News Roundup for 12/29/10

Obama looking angry
Pres. Obama to GOP: "You suck"

-Headline of the day-
"Obama calls out GOP hypocrisy for going to 'ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against.'"

President Obama was invited to speak at the House GOP retreat today and he brought news cameras with him. "Hahaha!" thought Republicans. "What a libtard! He's gonna sit up there in front of us and squirm on national teevee!" So they agreed to have the whole thing sent out to cable news.

"Republicans immediately agreed to the request," Politico reports, "but they may be regretting it now."

See, the president didn't do any squirming. What he did was tell them the truth, which made Republicans squirm.

"And then the last portion of [the stimulus package] was infrastructure," Obama told them, "which as I’ve said, a lot of you have gone to appear at ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against. Now I say all this not to re-litigate past, but it’s simply to state that the component parts of the stimulus are consistent with what many of you say are important things to do -- rebuilding our infrastructure, tax cuts for families and businesses, and making sure that we were providing states and individuals some support when the roof was caving in."

Yeah, see it kind of undercuts your argument that the stimulus was runaway communism when you're out there calling stimulus projects the best thing ever and trying to take all the credit for them. Think Progress calls this "hypocrisy," but I don't think that really captures the dishonesty and the attempt to hoodwink the voters in your districts. Let's just go ahead and call it lying.

Anyhoo, you can bet the GOPers in attendance didn't like that and no two ways about it. But what are they going to do? This whole fiasco was their idea. They had to sit there and take it, for the most part. He also told them that they were making bipartisanship impossible, by digging the grave for it as a rhetorical device. "You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion," he said. "Because, what you’ve been telling your constituents is: this guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that is going to destroy America." Seriously, where do you go from there?

MSNBC's Luke Russert got a chance to talk to an unnamed Republican, who told him they'd fucked up big time; "It was a mistake that we allowed the cameras to roll like that. We should not have done that."

Yeah, that was your big mistake. Not all the BS the president called you on. If you hadn't been so dishonest and hypocritical and just plain dickish about everything, those cameras would've done nothing to hurt you. So the big screw up was the cameras, not the dishonesty and the hypocrisy and the dickishness.

Way to get the moral of this story, Aesop. (Think Progress)

You may have heard that the Obama administration has given up on trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other terrorist suspects in the City of New York. In general, the stories go this way; the president realizes that Republicans are right -- terrorists are magical beings with laserbeam eyes and the ability to kill anyone who so much as looks at them -- so he's going to hold the trial on the moon or someplace. You know, where it's safe. Under the ocean maybe. Using robot judges. Who knows?

Anyway, it's the opinion of a lot of not very observant people that a trial in NYC would make the city a terrorist target. These people apparently are unaware of 9/11, when the city became a terrorist target. Maybe they slept through it.

The problem with this whole story is that it isn't exactly true. "Conversations have occurred within the administration to discuss contingency options should the possibility of a trial in Lower Manhattan be foreclosed upon by Congress or locally," an administration official says. So, the White House isn't considering moving the trial, they just don't want to get caught with their pants down if the panicky grandmas who are against it get their way. It's called "being prepared."

So stop celebrating. This is no time for dry pants and courage. It's time to heed the Republicans, crawl under your bed, and cry. (Huffington Post)

-Bonus HotD-
"Palin On Whether She Will Still Speak At 'Scammy' Tea Party Convention: 'You Betcha!'"

Boy howdy yes she will. That $115,000 speaking fee is a whole lotta money there, doncha know? (Think Progress)

Murray Hill - a Corporation for Congress

One of my favorite parts of the State of the Union address this week was when President Obama called out the five justices who ruled so broadly in the Citizens United v. FEC case that overthrew more that a century of clean elections laws. The ruling gave corporations the ability to pour unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns and relabels legalized bribery as "free speech."

"With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections," the president said. "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems."

At this point, at least one justice dropped the pretense that the highest court in the land was above politics. Samuel Alito shook his head and said, "Not true." Glenn Greenwald who, like the president himself, is a constitutional law expert, points out that this court has insinuated itself into the political arena more and more as time goes on -- citing the most obvious example; Bush v. Gore. As a result, Greenwald argues, the court's credibility in claiming to be nonpartisan "has -- justifiably -- declined substantially over the past decade."

"Justice Alito's flamboyantly insinuating himself into a pure political event, in a highly politicized manner, will only hasten that decline," Greenwald explains. "On a night when both tradition and the Court's role dictate that he sit silent and inexpressive, he instead turned himself into a partisan sideshow -- a conservative Republican judge departing from protocol to openly criticize a Democratic President -- with Republicans predictably defending him and Democrats doing the opposite. Alito is now a political (rather than judicial) hero to Republicans and a political enemy of Democrats, which is exactly the role a Supreme Court Justice should not occupy."

The fact that the opinion Alito joined is absurd doesn't help him any. Let me see if I can explain the reasoning behind the ruling for you. You see, this...

AIG building

Is supposedly identical to this...

Smiling baby

Nah, I'm just messing with you. That's not true at all. Skeezix here has fewer rights than AIG now, because he's a minor. Corporations are people -- presumably adult people -- which brings us to candidate for the US House of Representatives Murray Hill:

"Murray Hill Inc. plans on filing to run in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District," the company says in a press release. "Campaign Manager William Klein promises an aggressive, historic campaign that 'puts people second' or even third."

According to Think Progress, Murray Hill Inc. is real; "The progressive PR firm Murray Hill Inc. has announced that it plans to satirically run for Congress in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th congressional district to protest the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision." And the run may be "satirical," but it's also very real.

"The campaign’s designated human, Eric Hensal, will help the corporation conform to antiquated 'human only' procedures and sign the necessary voter registration and candidacy paperwork," the company's statement reads. "Hensal is excited by this new opportunity. 'We want to get in on the ground floor of the democracy market before the whole store is bought by China.'"

So, unless I'm mistaken, Eric Hensal is going to run for congress as the representative face of Murray Hill Inc.

How legal is this? You got me. I guess we'll find out. And, in the process, we'll find out what absurd lengths supporters of the Supreme Courts' decision are willing to go to make it seem like it makes any damned sense at all.

I'm just hoping that corporations don't demand to exercise their second amendment rights now. One Blackwater is enough.


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News Roundup for 12/28/10

Michele Bachmann
Noted communist

-Headline of the day-
"National Tea Party Convention falls apart: Bachmann and Blackburn announce they are pulling out."

Oh no! There's no hope for the republic now... Guess we're just going to have to learn to like Nazi socialism.

Turns out that tickets to the first National Tea Party Convention are a little too pricey for your average frootloop to afford, so they're starting to get a little flack from the base for trying to cash in on the movement. Seriously though, do these people expect them to just give tickets away? That'd be communism or something. For the record guys, if you want to deal with free market capitalists, you'd better bring a lot of scratch, because there isn't enough money in the world to keep these people happy.

Anyway, feeling which way the populist wind blows, wingnut icons Reps. Shelly Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn are pulling out. Your are commies ladies! J'accuse!

At least Sarah Palin knows where real constitutional principles lie. She's still going to collect her $100,000 speaking fee.

Jefferson would be so proud... (Think Progress)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, here's Barack Obama to respond to Barack Obama's State of the Union address!

SOTU We'd Like to See
Click for animation

You know, I like this guy better. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"FOX reporter accidentally tweets hooker ad during State of the Union."

Hey! Eyes on the job, buddy... (Raw Story)

NEWSFLASH: Republicans Aren't on Your Side

The State of the Union is always a big deal in politics. Unless there's a presidential election, it's generally the event of the year. And this one went pretty well (Read the transcript here or view the video here). Whether it's a good speech or a bad speech, it's always the most important speech ever, picked apart by pundits and encoded into spin by opponents and other pundits

Initial reactions in the chamber itself are usually limited to displays of disapproval through withholding applause, not rising to your feet when the other party does, slow claps, head shaking, slouching, etc. Rep. Joe Wilson was apparently locked in a steamer trunk like Houdini, since he managed to refrain from voicing his opinion this time around.

For their part, Republicans favored the "don't stand up, don't applaud" approach. At the time, I wondered if maybe the GOP weren't such sourpusses about everything just because they're too lazy; "Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down... Who needs it? I'm going to be against everything! That way I can relax."

There's actually some evidence to support my little hypothesis of a Republican preference for leisure. Over at Crooks and Liars, Nicole Belle catches the Republicans showing disapproval for some very odd things:

Assistance and tax credits for small businesses to create new jobs:

Or ending tax breaks for companies that send American jobs overseas:

Student loans and helping Americans get higher education:

Prohibiting foreign money from influencing our elections:

"Nice to see where small business, education and oligarchy play into the GOP's values, isn't it?" she asks. I wouldn't say "nice." Unless there's some definition of the word that's a synonym for "appalling."

If you ever needed evidence that the Republican Party is being against things to be against things, there ya go. It's obstructionism for the sake of harming the president and the Democrats, not for the good of the nation. If you're against barring foreign influence in US elections, doesn't that suggest that you're for it? And since when have the GOP been against tax breaks? It's either politically strategic obstructionism or just brain-dead, knee-jerk, reactionary non-thinking. Whichever it is, it shows that these people are not on your side.

Hey teabaggers, how about you? Do you want China spending money in US campaigns? If so, you're as much a bunch of morons as I've always suspected you were. Are you against tax breaks for small businesses? Are you deeply opposed to more college graduates? Are you excited about the prospect of more jobs moving overseas?

Well, the Republican Party seems to be. I think that makes you what you call a "chump." Let me make sure... Yup, says right here you're a chump.

Knock it off.


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News Roundup for 12/27/10

Richard Nixon listen to phone
James O'Keefe

-Headline of the day-
"FOX News Devastated Over Arrest Of ACORN Pimp, Says The Story Probably Needs 'A Lot Of Context.'"

Man, I quit doing the roundup for a couple days and all hell breaks loose. Lemme get you caught up here; remember that guy who created a firestorm with a Halloween costume and bad tax advice from ACORN?

Yeah, turns out he's a criminal. Here's the fun part; it also turns out that ACORN isn't.

See, this guy -- James O'Keefe -- was enjoying his newfound wingnut fame so much that he decided to take drastic measures to keep it going. So he tried to tap Sen. Mary Landrieu's phones. Which is weird, because if there's one Democrat (whose name isn't Ben Nelson) who's on O'Keefe's side of the argument most often, it's Mary. But she manages to call herself a Democrat and manages to get people to believe that -- which means she's a Communist.

Anyway, you can just imagine how illegal this all is. Way illegal. So illegal that a president once resigned, rather than face scrutiny over a similar wiretapping scheme.

Well, it's not so cut and dried as that. At least, not for FOX News, who played the story this way when they first reported it:

REPORT TIM GAUGHAN: [It's a] very weird story that probably needs a lot of context and a lot of looking into, which is what we’re going to do here. I just wanted to get it on the record with it right now.

ANCHOR SHEP SMITH: So, they’re saying basically, they’re in there -- It sounds as if what they’re saying is, they’re looking for some ACORN hanky panky and they try to tap into Mary Landrieu’s telephone to get it.

GAUGHAN: That could be one way of looking at it, yes.

You know, when you put it in that context, it's still way illegal. (Think Progress, with video)

-Wow. Just wow-
Another thing that happened while I was dicking around with computer machines and monitor sets and interweb wires was that South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer decided that now would be a good time to display just what kind of a lunatic Nazi fuckwit he is.

See, the government should end assistance to people who fail drug tests. "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed," he said. "They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better." So drug addicts should starve or they're gonna have sex all over the place. Something like that anyway. I apologize, I'm not fluent in moron.

OK, so we had Gov. Sanford's affair with Evita Peron. Then we had Slow Joe Wilson yelling at the president during a joint session of congress. Now we've got the Lt. Governor talking like freakin' Mussolini.

Seriously South Carolina, what the fuck is wrong with you? (Washington Post)

-Ear to the ground-
Sources tell me that there's going to be this Obama guy on the teevee tonight and that it's going to be super-duper important.

I'll let you know if I hear more. (Washington Post)

Spending Freeze? I Thought Obama Won the Election

John Maynard KeynesInfluential economist John Maynard Keynes once said about economic stimulus, "The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up." This was a facetious comment, but one that's haunted Keynesian economics ever since. Conservatives use that quote, along with the left's long adherence to Keynesian economic principles, as proof of the folly of "tax and spend liberals." Give money to the government and they'll just waste it with pointless spending.

But what Keynes actually meant was that when the only entity providing jobs is the government -- i.e., a recession or depression -- then the government should find ways to provide more jobs. It doesn't make much difference what those jobs are, since the idea is to inject money into the economy. In a country like the United States, where infrastructure has always been a non-priority, you're not going to have any trouble finding holes to fill. We've got bridges falling down, trains failing to run, and levees giving out. No one will ever have to dig holes to to be filled, but in the hypothetical case that this is the only job available, then that's the job that should be provided.

See, economics -- in the broadest terms -- has boiled down to two competing theories; demand-side and supply-side. The problem with supply-side economics is that no one's ever actually gotten it to work. With demand-side Keynesianism, we got out of the Great Depression.

The flaw with supply-side -- AKA "trickle down economics," AKA "Reaganomics" -- is that it relies on an economic hypothesis that's not only been proven untrue over and over, but that it seems crazy on its face. Basically, the idea is to get money to the richest members of society, because they'll use that money to create jobs and stimulate the economy. This doesn't work for a lot of reasons, the most obvious being A) rich people don't become rich by spending money they don't have to and, B) when it comes to creating jobs, see A. No one's going to hire someone just because they can afford to. Supply-side puts the cart before the horse.

Demand-side economics recognizes that the economy is driven by consumers, not employers. Where supply-side programs put money at the top, where it doesn't actually trickle down, up, or sideways, demand-side gets money to people at the bottom of the ladder. Here's where the obvious kicks in; people who need money are guaranteed to spend it. And, when they spend that money, it works its way throughout the entire economy -- from the bottom to the top. So the question is, do you try to get money to people who are basically money collectors or do you get money to people who have to spend it? Doesn't seem like much of a stumper to me.

All of which makes this a little hard to figure:

[New York Times:]

President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday.

The officials said the proposal would be a major component both of Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address on Wednesday and of the budget he will send to Congress on Monday for the fiscal year that begins in October.

This actually represents two bad ideas; you don't cut spending during a recession, since the government is the only entity in the economy that's getting money out there, and you don't volunteer to put on a straitjacket.

"A spending freeze? That’s the brilliant response of the Obama team to their first serious political setback?" writes economic Nobel laureate Paul Krugman. "It’s appalling on every level."

It’s bad economics, depressing demand when the economy is still suffering from mass unemployment. Jonathan Zasloff writes that Obama seems to have decided to fire Tim Geithner and replace him with “the rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon” (Mellon was Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, who according to Hoover told him to “liquidate the workers, liquidate the farmers, purge the rottenness”.)

It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.

Further, says Krugman, "it’s a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for," because "Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view -- and more specifically, he has embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008."

This isn't entirely true. Obama's spending freeze is different from McCain's. But this is just the difference between stupid and really stupid.

"[T]his is a perfect example of fundamental unseriousness," writes UC Berkley economict Brad DeLong, "rather than make proposals that will actually tackle the long-term deficit -- either through future tax increases triggered by excessive deficits or through future entitlement spending caps triggered by excessive deficits -- come up with a proposal that does short-term harm to the economy without tackling the deficit in any serious and significant way."

Want good news here? There's a good chance this isn't going to happen. Liberals in congress were predictably appalled by the idea and the leadership of both chambers "withheld their backing for the proposed freeze, saying they needed to see details," according to The Hill.

Part of me, in my secret heart of hearts, hopes the president is counting on this going nowhere. He's seen what this congress can (or rather can't) do. He makes a boneheaded proposal, it gets lost in that hopelessly useless swamp of idiocy and incompetency that is the Democratic caucus, and he pretends to settle for a watered-down version.

But the rest of me thinks that's probably BS.


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The Media Double Standard

Back during the '08 presidential campaign, my take was that then-President Bush had set the bar so low that anyone who took the White House and managed not to put out the sun would be considered a great success. It was sort of tongue-in-cheek, but also somewhat serious. After all, the media cut Bush a lot of slack, reporting obvious crimes as "controversies" and treating the completely unnecessary invasion of Iraq with zero skepticism and 100% orgasmic glee. You'd think that a media so fawning toward the previous president would measure the current one by the same yardstick.

But this hasn't been the case. All the excitement that had previously been reserved for the bombing of innocent people for no good reason has now been applied to Obama's approval ratings and a special election in Massachusetts that didn't go the way the pressident's party would've liked. A mere one year in, cable news has all but declared the Obama presidency a failure.

To be fair, I would've liked to see the previous president get the level of scrutiny the current one receives. CNN, for example, has a special project tracking stimulus money. OK, good. But the Bush administration literally shipped pallet loads of money -- 363 tons of bills, totaling $12 billion -- into Iraq, where $8.8 billion of it just disappeared.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?" asked Rep. Henry Waxman at the time. Other wastes and abuses were spending on contractors who delivered shoddy construction work, fed soldiers rotten food, exposed military personnel to toxic fumes from open burn pits, and electrocuted soldiers in their showers. "They were handing out tons of cash from the back of pick up truck," Rep. Peter Welch said. Given all this, was there a special project to track money in Iraq?


At this point, anyone still complaining about the "liberal media" is just ignoring the obvious. Or they're crazy or dumb or all of the above. We've got President Obama under a microscope, but Bush was viewed through the wrong end of a binoculars. Here's a crazy idea, how about we put every president under that microscope?

To give you an idea of just how bad things got under the Bush administration and just how much the media missed, we turn to Justin Elliot at Talking Points Memo and a story that is, sadly, no surprise at all:

When the Pentagon's internal think tank decided in 2004 it needed a better understanding of Al Qaeda, it turned to an unlikely source: the terrorism analyst Laurie Mylroie, who was known as the chief purveyor of the discredited idea that Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11 and many other attacks carried out by Al Qaeda.

Mylroie was paid roughly $75,000 to produce a 300-page study, "The History of Al Qaida," for the Defense Department think tank, known as the Office of Net Assessment, a DOD spokesman tells us. The study, which is dated September 2005, was posted on an intelligence blog last month.

It documents the development of Al Qaeda and spends many pages dancing around the theory that has defined Mylroie's career -- that key Qaeda leaders acted at the behest of the Iraqi regime. She also argues that group-think among U.S. analysts has obscured the true nature of the terrorist group.

Also not surprisingly, Mylroie is widely considered a "crackpot" by the intelligence community. "I think that she has zero credibility on these issues," says terrorism expert Peter Bergen. When we learned that Sarah Palin couldn't get it out of her head that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, this was proof of what a ridiculous boob she is. Yet here's someone working for the Pentagon who makes the same mistake in intelligence reports.

It might be easy to blame this on the Pentagon themselves, but the evidence shows that Mylroie was hired at the administration's behest:

Mylroie's allies in the Bush Administration included Iraq hawks Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and others. "The elaborate conspiracy theories she had propounded--dismissed as bizarre and implausible by the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities--would have enormous influence within the administration," reported David Corn and Michael Isikoff in their book Hubris.

That's right, someone wrote a book that showed the Bush administration relying on a lunatic to make the case for invading Iraq. Remember what a big deal that was?

Yeah, that's because it wasn't. Gossipy books about what a lightweight Sarah Palin is and how the Edwards fought on the campaign trail -- now that's news.

I really can't complain that Obama's getting the scrutiny he's getting. But I'd hope that they'd do the same to the next president and the next. George W. Bush wouldn't have gotten away with half the stuff he did if the media didn't let him. Stick everyone under that microscope and we'd all be better off.

But somehow I doubt that'll happen. Despite all the Republican whining about a "liberal media," recent history shows that it's not. What we've got is a TV-driven culture and a media obsessed with ratings. War is good for ratings, so the "war president" gets cut some slack. Which, of course, gives presidents an incentive to go to war.

I don't see that changing any time soon.


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Griper Blade: Can We Get Some Leadership Here?

As the healthcare reform fight goes all haywire, Democrats are surprisingly united. Not in the recognition that 45,000 people will die without coverage this year and the next and the next unless something is done. And not in the fighting the leading cause of bankruptcy -- medical bills -- in America. No, Democrats are all lined up in blaming the special election in Massachussets for derailing healthcare reform. The media has joined in, coming just short of saying that Republicans, with a 41 seat minority, now control Washington. Barely short, because the consensus position is that Democrats have to do what Republicans say now. See, they have 41 seats and the founders envisioned a nation where the side with the fewest votes wins... I guess. Call it "bass-ackward democracy."

Of course, I'll never get tired of pointing out that reform was supposed to be finished in August, but that Harry Reid greenlighted a snipe hunt for Republican votes by Sen. Max Baucus. This went pretty much the way anyone who'd been paying attention expected it to, with Baucus's bill finally passing out of his committee with zero Republican votes. It's tempting to drop this all on those two thin senatorial shoulders, but the truth may be that this wasn't a strategic blunder by two incompetents in the upper chamber, but an institutional failure within the Democrat party as a whole.

[Washington Post:]

The Obama legislative agenda was built around an "advancing tide" theory.

Democrats would start with bills that targeted relatively narrow problems, such as expanding health care for low-income children, reforming Pentagon contracting practices and curbing abuses by credit-card companies. Republicans would see the victories stack up and would want to take credit alongside a popular president. As momentum built, larger bipartisan coalitions would form to tackle more ambitious initiatives.

"Did the Obama team really imagine at the outset that Republicans would acquiesce to the Obama agenda in order to bask in Obama’s reflected glory and popularity?" Greg Sargent wondered yesterday. "...Amazing, if true."

Maybe, maybe not. It wouldn't be the first time that a major newspaper got it wrong or that hypothesis was reported as fact. But the administration's hands-off approach -- even as Baucus and Reid wandered down their idiotic road -- at least suggests there may be some truth to it. The White House may not have stepped in and set things right because they, like Baucus and Reid, thought they hadn't gone wrong.

Sargent also reports what it is Republicans would accept. "Put the CSPAN cameras in the room as the President said," Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said on Meet the Press this weekend. "You start with junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. Interstate competition among insurance companies. And many of my members would be lookin’ -- would -- would be willing to look at equalizing the tax code. Right now, if you’re a corporation and you provide insurance -- for your employees, you get to deduct it on your corporate tax return. But if you’re an individual on the individual market, you don’t. Step by step to work on the cost problem. That’s what Republicans are willing to do." So, some not completely bad ideas and some completely bad ideas. Anything beyond that, no dice. No ban on denials based on pre-existing conditions, no subsidies for low-income people, no new regulations (in fact, further deregulation), and no mechanism at all to pay for any of it. Few, if any, uninsured people would be insured under this... I guess you have to call it a "plan."

That's what Republicans are willing to do.

"[I]t doesn't have to be on the president's shoulders," writes Steve Benen. "As we talked about yesterday, Congress is its own branch, with its own leaders. It's in members' interests to get this done. Congress should realize the importance of delivering on the promise of reform -- whether it gets instructions from the White House or not should be irrelevant."

Maybe, but "should" and "will" are two different words for a reason. Anyone who expects Harry Reid to snap out of it and start leading isn't really betting on the right horse. The White House is going to have to step in here, twist some arms and stroke some egos, and take up leadership. If that means actually going to war with the Senate majority leader and boneheaded liberals in the House, then war it should be.

Under the marvelous leadership this reform has enjoyed so far, it's going around in circles. Worse, those circles are around the drain. Turns out someone actually has to steer these sort of things.


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News Roundup for 12/22/10

Screen shot of Gretchen Carlson
Massively baked

-Headline of the day-
"Fox host defends Republicans' right to smoke pot."

You know, if Fox and Friends' Gretchen Carlson is wasted, that'd explain an awful lot. Turns out that Cheech and Chong were on the morning show that's such unbelievable bullshit that you wish there was a stronger word for bullshit and they were all like "We gotta legalize pot" and stuff. So Tommy Chong starts yanking Gretchen's chain and tells her, "We want to legalize pot for everyone that wants to smoke it. You know, we don't want to legalize it for Republicans."

That totally harshed Gretchen, so she got all like "That wouldn't be fair. Would it? I mean being fair and balanced, if you want to legalize it shouldn't you want to legalize it for everyone?" And I think they were gonna fight or something, so Cheech jumps in and is all like, nah... We're just messing with you. Everyone gets to get baked. Chill.

And Gretchen was cool after that.

This is the biggest news the comedy duo has gotten since they accused Sarah Palin of growing weed. "[S]he answered a lot of questions like a stoner," they said.

Totally! And Gretchen asks them like a stoner, so you know... It's like... evidence of... you know... enbakedness or something.

You gonna eat that? (Raw Story, with video)

-Two more headlines-
This one is pure luck. Think Progress reports that the New York Times ran one headline on their website -- "Past Decade Warmest Ever, NASA Data Shows" -- followed by another headline about GOP idiocy - "Senators Want to Bar EPA Greenhouse Gas Limits."

OK, calling this GOP idiocy is a little unfair, Blue Dog morons Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, and Blanche Lincoln joined 36 Republicans to try to reverse the Environmental Protection Agency's move to classify global warming as a "threat to public health and welfare." Because the hottest decade in recorded history is exactly the right time to decide this whole "global warming" thing is a bunch of hooey.

Here's a question that's just kind of popped into my head; why is it that only really stupid ideas are bipartisan? (Think Progress)

-Bonus Hotd-
"41 industry leaders call on Congress to halt corporate 'bribery.'"

Actually, I guess this is the fourth headline, so it's the "Extra-Super Bonus HotD." Lucky you.

Turns out that liberal commies aren't the only ones who think yesterday's Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited corporate and union money in campaigns was a bad idea. Captains of industry don't like it either. See, it gives unions more power and it gives competitors -- including foreign corporations -- a way to buy them out of business by getting anti-competitive candidates elected.

So, for those keeping score; the people who like this ruling are elected Republicans and five guys on the Supreme Court... Oh, and I'm pretty sure China's orgasming over it.

Everyone else hates it. (Raw Story)

Corporations are People Too

Money outweighs people on scales of justiceIn all the noise over healthcare reform and the election in Massachusetts, you might not have noticed that democracy took a gut punch yesterday, as the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, candidates, and parties. They can do this directly, from their own general fund, without the permission of their shareholders. If elections weren't corrupt, money-driven, and anti-democratic before (and they were), they sure will be now. SCOTUS put a big "For Sale" sign on every district in the United States.

See, corporations are people too. The fact that they obviously aren't is beside the point -- an idiotic and absurd legal fiction is super-important because... Well, because. I challenge anyone out there to come up with just one way this ruling will help the average, ordinary citizen -- and if you say "jobs," I swear I'll come over there and hit you. You might not have noticed, but corporations are taking jobs out of America. The only jobs that will be created by this are more lobbyists, more "tea party"-style corporate front group organizers, and more people creating smear ads against candidates the corporations don't like. And let's not forget that the Bush years and their ultimate financial collapse were the result of eight years of de facto corporate rule. In short, this won't help you in any way.

For the majority of the court, corporations -- as people -- were an oppressed minority. Put down by the man in the form of what Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, called a "ban on political speech" which amounted to censorship. Sure, corporations enjoy special advantages such as "limited liability, perpetual life, and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets," but that's just a minority superpower -- like being well-dressed if you're gay -- and we shouldn't hold that against them, because that'd be anti-corporate-person bigotry or something. These are nice advantages, but we shouldn't hold it against them. Wrote Kennedy, "[T]he State cannot exact as the price of those special advantages the forfeiture of First Amendment rights." Why should we hold it against them that they're immortal? And not actually people? It's just the way they were born -- except, of course, they were never born.

"The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves," Kennedy wrote, adding that "when Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought." Remember, that logo on that letterhead is a person -- and don't you forget it...

I'm reminded of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where an all-powerful being named Q finds himself stripped of all his powers as a punishment by his people. Q has been rendered human, although the crew believes this is a trick.

Q: I have no powers. Q the ordinary.
PICARD: Q the liar. Q the misanthrope.
Q: Q the miserable. Q the desperate. What must I do to convince you people...
WORF: Die.

And that's my take on corporate personhood. I'll think it's not the stupidest damned thing I've ever heard when I see a corporation -- say, Nike -- laying in a coffin in a funeral home.

For their part, Democrats are livid. In a statement, Sen. Russ Feingold had this to say:

It is important to note that the decision does not affect McCain-Feingold’s soft money ban, which will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties from corrupting the political process. But this decision was a terrible mistake. Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns. Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was "firmly embedded in our law." Yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century's worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government. The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible.

Reports are that they're banging out legislation to counter this, but in the meantime we're going to have to live with this awful, stupid, asburdist ruling.

We should go with a constitutional amendment that strips corporations of this idiotic pretense of "personhood," but that seems unlikely. But clearly we have to do something. The influence of big money already threatens our democracy and this ruling, unchecked, would pretty much destroy it.


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News Roundup for 12/21/10

Paul Scott
Hangs around outside public restrooms

-Headline of the day-
"A Matter of Bigoted Priorities."

State Rep. Paul Scott wants to be Michigan's Secretary of State, because he's got super-important things he thinks need to get done right pronto. Listed among his top four priorities; "I will make it a priority to ensure transgender individuals will not be allowed to change the sex on their driver’s license in any circumstance."

This has been a huge problem because... Umm... Why has this been a huge problem, Paulie?

Well, he's got an answer for that. Scott says it's about "preventing people who are males genetically from dressing as a woman and going into female bathrooms." Oddly, it's not exactly illegal for transgendered people to use the bathroom that matches their new genitalia. So who's to start checking IDs outside bathrooms? Not the cops.

I don't think Paulie's given his "top priorities" a lot of thought. (Right Wing Watch)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, a lot people have had dumb things to say about the disaster in Haiti, but Mark Fiore has written a poem!

Aid Quake
Click for animation

Maybe grownups should shut up and help... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"GOP Is Overjoyed At The Unprecedented Influence Corporations Will Now Have In Federal Campaigns."

Wow. There's a shock, huh? (Think Progress)

Geez Dems, Settle Down

After the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the normally rational -- if exuberant -- Rep. Barney Frank lost his damned mind.

"I am hopeful that some Republican senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform," Frank said in a statement. "Because I do not think that the country would be well served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened. Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the senate rule which means that 59 are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the health care bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of this process."

So Frank was saying that the House shouldn't accept the Senate version of healthcare reform, that we should start over with Republican input (because that worked so well the last time), and that we ought to do something about the abuse of the filibuster.

On that last argument, Frank is right. The use of the filibuster by the Republican minority has been unprecedented. Changing the rules wouldn't be. Originally, it took two-thirds majority to invoke cloture, but this was changed to the current three-fifths in 1975. There is nothing barring changing the rules again and the change would only require a simple majority.

Luckily, Frank came out with a much better thought out response last night. Speaking with Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler, Frank said he'd reconsidered his stance and he'd be open to accepting the Senate version, if measures within it would be revisited through separate legislation -- which seems to be the concensus plan on that tactic anyway. If the House accepts the Senate version as is, then the filibuster is a moot point -- the legislation wouldn't go back to that chamber.

But Frank's reaction is far too typical of people on the left. The loss of the "filibuster-proof" majority isn't the end of the freakin' world. Stephen Colbert nailed it when he said that Republicans now control a "41-seat super-minority" -- i.e., the Republicans are still getting their asses kicked and they're not even close to controlling the Senate. No party has held this large a minority since the 1970s -- unless you count the majority Democrats held a few days ago. Acting like Republicans have a majority in the Senate is insane, stupid, defeatist, and wildly unrealistic.

How long will the Democrat's Senate majority last? Well, all indicators say that -- after the 2010 elections -- two years at least. The current "all the Democrats are gonna die!" media talk is BS. No one seriously believes that Republicans will take either chamber and people who say otherwise are catapulting the propaganda.

[Huffington Post:]

"I do not think [Republicans] will regain either chamber," [former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Tuesday], in an event sponsored by The Progressive Book Club and moderated by the Huffington Post. "More than that I don't think they deserve to. They would return us to policies that soundly didn't work... That being said, we've won almost all there is to win in the House. Luckily we have some open seat opportunities. So we have got a lot of tough turf we are going to defend and a lot of people who won races in close to ideal circumstances. So they are going to have to run really good campaigns."

"We have a lot more ground to defend in the House and the Senate and the governor's races than the Republicans but no, I think we are going to maintain control of both of those chambers, I firmly believe," he added. "And we are going to have to work very hard to do it."

And, before you fault me for citing an obviously partisan argument, allow me to point out that Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele agrees. Democrats will lose seats, yes, but not control. Still, expect everyone to wake up one Novemember morning to news of the "electoral disaster" that leaves Democrats in control of both houses of congress.

But the truth is much simpler and much more obvious than everyone's put it; Democrats are going to have to deal with legislation in the same way that most majorities have throughout American history. A 60 seat majority is a rare occurrence and, in our current situation, pretty much a conceptual thing anyway.

So, for Democrats, I have one bit of advice; stop freaking out and get back to work.


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Griper News: News Roundup for 12/20/10

Man snoring
Democratic voter reacts to the Martha Coakley campaign

-Headline of the day-
"Exit Survey Of Massachusetts Voters Confirms Lack Of Enthusiasm Among Progressives Hurt Coakley ."

Ooh, those Massachusetts voters are so pissed off about Barack Obama's socialist takeover of healthcare! If you ask anyone on the teevee today, that's what you'll hear. If you ask Massachusetts voters, however...

Well, not so much.

Turns out that Martha Coakley lost because her campaign was blowful. According to the report, she "did 'no outreach' to communities of color and neglected to do any advertising in the African-American or Hispanic media." She also blew energizing the youth vote and unmarried women.

People voting specifically about healthcare reform went pro-reform, not anti-. Exit polling shows "Forty-six (46%) of voters said their vote was mainly to show support for health care reform rather than to show opposition to it (35%)." In addition, only 38% said they were voting for Brown because they didn't like Obama. In fact, Independents -- who mostly threw the election to the Republican -- said they supported the president's policies by a majority of 53%. And Obama's approval rating among Massachusetts voters yesterday was 55%.

In short, the race was about Coakley and Brown, not Obama and healthcare reform.

But hey, it's so much easier to agree with Republicans who are pulling stuff out of their butt than to actually look at the facts. So the talking head shows are all doing their bobblehead routine.

Think you learn anything from watching TV news? Think again. (Think Progress)

-Today's classless response comes from...-
...Wingnut site RedState.com's Erik Erickson. In attempting to explain (read "spin") the Democrat's loss in the Massachusetts special election, Erickson blamed it all on the late Ted Kennedy.

No, really.

"If Ted Kennedy had decided to resign, or retire, when he found out just how bad his health was, instead of wanting to be a martyr for the cause, the Democrats wouldn’t be in this position," he said. Why this is supposed to make any sense at all isn't exactly clear, but Erickson ran to his blog to back up the claim.

"In Massachusetts, Barack Obama’s unicorn of hope and [change] died under the weight of Ted Kennedy’s ego," he wrote. "The left gets angry when it is pointed out, but it is an objective fact."

For the record, "objective fact" means something you can actually prove, not some crazy horseshit you made up because an anchor asked you a question you couldn't answer honestly.

When he made his -- what the hell, let's be charitable and call it an "argument" -- on CNN, resident Democrat Paul Begala punched him in the face. Ok, so that only happened in my imagination.

"He gave every ounce of his energy until the day he died to try to represent the people of Massachusetts. And they loved him,” Begala actually said. “Campaigns matter and candidates matter, and Teddy Kennedy would have won today. I doubt Erick would even try to argue with that point. He would win in a landslide today."

It's good, but I like my version better. (Politico)

-Bonus HotD-
"Republicans say they want bipartisanship."

Yeah, that's how we got in this mess in the first place. (Salon)

Surveying the Damage

I'm getting sort of a late start today, so this one's probably going to be pretty short. See, we don't have to give a crap about Joe Lieberman anymore.

OK, so that's way too short. I'll expand on things a bit. In case you missed it, turns out Scott Brown won that special election in Massachusetts. As a result, the Democratic caucus doesn't have that 60 seat majority in the Senate anymore. Now, someone point me to an instance where we had it before. On the issue of healthcare reform, a "filibuster-proof" majority was entirely theoretical.

If you're looking for good news to take away from this, I've got plenty. First off, the Democrats now have the second largest majority any party has had since the 70s. This majority is only eclipsed by the one they had before. Second, this loss of the supposedly sixtieth seat has knocked the training wheels off Harry Reid's bike. He's going to have to run this thing they way the vast majority of Senate majority leaders have in the past. Third -- and I've already mentioned this -- Lieberman, along with Nelson, Lincoln, Landrieu, et. al., have been defanged. The number Democrats have to shoot for now is fifty-one. Divas can pout and wail all they want, but their stock just dropped through the floor.

In the House, the mood among the leadership is defiant.

[Talking Points Memo:]

In the hours and minutes before Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, House Democratic leadership sounded resilient, even optimistic notes about the possibility of passing health care reform anyhow. But that puts them at odds with their rank and file members, particularly progressives, who, based on press reports and interviews conducted as returns were coming in, but before the race was called, now have a hard time seeing an endgame.

I think people are missing the big picture here. There are uninsured people right now. And those people are suffering the consequences of that lack of coverage right now. 45,000 people die every year because they lack coverage. Republicans don't care about that, Blue Dogs don't care about that, Joe Lieberman doesn't care about that, and now progressives don't care about that? Please. Calling the current situation in America a "healthcare crisis" is in no way hyperbolic. If we drop this now, 45,000 people will die. That's more than 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina combined -- in fact, multiply the total for both by nine and you still come up short. We're not going to do anything about that?


If House progressive can't do the right thing, swallow the lousy Senate bill, and go back to fix it with separate legislation (and they totally should), then the Senate should go with budget reconciliation. A lot of the immediate provisions can be passed on a majority vote and the ones that wouldn't have kicked in for a few years anyway can be passed later.

It should not be forgotten that Harry Reid and Max Baucus blew this round by wasting time looking for Republican votes they didn't need. This thing was going to be done in August. It's tempting to say that Baucus and Reid couldn't get their crap together, but it's more accurate to say they refused to.

Baucus is out of the picture at this point and he really should have as many knives hanging out of his back as anyone this morning. But Reid is still a player. If he can't get it together now, then he just plain can't get it together.

And Senate Democrats should find someone who can.


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Life After Massachusetts

Today is a big day for healthcare reform. Or, at least, that's what everyone keeps saying. Apparently, the whole thing hinges on one Senate vote (where have we heard that before?) and that seat, vacated by the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, is being filled by a special election today. The Republican, Scott Brown, is favored to win and this means the one vote everything depends on would be "nay."

Now seems like a good time to remind everyone that healthcare reform was originally scheduled to be finished last August. But then Harry Reid buckled and let Max Baucus go on an interminable snipe hunt for Republican votes. And here we are today, with zero Republican votes. Good job, Max and Harry. You guys are just so competent.

Of course, the idiocy of Senate Democratic leadership may come without consequence. The Democrat in the Massachusetts race, Martha Coakley, could very well win this. Polls have been all over the place, suggesting that this is a dynamic race. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

And preparations for the worst are already going on. For her part, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says we're getting reform, whether or not Democrats have 60 votes.

[Raw Story:]

Speaking to reporters on Monday she suggested that even if Republican Scott Brown becomes a Senator from Massachusetts, it "doesn't mean we won't have a health care bill."

Instead, it would simply be "a question about how we would proceed," she explained, according to
The San Francisco Chronicle.

"I heard the Republican candidate in Massachusetts say, 'Let's go back to the drawing board,'" Pelodi continued. "The drawing board, for the Republican party, on health care, is to tear it up, throw it away and shred it and never revisit it. This is the opportunity of a generation. If this opportunity is not realized, there won't be health care for every American. There's no back to the drawing board."

So, without the 60, what can Democrats do? Turns out there are a lot of options. The first possibility is for the House to accept the Senate version of the bill, without amendments. If this were to happen, the Senate's original passage of the bill would be the final vote for that chamber. Without amendments to agree to, there would be no second vote and the number of Republicans wouldn't make any difference.

Of course, the Senate bill is a lousy bill and whether the House would accept it word for word is an open question. Still, the possibility is there and I can't imagine that it's not at least on the table as an option.

Another possibility is passing it right now and pronto. If Brown wins, he won't be seated immediately, so passing legislation before he's sworn in also negates his no vote. The problem with this one should be obvious, though -- if we could get this done right away, it would've been done in August. Apparently, there's also a perception problem with this.

"Ultimately, rushing a bill through Congress could prove politically damaging to Democrats," writes Lea Winerman for PBS, "giving Republicans the opportunity to accuse them of ignoring the will of voters." This line of criticism strikes me as particularly insane, because it would pass on a majority vote. But Democrats have screwed up messaging wars before and I wouldn't bet against them blowing that one, too.

Finally, there's budget reconciliation. Using this, they wouldn't be able to pass the entire bill, but a good chunk of it. Then they'd go back and pass provisions point by point as separate laws. According to Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Democrats are "prepared for the process of using reconciliation."

And, of course, there's the final option, in which Brown is seated, votes to filibuster, and the whole thing goes down in flames. Given the awful leadership up and down the line on this issue, don't bet against this one.

While it's still possible that Martha Coakley can pull this off, it's hard to believe that Democrats aren't already preparing their post-Massachusetts game plan. Whatever it is, it can't possibly be as bad as everything else they've done so far.


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Just trying this out. I've never used blogger before...


News Roundup for 1/18/10

Just as dumb as Limbaugh

-Headline of the day-
"Coulter does her best to out-Limbaugh Rush."

If you're one of the few people on the planet who hasn't come to the conclusion that Ann Coulter is just a media whore, then I've got a tremendous revelation for you -- Ann Coulter is just a media whore. And she just pretty much admitted it.

Speaking to some poor lady who was sitting in for Geraldo Rivera's mustache, Coulter got a little fed up with everyone talking Rush Limbaugh this and Rush Limbaugh that. After all, she's just as big a jerkwad as Limbaugh.

"Stop asking about Rush's statement," she complained. "I made some controversial statements this week too." Lookit me! I'm all controversial and stuff!

What did she say? Some crazy shit about Bill Clinton and a Kleenex and what an awful person Jimmy Carter is... Honestly, who even cares anymore? (Raw Story, with video)

-Remembering King -- badly-
The Republican Party spent the day trying to tie itself to Martin Luther King jr.

No, really. RNC chairman Mike Steele did his part, sending out an email to supporters, saying, "As we celebrate his legacy, I’m reminded that his message is rooted in ideals and principles that the Republican Party has advocated since its inception. Today, our Party and the nation honors Dr. King’s dream by continuing his fight — the fight for all Americans to have an equal chance at the American Dream."

Sarah Palin joined in on the fun, writing on her facetubes page, "Please take a moment to tell your children about this great man. He fought for liberty and equality because he knew they were God-given and he knew that no government should be empowered to thwart our freedom. King summarized his mission when stating that no one should be judged based on skin color, but by the content of one’s character."

Nice thoughts, but a little myopic. King was also anti-war and pro-union. Worse, he was for healthcare reform before it was cool. "Of all the forms of inequality," King said in '66, "injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

Add to that the fact that Palin's running mate and the GOP's 2008 presidential candidate voted against the King Holiday and all this Republican "we love Dr. King!" stuff starts to look a little untrue.

But hey, since when has the Republican Party let a little thing like reality stand in their way? (Think Progress)

-Bonus HotD-
"AWESOME… Scott Brown Responds to Elitist Obama’s Attack on Truck Owners."

This one's just as stupid as you might think. See, Scott Brown is a Republican in a tight Race with Martha Coakley to fill the late Ted Kennedy's seat. And, since it's tight, President Obama went to Massachusetts to stump for Coakley.

So anyhoo, Brown's been running ads featuring himself driving around in truck, to prove he's a regular fella. In a stump speech, Obama told the audience, "Anyone can own a truck." This -- in the wingnutosphere, anyway -- somehow got turned into an "attack on truck owners," despite the fact that it's an obvious truth.

So Brown wasn't going to take that lying down. Nosiree Bob. "Mr. President, unfortunately in this economy, not everybody can buy a truck," Brown said in a statement. "My goal is to change that by cutting spending, lowering taxes and letting people keep more of their own money."

Yeah, because pulling money out of the economy by cutting government spending is just such a freakin' brilliant idea. For the teabaggers, this counts as "awesome."

For people with brains, however, this is just stupid. (Gateway Pundit, with video)

Hating Haiti

Kids receiving UN aid
The reaction to the earthquake in Haiti has been largely helpful, with a few notable exceptions. "[T]he international community's response has been generous and robust, and we are gearing up rapidly and effectively despite the challenging circumstances," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday. "This afternoon the UN will launch an emergency flash appeal for around $550 million. Most of this money will go to urgent needs: food and water are in critically short supply." According to Secretary Ban, 50% of the buildings in the Port-au-Prince area have been "damaged or destroyed" and a "high proportion of the 3 million people in the capital area are without access to food, water, shelter and electricity." A spokesman for the Pan American Health Organization, the hemispheric wing of the World Health Organization, says that the death toll remains unknown, but that a "variety of sources are estimating the numbers [at] between 50,000 and 100,000."

As I've said, there have been a few exceptions to the global outpouring of goodwill and aid. The first who comes to mind is right wing icon, Pat Robertson. For Pat, the earthquake was Haitian's fault -- because they'd sold their souls to the devil. Robertson's reaction was a simpleminded Christian rationalization; instead of asking why his god allows bad things to happen to good people, Pat makes things easier for himself and his followers by saying that the Haitians aren't good people. You see this sort of shallow idiocy after every major disaster -- following Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of a large section of New Orleans was blamed on abortion. God hadn't allowed an incomprehensible tragedy to strike good people, New Orleanians were terrible people who tolerated something that brought down God's wrath. That the city was way too accepting of gays and lesbians probably didn't help any.

Others didn't have their superstitions to blame for their clueless insensitivity. Talk radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh took it as an opening to attack President Obama, saying that he was politicizing the event to generate support from the black community -- as if Barack Obama needed help in that department. The fact that Limbaugh was himself politicizing the disaster to attack Obama was probably lost on the vast majority of his fans who, it must be said, are stupid beyond the ability of the English language to adequately express.

And, of course, there was Rep. Steve King, who took the tragedy as an opportunity to call for the expulsion of undocumented Haitians. Not because he's a xenophobic fool who takes every opportunity to hate illegal immigrants, mind you. It was because -- according to King -- "Haiti is in great need of relief workers and many of them could be a big help to their fellow Haitians." The Obama administration did not take King's advice. In fact, if there's an opposite to King's idea, it's the administration's action.

If the disaster in Haiti has been bad so far, it's going to get worse.

[New York Times:]

Along the capital’s main commercial strip Saturday afternoon, dozens of armed men — some wielding machetes, others with sharpened pieces of wood — dodged from storefront to storefront, battering down doors and hauling away whatever they could carry: shoes, luggage, rolls of carpet.

Jean-Mario Mondésur, 41, a bookkeeper, wandered by the street, Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines, to join the crowd of onlookers. Minutes later, he had seen enough. “There are bad men here, we must run!” he shouted.

While most of this city of 3 million people focused on clearing the streets of debris and pulling bodies out of the rubble left by Tuesday’s earthquake, there were pockets of violence and anarchy, reports of looting and ransacking, and at least one lynching of an accused looter as police officers stood aside.

"The Haitian police, due to their own significant losses, are degraded," US Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten said. "[T]hings are going reasonably well. This is not a perfect law and order situation here even in the best of times. We're concerned about it and we're monitoring it closely, but I don't think it's anything that's unmanageable." This may be the case or this may be Ambassador Merten downplaying the situation. As people become desperate, people are more likely to become violent. And, as people become more violent, the idiots on the right are more likely to see their earlier idiotic statements as being verified. If fullscale rioting and looting breaks out, expect people like Limbaugh and Robertson and King to amp up the stupid.

More criticism of the Haitian people is coming, I can practically guarantee it. And it will have some effect on charitable giving. But the haters won't care. They either can't or won't see Haitians as human and couldn't care less what happens to them. For people like Limbaugh and King, the time has come to grind axes. For people like Robertson, what more proof do you need that this is God's punishment of wicked people? Riots in the streets, "bad men" stealing food and medicine from children -- bad things happening to bad people. Never mind that, in a similar situation, these same things would happen in any city in the world.

So, if you're wondering if the right will stop the hate and lunacy after being slapped down for it, you can stop now. They won't. They'll point to unrest in Haiti and say they were right.


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Photo courtesy of UN


News Roundup for 1/15/10

Beck in crazy jacket
Glenn Beck, pictured during his brief stint as Captain Kangaroo

-Headline of the day-
"Beck: Obama is 'dividing the nation' by reacting 'so rapidly to Haiti.'"

Teary-eyed lunatic Glenn Beck told the audience of his radio show, My Unmedicated Life, that by reacting to the earthquake in Haiti, Preident Obama is destroying America.

"I also believe this is dividing the nation... to where the nation sees him react so rapidly on Haiti and yet he couldn’t react rapidly on Afghanistan," he sid. "He couldn’t react rapidly on Ft. Hood. He couldn’t react rapidly on our own airplanes with an underwear bomber... it doesn’t make sense. [...] Three different events and Haiti is the only one. I think personally that it deepens he divide to see him react this rapidly to Haiti."

OK, so let's see if we can follow this reasoning; Obama didn't react to things fast enough for Glenn in the past, so getting right on the ball this time is the worst thing ever...

Nope, can't follow that at all.

In case you're wondering, the report tells us, "Polling shows that majorities of Americans approved of Obama’s handling of the Christmas Day plot and that it didn’t divide the country."

Not that Glenn didn't give dividing the country a damned good try. (Think Progress, with audio clip)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, can you tell reg'lar people from the Homosexual Menace? How much you wanna bet? It's time to play...

Whose Marriage Is It?
Click for animation

Not as easy as you thought, was it? (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Limbaugh: Will Haitians Also Need To Face Death Panels?"

No, that's not some sort of parodic portmanteau [like that there fancy talk?] of two different wingnut memes, that's an actual Rush question.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; what a useless, useless man Rush Limbaugh is. (Mediaite, with audio clip)


News Roundup for 1/14/10

Pitt and Jolie
Bigger than Wal-Mart

-Headline of the day-
"Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie donate twice as much as Wal-Mart to Haiti."

To be fair, taken separately, Pitt and Jolie gave about as much as Wal-Mart. According to the report, "Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have together pledged to donate $1 million to support Haitian earthquake relief efforts. Wal-Mart has pledged $500,000 in cash and $100,000 in in-kind donations."

One explanation; there aren't any Wal-Marts in Port-au-Prince, so why should they care?

Of course, it may be unfair to compare the chain to the globally-minded celebrities. You'd expect Brangelina to give a boatload. But compared to the contributions of other companies with little to gain from a recovered Haiti, Wal-Mart still looks pretty chintzy.

"Even Bank of America, blasted for doling out big bonuses, has pledged $1 million," we're told. "So has UPS. And home improvement leviathan Lowe's. Drugmaker Abbot Laboratories said they'd send $1 million in-kind support."

Remember Wal-Mart's motto; "Wal-Mart: Always low prices.

"Always." (Raw Story)

-Earthquake? What earthquake?-
Media Matters points out that, compared to other cable networks, FOX News has delivered almost no coverage of the earthquake in Haiti. On the thirteenth, Sean Hannity gave the story three minutes, eight seconds of coverage, Blowhard Bill O'Reilly gave it 2:56, and Glenn Beck came in dead last with a mere thirty-seven seconds devoted to the big story of the day.

On the other hand, some FOX viewers got this from anchor Shepard Smith:

It almost makes up for all the rest of it. Almost. (Media Matters, Think Progress)

-Bonus HotD-
"Imus: Pat Robertson 'should be put to sleep.'"

No comment. (Think Progress, with video)

The Jackasses of the Right

Quake victim
The scene in Port-au-Prince, on the third day of an ongoing crisis caused by a massive earthquake, is one of unbelievable destruction and tragedy. One of the poorest nations on Earth, Haiti could not prepare for a disaster on this scale and has no way to deal with it.

[New York Times:]

Calling the death toll "unimaginable" as he surveyed the wreckage, Haiti's president, René Préval, said he had no idea where he would sleep. Schools, hospitals and a prison were damaged. Sixteen U.N. peacekeepers were killed, at least 140 U.N. workers were missing, including the chief of its mission, Hedi Annabi.

And the poor who define this nation were in the streets, some hurt and bloody, many more without food and water, close to piles of covered corpses and rubble. Limbs protruded from disintegrated concrete, and muffled cries emanated from deep inside the wrecks of buildings — many of them poorly constructed in the first place — as Haiti struggled to grasp the unknown toll from the quake.

"Please save my baby!" Jeudy Francia, a woman in her 20s, shrieked outside the St. Esprit Hospital in the city. Her child, a girl about 4 years old, writhed in pain in the hospital's chaotic courtyard, near where a handful of corpses lay under white blankets. "There is no one, nothing, no medicines, no explanations for why my daughter is going to die."

The death toll could be anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000. "We are still struggling to learn the full extent of the devastation from yesterday’s earthquake," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday. "Casualties can not yet be estimated but they are certain to be heavy."

The reaction of most people, reading about the extent of this disaster, is sympathetic. Notice I said "most people"; for some, their natural reaction is to be complete dicks about it. For his part, Pat Robertson refrained from blaming gays, lesbians, Jewish bankers, Catholics, Muslims, atheists, the ACLU, feminists, liberals or abortion providers for the earthquake. That'd be just wrong. No, Pat went ahead and blamed the Haitians themselves.

"[S]omething happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it," he said. "They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it’s a deal.' They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free."

But Pat has a history of this sort of thing and we practically expect it of him. He's just a crazy old wizard whose cognitive faculties are way past their expiration date. In fact, even when he was still a relatively young wizard, he was still a crazy one. If Pat Robertson proves anything, it's that the people who give him any credence at all are dumber than sacks of doorknobs.

Elsewhere, the tragedy generated more stupidity. For Rush Limbaugh, it was all about Barack Obama:

That's right, President Obama will use this disaster to boost his credibility with the "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country."

A couple of points: 1) since when does Barack Obama need any help with the African-American demographic? 2) Why make the distinction between "light-skinned and dark-skinned" blacks? In the context, what the hell does this even mean? It's like he's throwing extra words in just to hear himself say them. Rush can deny he's a racist until the end of time, but this alone proves it conclusively.

Also, the White House has set up a webpage with instructions on how to give to disaster relief in Haiti. Which, of course, means that the president is just phishing for money and names to add to his mailing list:

As I did with Robertson, I'll use Rush to point out just how many astoundingly stupid people there are in the world. People actually hang on this moron's every word and treat every goddam pile of idiocy that pours out of his forever-open mouth as if it had come from Socrates. Rush Limbaugh is a man unmatched in only his uselessness -- and people think he's freakin' brilliant. Like I say, they're astoundingly stupid.

He'll be on again today and he'll do what he always does; justify and defend his off-the-cuff idiocy. And those talk radio-addled intellectual weaklings that make up his audience will buy it all, because there are no dumber people than those who call themselves "Dittoheads."

If Robertson's and Limbaugh's reactions to the tragedy in Haiti teach us anything, it's that there is nothing too low, too offensive, too exploitative, and too idiotic for them.

These are useless, useless people.


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