News Roundup for 6/30/09

Obama dancing with Ellen DeGeneres
Obama, shown destroying civilization by dancing with a lesbian

-Headline of the day-
"Oklahoma Legislature to Consider Proclamation Linking the Economic Crisis to Obama's Immoral Policies."

Before we get started here, let me make two points -- one, the economy crashed while Bush was driving and, two, immorality leads to decadence which in turns leads to lavish lifestyles. In other words, immoral people spend the big bucks. If the US were really driven into the moral ditch by Barack Obama, we'd be blowing money on beer and strippers like nobody's business -- there wouldn't be a recession. Money would be flying all over the place.

Still Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern, previously known for a horrifically offensive anti-gay rant, has decided to forget about all that "economics" mumbo-jumbo and blame the recession on Obama, who she says promotes "abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery" Wait, divorce is a form of debauchery? You'd think it would be more fun then...

Anyway, the president "is forsaking the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built" by refusing "to uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in giving recognition to our National Day of Prayer." Obama "disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior" by issuing a proclamation recognizing Gay Pride Month. As a result, "our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis."

See, it's like the biblical plagues that punished Egypt. You had your locusts, then your hail turning to fire, then your Nile turning to blood, then your Wall Street douchebags with their credit default swaps and their easy mortgages. You remember that, right?

If we could only securitize crazy. Wingnuts seem to have a limitless supply. We'd just be rolling in the dough. (Jonathan Turley)

-Drudge makes you stupid-
And here's how:

Screengrab of headline reading 'BEWARE THE OBAMA EVIL EYE' with photos


The actual text of the story:

As the summer begins, White House watchers have spotted a new look by President Obama: The Evil Eye!

Staffers have joked about the menacing glance, which comes when the president meets with world leaders who are not aligned with his progressive view.

White House photographers have captured the "evil eye" in recent weeks, during sessions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Colombia's Alvaro Uribev.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi got hit with the commander's malocchio last week in the Oval office.

And at least one White House reporter has been on the receiving end of the daggers during a press conference.


"Developing?" Good to know it's not done yet -- that explains why it's so half-baked. Now you know why I don't waste my time with the Drudge Report. (Drudge Report, via The Awl)

-Bonus HotD-
"Close McCain friend allegedly called Palin 'Little Shop of Horrors'."

A new piece in Vanity Fair takes on the myth that Sarah Palin is a wonderful person. OK, it's not so much a "myth" as it is something only wingnuts believe. In it, she's shown as exactly what she seems to be -- a political lightweight with a two-bit mind.

"By all accounts, Palin was either unwilling, or simply unable, to prepare," we're told. "In the run-up to the Couric interview, Palin had become preoccupied with a far more parochial concern: answering a humdrum written questionnaire from her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman..." Because some backwater newspaper maybe three people read is much more important than a nationally televised interview.

"As Palin has piled misstep on top of misstep, the senior members of McCain’s campaign team have undergone a painful odyssey of their own," the article tells us. "In recent rounds of long conversations, most made it clear that they suffer a kind of survivor's guilt: they can't quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be."

So who do the wingnuts like as a 2012 Republican presidential nominee? That Little Shop of Horrors.

Here's hoping they get their wish. (Raw Story)

Can We Get Some News Here?

celebrants in Iraq
We passed a milestone either today or yesterday, depending on how you choose to look at it. June 30 is the date that US forces pull out of all the major cities in Iraq and turn over security to the Iraqi military. June 30 comes sooner to Iraq than it does here, so -- by the time you read this anyway -- that's already done. Still, today is the date that will be remembered as an Iraqi national holiday.

[BBC News:]

A public holiday - National Sovereignty Day - has been declared, and the capital, Baghdad, threw a giant party to mark the eve of the changeover.

Hours before the Monday night deadline, four US soldiers were killed in combat.

US-led combat operations are due to end by September 2010, with all troops gone from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Of course, this didn't get a lot of coverage here, the news having been pretty much canceled in honor of the death of Michael Jackson. Over 4,000 Americans have lost their lives to bring Iraq to this point and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, but one man's death -- even if we was a reclusive, Howard Hughes type who was previously the object of ridicule -- is much more important than all of them. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, you don't matter and neither do all those people who lost their lives way-the-hell-and-gone over in Iraq. The oddest thing here is that Michael Jackson didn't really matter much before he died -- the fact is that he was sort of a has-been.

I see I'm in danger of writing what's becoming the worst obit ever. This post isn't about Michael Jackson, but about the media and Iraq. We should be all about Iraq today, but the mainstream media has the attention-span of a butterfly. Better yet, a moth. That moth is drawn toward the sensational as if it were a flame and all our attention goes there with it. If something sensational happens and something substantial happens, off we go to wonder at the sensationalism. The substantial -- the work of years and billions of dollars and supertankers worth of blood -- can just wait.

In addition to the time, the money, and the blood, there were also lies. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands. Worse than the lies was the plain stupidity. For example, if you've read my posts long enough, you know I wonder how it is that former Weekly Standard editor and founding neocon William Kristol hasn't been kicked out of the pundit class. How is it possible that someone who's just plain wrong so consistently can possibly be taken seriously anymore? Here's a blast from the past, courtesy of Media Matters for America:

There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular.
-Bill Kristol to NPR's Terry Gross, 4/1/03

Pffft! Those silly fools who believed that Sunni and Shia would start their own civil war! Let's all laugh at them!

And, of course, Kristol was 100% wrong -- as he almost always is. You're never going to go broke betting against his predictions. Ironically, you'll probably never make as much money as Kristol does for this crap. In today's media, pulling stuff like this out of your butt is a growth industry. And it was BS like this, either the result of stupidity or dishonesty, that got us into Iraq and kept us there for so long.

When George W. Bush gave his speech giving Saddam Hussein an ultimatum -- give up power or there will be war -- in March, 2003, he told us "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." He said he had proof of the existence of something that wasn't there. This can only be a lie. I could go back and show you how he knew this wasn't true, but that's not necessary. If you say you have proof of something that later turns out to be untrue, you're not telling the truth. You aren't mistaken, because this is the English language and "proof" means something definite. It means you know something for a fact. If Bush had said he had "strong suspicions" or that he "was nearly certain," that would've been one thing, but "proof" means he was saying he knew they were there. They weren't. Simple logic dictates that he was lying. There is no other possible conclusion.

But lost in all that ridiculous "a third world dictator's going to kill us all" talk was an address directly to "all Iraqi military and civilian personnel" -- specifically, "do not destroy oil wells." This blazing red flag set off few media BS sensors, although it set off plenty of other people's. As it does every time Bill Kristol is allowed to express his dumbass certitude on a talking head show, the media completely failed us then. As always, TV news reported the "facts" -- i.e., what people said, who said it, what they said it about, etc. -- but never bothered to determine whether those "facts" were based on any truth. The meaning of the term "stenographers to power" was never so well demonstrated; things were said, those things were written down and distributed, and checking to see if any of it was true wasn't the business of the media. It was all factual, in that it was actually said by the people they said said it, but none of it was true. TV news became a big pipe from the White House, the Pentagon, and the Republican party headquarters directly into your living room -- with almost no filters along the way.

And it went on like that for years and years. If scandals broke out and lies were exposed, it was the print media that broke those stories. Cable news doesn't do that. They take polls. They cover press conferences. They repeat press releases and studies put out by astroturf organizations. They don't do that kind of journalism.

And it goes on like that still today. The US is taking a major step in leaving Iraq, but the big news is that someone who was a big star in the '80s has died. Remember Anna Nicole Smith? Remember how long that dragged out and sucked up all the cable news oxygen? That was nothing.

And now Iraq is nothing. Today's war is yesterday's news.


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News Roundup for 6/29/09

Supreme Court group photo
Gaveled Sonia Sotomayor to death earlier today

-Headline of the day-

Eek! Racist wise Latina Sonia Sotomayor got smacked down by the entire Supreme Court when they overturned one of her decisions. Proof positive that she's a bad judge. In overturning the Ricci decision -- in which white firefighter geniuses were discriminated against in favor of illiterate hobos from inferior races -- SCOTUS also ruled that Sotomayor should be shot out of a cannon back to Mexico or Puerto Rico or Cuba or wherever-the-hell she's from.

"Frank Ricci finally got his day in court, despite the judging of Sonia Sotomayor, which all nine Justices of US Supreme Court have now confirmed was in error..." writes Wendy E. Long for the totally nonpartisan (but entirely Republican) Judicial Confirmation Network. "What Judge Sotomayor did in Ricci was the equivalent of a pilot error resulting in a bad plane crash. And now the pilot is being offered to fly Air Force One."

So don't let Sonia near a 747, because she clearly has no idea what she's doing and would totally crash it. You want to chase around on a tropical island fighting smoke-monsters like the people on Lost? Because I don't.

Of course, there's a problem with JCN's press release here -- it's all complete horseshit. The decision was a 5-4 decision, not a unanimous one, with Justice Ginsburg writing in the dissent that the majority's opinion did "untold damage" to the work of the civil rights movement. She's not really a fan. You've got to assume that the three other judges who signed on to her decision aren't either.

Add to that the fact that, as an appeals court judge, Sotomayor and the rest of the panel (that's right, she wasn't the only judge to reach the same conclusion) were bound by precedent. The ruling they handed down had to be handed down. And it was, unanimously. It was the Supreme Court that ignored precedent and set a new standard for evidence of discrimination that isn't in the statute. Normally, you'd call that "judicial activism," but the five in the majority are conservative judges, so that's just silly. Only liberal judges are activist judges -- it's in the Bible or something.

So, Wendy Long is a ridiculous bullshit artist. She's also not very smart. "Sotomayer" is her spelling, not mine. And in a blogpost for the National Review, she spells Ginsburg's name "Ginsberg." But it's not like you have to know stuff to be an expert or anything.

Still, let's not let little things like the truth or knowledge get in the way of proving that Sonia Sotomayor is a terrible, terrible judge. (Judicial Confirmation Network, via Talking Points Memo)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, want to stay in power -- even if your people want you out? Then you should try...

Click for animation

RIP, Billy Mays. Those picture hooks may have sucked, but he never sold anything this bad. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"More than 200 people show up for bring-your-gun-to-church day."

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

No word on whether there were any survivors. (Think Progress)

How Not to be Popular

Republicans took a little bit of a hit this weekend as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that a solid majority support the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. In total, 62% want to see her on the court, with most describing her judicial thinking "about right." It's when you get into the details that you see how far outside the mainstream Republicans are on this issue.

...Nearly eight in 10 Democrats and about two-thirds of independents said they want the Senate to confirm Sotomayor, but that drops to 36 percent of Republicans. Overall, most Republicans deem the judge a "more liberal" nominee than they would have liked.

Worse, many Republicans see her race as a handicap. "Half of Republican men and 59 percent of conservative Republicans said [race plays] a role in her decision making, with most of those who do saying that that is a bad thing," the report tells us. GOP messaging is clearly working with the base, but that's not necessarily a good thing for them; the message may be aimed at that conservative core, but that doesn't mean they're the only ones hearing it. We're all being asked to be skeptical of the motives of people who aren't white, because everyone knows it's only white people who don't think about race. White guys like me -- or so the reasoning seems to go -- don't really have a race. We're all the default.

That message may work for the base who -- let's face it -- are the dead-enders and fools at this point. But everyone else sees it as ugly. In constantly shooting for the dead center of what remains of the reliably Republican voting public, they wind up tailoring their messages for cranks. Republicans argue that they have to return to the party's "core values," but those core values don't seem to be in agreement with the values of most Americans. As a result, they reinforce their own unpopularity by sticking with dying philosophies. That is, when they're consistent, anyway.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll isn't the only one to show Republicans way off on their own tangent, far away from the beliefs of the average voter. In the health care debate, 72% favor a public option -- a government run health insurance program like Medicare for everyone -- and most would pay more in taxes for it. The Republican line here is that a public option is the worst thing in the world and would turn the country into a Marxist state, while raising your taxes. How's it going to pan out come election time when your message is that the vast majority of voters are terrible commies? "You all suck!" isn't the best campaign slogan in the world.

Even the GOP's slim loss on the climate bill will probably hurt them. An earlier Washington Post/ABC News poll found that three-quarters of respondents favored regulating greenhouse gases and that most favored a system of cap-and-trade. Again, this is the opposite of the Republican line on this issue.

How about abortion? People who support abortion are evil, right? That's got to resonate with voters -- people hate evil. A CBS News/New York Times poll earlier this month showed that only 21% believe abortion should be illegal and 62% believe that the Supreme Court decision which struck down abortion bans nationwide -- Roe v. Wade -- was a "good thing." So much for that then...

Gay rights? 63% favor either legal same-sex marriage or civil unions. Only 32% favor "no legal recognition."

The question isn't whether these stands will hurt them. That's already been answered. The question is how long it'll be before they're seen as crazy people by most voters. When your default stance is always against popular opinion, it has to happen sooner or later. Whatever issue is near and dear to your heart, it seems that Republicans will eventually come down on the wrong side of it.

And even when they don't, it's the result of inconsistency. Everyone's behind the Iranian people right now and none more so than the right. But the people who once told you that Islam was evil and that we had to bomb Tehran into glass now holler "Allahu Akbar!" (Allah is great) and turn their twitter avatars green. I'm sorry, didn't you guys want to kill 'em all because they're evil just about a minute ago? I'm not criticizing their current stand -- you should always let people do the right thing, even for the wrong reason. I'm just saying the two stands, past and present, are completely contradictory. You can't say that Republicans stand on principle when their principles are so protean. Reactionaries don't have core principles, they just follow their jerking knees.

And, on the whole, those knees seem to jerk away from popular opinion. Even their current stance on Iran stems from a reactionary argument that Obama's not doing enough. If the president's first response was the exact opposite of what it was, they would've complained about that too and there wouldn't be any right wing blogs turning green. In the end, all Republicans really seem to believe with any consistency at all is that Democrats are always wrong.

If the GOP wants to return to relevance, they're going to have to wake up and take a look around them. This "party of no" thing isn't really working out so well. They're turning themselves into ballot box poison by opposing almost everything that's popular with voters.


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News Roundup for 6/26/09

Artist's depiction of Ark
Not nearly as important as Michael Jackson

-Headline of the day-
"'Ark of the Covenant' about to be unveiled?"

Noted homosexual Joseph Farah's always credulous WorldNetDaily announced yesterday with jubilation that the ark containing the tablets on which God carved the Ten Commandments for Charlton Heston will be revealed. Huzzah, hosanna, and hallelujah!

According to the report, "The patriarch of the Orthodox Church of says he will announce to the world Friday the unveiling of the Ark of the Covenant, perhaps the world's most prized archaeological and spiritual artifact, which he says has been hidden away in a church in his country for millennia..."

"The idea that the Ark is presently in Ethiopia is a well-documented, albeit disputed, tradition dating back to at least 642 B.C.," we're told. "The tradition says it was moved to Elephantine Island in Egypt, then to Tana Kirkos Island in Ethiopia and finally to its present site at St. Mary's of Zion Church in Axum." See? It's all historical and everything.

So, today's Friday... The report -- from yesterday -- says the "announcement is expected to be made at 2 pm Italian time from the Hotel Aldrovandi in Rome." Let's see, that's the Central European Time Zone... 2 pm...

Hell, that was about 7 in the morning US Central Time... Hey, where's the freakin' Ark? I've got Nazis to melt.

You know what? I'll bet the news was overshadowed by that guy dying. You know, the one from the early '70s cartoon.

Not even Yahweh can get the attention of the cable news networks today... (WorldNetDaily, via Right Wing Watch)

-Going out with a bang-
Today marks another, much less noticed, end. We get one final Dan Froomkin column from the Washington Post's online presence. "What a stupid move by [editorial page editor] Fred Hiatt," writes Joe Sudbay at AMERICAblog. Amen. Maybe one reason Dan was fired was because he didn't suck enough, as the following paragraph from that final post shows:

When I look back on the Bush years, I think of the lies. There were so many. Lies about the war and lies to cover up the lies about the war. Lies about torture and surveillance. Lies about Valerie Plame. Vice President Dick Cheney's lies, criminally prosecutable but for his chief of staff Scooter Libby's lies. I also think about the extraordinary and fundamentally cancerous expansion of executive power that led to violations of our laws and our principles.

"How did the media cover it all?" he asks. "Not well. Reading pretty much everything that was written about Bush on a daily basis, as I did, one could certainly see the major themes emerging. But by and large, mainstream-media journalism missed the real Bush story for way too long... Hopefully, the next time the nation faces a grave national security crisis, we will listen to the people who were right, not the people who were wrong, and heed those who reported the truth, not those who served as stenographers to liars."

Can't have thorough writers showing how lazy and gullible everyone else is, so out the door you go, Dan Froomkin. Can't set that bar so high.

"Basically, I think the Post sucks," writes Sudbay. If it didn't before, it sure does now. (Washington Post)

-[Insanely hyperbolic] Quote of the day-
"I rise in opposition to this rule and to the underlying legislation. I'm just not sure to which I'm more opposed. Americans are watching as from Iran to North Korea, the forces of darkness are attempting to silence the forces of democracy and freedom. The irony is on this day, the Democratic process and the nation's economic freedom are under threat not by some rogue state, but in this very chamber in which we stand. Good people may disagree on the impact or the merits of this bill. But no one can disagree with the fact that the speaker and her rules committee have silenced the opposition."
-Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, on the debate on climate legislation.

To prove him right, Pelosi had the Sergeant at Arms beat him stupid with a tire iron. The House of Representatives is just like Iran and S. Korea.

Let's face it, we've all faced this level of brutal oppression in our own lives. I was at a Chinese restaurant once and got sweet and sour chicken, when I ordered sweet and sour pork. It was Tiananmen Square all over again.

Courage, Phil Gingrey. Know the world is watching. (Think Progress)


The Party of Human Perfection

"Won't someone please think of the children!" Helen Lovejoy cried, as the residents of Springfield filled the streets chanting, "We're here! We're Queer! We don't want anymore bears!"

If you have no idea what I'm referring to, then you either don't get your recommended daily allowance of TV or you're not from one of the bazillion countries where The Simpsons is in syndication.

I was reminded of the pastor's wife when I read a post by Michelle Malkin, where she weeps for the dead Sanford children in their little Dickensian coffins, struck stone cold dead by the behavior of their father.

I don’t find anything funny about the Sanford affair. It’s the mom in me thinking about four handsome boys on Father’s Day weekend abandoned by their stupid, selfish father, who was busy tanning with his mistress in Argentina. Heart-breaking. Yes. Nauseating. Yes. Maddening. Yes. Funny? No.

Cruel derision crude humor are to be expected of the Left.

She then goes on to prove that her outrage is non-partisan by attacking government-hating right wing loon Grover Norquist for telling a joke -- "It does indicate that men who oppose federal spending at the local level are irresistible to women." At least, it's a joke in theory.

But Grover Norquist you horrible, horrible man! Noted comedic genius Shelly Malkin has declared this whole situation not funny. Think of the children. Weep. If you have a scourge for self-flagellation, you might give that a shot. Think of the four handsome boys, think of the children.

Shelly wrote a previous post where she declared S. Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who admitted to an affair with a Argentine woman, a "bastard." In that post, she also begs us to think of the children -- although she manages to get a dig in at Michelle Obama. I guess we shouldn't think of her children.

Rush Limbaugh has a different reaction. He doesn't want us to think of anyone's children, he wants us to think about Barack Obama. Mostly because this is all the president's fault.

"This is almost like, 'I don't give a damn, the country's going to Hell in a handbasket, I just want out of here,'" Limbaugh said on his show yesterday. "He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn't want any part of it. He lost the battle. He said, 'What the Hell. I mean, I'm -- the federal government's taking over -- what the Hell, I want to enjoy life.'"

"The point is," he added, "there are a lot of people whose spirit is just -- they're fed up, saying to Hell with it, I don't even want to fight this anymore, I just want to get away from it." Shame on you Barack Obama. They warned us that he'd destroy families. Why didn't we listen?

But the prize for trying to spin the Sanford story away from "another Republican in another scandal" goes to the religious right organization Family Research Council, who first listed Sanford as a featured speaker at their 2009 Values Voter Summit, then pulled him from their website.

FRC schedule
Click for fullsized image

"Mark who?" And, no, I don't know what the asterisks mean -- maybe those speakers use steroids.

And a lot of right wingers are sure to cite this blogpost from Newsweek's Katie Connelly:

Mark Sanford's unexpected and emotional revelation of an affair yesterday has caused much hand-wringing about the future of a seemingly scandal-plagued GOP. Critics are quick to point out that the party espousing "family" values seems to be having some difficulty getting its representatives to live accordingly. But here at the Gaggle, our memories are a little longer. We recall the days, not so long ago, when it seemed as though Democrats were the ones having trouble keeping their pants on. So we tasked our wonderful intern Aku Ammah-Tagoe to tally up who's been doing what to whom since the Wayne Hays scandal of 1976...

Turns out that Democrats get freaky just as often as Republicans -- since '76, Republicans have been caught up in 26 sex scandals to Democrats' 27. Who knows how many were doing weird stuff that never came out (or is yet to come out)? It's probably safe to assume we can add a few numbers to both tallies.

The spin will be that the "liberal media" makes a bigger deal out of Republican sex scandals than those of Democrats. And, to a certain extent, that's probably true. But the reason isn't that the media hate Republicans -- if that were the case, Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol would be sleeping under overpasses, rather than collecting money for being reliably wrong in the punditry industry. The story isn't that Democrats are just as bad as Republicans, but that Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. In short, the story is hypocrisy, not sex. Sorry, Michelle Malkin, but the sex part is just what makes it funny.

If we listen to the GOP line, Democrats are the decadent Romans who'll bring this republic down. Immoral and without shame, dems embrace abortion and gays and sex ed and people from weird heathen religions. They'll destroy the American family with their Homosexual Menace and their feminism. They trample the Bible in a mad rush to "follow their bliss," which is self-help code for a me-centric descent into self-indulgence. Democrats are evil, we're told, because they have no "moral compass." They are the Godless party -- Ann Coulter even wrote a book about it.

So what's to explain that, in matters of morality, the Republicans' history is virtually identical to the Democrats'? Could it be that the uber-moral GOP Supermen are just as human as everyone else and that they just hold everyone to an impossible standard? Could it be that, in trying to portray any glimmer of human imperfection as a definitive Democratic trait, they inevitably get hit in their own rhetorical drivebys? And isn't it just remotely possible that people who set themselves up as the pinnacle of human perfection are just begging to be torn down when they're exposed as imperfect?

Of course, when they're exposed as what they pretend they aren't -- human -- they're also shown to be ridiculous. And the human response to the ridiculous is ridicule -- that's why we call it that. That ridicule is justified because, Helen Lovejoy-Malkin, it's really funny and we're only human.

Some of us are just more human than we pretend to be.


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News Roundup for 6/25/09

Clarence Thomas
Do not let your children near this man

-Headline of the day-
"Supreme Court Says Child's Rights Violated by Strip Search."

In 2003, officials at a Safford, AZ school searched Savana Redding's backpack for drugs. They didn't find any, so they went through her pockets. Still nothin'. They had her strip to her underwear. Nada. Finally, they check her undies for drugs and came up empty. Savana was 13 years old and the drugs they were looking for were Advil. Had it been Flintstone vitamins, you get the feeling that they would've waterboarded her. Her parents should be commended for not kidnapping these idiots, releasing them into the desert, and hunting them down. It just seems like the most obvious remedy.

Unbelievably, this case went all the way to the Supreme Court, with the Safford school insisting they had the right to feel up 13 year-olds for Advil.

Still, sanity prevailed when the SCOTUS found, in a 8-1 decision, that this was really a bad idea.

So who was the dissenting one? Clarence Thomas, who is clearly a pervert. Looks like Anita Hill was right. (New York Times)

-What a difference a day makes-
Mark McKinnon once made a very good call. Working for the McCain campaign, Mark said he'd quit the campaign if Obama turned out to be the nominee. "I will, however, still support and vote for John McCain," he told the Austin American-Statesman in 2007. "I just don’t want to work against an Obama candidacy. I think a McCain vs. Obama race would be a great choice for the country." Obama v. McCain would become too ugly and he didn't want to be any part of that. True to his word, he left the McCain campaign on May 21, 2008.

So what's McKinnon up to these days? He's got a gig blogging for the online magazine/blog The Daily Beast. And it's there that things get fun.

On June 23, McKinnon posted a piece arguing that the disappearance of S. Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford gave him a better chance of becoming the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. Keep in mind, this was while everyone thought he was walking around naked on the Appalachian Trail.

"Mark Sanford unplugged. Literally. He decided to take a hike. And he told his security detail to take a hike as well. Guy wanted some alone time in the woods to clear his head," Mark wrote. "Here we have a guy in politics who actually likes to get OUT of the spotlight. How exceedingly normal."

"But oh, no. Not normal at all," he went on. "A man in his position has to be 'troubled' or 'hiding something' for taking a walk." Yeah, that's just silly. Pffft! "Hiding something..."

"For this act alone, we’re going to move Sanford up at least a notch on our Top 10 GOP contenders for 2012," he said, putting Sanford up between John Thune and Mike Huckabee at third and fifth mostly likely respectively.

Then, the very next day, Sanford shows up and admits to having an affair with Evita Peron down in Argentina.

You know, looking back at it, I think maybe Sanford was hiding something. Thune and Huckabee, watch yourselves and don't go on any long walks. (Daily Beast, via Right Wing Watch)

-And about that trip to Argentina-
If you're from S. Carolina, you probably paid for it -- as well as a bunch of other trips Sanford made.

Hope he sent you a postcard. How's that for "stimulus funding?" (Raw Story)

Casino Health Care

Roulette wheelEarlier this month, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby told FOX News' Chris Wallace that President Obama was going to ruin France's health care system. In an interview, Shelby said that Obama's health care reform ideas were the "first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known."

While he would seem to be talking about the US health care system, the facts don't really back him up. According to a 2000 World Health Organization (WHO) study (the most recent available), "France provides the best overall health care followed among major countries by Italy, Spain, Oman, Austria and Japan." The US "spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance." So Shelby has to be talking about top-ranked France, because the US health care system is a rip-off.

In fact, the US system goes out of its way to deny care. "[Insurance companies] confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors," Wendell Potter, a former Cigna senior executive, testified at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation yesterday. "They look carefully to see if a sick policyholder may have omitted a minor illness, a pre-existing condition, when applying for coverage, and then they use that as justification to cancel the policy, even if the enrollee has never missed a premium payment... dumping a small number of enrollees can have a big effect on the bottom line."

So much for our ranking as the "best health care system the world has ever known." For the record, 37th in the world doesn't qualify as "best." That ranking doesn't even make us Miss Congeniality. It just makes us "one of the health care systems the world has known." Not the best, not the worst, just unspectacular and nothing to brag about. It's not gruel, it's not filet mignon, it's just a bologna sandwich. Pretending it's the pinnacle of human endeavor doesn't really help much and no one's really buying it -- even if you throw in chips and a pickle.

According to the WHO, a big problem dragging down the ranking of health care systems is the ability of patients to pay. "The poor are treated with less respect, given less choice of service providers and offered lower-quality amenities," said WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland. "In trying to buy health from their own pockets, they pay and become poorer."

Sound familiar? It should. Not only are health insurance costs hurting the poor, it's driving people into the poorhouse. According to a American Journal of Medicine report issued earlier this month, medical expenses accounted for 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007.

"The US health care financing system is broken, and not only for the poor and uninsured," the study reported. "Middle-class families frequently collapse under the strain of a health care system that treats physical wounds, but often inflicts fiscal ones."

That's not extremely surprising given Potter's testimony that insurance companies try to "confuse their customers and dump the sick." A system that routinely turns patients away isn't going to do all that well. Even people who are insured can find themselves uninsured -- despite a perfect payment history.

It helps to think of the American system of health care funding as gambling. Basically, you bet that your health care costs will be higher than the average person's, then you find an insurer willing to take that wager. Normally, this would be a sucker's bet on your part, since the odds dictate that you're going to be average. But since the costs of being sicker than average are so high, you need to be able to cash out if things take a turn for the worse. In other words, if you can win that bet, you need to win that bet. It's the only way you can pay for your care. And if you have nothing to bet, you can't play.

But health insurance companies aren't really comfortable being in the gambling business, despite being more than willing to take your bet. Probability is a fickle thing and the law of averages is by no mean a constant -- the odds of rolling a six on a die is one in six, but sooner or later someone's going to come along and roll a lot of sixes. This is because each event is a separate event; i.e., if the odds are one in six the first time, they're one in six the second and the third and the fourth, etc. Each time you pick up that die, you're playing a new game. A belief that the odds "owe" you a win or that they absolutely have to apply to a series of events is known as the "gambler's fallacy." The truth is that you could sit there all day and never roll a six or you could roll sixes all day long.

So Shelby's "best health care system the world has ever known" is a casino. And that casino is run by people who don't want to run a casino. They're in the business of risk and they want to be in a riskless business. If you win your bet, they'll try anything they can to welsh on it -- including kicking you out of the casino without your winnings.

Put that way, it doesn't sound like the best way to run a health care system, does it? It's not surprising that the US ranks 37th in the world, behind countries like Colombia, Chile, and Costa Rica -- while barely above Cuba's 39th. Casino capitalism isn't working any better with health care than it has on Wall Street.


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News Roundup for 6/24/09

Still from Sanford & Son
Pictured l. to r.: Sanford, Gov. of SC; son Lamont, noted dummy

-Headline of the day-
"I've been unfaithful to my wife, Sanford admits."

Remember S. Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford? He's the guy who whose unexplained absence for days on end was a big mystery until it turned out that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail with his junk hanging out. The Appalachian Trail must be freakin' amazing, because Sanford now says he wound up in Argentina where he had an affair with one of the steak-eating beauties they've got down there.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife," Mark said at a press conference. "I developed a relationship with... a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect these things do. In the last year, it developed into something much more than that."

"I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina," he said, explaining that he'd broken off the affair. He's also resigned -- from his position as chair of the Republican Governors' Association, which no one gives a damn about anyway. He's keeping his day job though.

And Sanford '12? Yeah, that's over. (Raw Story)

-Twitterverse atwitter-
A few reactions to Sanford's affair:

Obama takes his girls out for custard on Father's Day; Sanford ditches his kids to scream "Who's your daddy?" with mistress

Push for Gay Marriage has already cost marriages of Sanford & Ensign. Stop the insanity

I'm just waiting for Mark Sanford to show up with a backwards "B" scratched onto his cheek.

Breaking News: Sanford said to have bought red sports car, visited Hair Club for Men and obtained prescription for Viagra

GOP Gov Sanford admits that the Appalachian Trail isn't in Argentina. Said his wife knew

Gov. Sanford: "marriage should only be between a man, a woman, and another woman from Argentina."

And my favorite:

I was most surprised when Sanford apologized for calling his son Lamont a ‘dummy’ all those years.

This is the big one! I'm comin' 'Lizbeth! (Twitter Search)

-He also resigned from the GOP-
At least, if you check FOX News:

FOX screengrab showing 'SC GOV MARK SANFORD (D)'

He's a Democrat now and that's why he had an affair -- they're all weirdos, like Clinton.

FOX News: They report, you get confused. (Daily Kos)

GOP 'Media Fairness Caucus' Not Really About Media Fairness

TPt9/11 ad imagery
Entertainment critic Tom Shales wrote in the Washington Post, "Factually shaky, politically inflammatory and photographically a mess, The Path to 9/11 -- ABC's two-part, five-hour miniseries tracing events leading up to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- has something not just to offend everyone but also to depress them." This won't be the first or the last time I admit to liking bad reviews better than good ones. A writer doesn't often go out of their way to really get you to understand how great something is, but their creative juices really flow when they try to get you to appreciate just how mindnumbingly awful something is. Maybe it's the need to punish a movie, TV show, CD, whatever for wasting the reviewer's time, but the best writing is almost always in the worst reviews.

And Shales is the master of the bad review; TPt9/11's camera work "isn't cinematography; it's vivisection." Aired in 2006 (September 10-11, of course), the miniseries itself was a "grueling assault... on the senses that may also be an assault on the truth." In short, it was pretty bad.

But the problem most had with it was that it wasn't its artistic merit, but its historical accuracy -- it didn't have any. Written and produced by a group of conservatives, it portrayed the Bush administration as nearly faultless and the Clinton White House as bumbling bureaucrats. Events that never happened were presented as fact -- at one point, Sandy Berger pulls a squad who has Osama Bin Laden in their sights, supposedly because Berger couldn't get authorization to take the shot. In another scene, Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refuses to fire missiles at Bin Laden for the same reason. It wasn't true, but ABC defended the scenes as "dramatizations" -- The Path to 9/11 was fictionalized, which meant it'd have a lot of stuff that wasn't true, but was dramatic. ABC sent advance copies to and held pre-screenings for right wing bloggers and people like Rush Limbaugh. Albright and Berger requested advance copies, but never received them. TPt9/11 was, without any doubt, right wing propaganda and was sent and shown in advance only to those who could be relied on to praise its accuracy and historical importance. The fact that it aired in the fall of an election year wasn't lost on many. Maybe if it hadn't sucked so bad, the Democrats wouldn't have won so many seats. I'm not sure anyone other than conservatives even watched it.

But that was then, this is now. When they aired TPt9/11, ABC was the finest network ever to grace American airwaves. At least, if you asked someone on the right. "Unlike the tone of too much of our reporting on terrorism, where anyone who fights terrorism is depicted as either assembling naked Muslim pyramids if in Iraq, or listening to Grandma's phone calls if at home, this film treats the fight against terror as deadly business, and not just deadly business but a noble struggle for the survival of our nation," wrote right wing "media watchdog" Brent Bozell.

Now ABC is the worst network ever to abuse the airwaves. Yesterday, the newly-formed Media Fairness Caucus, a group of Republican congress members worried about "liberal media bias," sent a letter [PDF] to ABC's President David Westin:

Health care reform is an extremely complex issue involving one of the largest sectors of the economy. Directly or indirectly, it will touch the lives of all Americans. The decision by ABC News officials to devote an entire day, June 24, to the "President's health care agenda" culminating with a primetime healthcare "town hall" gives the American people a slanted view of an important subject.

The manner in which the news programming is being presented -- at the White House with the President and First Lady and without opposition -- is unprofessional and contrary to the journalistic code of ethics to present the news fairly and independently. This is a not [sic] a Presidential news conference open to all news outlets. This is an exclusive arrangement from which the President and his viewpoint stand to gain. It's as if ABC News is providing in-kind free advertising for President Obama...

It goes on like that. To give you an idea of how seriously you can take these people, consider that the caucus was put together by Republican Sen. Lamar Smith, who once said, "The greatest threat to America is a liberal media bias." Forget terrorism, our big problem is people like Rachel Maddow. So feel free to take them as seriously as you would that statement.

For his part, Westin blows off the letter and the caucus, calling Republican protestations about tonight's programming a "sorry spectacle."

"Unfortunately, [Republicans] have found it appropriate to criticize a program that has not yet aired," he wrote back. "Contrary to your assertions, this will not be 'slanted' in any way – much less a 'day-long infomercial' or 'in-kind free advertising' as you allege."

If only there were some way for dissenting opinions to be heard on broadcast programming... Maybe some requirement or something. Maybe some sort of "media fairness" thingy would be what Republicans like Lamar Smith are looking for...

[Media Fairness Brief, issued by the office of Lamar Smith, 6/3/09:]

Thousands Sign Petition to Protect Free Speech

Nearly 400,000 Americans have signed a petition to protect free speech and oppose the reinstatement of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, according the Free Speech Alliance (FSA).

The FSA delivered the petitions to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging them to allow a stand-alone floor vote on the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would prevent reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine.

The FSA is made up of 67 organizations representing millions of Americans dedicated to defending free speech against a return of the Fairness Doctrine or any other assault on the First Amendment and talk radio.

All the fairness doctrine does is require broadcasters to set aside time for dissenting opinion -- like letters to the editor in the newspaper. It's not equal time and the only reason it you could call it an "assault" on talk radio is because they'd have to let people on the air to point out all the BS. As it is now, they just hang up on you. If Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity were fact-checked on their own shows, it'd be harder to fool all the chumps they're fooling now.

So Smith's "Media Fairness Caucus" isn't about media fairness -- he's against that. He's for both sides of the story when his isn't the side being presented (and, frankly, there's no evidence at all that it won't be). If it's something like The Path to 9/11, well that's just fine.

ABC's Westin calls Smith's caucus's letter "political high theatre, to be used to gain votes or energize political bases or simply to raise funds."

"I would have thought that a subject as important as the health care received by the American people would rise above this sorry spectacle," he said. "Our citizens need and deserve more."

We do and, if hypocrites like Lamar Smith and the Republican party have anything to say about it, we won't get it.


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News Roundup for 6/23/09

Sanford holds his hands about a foot apart
SC Gov. Mark Sanford, shown bragging unconvincingly

-Headline of the day-
"Was Sanford Hiking Naked?"

Some people want to know. Some people don't. Some people are repeating nursery rhymes over and over to try to keep the image out of their heads. But it turns out that it's a real possibility that S. Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, frequently mentioned as a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate, disappeared into the wilderness for a nude walkabout.

The whole story started when it was reported yesterday that Sanford was kind of missing, but that no one was extremely freaked out about the fact. According to that report, his whereabouts had "been unknown to state officials since Thursday," leaving some in the capital "questioning who is in charge of the executive office."

"Neither the governor's office nor the State Law Enforcement Division has been able to reach Sanford, who left the mansion in a black SLED Suburban SUV," we were told. "Sanford's last known whereabouts were near Atlanta, where a mobile telephone tower picked up a signal from his phone..."

Still, Sanford's wife said he'd been gone for a couple of days, "she doesn't know where, but she is not concerned." That's either a really good wife or a really bad wife. You make the call.

Now Sanford's office says he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, trying to clear his head after a bruising battle (which he lost) to refuse stimulus money for his state. Adding insult to injury, the trail's being maintained with some of the stimulus money he opposed.

AP has reported that Sunday -- Father's Day -- was "Naked Hiking Day" on the Appalachian Trail. Between the skeeters, the ticks, and the poison oak, I can't say I think this is the best idea ever, but what do I know? Maybe there's a trick to it.

So anyway, Mark Sanford may have metaphorically hiked naked on Barack Obama's stimulus funding or ran into a whole bunch of people who were. Either way, that's not the best way for a 2012 presidential hopeful to spend the weekend -- especially not after making a big Scooby-Doo mystery out of where the hell he was.

It'd sure explain why no one could get ahold of him though, wouldn't it? Where would he put the phone? (Political Wire)

-That worked well-
Last month, Republicans began taking advantage of what they saw as Barack Obama's weakness on national security. With the president closing Gitmo, ending torture, and pretending that terr'ists don't have superpowers, the GOP decided they owned the issue of terrorism.

"I think what I’m trying to do here," said House GOP leader John Boehner, "is push the administration to tell us, What is the overarching strategy to take on the terrorists and defeat them and to help keep America safe?" Yeah! Make him say all the stuff he explained on the campaign trail! You remember that, it hurt him so bad that everyone voted for him...

Some naysayers said nay; the GOP's strategy here wasn't going to work. "They are reverting back to their game plan, time and time again, which is fear," said dem Sen. Robert Menendez. "When they can’t succeed on policy, they pursue fear... Republicans are wasting their time and money."

Oh yeah? Well, we'll just see about that! A new Washington Post/ABC News poll asked respondents, "Who do you trust to do a better job handling the threat of terrorism -- Obama or the Republicans in Congress?"

34% answered "Republicans," while 55% said "Obama" -- a better than twenty point gap.

Keep pluggin' away, GOP. I'm sure you'll make a dent eventually. You know what they say, "If at first you don't succeed, try again -- fail better." (Plumline)

-This item brought to you by Judd Gregg, R-NH-
Ooooh, that stimulus! Hangin' Mark Sanford isn't the only Republican out there who thinks that it's the worst thing ever. Sen. Judd Gregg hates it and wants to make sure you don't see it -- or, if you do see it, you don't know you're looking at it.

According to the report, Judd has introduced a bill "that would prohibit the use of stimulus funds for signs that say a project is being carried out using those funds." No "your tax dollars at work" signs, because everyone knows that tax dollars are better spent being shoveled into a hole in the desert of Iraq. If people start seeing bridges and schools and hospitals and God knows what-all being built with tax dollars, they might start to think that maybe this whole thing was a good idea.

Judd says any signs "are simply for political self-interest," a big ad for good things your government can do for you, when it should be blowing up that money in some godforsaken third-world country way the hell and gone on the other side of the world.

If you're thinking that the name "Judd Gregg" rings a bell, it might be because of the Judd Gregg Meteorology Institute, paid for with federal bucks he took home. Ditto for Gregg Hall at the University of New Hampshire and The Judd Gregg Library for the Nasua Policy Athletic League.

So you see, it's important for people not to think that all this money comes from the federal government and the taxpayers. What's important is that people think it comes from golden eggs laid by Judd Gregg. (Think Progress)

The State of Conservative Thought in the US

The Wikipedia entry for the conservative magazine National Review tells us, "It is usually considered the center of intellectual activity for the American Conservative movement in the twentieth century." Sure, that was probably written by some PR firm that monitors and manages the entry for the magazine, but it's still true enough. Founded in 1955 by conservative icon William F. Buckley, jr., NR rests on the coffeetables of rich guys and Republican ops nationwide. It did represent the mainstream of conservative thought in the 20th century and it probably still does today.

Nothing shows how far their mainstream has drifted from our own so well as NR's blog The Corner. Where National Review was once a place where serious people could turn for serious foreign policy analysis, they now get stuff like this, from former prosecutor, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and one-time attorney for Rudy Giuliani, Andrew C. McCarthy, where we learn that Obama's cool with Iran being totalitarian and nuclear, because the president's a commie:

Andy McCarthyCall me thick, but I continue to be baffled by a lot of the commentary, cited by Rich and others, which gives as the rationale for President Obama's diffidence his purported determination to preserve the opportunity to negotiate with the mullahs on their nuclear program. Obama is resigned to Iran getting nukes (perhaps even having them already) and has no intention of doing anything meaningful about it.

The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society. In this he is no different from his allies like the Congressional Black Caucus and Bill Ayers, who have shown themselves perfectly comfortable with Castro and Chàvez. Indeed, he is the product of a hard-Left tradition that apologized for Stalin and was more comfortable with the Soviets than the anti-Communists (and that, in Soros parlance, saw George Bush as a bigger terrorist than bin Laden).

"Thick" isn't the word I'd reach for here, Andy. More like "lunatic." We're informed that happy-clappy, love-everybody liberals aren't so incompatible with ultra-conservative religious thugs as we might think. "In fact, they have much more in common than not, especially when it comes to suppression of freedom, intrusiveness in all aspects of life, notions of 'social justice,' and their economic program," he tells us. Things like Islamic regimes' hatred of gays, xenophobia about non-Muslims, the oppression of women, and institutional religious fundamentalism are mere piffles, he assures us. The left and Islamic extremists are two peas in the same pod.

I suppose at this point it would be helpful to point out that McCarthy has everything bass-ackward. The authoritarian right in Iran has a much more obvious parallel in America in our own authoritarian right. We've got people who hate gays, practice religious intolerance, oppose women's rights, and want to schools to become centers for religious instruction. They're called "Republicans."

This wasn't always true. In fact, it wasn't even universally true when Bush had a GOP majority in both houses of the legislature. There was the moderating influence of senators and representatives from purple states and swing districts. But once the GOP began to crash and burn, those purple states went blue and those districts swung left. After two straight electoral disasters for the party, Republicans are largely the party of the reddest districts and the farthest right states. That moderating influence is mostly gone now and those who are left are being chased out of the Republican's "big tent."

What all this means is that the Republicans left are, for the most part, the most partisan, the most strident, and the most crazy. When you've got people writing at National Review Online how it's the most obvious thing in the world that Obama wants totalitarianism, the right has gone completely around the bend. When "serious" foreign policy analysis is so staggeringly unrealistic it sounds like some caller to Rush Limbaugh's three-hour daily BS session, things are really bad for the party. Glenn Beck couldn't have written something more insane.

I suppose that the main question with McCarthy's post is whether he actually believes it. Where Andy's completely comfortable with pretending to be able to read President Obama's mind, I have no interest in reading McCarthy's. Frankly, I don't want to know what's really in there because, either way, it's ugly. If he really believes this nutbaggery, then he's practically certifiable and so paranoid that it's a wonder he can function, let alone make guest appearances on talking head shows. On the other hand, if he doesn't believe this, then he's taking an international crisis that may have consequences that last a generation or more and using it as a propaganda bludgeon to get people to hate the president.

Like I said, either way it's ugly.

But the broader question is where a party can go once it's hit such a rocky bottom that this crap passes for rational analysis. If you can get something this wingnutty and delirious onto the online version of the journal of conservative thought, then conservative thought itself is in a very bad place. Not only is it either right wing fantasy or propaganda, but it's so extreme and so stupid that no one outside the party will ever take it seriously. If this is the level of conservative thought these days, it'd be a generous compliment to say they're capable of thinking.

Let's be gracious and assume that Andrew C. McCarthy isn't crazier than a cork anchor. Let's assume he's just a shameless propagandist. Maybe it might be a good idea for GOP propagandists to put half the effort into getting people to like Republicans as they do in getting people to hate Obama. This is their black-and-white, either-or thinking cropping up again. There aren't only two possible positions and it's completely illogical to assume that if people hate Barack Obama, they'll love Republicans. It's not like a switch you throw and the polarity of public opinion reverses.

If Republicans are interested in helping Republicans, they'll start coming up with an idea or two. I know it's fun and easy to stand on the sidelines and heckle the players on the field, but you aren't going to win by being some sort of anti-cheerleading squad.

You've got to actually play.


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News Roundup for 6/22/09

Buchanan after being hit in the face with a pie by a protester
Pat Buchanan, shown enjoying a pie

-Headline of the day-
"Under Misspelled Banner, Buchanan And White Nationalist Brimelow Argue For English-Only Initiatives."

Under a banner for Pat Buchanan's The American Cause that read, "NATIONAL CONFERENECE: BUILDING THE NEW MAJORITY," Pat Buchanan and downtrodden white guy Peter Brimelow made fun of Sonia Sotomayor for brushing up on her English in college using "children's classics." According to the report, "The panelists also suggested that, without English as the official language, President Obama would force Americans to speak Spanish."

Someone ought to force them to speak English.

Of course, the "children's classics" in question were books like Huckleberry Finn and Pride and Prejudice. Pat likes to pretend they were Pinnochio and Snow White. Those are movies.

But hey, Pat and Pete think that the way to get a Republican majority back is through good ol' fashioned racism. The report tells us, "During one discussion, panelists suggested supporting English-only initiatives as a prime way of attracting 'working class white Democrats.'" Yeehaw! We's takin' 'Merica back from the commies and the terr'ists!

See that's because white voters are such an electoral powerhouse these days. In 1980, Reagan took 55% of the white vote and won in a landslide. In 2000, Bush took 55% of the white vote and stole a squeaker. In 2008, McCain took 57% of white men and 53% of white women and got his ass kicked.

So not only are Pat and Pete the worst people in the world to lecture us on English, but also the worst to lecture us on electoral math.

God damn, but racists are stupid. (Think Progress)

-Bonus HotD-
"CNN's Bennett criticizes Obama for calling Khamenei Iran's 'supreme leader.'"

On CNN's State of the Union this weekend, right wing pretend-expert Bill Bennett -- who CNN apparently pays to be wrong -- took Obama to task for being a secret Muslim terr'ist who's on the side of that Ayatollah guy.

"We should be on the side of freedom, and not on the side of this -- the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], as our president keeps referring to," Bill said.

Of course, the problem here is that the office held by Khamenei is one referred to in Iran's constitution as "Supreme Leader" -- kind of like we've got a Supreme Court. He keeps calling him that because that's Khamenei's job title. In order to call him anything else, you'd have to start making shit up. By Bennett's... Oh, what the hell, let's call it logic, other people who are way too deferential to Iran include John McCain, Richard Lugar, Brent Scowcroft, Bill Kristol, and GWB's entire State Department, all of whom have caved into Islamic terr'ism and called the supreme leader "the supreme leader."

CNN, if you want to pay someone to be wrong on a regular basis, I'm available. I can guarantee that I'll be more entertaining about than Bill. I'll insist that Khamenei's title roughly translates to "Big Poobah of Suck" or "His High and Mighty Buttheadedness" or something. Bennett's not even trying.

Seriously, drop me a line. I'll even underprice him. (Media Matters)

-Extra-bonus HotD-
"Q: Did the Obama auto team tell a Michigan engineer the government should change 'the laws of physics'?"

A: What do you think? Apparently, there are a lot of gullible chumps on the right. (Annenberg FactCheck)

Neocons See a Perfectly Good Excuse for War Going to Waste

Street protest turns violent in Iran
I'm going to beat the same drum I've been beating for a while now; what's the deal with Republicans and Iran? When the people who were saying we should bomb Iran just a minute ago become the Iranian people's biggest fans, it's seems to be a pretty fair and obvious question. When the GOP criticizes Obama's response to Iran, do they have the Iranian's best interests at heart? Ours? Anyone's?

Or is this just part of their message of "everything Obama does is wrong?"

I'm coming more and more to the conclusion that the latter is a big part of it, but not all of it. The reason I say that it's a big part is because, for all their criticism, they consistently fail to make a logical argument, instead falling back on vague statements designed to make Obama look "soft on Iran." They continue to refuse to offer answers to two questions; what exactly should the President say and what are they saying will happen in Iran after he says it? If they've got some magical incantation that'll help here, it seems a little irresponsible to keep it to themselves.

Instead of offering something concrete, they stick with vague answers like "stronger statements" or "more forceful rhetoric." That's really not helpful. Obama has spoken out against the violence against peaceful protesters, the importance of democracy, and the need to respect human rights. That ought to about cover it. Do they want him to start swearing or what?

And, as I've asked again and again and again, what are they saying will happen if Barack Obama somehow deciphers their secret code and says what they consider exactly the right thing? What is the positive outcome? See, the thing about having a plan is having a predictable outcome. What is that outcome or is that some big secret too?

The emptiness of GOP rhetoric on these points suggests that this is all part of the "everything Obama does is wrong" strategy to make gains in 2010 and 2012. They're playing politics with the lives of millions of people and the future of international relations for at least a generation to win an election or two. Given the almost complete lack of any real argument on their part, it's hard to come to any other conclusion. If they have a plan, they have an end game. If they can't explain what their end game is -- and they either can't or won't -- then they don't have a plan. That's simple logic.

But there isn't even agreement on the right about this non-plan. In his regular talking head gig on ABC’s This Week, conservative columnist George Will said, "The president is being roundly criticized for insufficient, rhetorical support for what’s going on over there. It seems to me foolish criticism. The people on the streets know full well what the American attitude toward the regime is. And they don’t need that reinforced." Other conservatives agree.

"To insist the American president, in the first days of the rebellion, insert the American government into the drama was shortsighted and mischievous," wrote Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. "[T]he ayatollahs were only too eager to demonize the demonstrators as mindless lackeys of the Great Satan Cowboy Uncle Sam, or whatever they call us this week"

Representing the nutjob majority, however, was Sen. Lindsey Graham. "He’s certainly moving in the right direction, but our point is that there is a monumental event going on in Iran, and you know, the President of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it," Graham said, also on This Week. "Other nations have been more outspoken, so I hope that we’ll hear more of this, because the young men and women taking the streets in Tehran need our support. The signs are in English. They are basically asking for us to speak up on their behalf."

Apparently, he thinks Iran is a nation of passive-aggressive jerks who won't come right out and say what they want, preferring to drop hints. Otherwise, if Iranian protesters were "basically asking for us to speak up on their behalf," the signs would say "HEY AMERICA, SPEAK UP ON OUR BEHALF!" They're being shot and beaten for defying their government -- why would they feel the need to send subtle messages? Is Lindsey arguing that they're afraid they'll get in trouble?

"[S]eeing Will and Graham on opposite sides of this reminds me of a point that often goes overlooked: we're not dealing with a dynamic that pits the left vs. the right, or Dems against Republicans," writes Steve Benen. "Rather, this is a situation featuring neocons vs. everyone else." It's just that most of the Republicans left in office -- or, at least, in leadership -- are neocons. And neocons default to war, because they have no patience for diplomacy. They hate the UN, they don't want to have talks with North Korea or Iran, they see diplomacy as a waste of time.

But this shows a deliberate ignorance of history. Almost all wars go the same way; there's a failure of diplomacy, a period of irrational and unconstructive belligerence (often involving human sacrifice), then a diplomatic solution. Diplomacy isn't the superfluous step here, war is. Whether it's a war of bullets or a war of words, it's almost always the same. You start with negotiations and end with negotiations. Believing the war part in the middle is anything other than an interruption is to completely misread reality. But no one who's been paying attention would accuse neocons of being realists. If they can't have a war with blood, then they can have a war of words. Diplomacy must be avoided at all costs.

And people who do crazy things like ask Iranian protesters what they want come to different conclusions than Graham has with his search for clues in the languages on signs. "Our Iranian-dissident contacts want a certain degree of moral support, but from a significant distance," Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, told the Washington Post. He says anything more agressive "will be used to discredit them."

"Some people are saying 'bearing witness' is a passive stance, but I'm not sure what an active stance would be," Malinowski said. "What else could he do? The more the demands of the opposition become associated with the United States, the harder it will be for a spontaneous opposition movement in Iran to make progress."

What Iranians want is pretty clear; they want their votes to count. That's the message on those signs in English -- the logical choice of an internet-powered movement. To say they want anything else is either idiocy or a lie -- and it doesn't make much difference which you believe it is. Either is just as wrong.

It's not what Iranians want that's the big mystery here, but what Republicans want. Whatever it is, it's not good for the either the people of Iran or the people of America. It's just good for Republicans.


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Coca Cola, McDonald's and neo-Nazis rush in, where government fears to tread


(Missouri welcomes Nazi drivers…?)

Now, this is quite funny.

Though it does show the perils of inviting the private sector to take over so much of what used to be the government’s job.

We already have fast food and soft drink titans sponsoring schools and using these places as juvenile feeding & training pens.

Get them young, as the Jesuits say, and hook them for (a short and very fat) life.

Funny though, if you think of it. When schools even mention the possibility of teaching kids about the perils of STDs or the problematic future teen mothers face, howls of protests ring from sea to shining sea but when Coca Cola and McDonalds are allowed to push their poison on the young in a way most of our street dealers can only dream about, you don’t hear all that much about the corruption of our youth.

Anyway, I’m digressing. As I started with saying, the following news story is rather amusing:

“When a neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Movement volunteered last year to clean a Missouri highway, and get official recognition for it in the form of an Adopt-a-Highway sign, state officials felt powerless to refuse. So they took a rather clever tack. Officials are renaming the stretch of highway near Springfield that the organization cleans after Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who fled Nazi Germany and became a prominent Jewish theologian and civil rights advocate in the United States. The renaming, which would take effect this summer, was approved by the legislature as part of a large transportation bill. The governor has not yet signed the bill but supports the concept of renaming the road, an aide said. The measure is not popular, though, with some members of the National Socialist Movement, who clean a half-mile stretch four times a year.”

You don’t say.

Me, I’d have thought any group of Nazis would love to stomp their boots on the face of a Jewish road. Though I suppose it would require a bit more effort to vandalise concrete than it was to smash all those windows, back in 1938.

So, I don’t suppose we will soon see a follow-up of the Kristallnacht, in the form of a Concrete Night.

(Such a beautiful song about such an ugly affair…)


News Roundup for 6/19/09

Steele pointing off into distance
RNC chairman Michael Steele spots a dog with a fluffy tail

-Headline of the day-
"Steele fearmongers on health care reform, warns of 'health police' who will enforce yearly physicals."

What are they going to do Mike, beat you up if you don't take care of your health? Because that seems like it might be a little counterproductive.

During a guest host gig on Bill "Abort Every Black Baby" Bennett's radio show, RNC Chairman Michael Steele told a caller that Obama planned to lay out a "national ID system" that would put health information "on a grid" and, if you don't go for your yearly check up, the "health police" would put out an APB for you.

Not surprisingly, this is all horseshit Mike made up on the spot. I don't really have to tell you that the only person who's ever talked about "health police" is some dumbass named "Michael Steele," do I?

This continues Steele's trend of saying whatever crazy-assed idea that pops into his head -- which would be fascinating if he were legitimately insane. But Mike's just dumber than a pile of bricks, so it's only sad.

Still funny, though. (Think Progress)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, remember that Obama guy from the last presidential campaign?

Obama vs. Obama
Click for animation

Yeah, whatever happened to that guy? (MarkFiore.com)

A Caly Forny Ya state senator has returned a gift from the Gubernator (it's a real word, look it up) in a fit of ingratitude. According to the report, "The gag gift from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a metal sculpture of bull testicles, came with a note suggesting the lawmaker would need them to make some tough budget choices, said legislative sources who were not authorized to speak publicly."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) gave it back, saying that he already had the balls to protect taxpayers from Schwarzenegger's budget ax. Too bad, because it would've gone so well with the brass monkey tits he tries to freeze every winter. Der Gubernator has since apologized.

Of course, Steinberg's not exactly an innocent victim here. The article tells us "Steinberg had earlier sent the governor a basket of garden-variety mushrooms... after Schwarzenegger called Senate budget proposals 'hallucinatory.'" So there's that.

So there you go, Caly Forny Annes, your gummint at work. It really makes you wonder how you got in this budget mess, doesn't it? (LA Times)

You're a Fool, Jonah Goldberg

Cartoon of GoldbergHey, Jonah Goldberg, editor at large of the right wing National Review. You wrote a column this week you titled, "Obama’s Choice Is Not to Choose on Iran." Using the super-dramatic second-person singular, you wrote about how Obama absolutely has to take a stronger tone with Iran over their disputed elections. And your super-dramatic second-person singular made it read as if you were speaking directly to the president. I was so impressed that I thought I'd do the same.

It's fun to pretend you know what the hell you're talking about, isn't it Jonah? I'm pretty sure you think so, because you do it a lot. This week's column telling President Obama to "stop voting 'present' on democracy" is a great example.

Do it, President Obama, please. Take the side of democracy.

Declare yourself and your nation on the side of hope and change where it is more than a slogan and better than a rationalization for ever-bigger government. Stop measuring the success of your diplomacy with Iran by the degree to which the grinning, hate-filled stooge of a clerical junta will "temper" his rhetoric about the pressing need to destroy Israel and slow his ineluctable pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Now I'm a little confused about which "grinning, hate-filled" candidate you're talking about here. You mean Ahmadinejad? It's hard to tell. In the very same column you admit that Mousavi was a candidate cleared by the Supreme Leader, saying, "The mullahs had disqualified about 400 others, leaving in the race only four presumed hacks deemed pliant enough not to rock the boat." How is a candidate hand-picked by the mullahs not a "stooge of a clerical junta?" Because he was set up? Following this logic, Leon Trotsky was a leading advocate for capitalism.

And about Israel:

[Al Jazeera, June 13, 2009:]

[N]o quarter will be given in the question of relations with Israel, nor will support be cut for Iran's allies in the region. Backing of Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah is a matter of morality and self interest, [Mousavi] says, but this should not be interpreted as a signal of aggressive intent or a desire or confrontation.

"It's more related to our religious beliefs and the norms of the Arab world, than of spreading our revolution," he says.

For the record, that's the official Iranian line now. He also echoes Ahmadinejad on the nuclear program, saying it should go forward, while denying it's about nuclear weapons. Clearly, Mir-Hossein Mousavi is the finest man ever to draw breath. Never mind that he was prime minister when Iran executed as many as 300,000 leftists. We should totally back a Iranian nationalist whose only real disagreements with Ahmadinejad are domestic. We should take an anti-Israel, pro-nuclear, terrorist-funding nutjob and turn him into Nelson Freakin' Mandela, because that's just the smartest thing that anyone could do ever.

"No, we should not bomb Iran, or invade it," you wrote. "Those prices are too steep; those burdens are too heavy. But maybe you could lift a finger for democracy?"

Yeah, we shouldn't bomb Iran. That'd be stupid. Idiotic, in fact. Which makes it no surprise that you've advocated doing just that in the past.

"The reason Mr. Goldberg is alarmed that I pointed this obvious fact out is that he wants to kill thousands of Iranians and thousands of US troops in a war of aggression on Iran," Professor of Mideast Studies Juan Cole wrote in 2005. "If the American public knows that there is a lively struggle between hardliners and conservatives in Iran, and that an American intervention there would be a huge disaster and would forestall the natural evolution of Iran away from Khomeinism, then they might not support Mr. Goldberg's monstrous warmongering."

Yeah, kind of looks like he was right from where we stand now, doesn't it? Sure, Cole didn't write in that second-person singular, but he's not cool like you. Still, you were wrong about going to war with Iran, which would've killed thousands of those people you now call "the huddled masses of Iranians yearning to breathe free." I'm not seeing any evidence that you're right now, either.

"Jonah Goldberg is a fearmonger, a warmonger, and a demagogue," Cole wrote. I think he nailed it.

So let's -- strictly for the sake of argument -- say that Obama takes your advice and says that the shockingly fixed election in a sham democracy was the worst thing ever.

Then what happens?

I know this whole second-person singular thing is just a pretense, so I don't expect an answer from you personally, but it'd be nice if one of the wingnuts who float through this blog could take the time to answer the simplest question; why?

What happens? How would there be a different outcome? What freakin' magic are you pretending to believe Obama has? If any one of you guys could take a shot at that, that'd be great. Because it's really not the most obvious thing in the world.

And even if Iran's Supreme Leader, chastised by Obama's wagging finger and secret sorcery, totally changed his mind and gave the election to Mousavi, what then? Now we've got an Israel-hating, nuclear program-supporting, Hamas-backing crazy that we've managed to turn into Thomas Paine. How do you think that's going to work out in the long run?

But I forgot, you guys don't even know what the long run is. It'd be a compliment to accuse you of even knowing which foot you'll put down next when you walk down the street. Those few remaining who join you in backing the Republican party are reactionaries -- you don't think ahead. The plain fact of the matter is that you -- like all the other opportunists thinking you can make hay with this -- are working to legitimize someone who isn't any better than Ahmadinejad. Not as far as foreign policy goes, anyway.

When I put it that way, it seems a little brainless, doesn't it Jonah?

In fact, your whole column seems pretty brainless now, doesn't it? But I'd imagine you're used to it. You approach the problems of the world with the same level of clarity and reason every week, so it's hard to believe that the cries of "dumbass!" which must follow you everywhere you go hurt much anymore.

Still, I'm glad we had this little talk. We'll have to do it again sometime. Given your consistent record of idiocy, I'm sure we will.


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