly Democratic spells electoral disaster in elections to come. And, Romney's dithering aside, it won't get any better for them if they continue to insist on taking extremist positions on immigration, as well as on other issues that evidently matter a great deal to Latinos, as to so many Americans, like health care.

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