February 29, 2008

Why is this outrageous now?--updated

Perhaps the media is picking up on the whole McCain/Hagee story, after Bill Donohoe raised a fuss about Hagee's open hatred of Catholics. What is interesting to me is that Hagee is hardly new to the political scenery. He was a prominent Bush supporter. Why did Donohoe not object then?

Are we seeing a reemergence of the conservative Catholic/conservative Evangelical split that seemed to disappear under Bush?

Update: NPR Blog has the McCain story.

And this from Greenwald's post about McCain's tepid "I don't agree with everything, just that he likes me" response:
As has been noted many times, most recently today by Matt Yglesias, Hagee's so-called "commitment to Israel" actually means that he wants Israel united so that the Rapture can happen and all Jews, including Israelis, will be slaughtered and sent to hell. And the "spiritual leadership" which McCain heralds consists of calling the Catholic Church the "Mother Whore" and a "cult" and arguing that Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in the devastation of tens of thousands of lives, was God's punishment against New Orleans because it scheduled a gay pride parade that week.
The fact that McCain thinks he can get away with openly embracing one of the most influential and hateful bigots in the country is a reflection of the profound media double standard he knows favors and protects him. Just imagine if Obama had issued a statement similar to McCain's with regard to Farrakhan: "I am very proud of Minister Louis Farrakhan's spiritual leadership to thousands of people" and "don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. I'm still 'honored" to have his support."

As it is, Obama -- who never appeared on a stage with Farrakhan or sought or praised his support -- was attacked by the Jamie Kirchicks of the world even though he denounced Farrakhan's views and rejected his support. Yet here is McCain, refusing to denounce anything about Hagee, instead openly embracing him and expressing "honor" at receiving the endorsement, and there is . . . . almost nothing. For those in the media who sputtered on about the nonexistent Obama/Farrakhan matter -- and even for those who didn't -- how can you possibly justify not covering all of the aspects of this odious McCain/Hagee association?

Sullivan adds:
"There really are double standards for white fundamentalists, aren't there?"
Yes, for all their victimology about how Hollywood and the media are so anti-Christian, they are treated with kid gloves so often. Hagee's views are horrendous and oddly similar to Iran's nutjob leader. But one is derided while the other gets to meet with our own President.

Oh good God!

The incompetence of this administration simply blows my mind. Remember the deputy secretary of state who oversaw abstinence and anti-prostitution programs being caught calling a prostitute? Well, now, we have Bush's "chief liaison to religious groups" admitting to plagiarizing a column he wrote for his hometown paper, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel and several other columns are showing up with other people's words. Seriously. It is almost as if these people go out of their way to be incompetent and unethical.

Speaking of that, Froomkin has the transcript of a very funny bit from the Daily Show that is almost too close to the truth to be funny.
"The Daily Show's 'senior White House correspondent' John Oliver, tells Stewart: 'President Bush has done good in Africa. I did just say good there, didn't I?'

Stewart: 'You did say good.'

Oliver: 'I kept saying 'bad' in rehearsal. It's force of habit, I suppose.'

Stewart: 'It's hard for you to accept that the president has done something admirable.'

Oliver: 'Well, it's just -- what's his angle? He's not running for reelection. There's no ulterior military objective. He's got no chance of becoming King of Africa. What the hell is going on?'

Stewart: 'Well, maybe he's just trying to do something good in a difficult part of the world.'

Oliver: 'No! No! No! That makes it worse. Over the past seven excruciating years, I've come to terms with the president being incompetent. The fact that we now know he's been capable of doing good all along, and has simply chosen not to -- that really burns.'"

When the Media turns on Barack--and they will

Eric Boehlert lists the current meme's coming from the right about Obama

1) That both Obama's might not be patriotic enough.

2) (This one is new) Obama is effeminate?
Meanwhile, in Sunday's New York Times, Obama was twice described as being overly effeminate: He's an "elusive starlet" who prefers "playing the tease," while espousing a "feminine management style." Compare that to the media's portrayal of Republican Sen. John McCain as sort of a man's man, and it's obvious where those competing narratives are headed.

3) That Obama is a self-centered snob who thinks he is better than the rest of us. See the Kingston attack on the flag lapel, or anything Bill Kristol has written on that. Or:
"He is the brilliant young black man as American dream," wrote Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, whose hatred of Hillary Clinton is limitless. But with the Clinton campaign now wounded and Obama grabbing the inside track on the nomination, Noonan quickly flip-flopped. In her February 22 column, she suggested the Obamas are self-centered "snobs" who can't relate to "normal Americans."

4) Obama might be a communist. Seriously?
I'm not referring to the truly nutty stuff that the radical right is starting to churn out, like National Review's Lisa Schiffren, who argued, with zero proof, that Obama's mixed-race parents had communist leanings because back when they got married, the only reason black and white people married was because they were communists. Or Accuracy In Media's Cliff Kincaid and his retro Red Scare column about how "Obama had an admitted relationship with someone who was publicly identified as a member of the Communist Party USA."

5) and most common--that Obama is some kind of cult-leader. Sigh.
CNN's Carol Costello suggested that the audience response at an Obama rally represented "a scene some increasingly find not inspirational, but 'creepy,' " while on-screen the text read "OBAMA-MANIA BACKLASH" and "PASSION 'CULT-LIKE' TO SOME."

The Los Angeles Times' Joel Stein referred to "the Cult of Obama," while mocking the campaign as "Obamaphilia" and his supporters as "Obamaphiles." (If Obama supporters were wondering what it felt like to be openly derided by the mainstream media, now they know.)

Time's Joe Klein complained, "There was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism." The Times' Brooks joked that Obama's supporters would soon be "selling flowers at airports and arranging mass weddings."

And most egregiously, ABC's Jake Tapper made fun of the "Helter-Skelter cult-ish qualities" of Obama's supporters. That's right, the Charles Manson-led Helter Skelter cult that slaughtered five adults during the summer of 1969, and the same cult that believed murderous blacks would soon stage a bloody revolution and try to take over America. That's who Tapper compared Obama's base to. Ha-ha. Get it?

Why is the media so bad? That is a different question--one we have grappled with here some. Partly it has to do with the celebrity of the modern media. Tim Russert makes money off his reputation as a tough interviewer--not because he is dedicated (ala Ted Koppel) to journalistic excellence. Most of these people on the TeeVee wouldn't be there except they look good on camera and can read a teleprompter. And Boehlert points to one of the biggest problems in the media today:
Why? Because when McCain and the entire GOP establishment play the liberal media bias card and complain that the press is going too easy on the Democrat, the press will listen.

History shows us that the press panics when faced with the charge of liberal media bias, especially during a campaign year.
It is very true.

February 28, 2008

Bush says he is a lot like Putin

Well, kind of:
"As you know, Putin's a straightforward, pretty tough character when it comes to his interests. Well, so am I."
But even in context it makes the man look as dumb as a bag of hammers.


In the comments of the last post, Leighton pointed out the obvious--that John "Sidney" McCain is a "closet Australian." I am not sure how I missed it before. Nearly endorsed by Australia's former Prime Minister, Alexander Downer, and liked by Australian conservatives everywhere, and seen here auditioning for "Crocodile Dundee 3"

It was only a matter of time before we put the pieces together. It is now clear that if we elect McCain President, it will only be a matter of time before the NFL is replaced with Australian-rules Football, Budweiser is replaced by Fosters (ok, that is an improvement) and "Waltzing Matilda" becomes our national anthem. Be afraid--be very afraid.


The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "America once fought to end torture. Now we fight to euphemize it. This is a classic WWII poster:"


And finally, a nice little thank you to the feminists of the past who have created a world where young women can aim for any profession. And I agree.

Yeah, except Obama renounced (or rejected, whatever) his radical minister

As Glenn Greenwald points out, Some hateful, radical ministers -- white evangelicals -- are acceptable. I used to watch Hagee for some kind of sick entertainment. Watching him and Parsley feed off the "sick and the old," as Bono called it, and build a Corporate Church is a sickening sight. Watching them encourage bigotry towards gays and Muslims--denigrate feminists and liberals--all in the name of their version of God is horrifying. Watching some idiot like Hagee cheering for Armageddon and urging our President to bomb Iran is just stupefying.

Watching John McCain embrace both as "spiritual advisors" is enough to make you start drinking at 9 in the morning. If Obama had embraced Farakhan and took his endorsement gladly, he would be correctly pilloried in the press. McCain can sidle up to these charlatans and the MSM is silent.

Tony is equally horrified and is asking for some "Pepto for the soul." I hate to tell you this, Tony, (because, of course, you already know this) but you aren't going to find any of that in the GOP (a wholly owned subsidiary of the worst evangelical Christianity can produce) today.

Obama needs to reject more--Jon Swift has a list

Just brilliant as usual. My personal favorite:
Incidentally, the "Yes We Can" video is directed by Jesse Dylan, whose father Bob Dylan wrote "Subterranean Homesick Blues," which included the lyric "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," which is where the violent, radical, left-wing group the Weather Underground got its name. And this is not Obama's only association with the 1960s terrorist organization. Obama once went to a party at the home of Bill Ayers, who was once a member of the Weather Underground and is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Does Obama endorse the Weather Underground's plot to foment a violent overthrow of the U.S. government? And how does Obama feel about Dylan's betraying thousands of very sincere fans of folk music by going electric? Why didn't Tim Russert ask him about that?


Speaking of brilliant, you should catch a couple of vids going around. First is Will Farrell's exit from Letterman. Before you click over there, be warned, the second clip is a long and boring clip with Meredith Vieira from the Today Show. It is not funny. But the first one is.

Some of you may have seen the Chris Crocker's "leave Britney alone" video. I can't watch the entire thing, but it is a sobbing plea to leave Britney Spears alone (performance art, not a real plea). But Louis Black's sobbing "Leave Mike Huckabee alone" is hilarious.

Hagee supports McCain--What a maverick!--updated

NPR: McCain Picks Up Important Conservative Endorsement: "NPR's Scott Horsley reports that McCain won the support yesterday of Texas evangelist John Hagee. Hagee leads a megachurch in San Antonio, and founded the organization Christians United for Israel.

Hagee is a leader in the Christian Zionist movement, who predicted a showdown between Israel and Iran in his 2006 book Jerusalem Countdown."

Sarah Posner has more:
"Even though Hagee hosted Mike Huckabee for a guest sermon at his church last December, his support for McCain is not a huge surprise. Last year, Hagee and McCain had a private breakfast in San Antonio after which Hagee declared McCain 'solidly pro-Israel', which, in CUFI parlance, is code for opposition to a two-state solution. Hagee contributed $1,000 to McCain's campaign (although he also later contributed to Huckabee's as well.)

This past summer, McCain appeared at CUFI's annual summit, where he 'joked' about how hard it is to do God's work in the city of Satan. (He repeated a similar line earlier this week at a town hall event in Cincinnati at which McCain 'spiritual guide' Rod Parsley shared the stage.) While McCain might be able to laugh this off as a little quip about the foibles of Washington, to followers of Hagee and Parsley, 'spiritual warfare' is a very real part of everyday life, in which they, as godly people, do battle with Satanic forces. When talking about CUFI, though, talking about battles is really no joking matter, since Hagee has been beating the drum for war with Iran -- which he believes will result in the world-ending battle at Armageddon -- for over two years."

February 27, 2008

From last year

But more relevant than ever:
"Russert passes for a 'tough' interviewer by adopting a confrontational pose rather than asking genuinely challenging questions. Which is why he's a terrible moderator for our presidential debates."

Few news items

The guy who warmed up John McCain's crowd with repeated questionable attacks on Obama is now furious and says that McCain threw him under the Straight Talk Express. Which is funny. And he also says that anyone who has a problem with his repeated emphasizing of Obama's middle name--those people are the racists.


Without comment:
After promising last year to search its computers for tens of thousands of e-mails sent by White House officials, the Republican National Committee has informed a House committee that it no longer plans to retrieve the communications by restoring computer backup tapes, the panel's chairman said yesterday.


Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the current director of the Defense Intelligence Agency says that waterboarding is a violation of international law.

The scum line up to endorse McCain?

After last night's Russert attack on Obama about Farakhan, the blogosphere was alive with discussion--did Obama distance himself enough? Why not be more forceful? Why was Hilary so annoying about that? But at least Obama denounced and rejected Farakhan and has done so before.

Isn't Rod Parsley cut from the same cloth? And in this case, McCain not only doesn't distance himself, he embraces the nut:
"Yesterday at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, John McCain was flanked by Rod Parsley, who called the candidate 'strong, true, consistent conservative,' according to the Columbus Dispatch. McCain referred to Parsley, who preaches the same word of faith doctrine as the televangelists under investigation by McCain's fellow Republican Senator Charles Grassley, a 'spiritual guide.'"

February 26, 2008

Sully and TPM live blog the debate


Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall | Live Debate Blogging (There Will Be Blood Edition)

Check out their different responses to the Farrakhan question. And I so agree with Josh--sweet jesus, I hate Tim Russert. I don't think there is a more over-rated interviewer on Television.

A good day

Not terribly productive with the grading, mind you, but a good day. Had a nice lunch with SOF at our favorite place. (Yes, CIL, THAT place).

Then I had a delightful coffee with my good friend JS. We have been meaning to have this coffee for sometime and finally pulled it off. I am afraid I talked his ear off, but thoroughly enjoyed the good coffee, company, and conversation. That is hard to beat.

Then in the midst of all the bad news around the country--right wing idiots who are waiting to attack Obama--and a President who sends out his National Security people to lie to the American people--comes this story about the New York Philharmonic playing in North Korea:
Maazel wasn't the only New Yorker moved by the event. The Philharmonic's principal bassist, John Deak, said when the musicians started leaving the stage, the North Koreans started waving at them.

"Half of the orchestra burst into tears, including myself and we started waving back at them and suddenly there was this kind of artistic bond that is just a miracle. I'm not going to make any statements about what's going to change or everything. Things happen slowly. But I do know that the most profound connection was made with the Korean people tonight."

I like to think that music is good for people. Let's hope this translates into even more good.

I wonder why the GOP is afraid of appearing sexist or racist?

GOP fears charges of racism, sexism - David Paul Kuhn - Politico.com: "The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved."

February 25, 2008

Obama calls Repubs on their faux patriotism

And about time:
"About not wearing an American flag lapel pin, Obama said Republicans have no lock on patriotism.

'A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans' benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?"

February 24, 2008

Falling randomly

I was looking for "Falling Slowly"

Hansard and Irglova win Oscar for best song

And it really is a great song. Even better in the film.

Conservative support for the troops

In a conversation with a very conservative person, I questioned why liberals were un-American when they questioned the military leadership or administration of the war, but conservatives could maintain the pro-military stance even when they cut taxes and failed to provide the troops what they needed. He responded that the troops want to be taken care of, for sure, but what they want more is to win and for people not to question that.

I think I sighed when I read that. And when I read how the right responded to Obama's story about soldiers finding it easier to get more ammo from the Taliban than through their own channels, I was reminded of that. (A friend of mine confirmed that this happened routinely in country, btw.) The right simply denied the story, and then of course heaped criticism on the left. ABC's Jake Tapper said what a lot of us think:
"I might suggest those on the blogosphere upset about this story would be better suited directing their ire at those responsible for this problem, which is certainly not new. That is, if they actually care about the men and women bravely serving our country at home and abroad."
This morning, I read this unbelievably gripping report on the counter-insurgency efforts and what life is like for these men and women--and I feel like weeping. They confirm (indirectly) what Obama's Captain reported. These guys are fighting the Taliban under stop-loss and while taking anti-depressants. When you consider how different this could be if the resources tied up in Iraq could have been focussed here... When you consider how we have to have tax cuts while these guys have trouble getting the right size boots and enough ammo....

Those "support the troops" bumper stickers don't make up for this.

Sighing doesn't do it justice.

Ack, I have been tagged

Kevin tagged me with this blog thingy:
If you accept (and I know you will) you must:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five other people."

Ok, here goes. The book is Richard White's It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own.
Fremont's success and his rise to prominence were aided by his advantageous marriage to jessie Benton, the daughter of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. In the 1840s Senator Benton helped Fremont gain a virtual carte blanche in the West to serve science and American expansion while engaging in endless self-promotion. Fremont's explorations enabled him to achieve a prominence that eventually brought him the 1856 Republican nomination for the Presidency. Fremont's expeditions during the 1840s covered a variety of objectives.


Ok. I tag Anglican, Small Glimpses, Okie Okasan, Bitebark, and Two-Headed Blog.

February 23, 2008

Hey, it is Saturday

And Bush's approval rating last week was at 19%. Wow. That doesn't stop him from ruling as if he had a 19% disapproval rating instead. After all, he really doesn't care what we think. He just wants us to be afraid. And we also learned, of course, that American Telecommunication firms are patriotic, but not if it causes them any problems. If they are going to have to hire lawyers when they break the law for our President, then they would rather the terrorists win.


And I am afraid that his heir apparent is just another chip off the old GOP block. Couple of things come out of that NYT piece. It appears to be a rather weak journalistic effort, but as I said at the time, the issue is not really whether he had sex with Vicki Iseman, but whether McCain the Reformer was actually a fraud. And that is what we are learning. McCain is ass-deep in lobbyists and lied about that. (If he were Bill Clinton he would have already been impeached.) And not only that, but one of his top advisors:
Of all the lobbyists involved in the McCain campaign, the most prominent is Black...even as Black provides a private voice and a public face for McCain, he also leads his lobbying firm, which offers corporate interests and foreign governments the promise of access to the most powerful lawmakers. Some of those companies have interests before the Senate and, in particular, the Commerce Committee, of which McCain is a member.
Black said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain's Straight Talk Express bus.
Interestingly enough, the right is downplaying the possibility of an affair, but also downplaying its importance. I still remember the mantra about Clinton "If he can't be faithful to his wife, he can't be faithful to us."

Whatever. As I have said repeatedly. I warn any of my conservative colleagues that after this last 8 years, they should avoid lecturing me on morality. Ever.


Air Force Col. Morris Davis--this one:
Davis also repeats to the AP what he told The Nation: that William Haynes, the Pentagon official currently overseeing the tribunals, had told Davis in 2005 that "We can't have acquittals, we've got to have convictions."
Will appear as a witness for the defense at Gitmo. Fascinating that some very moral and gung-ho people have reached their limit with the "justice" that Bush and Cheney built.


I missed this during the debate, but Obama told a story about an Army Captain in Afghanistan who said it was easier to get ammo from the Taliban than through Army channels. Evidently, the right has jumped out of their skin, even though sources have confirmed it. Right wingers still don't believe it. I asked someone who was there and he confirmed that was more than believable.



In music news, I am sad to learn that No Depression magazine is done. I completely understand their situation, but what a great magazine. I am sorry to see it go.

February 22, 2008

Just as logical as Abstinence Only programs

From Feministing:
- - - -

Thanks for making it out on a rainy Saturday, kids. Slippery out there, huh? Let's get started. We're gonna have some fun today!

Car accidents are a leading cause of death for teenagers. The school board and your elected representatives want to make sure that you and your families are spared from such a tragedy, which is why the money for driver's ed was eliminated from the budget. Whereas last year I was teaching your older siblings how to shift and brake and three-point-turn during a six-week course, it has since been decreed that I actually need just one afternoon to tell you the only piece of safety information I'm permitted by law to share:

The ONLY 100 percent effective method for avoiding car accidents is to ABSTAIN from driving until marriage."

Fox News: Who are they kidding?

This was a poll question from Faux News:
"Who is Usama Rooting For?
I would think that whoever wrote that poll would feel shame and would want to punch themselves in the face. But I know that isn't true. What morons.

Just more of what we already know

Froomkin grabs several stories that deserve a little more disgust. First is the sleaze that is Karl Rove--who 60 Minutes will suggest on Sunday had been working for years to take down former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. This time, asking for illicit photos of an affair. Because Karl Rove is a scum bag. The same one continually hired and supported by our President Jesus.


On FISA, Bush is simply ratcheting things up:
Q: "On FISA -- I understand your position, but what I'm unclear about is whether you're doing something to break the deadlock? Do you see yourself engaging with the other side, compromising? Or where do we go from here?"

Bush: "How do you compromise on something like granting liability for a telecommunications company? You can't. If we do not give liability protection to those who are helping us, they won't help us. And if they don't help us, there will be no program. And if there's no program, America is more vulnerable.
The program is critical to keeping us safe, but he will let it lapse rather than expose the Telecoms. You tell me, who is he protecting? It sure as hell isn't me.


And this continual reminder that we are a torture nation:
Torture Watch
Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate, laments the desensitizing of the American people to government-sanctioned abuse of detainees -- but sees a possible antidote.

"Last week, a team of faculty and students from Seton Hall Law School -- the folks who've worked tirelessly for years to document the government's best evidence against the Guantanamo prisoners -- released a new report suggesting that the government has recorded all of the interrogations at Guantanamo. Using documents prepared by the government and obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, the team established that all of the 24,000 interrogations conducted at the camp since 2002 were taped. This jibes with reports from the detainees themselves, who came forward to dispute CIA Director Michael Hayden's claim last winter that the videotaping had been halted in 2002. . . .

"According to the Seton Hall report, many of these interrogations were clearly abusive. One government document reports that tapes would reflect detainee treatment so violent as to 'shake the camera in the interrogation room' and 'cause severe internal injury.' Another report depicts an interrogator 'positioning herself between a detainee and the camera in order to block her actions from view.'

"It's not clear anymore that the Bush administration has a uniform definition of torture. The new view seems to be that torture is what the president says it is, at the moment he must decide whether to torture. But if Americans could see the tapes of water-boarding and abusive interrogations while they still have the ability to be horrified, they may feel differently. The Seton Hall report quotes a former senior CIA official saying: '[I]t's a qualitatively different thing--seeing it versus reading about it.' That qualitative difference seems to have a brief shelf life. . . .

"If there really are thousands of hours of videotaped interrogations at Guantanamo, we should be clamoring to see them now, while they might still be able to horrify us. John Yoo and Steven Bradbury think that an interrogation method is torture only if it produces irrevocable damage. But long after the torture tapes are forgotten, what may be irrevocably damaged is our capacity for outrage."

Web apps that waste time

In the previous post, you see my "signature." Here is how I did it.

McCain and special interests

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall | Oops ...

Rigged Trials at Gitmo

Rigged Trials at Gitmo: "'[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time,' recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, which had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

'I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process,' Davis continued. 'At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals. We've got to have convictions.''"

This is the problem with lobbyists

In defense of the New York Times' takedown of John McCain. - By Jack Shafer - Slate Magazine. Shafer points out that McCain likes to bash the lobbyists as a political issue, but then surrounds himself with them.
Scores of lobbyists were invited to the Willard Hotel to feed his campaign treasury, but, as the paper reports, "McCain himself skipped the event, an act he later called 'cowardly.' " Here, McCain has it three ways: He throws the event, he skips it, he criticizes himself for not attending it. Will the real John McCain please stand up?
Yes, how is this "straight talk?"
And so on. The Times reports that the enemy of special interests, money in politics, earmarks, and lobbyists has staffed his presidential campaign with lobbyists and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office. That particular lobbyist, Mark Buse, the paper reports, came to McCain's staff through the revolving door. Before he was a telecommunication industry lobbyist, Buse was the director of McCain's commerce committee staff.

When critics question McCain's integrity, his allies, such as McCain adviser and lobbyist Charles Black, say the man is beyond reproach. "Unless he gives you special treatment or takes legislative action against his own views, I don't think his personal and social relationships matter," Black told the Times.

This, of course, is hooey. What the lobbyist craves above all is access, and anything that provides that edge is coveted. In many cases, both lobbyists and their clients know the mission to change the mind of a member of Congress is hopeless. Often the point of the exercise is to be seen and heard by the member. If the lobbyist does not carry the day with the member, the client counts on the "relationship" to pay off in the next visit or the visit after that or the visit after that.

Getting inside the "red zone," to steal a metaphor from Washington Post reporter Jeffrey H. Birnbaum's feature about the tourism industry's recent lobbying efforts, is almost as good as a touchdown. Corruption, if that's the right word for it, arrives on the installment plan as a lobbyist moves closer and closer to a member.
Personally, I don't care about the affair or non-affair. As many have noted, it is rather ridiculous for McCain's wife to posture about "he would never do that to our family" after he did exactly that to his first wife. But the real issue is about allowing lobbyists access beyond the pale and how that access distorts the political process.

Cool recipe web app

I am just trying it now, but it allows you to create a shopping list from the recipe you are using, and I think allows you to post your own.

In defense of Michelle Obama

From my good friend Ubub comes this spectacular essay on the difference between love of country and pride in our country. Because, as this writer points out, one is not the same as the other. We love people around us who do things we are not proud of. And at the same time, there is much to be proud of in our country's history. Our Constitution. Our attempt to make humans equal before the law. Our ability to end slavery and segregation. Our efforts around the world helping disaster victims and the poor.
I take no pride in the illegal expulsion of the Cherokees from the eastern United States, in defiance of the Supreme Court and all human decency, though I do feel some pride in those who lined the road as theypassed and gave the Trail of Tears its name with their weeping. Where is the reason for pride in the near extermination of the bison as a means of starving the Lakota into submission? Unlike Michelle Malkin, I feel no pride in the internment of Japanese Americans, nor do I feel proud of the witchhunts of the First World War and the Cold War.

In my own time as a voting adult, I took no pride at our retreat from ending poverty, from our loss of will to protect the environment and the subordination of civil rights to narrow partisan advantage in the 1980s I took no pride in our willingness to coddle and enable the most fiendish blood-soaked dictatorships if they proclaimed themselves anti-Soviet.

In the 90s, I watched in angry, embarrassed shame as our political system ran amok. Where Barbara Jordan had expressed sorrowful indignation in impeaching a president for actively subverting the Constitution, I watched heedless hacks gleefully impeach another president for lying about a blowjob. (And actually, I didn't exactly crack out the red ink for my pride diary the day that lie under oath was admitted either.)

And today, I take no pride in in elections won through fear-mongering, no bid contracts to contributors and a great city still in ruins years after the storm.

And above all, today, here and now, I take no pride Abu Gharib or in an unjust war launched on a tide of fear. I feel no pride in Guantanamo, in the use of torture or in the convening of kangaroo courts so unjust that the chief judge and even the chief prosecutor have rebelled against them. And while I do not flinch from the ugly fact that war is sometimes necessary, unlike far too many on the right, I take no pride in body counts.
Michelle Obama speaks for many of us, I think, in that we want to be proud of the country we love. It is very hard in Bush land. But we want something better. Those who attack Michelle seem to prize the bumper sticker patriotism that is, quite frankly, not only the "last refuge of a scoundrel," but the easiest goddamn thing in the world. Flag waving is easy. Actual patriotism--which includes accountability and integrity--is much harder.

February 21, 2008

McCain's bad week

I really am probably like a lot of people in not knowing what to think about the NYT's story on McCain's relationship with a lobbyist in 2000. Josh Marshall suggests that there must be more to the story than is revealed in the NYT. I don't know. I read the Times piece and it is very speculative. As many have noted, the real issue is not the supposed sexual relationship, but the lobbyist angle. I think we will learn more in the next few days.

If you are interested in it, this New Republic article is a really interesting story about the story.

February 20, 2008

O'Reilly uses the "l" word

Is this racism? Bill O'Reilly responding to a caller who said that Michelle Obama is an angry "militant woman" actually tries to suggest that we need to find the facts. He says that he has some sympathy for Mrs. Obama and Bill Clinton in that every time they turn around, they are challenged by someone who is just waiting for them to say the wrong thing. Then he says this:
"That's wrong. And I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down."
I think it is very possible that O'Reilly just didn't think about how racist that sounds. "Lynch" has become a part of the language in a vague way, kind of the way we use the word "torture." So, as much as I dislike O'Reilly, this strikes me as less racist than some on the web are saying, and in fact compared to what O'Reilly has said in other contexts--like his response to eating in the Harlem restaurant.

But actually what strikes me as more troubling than his casual use of this word is the fact that if Michelle Obama is not blindly proud of her country, she is an enemy. If she thinks we are a "flawed nation" or "bad country" then she should be badmouthed--according to O'Reilly. And his caller's use of the word "militant" to describe Obama is more racism still.

Amazing. Most Americans admit that racism is bad. But if someone was, perhaps, angry about that racism, that would make them militant?

The "cult leader" theme

Balkinization has a post from a few days ago about this idea of the "cult of the personality" that is worth the read. I have also noticed in more than few areas the theme that Obama is some kind of cult leader--that his appeal to crowds is "creepy."

Is that a fair characterization about Obama or is it simply a way to frame him out of the mainstream? Or is it just another way to say that he is an empty suit?

I would suggest that Obama is far from a cult leader and also far from an empty suit. He taught constitutional law for 10 years. And I would suggest that he is far more than a good speaker. Hilzoy has this post from 2006:
But I do follow legislation, at least on some issues, and I have been surprised by how often Senator Obama turns up, sponsoring or co-sponsoring really good legislation on some topic that isn't wildly sexy, but does matter. His bills tend to have the following features: they are good and thoughtful bills that try to solve real problems; they are in general not terribly flashy; and they tend to focus on achieving solutions acceptable to all concerned, not by compromising on principle, but by genuinely trying to craft a solution that everyone can get behind.
Sully has a list of thoughtful policy speeches here. Slate's John Dickerson talks about Obama sitting in a health-care forum and demonstrating a depth of knowledge about the details of the issues.

I am already tired of the right, but the fact that anyone from that side would have criticism of our candidates is ridiculous after the last 8 years. We have had to listen to the dumbest speeches with everything dumbed down to "they hate us for our freedom" or "childrens do learn." Perhaps Obama's appeal is simply the ability to communicate in complete sentences and discuss ideas with some depth? Not only did Bush give us the stupid speeches and butchered English language, but we had people "amening" Bush's speeches and talking about what a Godly man he is. And that nonsense continued after preemptive wars, torture, and violations of the constitution. If you want to talk about cultish figures, Bush was that at one point, and still is for some members on the right.

Now that we have a couple of speakers who can command an audience and actually engage people--we are two steps away from Jonestown Kool Aid. That is frankly ridiculous.

February 19, 2008

Fun with student evals

This is one that I really don't want to send out as proof of my teaching ability.
"learnt alot"
And that was in the section marked "specific strong points of the course."

Holes in the border wall you say?

According to this story in the The Texas Observer, the proposed wall will not be built over sections of country club resort land and a huge ranch owned by a big Bush "Pioneer" fundraiser.

I know politics is corrupt, but isn't the point of the wall to create some kind of barrier? This article suggests that some people will have their homes and land ruined by the fence, while others in the same section will not.


Supreme Court tells Democracy to buzz off

Essentially, any way:
"The Supreme Court has essentially ratified the Bush Administration position that no one has standing to sue for having their electronic communications monitored illegally, i,e., without a warrant, unless they can show that their communications were in fact monitored -- which is classified information that the Bush Administration refuses to divulge.

You can't sue us unless we tell you that we were breaking the law, and we can't tell you that."

Can you say "deluded?"

Evidently, our President was asked about the economy:
"Bush: …and I’m convinced fifty years from now people will look back and say, Thank God there were those that were willing to sacrifice.

Curry: But you’re saying you’re going to have to carry that burden. Some Americans believe that they feel they’re carrying the burden because of this economy.

Bush: Yeah, well…

Curry: They say we’re suffering because of this.

Bush: I don’t agree with that.

Curry: You don’t agree with that? It has nothing do with the economy, the war, the spending on the war?

Bush: I don’t think so. I think actually the spending in the war might help with jobs.

Curry: Oh, yeah?

Bush: Yeah, because we’re buying equipment, and people are working. I think this economy is down because we built too many houses (Curry: hmmmmm) and the economy is adjusting. On the other hand we’re just about to kick out 157 billion dollars to our taxpayers……what would have been had we abandoned Iraq when times were tough and let those soldiers die in vain.."

Not so fast, flu

I really did feel lousy yesterday, but after dinner and more hydration, I felt pretty good late last night. I slept well and feel congested this morning, but not flu-ish. Who knows? Perhaps that obsessive hand-washing really is paying off.

Well, still keeping my finger's crossed.

February 18, 2008

I think it may be catching me

Probably the other way around. But I am dragging around today and not feeling well. May be some light blogging ahead.

White House lies about FISA again

Ok, a couple of quick political notes. The White House continues to lie about FISA even though Mike McConnell admitted that the entire issue was about protecting the telecoms--not protecting us. Here is hoping that the Democrats in the House have more spine than those in the Senate.


Second, the Huck refuses to bow out. Can someone explain to me how staying in the race and making McCain spend more money and do more campaigning is helping make Huckabee a viable VP candidate?

This week's music releases

Couple of interesting new cds this week. I think ubub has more knowledge about the Mountain Goats, but there is a lot of buzz about their new album. Mike Doughty has a new one as well, as does Alison Moorer. I like her ok, but wonder if her husband (Steve Earle) has helped her select a little better material. Any others I should look for? Gary Louris has a solo album. I loved his work with the Jayhawks, so that might be worth a listen. And Paul Thorn? Wow. We saw him play a little stage in Austin and that guy put on a great show. Former professional boxer and great story teller.

Anyway. Off to the yoga. SOF is feeling better this morning though pretty tired. I am (knock on the wood) still feeling ok. Hope you are all doing well this Monday morning.

February 17, 2008

Ruhro, The Protect America Act expired--Please Panic now--Updated

Because that is exactly what your President wants you to do. Glenn Greenwald nails another of the "President's bizarre propaganda dramas" where Bush and his loyal drones in Congress tell us that the expiration of this law makes us unsafe.
All of the right-wing war cheerleaders who will be rendered sleepless as of midnight tonight, petrified that the Muslims who normally lurk menacingly on their corners will now be free to spring attacks since we now live under FISA (1978-8/2007) rather than the PAA (8/2007-2/2008),
That's right. We are so very unsafe because we are now under the previous law and not under this questionable PAA. Does that mean that Bush can't go after terrorists? Not really:
"(Um, no: every order now in place stays in place for a year, and any time the government wants to target someone new, all they have to do is get a warrant from the incredibly compliant FISA court.)
And say that it really did make us unsafe? Greenwald again points to the source of that insecurity:
There is one reason, and one reason only, that the Protect America Act expired. Its name is "George W. Bush." That is who refused to agree to the Democrats' offer to extend the law by 21 days (or longer), then repeatedly threatened to veto any such extension ("US President George W. Bush on Wednesday vowed to veto another temporary extension of a domestic spying law"), then directed the always-obedient House Republicans to vote unanimously against the extension, which they (needless to say) did. This vital-to-our-safety piece of legislation expired only because George W. Bush repeatedly blocked its extension. It's just that simple.
And why? Because of telecom immunity. Corporations who "may have helped" the government spy on its own citizens need a break from trial lawyers. Or something. But clearly, that is far more important than anything else to the Bush man.

But the very best take on this (so far) is Mark Fiore's animated cartoon: The Spies Who Love You! Hilarious and dead on balls accurate.

Updated: Publius at Obsidian Wings has a very interesting take on this recent fight and suggests that while the 2002 war authorization demoralized and harmed the Democrats, it did more harm to the GOP, and that bill is coming due.
"In short, the GOP learned too much from its 2002 victory. Rather than seeing 2002 as a one-time victory based on unique historical circumstances, they’ve come to see it as a universal recipe for electoral success. In their minds, they can win by taking any national security issue on which the Dems are divided and embrace the policy that maximizes executive authority (or more precisely, Bush’s authority – I’m sure they’ll all transform into squawking Hayeks if Obama or Clinton win)."

February 16, 2008

Rainy, dreary, and the flu

Apologies for the troll these last few days. While I always enjoy the initial battle, there is nothing really to learn and I see all my regular commenters disappear. I should learn from those who refuse to feed trolls. Maybe when I mature.

But now I get rid of the troll only to find the flu. Or something. No, not me (knock on wood) but SOF is achey and coughy (technical medical terms). She really is doing well today and just doesn't feel well more than she feels awful. I keep telling her I am a doctor and she should listen to me. She reminds me that I am not the kind of doctor one listens to. She isn't very respectful when she is sick. Accurate, of course, but not terribly respectful.

I kid. She is great and I am making home-made chicken soup for her. Little trick--if you want to make good chicken stock at home (I find the canned stuff dreary and unappetizing), buy a pack or two of wings and throw them in a kettle with some water to simmer for 5 or 6 hours. I usually freeze chicken carcasses too, so I have those to throw in. It is perfect to have simmering on the stove while it is cold and rainy. Nothing like that aroma to make the house smell like home.

But back to the day. I should be doing more than I am. There is work to do, and I don't really want to do that. So, instead, I attended a song-writing clinic at the same place where I take lessons. That was cool. Very cool to listen to how people write songs. Hell, it was just fascinating listening to the music theory and the knowledge from some of these guys.

Coming from a writing background, I am very attuned to how people approach writing text, but it was amazing how many parallels there were for the songwriters. Letting stuff age or simmer to see how it looked with fresh eyes, or even the very real need of turning off that critical part of your brain when you are trying to get some ideas down. Anyway, it was cool. I want to write some songs--mostly to see if I can do it. No guarantee that I will share them with anyone (if I succeed) but I want to see if I can write a good song.


Speaking of music, I am rather curious about this coming year, and a little pessimistic. I really didn't realize just how amazing last year was for music until I started listing the artists and albums that came out last year (I have a 2007 playlist in Itunes that is pretty damn solid). Several that are in that category of me purchasing on Music Tuesday without listening or reading about. Wilco, Ryan Adams, Arcade Fire, New Pornographers, Ted Leo, Steve Earle, and even the Shins. Add a few new ones, or relative newcomers (to me)--The National, Andrew Bird, Feist, Pela, Okkervil River, The Weakerthans, and the Great Lake Swimmers--and you have a hell of a musical year. And that isn't even conclusive. Radiohead's album is great, and I am really enjoying the latest Iron and Wine. And the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant effort is growing on me by the day. After my songwriting session, I could not stop listening to their "Please Read the Letter." You can grab that single here (number 21). Great melody and harmony. And I am going to have to work out the chord progression because it is also stuck in my head.

That was last year. This coming year has me a little concerned. So far, I have downloaded the new Evangelicals album (not bad) and have heard a few tracks from Sia's new effort. Kathleen Edwards has a new album coming out in March that I will purchase immediately. I hear rumors of a new Hold Steady album, but don't know if that is for this year or next. No new Wilco, I am sure. Dammit. Sure, Ryan Adams might put out another album, but his stuff is hit and miss. I hear Alejandro is working on a new album and that would be great. But what else is coming this year? Will 2008 be the down cycle in music?

I demand answers. The political season will suck--of that I am sure. But I expect music to take me away from all that. Perhaps I can get Congress to investigate....

Ok, back to the soup.

February 15, 2008

where have we heard this before?

The Connecticut Post Online - Lieberman says some waterboarding OK: "'We are at war,' Lieberman said. 'I know enough from public statements made by Osama bin Laden and others as well as classified information I see to know the terrorists are actively planning, plotting to attack us again. I want our government to be able to gather information again within both the law and Geneva Convention.'"

And someone said this:
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

20On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Of course, that translation leaves out the common addendum suggested by some of our evangelical friends:
Unless your enemies are really bad. Then be as evil to them as you think they are to you. Verily.

More on the SBC and sex abuse

Again, h/t to the Bootlegger for the in-depth story on Ms. Vasquez battle to get the SBC to address sexual abuse in the convention. Let me say that growing up in the SBC, I never saw or experienced anything like this. I remember, however, conversations with some Baptist friends in the early 90s when the Catholic pedophile scandal was just coming to light. They were rather dismissive of the Catholics and, it seemed to me, suggested that it was all about the Catholic church. I think SOF suggested that it could happen in the Baptists as well, and that was just seen as ridiculous. That really makes this interesting:
"In his book Pedophiles and Priests, Pennsylvania State University professor Philip Jenkins determined that between .2 and 1.7 percent of Catholic priests are pedophiles. Among Protestant clergy—a group in which Southern Baptists are the largest denomination—that figure, according to the book, ranges from 2 to 3 percent.

And in a 1993 survey by the Journal of Pastoral Care, 14 percent of Southern Baptist ministers admitted to engaging in “inappropriate sexual behavior,” and a whopping 70 percent said they knew a minister who had had such contact with a parishioner."
Wow. Very interesting numbers.

And while these kinds of issues are so traumatic and tragic for those abused, the SBC's response here has not been helpful (imo).
Once she finally mustered the courage to share her story, she’s received a myriad of uncaring responses from Baptist leaders. At this point, they’ve become quite predictable: Put it in God’s hands. You will feel better if you let it go. Nothing can be done anyway. It’s in the past.

“It’s not in the past,” Vasquez says. “He’s still out there, and he’s still in the position to hurt someone.”
That kind of magical thinking is not helpful. I am not saying that God cannot assist in the healing, but this "turn it over to God" sounds more like denial than anything else.

Friday morning--still defending torturing

The great "maverick" John McCain denounced torture for months, but then when he had a chance to vote on a Senate bill banning it, he voted against the bill. Some have speculated he did it to get the endorsement of some he loathes (like Mitt Romney). Others have said he can't be in opposition to Bush on this particular issue as it will be too easy to divide and conquer. I say he isn't as principled as he would like to suggest.

Marty Lederman points to the odious testimony given by Steve Bradbury (of OLC justifying torture fame) in a great post entitled Lowering the Bar: Well, At Least We're Not as Barbaric as the Spanish Inquisition (which oddly reminds me of conversations here):
Instead, Bradbury tried to reassure Nadler, and later Representative Franks, that the CIA's waterboarding was not as bad as press reports would have it -- that our variant of the technique is materially distinct from the sort of water torture used by (i) the Spanish Inquisition; (ii) U.S. forces in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th Century; and (iii) the Japanese in World War II. In those earlier historical examples, there was a "forced consumption of a mass amount of water," and occasionally the interrogators would stand or jump on the stomach of the victim, sometimes leading to "blood coming of the victim's mouth." Which apparently crosses the line. Thankfully, we do not do such terrible things.

Some of you will recognize that the technique Bradbury is disclaiming is the one often called the "water cure." The CIA doesn't use that. Instead, the agency apparently is using the less dangerous version of "waterboarding" -- the sort popularized by the French in Algeria, and by the Khmer Rouge.[emphasis mine]


I would like to say that is the last word on torture. I am still amazed that we are in a country now where we "debate" the "morality" of torture. Thanks, George. And a special thanks to the moral majority people who backed his administration and stood by silent even when Bush defended torture. Thanks, guys.

Speaking of some of those people, Wiley Drake is back in the news. As our friend Tony notes, the IRS has announced an investigation into Drake's use of his church letterhead to endorse the Huck. Drake is unhappy, and we expect him to call down locusts or worse on the IRS. I am kind of surprised that he hasn't yet. But then again, I don't think that Mr. Drake is the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Then this morning, Bootlegger sent me this disturbing story about Paige Patterson suggesting that an advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse by clergy were "evil doers" who are "just as reprehensible as sex criminals."

This just reminds me of the problems of institutions and power. Certainly not unique to the right, but perhaps easier to do with people who seem to gravitate to more authoritarian power and hierarchy, Patterson and Drake are good examples of people who have become more enamored with power than serving people.


This morning, we heard the President go back to his playbook:
"American citizens must understand, clearly understand that there's still a threat on the homeland. There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm," Bush said. "We've got to give our professionals the tools they need, to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so we can stop it."

"By blocking this piece of legislation, our country is more in danger of an attack," the president said.
That really could go on his Presidential library as the quote that defines him. He has used a variation of this so many times. There is hope, actually, that democrats are finally refusing to cower in fear every time the President says "do what I say or the terrorists will kill you."
It might have something to do with the fact that the lapsing of the Protect America Act (PAA) won't substantially affect things at all. The old FISA law will kick back into effect. And authorizations granted under the PAA in the last six months to wiretap entire terrorist groups will stick for an entire year. In the words of House intelligence committee Chair Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), "Things will be fine."
Keith Olbermann was in fine form in yesterday's Special Comment
“This Saturday at midnight,” you said today, “legislation authorizing intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor terrorist communications will expire. If Congress does not act by that time, our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning, will be compromised…You said that “the lives of countless Americans depend” on you getting your way.

This is crap.

And you sling it, with an audacity and a speed unrivaled even by the greatest political felons of our history.

Richard Clarke — you might remember him, sir, he was one of the counter-terror pro’s you inherited from President Clinton, before you ran the professionals out of government in favor of your unreality-based reality — Richard Clarke wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.”

And I liked this part because it has always bothered me:
But when you demanded it again during the State of the Union address, you wouldn’t even confirm that they actually did anything for which they deserved to be cleared.

“The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America.” Believed?

Don’t you know?

February 13, 2008

Waterboarding, race and rape

Sully continues on this thread--that our focus on whether waterboarding is torture (of course it is) distracts us from other issues including the very real possibility (and likelihood) that many other interrogations used by our government are also torture.


At a time when we might actually elect a man of color as President, we are reminded that racism is far from dead. A Utah state senator compared a bill he didn't like to a black baby:
Republican Sen. Chris Buttars' comment came during a debate on SB48, aimed at equalizing school construction funds. Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, called it "the ugly baby bill," but, as Buttars stood to vote, went further. "This baby is black. It's a dark, ugly thing," he said.
Worse than that, possibly, was his "apology:"
"I made a comment that I think a lot of people could take racist. I certainly did not mean that in any way but it was wrong and certainly could easily have been taken that way," Buttars said. "I apologize to anyone who took offense. . . . I ask for your forgiveness."
A Democrat said he appreciated the apology, but:
"I have no idea how it would be interpreted not to be offensive."
Yeah, me too.


And let's not forget sexism. H/t to Feministing for this little gem from Kentucky.
Sen. Doug Henry, an 81-year-old Nashville Democrat, explaining to the state Senate his votes surrounding amendments to the abortion resolution: “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse. Today it’s simply, ‘Let’s don’t go forward with this act.’


But somethings are really not about sexism, or at least not what some want it to be. David Shuster got in trouble for asking why the Clinton camp was "pimping out" Chelsea. He shouldn't have said that, but Hilary has made a bigger deal out of it than was merited. I am glad that Shuster is not going to be fired.


And a couple of disconnected posts I found interesting. This one attempts to debunk common free market myths about Canadian healthcare. This one suggests that our view of moderate Islam needs to be corrected. And speaking of the TPMCafe, they have an interesting discussion about E.J. Dionne's new book on religion in politics. Unfortunately, I can't find a good single link that connects us to the discussion. But check here and you will see some.

Wednesday morning

My back is improved, though not where I had hoped. I did some gentle stretching this morning and am moving around at a little better rate. At least I don't have to grab all the furniture as I make my way around the room. Sigh.


Watched the Daily Show last night. And am glad they are getting writers back. Still good, but will be much improved, I am sure. Last night, Jon did a great little bit about Huckabee's claim that he isn't the one who keeps bringing up his faith. The Huck said that on MTV and claimed that he always gets asked the "God question" but that isn't how he is framing his campaign. Jon, of course, followed that with some clips from actual Huckabee ads where he talked about his faith and, of course, the time he suggested changing the constitution to match God's laws. Or the time he said:
"There are only 10 basic laws that we need … the reason that the law is more complicated is because we try to find clever ways around those 10."

Additional reports at CBS News showed Huckabee taking his statement a step farther.

"I hope you know Jesus Christ personally…because the level to which he rules you and governs you, you need less and less of man’s law to tell you how to live and that is what our Founding Fathers understood and we must understand," he preached.
But he is tired of the God question. Right.


Jon interviewed Bill Kristol who despite being wrong about everything still gets interviewed by everyone. How does one get that kind of job? I couldn't stomach watching most of it, but caught the last exchange where Jon asked him where he was on torture. Bill said something like "I am squishy on torture. On one hand, I respect John McCain and if he says it is not right to torture, I see that point. On the other hand, we evidently got a lot of good information out of these people at Gitmo that helped stop another attack." Jon said that "sounded almost human," which of course was a bit of a joke. But I thought it sounded chilling. His discussion of McCain's objections sounded very phony anyway, and the very idea that we are asking people "so, do you support torture" is chilling enough. I sure am thankful that this administration has turned us into a nation where people debate the morality of torture. Thanks, guys.

February 12, 2008

Telecom immunity passes

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall | Surveillance Bill Passes Senate:
"The Democratic-controlled Senate just passed the surveillance bill, 68-29.

As we have mentioned through the day and covered extensively at TPMmuckraker, most of the civil-liberties-friendly amendments to the bill failed. Retroactive immunity for telecoms survived."
Russ Feingold is not happy.


In other news, the administration is going to try 6 suspected terrorists at Gitmo and evidently if convicted they could be executed and buried there. Some suspect mostly to keep their cases away from federal courts. Because, you see, we have the best justice system in the world. Our administration simply doesn't believe in it. So much so that they evidently sent in a second team after some of the 6 were tortured to give the facade of acceptable evidence. They are called the "Clean Team." They clean up bad interrogations.

And we are exporting this democracy to others? Don't places like Syria already do this shit?

My back still hurts, but this hurts even more--updated again

Glenn Greenwald details just how bad our Democratic led Senate has acted today. As he notes:
"The Senate today -- led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 (and probably more) Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus -- will vote to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans, and will also provide full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration's years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans."
What is more, they tried to pass an amendment that would force Bush to at least limit his warrantless wiretapping to through this bill. Democrats couldn't muster the 60 votes necessary to even get that. The Dems split on most votes, but the Republicans voted lock-step every time.

I am forcing myself to get up and around to try to get the muscle spasms so I pulled out the Senate phone book and made few calls--telling the staffers very politely, that I was a concerned Democrat from a very red state and simply wanted to know why Democrats worked so hard to get the majority if they were going to give bush exactly what he wanted already. Most of the Dems who crossed over to vote with the automaton Republicans didn't have anything to say. "I haven't spoken with the Senator, I don't know." But two told me that they thought their Senator's point was that the telcoms had acted in good faith and so should not be prosecuted. I asked (again, politely) "how would the senator know this?" After all, the most galling thing about this is that the President, Vice President and assorted lobotomized lemming Republicans won't even say what the telecoms did. Bush and Cheney talk about what they "might" have done to protect our country.

That's justice for a certain few in America right now. Say you authorized waterboarding? No investigation because you thought you were doing something legal. A telecom opening up conversations, billing records, emails, text messages, (who knows?) for this rogue President? No problem and we won't even inquire further. I wonder if any of us would get that kind of consideration. For anything.

I called several and made their staffers say they would pass on my objections to their Senator. I don't know if that will really happen, and know even less if it makes any difference. I suspect those telecoms are pumping in large buckets of cash to these political coffers. All I could offer was outrage.

But following Glenn Greenwald's suggestion, I signed an online petition to urge the House to not fold like a rented suit as did our Senate Democrats. Please follow suit, even if it is an empty gesture.

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall | If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: "TPM Reader RL throws in the towel:

I actually like the idea of a unitary executive, because it implies that there could be a unitary citizen. I have begun to consider myself a unitary citizen. I am allowed (by virtue of the definition of a unitary executive) to pick and choose the laws I would like to follow, kind of Thoreau like.
I also like the idea of retroactive immunity paired with the unitary citizen. I could decide not to follow a stupid law and then forgive myself afterwards.

But it begins to sound like (horrors) anarchy. Maybe that's what we now have as a form of government: unitary anarchy. I like it. It works for me!"

Update 2:
Froomkin is equally unimpressed with the logic protecting telecoms:
"Here's a White House ' Fact Sheet' on telecom immunity: 'Companies should not be held responsible for verifying the government's determination that requested assistance was necessary and lawful -- and such an impossible requirement would hurt our ability to keep the Nation safe.'

But isn't that the very definition of a police state: that companies should do whatever the government asks, even if they know it's illegal?"

Scalia really does love the 24

Wow, and he is on the Supreme Court.

Damn hip flexors

Or something.

Yesterday was a bit of a stressful day. Nothing terrible, mind you, but stressful nonetheless. I was going to blog last night about music and how much better last year's albums seem to what I am anticipating this year.

Then my back seized up. Actually, they are back spasms and I haven't had them this bad for quite a while. Somewhere in the connection between the lumbar region and how it connects to my right hip is not happy. Furious, actually.

Ok. That is it for now. Hopefully, I will have more later. When I can move better.

February 11, 2008

Bush and taxes

Crooks and Liars points to one of the more ridiculous arguments coming out of this administration: We can't raise taxes on the rich because they will simply not pay them.
If they’re going to say, oh, we’re only going to tax the rich people, but most people in America understand that the rich people hire good accountants and figure out how not to necessarily pay all the taxes and the middle class gets stuck.

Really? That is your argument for not taxing the rich?


Huckabee as VP candidate?

(H/T Mary) A Kos diarist responds:
"In the middle of a hugely unpopular war, take the most aggressively pro-war candidate and make him Commander in Chief. Then, what the hell -- add a heavy dose of hardcore, far-right evangelical Christian rhetoric to the mix. 'Bombs for Jesus': doesn't that sound like the bestest idea ever? The whole problem with Bush, you see, was the annoying subtlety with which he pursued his highly complex and well-thought-out positions. Can't we just distill that down to even more explicit support for unending 'preemptive' military action, and explicit declarations of Jesus-based manifest destiny?"

February 10, 2008

Just another Reason to vote for Obama

Our less-than-smart leader spoke out on Barack Obama this morning on Fox (of course) where he said that Obama would attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmadinejad.
Obama's campaign responded this morning. 'Of course President Bush would attack the one candidate in this race who opposed his disastrous war in Iraq from the start. But Barack Obama doesn't need any foreign policy advice from the architect of the worst foreign policy decision in a generation,' said spokesman Bill Burton."

Elsewhere in the interview, he defends torture.
BUSH: First of all, whatever we have done, was legal. And whatever decision I will make, will be reviewed by the Justice Department to determine whether or not the legality is is there. And the reason why…there’s a difference between what happened in the past and today is there’s new law. And um, and so to answer your question, whatever we will do will be legal. The American people have got to know that what we did in the past gained information that prevented an attack and for those who criticize what we did in the past, I ask them which attack would they rather have not permitted…stopped? Which attack on America would they have said, you know, well, maybe that wasn’t all that important? That we stopped those attacks. I’ll do what’s necessary to protect America within the law. That’s what you gotta understand. And um, [nods head]
It wasn't torture then because it wasn't illegal. Now there is a law in place, but if you want it followed you have to choose which attacks you don't want to stop.

Someone said the other day that Bush is smarter than he appears. He would have to be, wouldn't he?

Cheney speaks

The Swamp: Dick Cheney: "Damn right" we'd do it all again: "Cheney rigorously defended the interrogation of detainees in the war on terror, and insisted that it has been lawful.

“The United States is a country that takes human rights seriously… We do not torture,’’ he said. “America is a fair and a decent country… The war on terror is, after all, more than a war of arms and a test of will. It is a war of ideals.’’"
What can you say?

February 9, 2008

Good god

With Mitt Romney suggesting that voting for a Democrat is the same as voting for the terrorists to win, Mike Huckabee comparing himself to Jesus, David and whatever other Biblical figure he thinks will make the faithful vote for him, and this McCain "joke" about Chelsea Clinton in 1998, I am beginning to wonder if the far right of the GOP isn't completely hateful and deluded. The fact that they are largely Christian just makes it sadder. As this blogger notes, when David Shuster said something stupid about Chelsea Clinton being "pimped out" by her mother's campaign, he was suspended. But the man who said called her ugly in a hateful joke, is poised to be the next President of the US. Great.

Jon Stewart to Mitt Romney: F You!

Thanks to Anglican for alerting me to this gem.

February 8, 2008

One more CPAC and GOP goodie

Sadly, No! -- The Beast is Red, Chapter 9: Brought Me To Darkness, But Not Into Light:
"Rachel Marsden, all-around conservative gadfly, is giving out free t-shirts to those who can answer questions about Ronald Reagan. The t-shirts, which Rachel had made herself, read, “C.I.A. CENTER FOR AQUATIC EXCELLENCE - WATERBOARDING TEAM”. The crowd just came apart when they saw this — biggest laugh of the convention so far. Torture is hilarious!"
Just remember that the next time a Republican lectures you on moral values. They think waterboarding and torture are fine as long as we do it. That is the level of their morality--"do unto others, period and make the shit legal."

Rant of the week

And it isn't mine. Sadly, No! covers Bush's CPAC speech (obscenity warning), and this is just one of the great lines:
"He’s stupid in the truest sense of the word: willfully ignorant and determined to surround himself with people who keep him that way, not only resistant to different ideas but actively hostile towards them. He is neurologically incapable of thinking ahead and he consigns the consequences of his actions to the status of dreams. And he forced his country into a pointless, unnecessary, unconscionably wasteful war that will poison every aspect of American life for generations."

Durbin stands up to Mukasey

In a very interesting response to the AG's refusal to investigate waterboarding because “no one who relied in good faith on the Department’s past advice should be subject to criminal investigation for actions taken in reliance on that advice.” Durbin points out the flaw in that response:
"However, I did not request nor suggest that those who relied on the Justice Department’s advice should be investigated. Rather, as I said in my letter, “a Justice Department investigation should explore whether waterboarding was authorized and whether those who authorized it violated the law”"
Which, not to blow my own horn, was my point when I first posted on this. I agree that we should not hang out someone to dry who did their job (although that whole "following orders" thing sounds a bit hollow too), but certainly we should investigate how this process was legalized.

Durbin then slams the AG pretty well. He points out the that as a nominee, Mukasey promised to review the "OLC opinions regarding surveillance, interrogation techniques, and detention standards"--a promise that he had not fulfilled. But then Mukasey told the committee that the torture memo writer (Steven Bradbury) had served the OLC as an exceptional lawyer. How did Mukasey know, asked Durbin, if he hadn't reviewed the OLC decisions? Good point. Reminds me of Mukasey's predecessor who assured us that no lawyers were fired for improper reasons. Why were they fired? He had no idea. But nothing improper.

In this case, Bradbury wrote an opinion:
on so-called “combined effects,” which authorized the CIA to use multiple abusive interrogation techniques in combination. According to The New York Times, then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved this opinion over the objections of then Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who said the Justice Department would be “ashamed” if the memo became public.
That was wrong, of course, because what Comey didn't realize was that the moment Gonzales took the AG position, he did away with the ability to feel shame.

Friday morning sigh

So much for the post-SOTU bounce as Bush dropped back to 30% approval. Who are these 30%, though?

And what are they approving? Good question. Perhaps it is his unbelievable sense of denial. You know. As when Bush compares himself to Lincoln. Or when he told the CPAC meeting yesterday that Cheney was the best VP in American History. Those 30 percenters must be the only ones who don't think that Cheney is some kind of satanic figure. Sadly, No has a pretty funny romp through the CPAC gathering complete with what appears to be the record for American flags at the front of the room. Because Samuel Johnson was wrong when he said that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

And just what are these soundrels up to? AG Mukasey went back to the hill and revealed a few little tidbits. He won't investigate whether the waterboarding that the WH now proudly admits was a crime, or whether the warrantless wiretapping was illegal. Why? Because both programs were signed off by the Justice Department, so that makes them legal.

Huh? As Obsidian Wings notes, future admins should take note. If you can put an idiot in Justice--or multiple idiots--they can save you a lot of trouble. Whatever they say goes, and since they work in the same department that would investigate problems in the White House, you are done. Mukasey dodged it by suggesting that then the people who took the actions assuming they were legal would now be in jeopardy. But what about investigating to find out if the program was illegal? What about simply investigating to find out if the process worked? What about finding out if the people who said it was legal had even thought about it? Too much for this White House and what you get is something approaching tyranny.
And no, I don't think I'm overreacting. When the Executive asserts the right to disregard the will of Congress without any possibility of judicial review, that is tyranny.

Speaking of a lack of oversight:
Michael Mukasey said today that if Congress passed contempt citations against current and former White House officials based on their refusal to respond to subpoenas, the Justice Department would not enforce them, as federal law instructs.

Enforcing the contempt citation is "not permitted when the president directs a direct adviser of his, somebody who directly advises him, not to appear or when he directs any member of the executive not to produce document."
If the President says it is ok, that is it. Just file this away for a potential Democratic White House. That big file of stuff that right wingers would never tolerate from a Clinton but think is "reasonable" from this guy.

And speaking of reasonable. Or unreasonable. Harry Reid says that Bush is demanding that the Senate confirm one guy--and he won't compromise. Shock. Reid said he called Josh Bolton and offered to compromise and push through a lot of backlog appointments.
He called me back and he said, “Well, what we want is to have a recess appointment of Steven Bradbury.” I said, “Josh, I don’t know who he is. Let me check.” I checked with Chairman Leahy, I checked with Senator Durbin, who’s a member of that committee, I checked with Senator Schumer, who’s on that committee. And they and others said, “You got to be kidding.” This is a man who’s written memos approving torture, and that’s only the beginning. Senator Durbin, if he has time today, will lay that out in more detail.

So I called Josh back and I said, “Josh, that man will never get approved, he just has not credibility.” He said, “We’ll look with the President.” He called me back and said, “It’s Bradbury or nobody.” I said, “You mean you’re willing to not allow 84 of your people get approved because of this guy?” He said, “Yeah, that’s what the President wants.”

What a great leader. And 30% of the country thinks that. Well, at least we have a few sane Republicans left. Let's hope for more of him and fewer CPAC attendees.


February 7, 2008


Craig Ferguson On Fox News: "Yelling Doesn't Make Stuff True!" - Media on The Huffington Post

A reminder

Found this exchange looking for how the religious right responded to torture. Richard Land did denounce torture, though he waffled a bit in his take on how to treat those who fight without uniform. But I don't think I have ever seen him publicly criticize Bush on this issue. Has anyone?

But my favorite exchange was when Randall Balmer did a little history lesson reminder on the origins of the Religious Right:
"C'mon, Richard, you're a better historian than that. The Religious Right did not coalesce as a political movement in response to the 1973 Roe decision. The catalyst was a lower-court decision, Green v. Connally, which upheld the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service to rescind the tax-exempt status of institutions that engaged in racial discrimination. Bob Jones University of South Carolina stood in the crosshairs of that decision, and that is what motivated evangelical leaders to become politically active; abortion was cobbled into the political agenda in the late 1970s, in preparation for the 1980 presidential campaign, and not in direct response to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Despite the labored efforts of the leaders of the Religious Right to style themselves as the 'new abolitionists' in order to draw a moral parallel with the 19th-century evangelical opponents of slavery, the Religious Right organized as a political movement effectively to defend racial segregation."

I really start to hate the GOP

When they do shit like this. NPR: Romney Leaves Presidential Race:
"'If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,' Romney said, saying that a Democratic president would leave Iraq too soon and this would be like a surrender to terror."
If Democrats win, we will all die. The Republicans have run with this to the bank for so long, but it is so offensive and horrible. Here is hoping that McCain won't be such an ass about things.

And let's remember just how well this party has governed. After years of Bush swearing we don't torture, the White House now admits we do. Sort of. Actually, they admitted to waterboarding but want to keep it as an option if authorized by the Prez himself. Which suggests that Bushy was the guy who said "ok" to it before. But here is the kicker. They say it isn't torture. Even though waterboarding is widely considered to be torture, they say no. And why isn't it torture? Because the Administration's pet lawyers said it was legal, so therefor they know it can't be torture, because we don't break the law.

These people are horrible. But even more than that, we still hear a deafening silence from the right about this practice (except McCain). Religious conservatives are still silent. On torture. On the fact that their President Jesus committed war crimes. Silent.