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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

From blogofascism to PC Police. It's always something.

by digby

If there's anything more enervating than a Jonathan Chait dust-up I'd like to know what it is. I feel like I've been participating in them forever (and in blog years, I have.) Henry Farrell dispatched the essence of his argument with alacrity years ago and there's really little reason to revisit it now. But it's unavoidable. My twitter timeline is still bubbling about it and my emailbox is full. The guy deserves a trolling bonus. Nobody does it better.

As you can see by Farrell's post, most of the arguments Chait is making about the PC Left today are the same arguments he made about the Netroots Left a few years ago. He did give us credit for being a sort of crude army of thugs that might serve a purpose by balancing out the worst of the right wing fever swamps, but aside from that dubious role we were nothing more than lying propagandists without any sense of integrity who were forcing decent mainstream liberals everywhere to cower under their desks for fear that one of us would be mean to them and ruin their day.

Back then the problem was the "blogofascists" as Chait's TNR workmate Lee Siegel called us -- before he was fired for sock-puppeting his own work with all the subtlety of a One Direction super-fan:
The blogosphere’s fanaticism is, in many ways, the triumph of a lack of focus.” … All these abusive attempts to autocratically or dictatorially control criticism came about because I said that the blogosphere had the quality of fascism, which my dictionary defines as “any tendency toward or actual exercise of severe autocratic or dictatorial control.” … insults, personal attacks, and even threats. This truly is the stuff of thuggery and fascism. … Two other traits of fascism are its hatred of the processes of politics, and the knockabout origins of its adherents. Communism was hatched by elites. Fascism was born along the drifting paths of rootless men, often ex-soldiers who had fought in the First World War and been demobilized. They turned European politics into a madhouse of deracinated ambition. 
(Granted, Chait didn't use that word.  But there is little doubt that they high fived each other over the New Republic water cooler at the cleverness of such a phrase.)

That was then. Today the threat comes from the politically correct Social Justice Warriors. Hippies gonna hip I guess.

There have been a lot of articles responding to him and I'm sure you can find them if you're interested in this navel gazing bullshit.  I have to be, so I am, but it's getting really old after all these years. Still, there are a couple of interesting lessons to be taken from this. First, the liberal bloggers back in the day were very, very rude. We were a lot like the current SJWs on twitter. We went right up into the MSM writers' faces and called them out, even (or maybe especially) those who called themselves liberals. It was a nasty pile-on and I'm sure it was unpleasant for the reporters and pundits who had to endure it. I was right in there with the worst of them, foul-mouthed, vituperative and personal. There was a reason for that: it was the only way we could get their attention! 

We had a beef and, I still maintain, a beef that was legitimate and important. For years by that time we'd watched the mainstream media aid and abet the right wing to the point at which they behaved like a bunch of puerile cheerleaders for an absurd impeachment and  stolen election. Iraq was the frosting on the cake.  There was no amount of polite discourse that was going to shake up that comfortable relationship. And after Iraq it was becoming downright dangerous.

Chait bemoaned that dynamic in his 2007 piece which he described this way:
Moulitsas writes. "I mean, who did progressive [sic] have supposedly representing their side? Joe Frickin' Klein. Is it any wonder blogs grew in response?"

The creation of a liberal message machine has not only filled a vacuum in the political discourse. It has also had an impact on the mainstream media itself. One revealing window into how this has worked, as it happens, is Joe Frickin' Klein himself.

In early January, Time unveiled a new blog, Swampland, featuring several of its political writers, including Klein, a columnist for the magazine. While this was almost certainly not its intended effect, Swampland turned out to be a fascinating experiment about the effects of bringing mainstream journalists into close contact with the Internet left.

Klein's initial forays were classic Klein: His second post was a blast at "ill- informed dilettantes" of the left who prove that "[l]iberals won't ever be trusted on national security until they start doing their homework." Predictably, the netroots lashed into him. Just as predictably, his immediate reaction was to lash back, in a follow-up blog post attacking "illiberal leftists and reactionary progressives" and suggesting that his critics did not want the administration's strategy in Baghdad to succeed.

The next couple of weeks, however, saw none of the sorts of criticism of liberals that marked Klein's first post and much of his career. When, a few weeks later, he ventured back onto controversial terrain, he did so in an apologetic tone, almost as if he were cringing in anticipation of the blows that were sure to follow. "I know it's become common practice to slag David Broder in the blogosphere," he wrote. "But let me say this in David's defense ... ."

Klein still regularly took issue with his liberal critics, but the frequency of his dissents declined markedly, and the esteem with which he treated his tormentors rose commensurately. He continued to endure constant criticism and would often post three or four updates to his blog items, each replying to a wave of attacks. Moreover, Klein began with increasing frequency to concede the truth of the criticisms against him--e.g., "I was (correctly) hammered last year when I said on Stephanopoulos that all options--including nukes--should be on the table' in our dealings with Iran." And his liberal opinions seemed to grow more frequent and less hedged. ("I'm dedicating the rest of my life to making sure that we never go to war so foolishly again--if at all.")

Liberal bloggers regarded the newly tamed Klein with unconcealed satisfaction. In a post on how the netroots was successfully lobbying the mainstream media, Yglesias wrote, "I might also note that Swampland is suddenly full of posts I find much more agreeable than the ones they were doing early on." His fellow blogger Ezra Klein (no relation), of the Prospect, offered a persuasive explanation of his namesake's more liberal-friendly tone:
It's worth remembering that, for years, the only thing these quasi-liberal columnists heard was how biased, out- of-touch, and incomprehensibly progressive they were. So they began tailoring, consciously or not, their work to defend against those criticisms.

Klein, like many journalists, had spent his career in a world where there was only one real movement in U.S. politics. He had become accustomed to sustained ideological mau-mauing, but he had expected it only from one side, and, over the years, this imbalance had taken its toll. Now, suddenly, there are two such movements, balanced on either side of the moderate mainstream.

Whether or not liberals ought to consider this a good thing depends on how wide their frame of reference is. At the narrow level, the netroots take part in a great deal of demagoguery, name-calling, and dishonesty. Seen through a wider lens, however, they bring into closer balance the ideological vectors of propaganda in our public life.
Talk about being damned with faint praise.  (And you have to love the idea that Ezra and Yglesias were blogofascists.)

The latest piece about demagogic Social Justice Warriors and the PC police is really just a rehash of that moldy old argument. Mainstream writers are once again cowering under their desks because someone on the internet calls them a sell-out or a racist or some other icky name and it's very unpleasant. And I would suggest that once again, a whole lot of this icky name calling is because they can't get their attention any other way! Just as we older generation of bloggers couldn't seem to shake them out of their comfort zone any other way, so too the newer generation of online activists are undoubtedly frustrated. With the cacophony of online chatter and cable news and a gazillion websites and news feeds, it's even harder than it was a decade ago. You can't blame them for marshalling everything they have to be heard.

God knows there's a lot of moronic discourse on the internet and it's important to try to sort out trolls from serious critics. And nobody says that you are required to absorb whatever abuse any crank decides to lay on you.  My wrecked comment section stays dormant because useful arguments have shifted to twitter and I don't need to spend my days trying to deal with the odd assortment of misogynists and malcontents who took up residence there and chased off all the normal people.  But so-called "PC Police" are among those critics who are actually making a difference, even if it is uncomfortable and frustrating to be on the receiving end. My own response to being "called out" is often anger at first just like Chait.  It's very hurtful and I'm human. But I've learned that when I feel that very particular kind of anger that comes from being attacked for my privilege, it is often a useful signal that I probably need to step back think a little harder about something.

There's a lot about this lefty PC culture to criticize but it's an internal problem, not the one that Chait suggests. Trigger warnings are a very questionable response to trauma and some silly stuff like #CancelColbert reflects an unwillingness to admit when they've erred. But they aren't shutting up the MSM --- they don't have the power to do that. Twitter isn't the world and if some journalists decide it's not worth it to them to participate that's just fine.  And they certainly aren't gagging liberal academia which I would certainly hope can take care of itself. (If it can't we've got bigger problems.)  And anyway this is a young crowd, energized by its newfound ability to create some disruption and maybe make some establishment figures feel some heat. These confrontations will likely evolve over time to a different sort of discussion.

In fact,  that Joe Klein example is actually a good one to show how that could happen. He was very angry at first but he ended up engaging directly with his interlocutors in the comment sections of Swampland and they worked out quite an interesting relationship over time. The MSM did change over the past decade. And as Greenwald points out in his piece about this, that's at least partially a result of pressure from the rude liberal blogosphere.

The "politically correct left" got the MSM's  attention.  They are upset, which is the first step. Now, the MSM needs to step back and think on this a bit and ask themselves how they might constructively deal with these issues of privilege. I'm still asking --- I don't know the answer. But I'm glad they've brought it up.

I don't expect everyone to grow from this experience.  Clearly, this is a scab that just won't heal for some people.  But I'd guess that in the end a lot of others will. Liberalism will survive the social justice warriors just as it survived the blogofascists.  We'll all live to see another day.

Sad Rand

by digby

You'd think that the Kochs and their buddies, big libertarians that they are, would just love rand Paul, wouldn't you? He's the guy who wants to deliver their dream agenda, after all: a small government, free market bonanza of no taxes, no regulations and no programs other than some police and military functions to keep their money safe. What's not to like?

Well, they don't like him. At this week-end's ring kissing ceremony, he came in dead last:
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — who received the least enthusiastic response from donors during a Sunday night forum of prospective candidates that also featured Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — finished last in Luntz’s poll, the source told POLITICO.
They like Ted Cruz better than Rand Paul.

The Politico reporters seem confused about all this:

Rubio got the most votes despite espousing hawkish foreign policy stances that seem to clash with the Kochs' non-interventionist sensibilities. Paul, meanwhile, finished last despite a libertarian worldview that in some ways seems most similar to the Kochs' own philosophies — and his loss marks a potential setback in his effort to build a base of wealthy supporters for a presidential bid.

The "non-interventionist" sensibilities are highly exaggerated, both Pauls and the Kochs. In fact, they are downright hawkish themselves if the intervention means more profits and market dominance. They aren't stupid.

What's more interesting is the fact that they liked Rubio so much despite the fact that he's extremely callow and untried. The reason is that he's a young and he's Hispanic and the Big Money Boyz are smart enough to know that will be very useful in beating back an old woman. There is a model to draw from.

These are the guys who recognize that they are unlikely to get every single white vote in the country so it would be useful to peel off some Latinos. And knowing the way Republicans think, I'd guess they figure that Marco might make some of the young ladies swoon as well. He makes them swoon anyway.

The Kochs are true believers. But on't kid yourself about what they believe. They are hard core economic conservatives who are willing to put up with the social conservatives because they don't care about abortion or gay rights or anything religious, not really. It's fine with them either way. And while they don't think that national security should translate into a police state, they aren't going to get too uppity on that count either since without it they simply cannot win in the United States of America. No, what they care about is the taxing and the regulation portion of the program and in that regard any Republican will probably do --- so given the choice they'll pick the one they think has the best chance of winning the general election.

Ultimately, they'll go with the Republican nominee. It doesn't really matter which one it is. In the meantime, they'll play around in the primary. Unfortunately, it looks like Rand Paul is the guy nobody wants on their team. He just doesn't look like a president. Why should they waste money on someone like that? Ideology isn't the game they're playing.

How espionage charges multiply like rabbits

by digby

Marcy Wheeler wrote the full rundown of the Sterling trial (aka the trial in which James Risen was tormented for nearly a decade) at Salon this morning.  It's as depressing as you might expect: a bunch of dicey espionage charges that don't really add up to a hill of beans.  This was yet another one of those trials designed to "send a message."  One can only wonder what would happen if they  as eagerly wanted to send some messages to Wall Street thieves and wealthy tax cheats.

Here's the essence of the problem:

[A[long the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.

To understand why that’s true, you need to know a bit about how the Department of Justice larded on charges against Sterling to get to what represents a potential 80-year maximum sentence (though he’s unlikely to get that). Sterling was accused — and ultimately convicted — of leaking two related things: First, information about the Merlin operation to deal flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, as well as the involvement of a Russian engineer referred to as Merlin in the trial. In addition to that, the government charged Sterling separately for leaking a document (one which the FBI never found, in anyone’s possession): a letter Merlin included along with the nuclear blueprints he wrapped in a newspaper and left in the mailbox of Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So the government convicted Sterling of leaking two things: information about the operation, and a letter that was used in the operation.

Then, having distinguished the operation from the letter, DOJ started multiplying. They charged Sterling for leaking the operation to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article about it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter about it: one leak, three counts of espionage.

Then they charged Sterling for improperly retaining the letter (again, FBI never found it, not in CIA’s possession, not in Sterling’s possession, and Merlin purportedly destroyed his version before anyone could find it in his possession). Then DOJ charged Sterling for leaking the letter to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article including it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter including verbatim excerpts from it (apparently Risen is a better investigator than FBI, because he found a copy): one letter, four more counts under the Espionage Act.

Altogether, seven counts of spying, for one leak.

Here’s the really scary part though: the jury convicted Sterling based entirely on circumstantial evidence: there was not one shred of evidence showing Sterling handing Risen classified information on the operation, the Russian asset, or the letter that Risen found but FBI could not.

I eagerly await the trials of all those who give government sanctioned unclassified tips and classified leaks to the press as part of their propaganda campaigns.

Legitimate rape: feature not bug

by digby

Jamil Smith at TNR makes an important observation about the latest assault on women's rights --- the push to make abortion illegal after 20 weeks along with a requirement that any exception for rape or incest be officially reported to the authorities.

We all know what this is about, of course, but Smith points out that it's even more cynical than usual. They insist that women who are the victims of "legitimate rape" must make a report to the police but make no moves to make such a thing easier for victims of rape in general. As he says:
If you’re going to require that pregnant survivors of rape report that crime to law enforcement before getting a late-term abortion, should there not be accompanying legislative (or at the very least, rhetorical) efforts to make it safer for survivors to do so? How about increased federal support for sexual assault support groups and law enforcement initiatives to improve those rape-reporting statistics? There is nothing like that in the Republicans’ bill.

That's intentional. Republican legislators don't want to make it less difficult for survivors to report their rapes; they're counting on it. The bill’s viability depends on that 68 percent number staying right where it is, or even going up, all in the service of preventing late-term abortions.

In a way it's actually more honest. Many of these anti-abortion zealots truly believe that women and girls should be forced to give birth to their own brothers. They see nothing harmful in that to the person who's being forced to do it because they don't see the person who's being forced to do it as a person. They are merely the "method" by which a fetus is brought to term. It literally does not matter what they think or feel. Once pregnant, by whatever means, they are no longer relevant to the conversation.

Smith's piece contains a humorously revealing quote from Louis Gohmert, bless his sexist little heart:

"Some of our Republican female members ..."

As Smith quipped: "yes, that’s the word he used for women, with a possessive"

QOTW: stars bursting in air edition

by digby

There hasn't been much discussion of the right wing freak show's foreign policy comments in Iowa last week-end. I found them quite interesting. This is from Rick Perry:

Take a look. Think about our friends who have been abandoned, Think about how we have weakened our alliances around the world. Take Israel. When peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians fell apart, did we stand with out greatest ally in the Middle east? No! Unnamed administration sources were quoted as hacking the Israeli Prime Minister! The Secretary of State compared Israel to the apartheid regime of South Africa. That is not the America I know. The America I know stands for freedom. It stands steadfast with Israel.

[Cheers and applause]

Thank you. Thank you. Last year we saw ISIS terrorists enter Iraq using American tanks, American weapons, taking cities, secured through the sacrifice of American blood. This happened because of the president's inaction in Syria where he led opposition forced to become radicalized. Separately he warned the Syrian dictator that using chemical weapons on his own people was a red line he could not cross. Assad crossed that line without consequence meaning a dictator today remains in power due to this administration's empty words. When a president makes promises that he won't back up his statements are not a policy, they are just an opinion. The world pays attention, realizing they can test both our strength and our resolve. These brutal terrorists do not respect talk. They only respect force!

[Cheers and applause]

What is at stake here? What is at stake is no less than the preservation of western values. And what is required is not moral confusion but moral clarity. It matters that we understand all of this. Without confidence in the truth and goodness of our own values, the great moral inheritance of our own culture, how are we going to deal with the falsehood of theirs? What happened in Paris reminds us that this is not a rhetorical question. This is a simple fact. When it comes to the Western world. fighting this great threat, this administration needs to stop bleeding from behind ---- leading from behind.

[Cheers and applause]

What is needed at this time in history is a clear vision for the world, with America leading again with freedom on the march again on the most pressing issues of out time. We don't have to settle for the present state of decline. We can usher in a new era of growth and strength,

I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that stands for freedom and befriends freedom around the globe, I am proud to have worn the uniform of the United state Air Force! [cheers and applause]

I am proud of the young men and women who travel to far-flung regions of the world to fight for all that is right in the world {Cheers and applause]. There is nothing wrong in American today that can't be fixed with new leadership. The next two years are about hope and revival and a vision to restore America's place in the world! Starting today, let's give it to them!

[Wild applause]

Here's Palin:

We need to get honest on national security. We need to give hope to the people we need not, we will not, succumb to evil. And we call it as it is. We address it. That must be, that 800 pound elephant in the room of the White House the radical left won't even name, won't even name the threat to our way of life today,k we will hit it and name it. It is any Muslim who would choose evile, whose loyalty to a death cult perversion is so darkened and has deceived their souls that they actually think they are welcome here to transform here,

No. What we do, we strengthen our military, we respect our troops. We let the, our troops and gatekeepers, le let them tell Jihadists: "this is our house, get the hell out!"

[wild applause]

The crowd loved this stuff more than anything else as far as I could tell by the applause. I'll transcribe some more over time just to get a baseline of what they are saying to the faithful. I'm not getting a sense that they are in an isolationist mood ...

I happen to have Ben Nelson for you right here ...

by digby

This would be funny if it weren't such a perfect illustration of how nuts the conservatives are:

The challengers in the latest Supreme Court battle over the Affordable Care Act point to former Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson as evidence of their claim that Congress intended that tax credits go only to qualified recipients in states that had established their own insurance exchanges.

Nelson, a Democratic holdout as Congress debated the bill, insisted that states take the lead in establishing the exchanges. And the challengers use that to support their theory that Congress was using the tax credits to induce states into establishing the exchanges, rather than having the federal government do it.

But Nelson, who announced his retirement in 2011, speaks for himself in a brief filed by Democratic congressional leaders and others.

“I always believed that tax credits should be available in all 50 states regardless of who built the exchange, and the final law also reflects that belief as well,” Nelson wrote in a letter to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) who sought Nelson’s view.

The question of “what-does-Ben-Nelson-want” has always been a part of the ACA controversy. To win his vote in 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered Nelson a deal that would give Nebraska full federal funding of a proposed Medicaid expansion indefinitely.

During the Supreme Court’s 2012 arguments over the constitutionality of what has become known as Obamacare, Justice Antonin Scalia mentioned the controversy over the “Cornhusker Kickback.” Scalia was apparently unaware that the deal had become so controversial that it was removed from the bill before passage.

The current Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell, which will be argued March 4, is different, but Nelson still figures prominently in the briefs.

It's impossible to believe that they would use Nelson's thoughts as part of their reasoning when the man is still alive and kicking and can testify to what he thought! Are they going to argue that he's lying? That's he's senile and doesn't know what he's saying? They'd have to. It's been central to the arguments they've presented to the court.

This case is daft from start to finish. But the fact that the Supremes even took such a looney case in the first place is why everyone is so nervous about it.



Alas, poor derrick: Obama drills "Graveyard of the Atlantic"

by Tom Sullivan

Oil rigs in the "Graveyard of the Atlantic"? Someone tell the president April 1st isn't for two months yet:

(Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration proposed opening to offshore drilling an area from Virginia to Georgia in a policy shift sought by energy companies but opposed by environmentalists worried about resorts such as the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach.

The offshore plan for 2017-2022 marks the second time President Barack Obama has recommended unlocking areas in the U.S. Atlantic for oil drilling, and it drew a swift retort from allies who say the payoff doesn’t justify the risk of a spill along the populated coast. The agency said Atlantic leases won’t be auctioned for at least six years and drilling wouldn’t start for several more years.

Well, that's a relief. Plus, you know, with the Gulf Stream and all, a massive oil spill 50 miles offshore of the Outer Banks might never reach Cape Hatteras.

“Offshore oil spills don’t respect state boundaries,” said Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. “A spill in North Carolina could affect Massachusetts.”

Heads up, Nantucket.

The proposal is still preliminary, officials suggested:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters the proposal was a “balanced” approach, but she stressed that it was only a draft.

“It is not final, we’re in the early stages of what is a multi-year process,” Jewell said, cautioning that some regions listed in it “may be narrowed or taken out entirely.”

That caveat and the timing make the announcement a mite suspect. Days ago, the Obama administration had Alaska livid over its request "to designate parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a wilderness area" off-limits to oil drilling. The request left Sen. Lisa Murkowski fuming. Something about decisions on federal land made Outside being a violation of state sovereignty. Other Alaska legislators were similarly put out:

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker was "outraged" at the timing of the announcement, which comes amid low oil prices and declining production "despite having more than 40 billion barrels of untapped resources, mostly in federal areas where oil and gas activity is blocked or restricted," the joint statement said.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, called the plan “callously planned and politically motivated" in the same statement.

On the heels of the Alaska announcement, the Atlantic drilling proposal is generating predictable howls from East Coast environmentalists:

"This proposal sells out the southeast fisheries, tourism, and coastal way of life," says Sierra Weaver, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. "This is an area that has never been drilled for oil production. These are places and communities that rely on natural resources like clean air and clean water for the quality of life and the lifestyle that they know."

The White House surely knew its twin decisions would raise firestorms from both the left and right.

A head fake in advance of a Keystone pipeline veto? Or a sop?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The big secret

by digby

James Fallows:

Israel doesn't have the military capacity to "stop" Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and neither does the United States, at least not in circumstances short of total war.

Why does this matter? As a question of negotiation, I think it's fine for U.S. officials from the president on down to act as if they might seriously be considering a military strike. George W. Bush and Barack Obama alike have consistently said that "all options are on the table" when it comes to Iran, and that's fine too. It can be shrewd to keep an opponent guessing about what you might do if provoked.

This negotiating stance could be useful, as long as it doesn't spill over from fooling the Iranians to fooling ourselves. (A la, "we'll be greeted as liberators!") Letting Iran's leaders think the U.S. is contemplating a strike might pay off. Actually contemplating it could be disastrous.

So true in so many different ways.

But I heard Chris matthews tell his audience just a couple of days ago that Iran will never be allowed to build a nuclear bomb No. Matte. What. People believe this.

Another casualty in the war on the mentally ill

by digby

A 16 year old girl with a knife was shot by three cops in the lobby of the police station:

When Officers arrived they were confronted by a white female who threatened them. The suspect brandished a weapon, made threatening movements toward the officers and was shot. The suspect was transported to Good Shepherd Medical Center where she were pronounced dead by a Justice of the Peace. The Texas Rangers have been called in to investigate this shooting.

Coignard had been living with her aunt, Heather Robertson, who told ThinkProgress that the girl struggled with depression and bipolar disorder and had previously attempted suicide several times. "I think it was a cry for help," said Robertson about her niece's actions. "I think (police officers) could have done something. They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us."

Yes, there is undoubtedly something else they could have done. This was a mentally disturbed teen-age girl with a knife. They could have retreated, called for some help to try to talk her down or even used a taser if they really felt afraid for their lives. But why should they bother? This is easier.

Remember, these cops have very tough jobs. We can't second guess their actions even when it might seem obvious to anyone with half a brain and the tiniest common sense that there might be other options besides opening fire on a disturbed teenage girl inside a police station.

Authentic nonsense

by digby

Greg Sargent has a nice piece today on the "authenticity" nonsense that political strategists and Villagers peddle to the public. Worth reading in its entirety.

I thought I'd just put this quote from a week or so ago back up to illustrate how dumb it really is. This is about Chris Christie:
Chris Matthews: I sort of liked his style in the beginning before I realized it was for real, you know this Jilly Rizzo thing, this tough guy thing. Not exactly attractive when you realize it's for real it's not a feint.
I contrasted that with one of his thousands of insults toward Hillary Clinton in 2008 about her phoniness and inauthenticity.

Hobgoblins, small minds, etc.

See no evil overseers

by digby

I wrote a piece for Salon today about Senator Richard Burr the new Intelligence Committee chairman who is charged with "overseeing" the CIA. I'm sure you'll be surprised to find out that he thinks they can do no wrong:
[I]t’s an understatement to say that Sen. Burr is a very curious choice to be an “overseer” for the CIA if the Republican Party is now our greatest champion of civil liberties. He’s never seen a CIA program he didn’t think was just ducky. And it looks as though he’s not just going to continue to turn a blind eye to CIA perfidy, he may have a plan in place to ensure that the torture report is thrown into the memory hole never to be seen again.

Katherine Hawkins of OpenTheGovernment.org explains that going all the way back to December of last year Burr was making an arcane argument that the classified report is part of the congressional record and therefore exempt from request under the Freedom of Information Act and Guantánamo defense attorneys (an argument supported by the administration as well). Through a series of letters from Dianne Feinstein and the White House and subsequent letters by Sen. Burr, those who wish to deep-six the torture report have engaged in various actions that will challenge the ability of any judge or any government official who wants to release the full report. Hawkins believes this will not work, although she is less sanguine about other gambits having to do with the so-called Panetta Review that would likewise shine a light on the full scope of the torture regime. This is also based on some very byzantine reading of the law in which Burr and his allies in the administration assert that the Congress should have never seen the report in the first place, so it should go back to the CIA where they will presumably burn it in the same bins in which they burned the tapes of the CIA torture sessions.

This is what we call “congressional oversight.” It works so well, everyone is clamoring for more of it.

If you thought Dianne Feinstein was a pushover for the intelligence community, get ready. We'll be lucky if Burr even bothers to call a meeting of the committee.

Jeb's odd solution

by digby

... to the vexing problem of illegal immigration:

“First and foremost we need to control our border. The 40 percent of the people that have come here illegally came with a legal visa and overstayed their bounds. We ought to be able to figure out where they are and politely ask them to leave.”

A couple of thoughts here. Jeb probably thinks he's dogwhistling to Latinos by pretending that he's going after European college students and would-be hijackers instead of them but I don't think they're going to hear it. They know very well what the immigration debate is really all about and visas aren't involved. He also thinks that by saying this the rabid xenophobic base will be appeased, but the last thing they want to hear is "politely ask them to leave". They like the idea of "self-deportation" a lot. But they only like it in the context of making immigrants so miserable they will voluntarily go back to countries where they will starve or be killed. Let's just say that would have to be pretty miserable. After all, if they don't suffer then they won't learn their lesson and they might come back.

It's early in the cycle and Jeb's out of practice. He's also campaigning pretty much exclusively for rich donors at the moment so maybe this will impress them if no one else. (They have a different set of interests when it comes to immigration.) But he's going to have to figure out a better way to speak to this issue if he wants Republicans to vote for him. The words "immigrant" and "polite" cannot be in the same sentence.

Night Will Fall
by Batocchio

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and a new documentary looks at some important old footage. The Los Angeles Times provides a good summary:

Seventy years ago, British, Soviet and American forces were unprepared for the atrocities they encountered when they liberated the Nazi concentration camps. Combat and newsreel cameramen recorded these harrowing discoveries at camps that included Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz.

In April 1945, the footage was to be turned into a film, "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey," and was supposed to be screened in Germany after the collapse of the Third Reich.

Despite having Alfred Hitchcock as a supervising director, the 1945 film was never completed. In 1952, London's Imperial War Museum inherited the rough cut of five of the six planned reels of the film, as well as 100 compilation reels of unedited footage, a script for voice-over commentary, and a detailed shot list for the completed film.

"Night Will Fall," a new HBO documentary airing Monday [1/26/15] on the cable network and then repeating on HBO2 on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tuesday, chronicles the making of "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey." The actual 1945 documentary, which has been restored and assembled by London's Imperial War Museum, will also screen Tuesday at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Here's a trailer for Night Will Fall:

(The New York Times also has a good write-up and Metro UK rounds up British viewers' powerful reactions.)

I haven't seen either film in entirety yet, but the footage from 1945 has featured in plenty of previous Holocaust pieces, and some completed segments from German Concentration Camps Factual Survey have been shown before, including sections demonstrating Alfred Hitchcock's approach of using wide shots, panning shots and long takes where possible. (He was sadly prescient about the possibility of Holocaust denial.) Some of the footage is indeed harrowing. An excellent Guardian piece on both documentaries recaps a segment from the 1945 film that's stuck with me for years:

In one piece of film, from Majdanek concentration camp, we see huge bags containing human hair. Collected from the murdered, it would have been carefully sorted and weighed. “Nothing was wasted,” says the narrator. “Even teeth were taken out of their mouth.” Bernstein’s film then cuts to a large pile of spectacles. “If one man in 10 wears spectacles,” we are asked, “how many does this heap represent?”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. features something similar – 4000 shoes, which make a lasting impression on visitors:

US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The focus of the day has always been on (horrific) historical events but also on the general idea of human rights. Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl observed that there are limitations to comparing suffering, because it is like a gas filling a room, and "suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little." Meanwhile, Akira Kurosawa once said that "The role of the artist is not to look away," and that's certainly true of great documentary filmmakers, good historians, and really anyone who bears witness to injustice. (The documentary The Act of Killing is also well worth a look.) Injustices may vary in scale, but here in the United States, I can't help but think of indefinite detention without charges in the present, the U.S. torture regime in the recent past (and efforts to keep it unexamined), the oppression of Jim Crow laws and internment camps in living memory, and slavery and the treatment of Native Americans in the more distant past. Of course, not everyone wants to look at those events in our own nation's history, some vehemently deny them (in part or in whole) and the effects of those events are hardly limited to the past. Personally, I plan to see both Holocaust documentaries, but I suspect they serve as reminders not only of essential historical events but our own sadly enduring capacity for inhumanity. (Where we go from there is the big question.)


Peek-a-boo, we spy you ... again

by Tom Sullivan

Via a 2011 slide presentation leaked by Edward Snowden, The Intercept provides more details on how spy agencies are "building haystacks to search for needles." By intercepting unencrypted data relayed from smartphone ads and apps to analytics firms and advertisers, British and Canadian spy agencies can compile detailed profiles of individual smart phone users. Advertisers typically collect this information to answer usage questions:

How often does a particular user open the app, and at what time of day? Where does the user live? Where does the user work? Where is the user right now? What’s the phone’s unique identifier? What version of Android or iOS is the device running? What’s the user’s IP address?

But since the data sent from apps is often unencrypted, it represents "a major privacy threat" exploitable by spy agencies. This particular spy program was/is code-named BADASS:

Analysts are able to write BADASS “rules” that look for specific types of tracking information as it travels across the internet.

For example, when someone opens an app that loads an ad, their phone normally sends an unencrypted web request (called an HTTP request) to the ad network’s servers. If this request gets intercepted by spy agencies and fed into the BADASS program, it then gets filtered through each rule to see if one applies to the request. If it finds a match, BADASS can then automatically pull out the juicy information.

And those privacy policies?

Companies that collect usage statistics about software often insist that the data is anonymous because they don’t include identifying information such as names, phone numbers, and email addresses of the users that they’re tracking. But in reality, sending unique device identifiers, IP addresses, IMEI numbers [a unique device identifier], and GPS coordinates of devices is far from anonymous.

In one slide, the phrase “anonymous usage statistics” appears in conspicuous quotation marks. The spies are well aware that despite not including specific types of information, the data they collect from leaky smartphone apps is enough for them to uniquely identify their targets.

It's going to be tough on screenwriters for Hollywood spy thrillers. How are we suspend our disbelief when what used to be the stuff of fiction no longer is? At the end of the spy comedy, The President's Analyst, androids from the shadowy TPC have the entire world under surveillance. In 1967, that knock on The Phone Company was a joke.

Monday, January 26, 2015

How Torture Wins In the US Marketplace of Ideas 
by Spocko
Over two thirds of Christians support the torture of terrorist suspects.--Washtington Post Poll, January 3, 2015
How did this happen? How did actions considered morally repugnant and war crimes in World War II, become acceptable now? And by Christians, goddamnit! Who made this happen, who let this happen, who helped it happen? And finally, is there a way to change this opinion?

My friend Dr. Rebecca Gordon, goes into detail on some of these questions in her book Mainstreaming Torture, but recently I saw a TV show and heard a radio program that illustrated how some of it happened. It took a mix of secrecy, rhetorical tricks and proactive marketing to make torture become acceptable in the US.

First I watched a tv series set in 1962 in a slightly different America. Here's the opening scene:
Fade in: Two men are watching a color newsreel in an elegant theatre. The title reads, "A New Day in America." We see images of smiling workers in factories, farms and office settings. The announcer says, "Everyone has a job, everyone knows the part they play keeping our country strong." he adds, "but our greatest days lie ahead."
In the seats a note is handed off. As one of the men leaves he is silhouetted by the American flag flying on the screen. As the flag unfurls you see the stars have been replaced by a white swastika on a blue background. The announcer ends with, "Sieg Heil." 
This is the opening scene from the new Amazon TV series "The Man in the High Castle." (The first episode is free.)

In this alternative history, based on the Phillip K. Dick book, the Nazi's won World War II, the US is split between the Japanese in the west and the Nazi's in the east.

In this timeline Hitler wasn't defeated. The Nuremberg Trials never happened. The atrocities committed by one group of humans on another were never revealed, condemned or punished.

Additionally, the ideas behind the justification and need for torture weren't discredited, nor were the people who suggested them. This also means the people who provided the intellectual, legal, moral or religious foundation for torture, genocide and other war crimes were not repudiated.

Imagine a United States in which the people who provided the justification for torture weren't discredited, shunned or marginalized by their various communities.

In the show it's fifteen years after World War II. What do people normally do after a war? They go on with their lives. Some go back to academia, others to law firms or into government positions as "senior advisers."

Christian religious leaders go back to their churches to give Sunday sermons about the Bible and the New Testament. 

People write books, become pundits and experts in their field. They talk to the media, go on talk shows to plug their latest books and go on the speaking circuit to explain how they won the war.

In this alt-US, do they allow some dissension, or do they attack, smear and jail people who try to reveal the whole story

We often hear this question, "How could Germans gone along with the atrocities that were happening?" Lots of answers.
  • They didn't know. 
  • They knew but were afraid to speak up because of the fear of their own safety. 
  • They knew, but were told these actions were necessary for safety and success. 
  • They agreed with the actions. 
  • They were angry at the people whom they believed hurt them and their country and wanted to hurt them back. 
  • They rejected previously agreed upon legal, practical, moral and religious views about torture and accepted new definitions, rationals and priorities that were provided to them for justification of torture and other war crimes.
Who's Selling Torture In the Marketplace Of Ideas?

Which leads me to the radio program I heard,  Does Mass Phone Data Collection Violate The 4th Amendment? It was a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared with John Yoo arguing that mass phone data colletion does NOT violate the 4th Amendment.

Yoo is introduced  as "controversial" by ABC correspondent John Donvan. Yoo makes a few jokes about Berkeley liberals, the audience laughs and claps and it's off to the races.

The intro reminded me of a guest on the Tonight Show offering up a funny story before he sets up the clip from his latest fish-out-of water buddy film. 

Here's the video link to the intro. Here's the transcription link to the debate.

Spoiler Alert! Yoo's side lost. The audience's minds were changed.


After watching the debate I thought about all the people who promoted and are still promoting Yoo and his ideas vs those who challenged them. Conservatives love to talk about winning in the "Marketplace of Ideas." I laugh when I hear this. It reminds me of the sales people I knew who would half jokingly say, "All I want is an unfair advantage."

The pro-torture forces look for venues where they have an unfair advantage like one sided "debates" where they control the microphone or use strawmen instead of guests.

They want to talk to people and venues they can control via fear and rhetoric. For example, Dick Cheney on Meet the Press talking to Chuck Todd about torture.  Todd wasn't going to really push Cheney, he might be seen to have an option, or worse, risk Cheney not coming on the show again.

 (BTW, listen to this great clip from the Jimmy Dore Show where Todd admits if he "barks" at guests they won't come back on the show. Audio clip, starts at 24:45 )

If Todd and the rest of the corporate media aren't going to challenge these ideas can we get them to book an anti-Dick Cheney to go on shows and challenge him?

When only the sellers of torture are being bought by the media as public the best guests and leading experts, we get an United States like in The Man in the High Castle. We have won the war but lost the values that we believed made us special.

Is this our flag?
american flag in the breeze

Or is it really this? What are our current values?

Next, what will it take to change this opinion? Who will do it? Will anyone pay for doing it in the marketplace of ideas? Or should we just accept Dick Cheney's reality has won and move on?

*American Flag, by Eric Lynch via Creative Commons license
*Flag from screen grab of Amazon Production's The Man in The High Castle 

"Sarah, Sarah, so easy to look at, so hard to define"

by digby

Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review writes an essay declaring that Sarah Palin is a joke and has been one for a very long time. Seems she doesn't make much sense and is in it for herself and not the conservative movement. Imagine that.

And then I looked at the comments to find that, lo and behold, a lot of people at NR agree with him. People like this:

I admired her for about a year, then asked myself, "Why do these 'strong women' have such p-whipped husbands?" I'd hate to come home at night to one of them and find out.

There's your problem. The gibberish isn't an issue, never has been. But then they all love Rick Perry and Ben Carson too so that's obvious. The problem is that once you get to know her she's just another ballbuster, amirite?


Statistic 'O the Day

by digby

Some things you probably didn't know:

During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries -- roughly 70% of the nations on the planet -- according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises. And this year could be a record-breaker ... just 66 days into fiscal 2015 -- America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of 2014’s total.

Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans.

I would imagine that most Americans don't care much either. This is a very efficient form of warfare which doesn't require any participation from the public. What could be better?

I'm just glad the US Government is omnipotent and knows exactly what it's doing at all times or I might worry that running military actions in 70% of countries in the world might create some problems down the road.

Bond villains in every sense of the word

by digby

So everyone's all agog at this number. And it's big, especially since it will apparently come from only a few hundred donors, the largest of which will be the Kochs themselves.

The Koch brothers’ political operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections, according to an attendee at the operation’s annual winter donor gathering in the California dessert.

The spending goal, shared with donors at a Monday morning session at the Rancho Mirage Ritz Carlton, reflects the sweeping ambition of a private conservative political network that in many ways has eclipsed the power of the official Republican Party.

The $889 million spending goal dwarfs the $404 million the Republican National Committee spent during the 2012 election and the $188 million it dropped during last year’s midterm campaign.
While the RNC’s spending was supplemented by congressional campaign arms, part of the potency of the Koch operation is that it doesn’t have to spread its cash across the entire GOP political landscape.

Rather, it’s able to pick its spots, funding initiatives targeting specific slices of the electorate – such as Hispanic voters, veterans or millennials – or specific issues that jibe with the libertarian-inflected conservatism of the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch

The $889 million will be raised from a network of a few hundred donors who attend twice-a-year gatherings like the one at the Ritz. The gatherings, which are known as “seminars” in Koch world, typically run for three days – from Saturday night through Tuesday morning – and conclude with pledge sessions during which donors contribute six- and seven-figure sums to help fund the advocacy efforts detailed at the seminars.

Yes, I'm going to remind you all that this is not a Big number when you have the kind of money the Kochs have at their disposal. Combined they are worth over 100 billion dollars. Just the two brothers.

They could literally spend 50 times the amount they plan to spend and still have more than 50 billion between them and be among the top richest men on the planet.

And, by the way, this isn't about making more money for themselves. Their money is making plenty of money for them. They are true believers:

During a Saturday night welcome speech in Rancho Mirage, Charles Koch took the slightest of victory laps – calling the midterms “an important step in slowing down the march toward collectivism” – but he implored the assembled donors to dig deep headed into 2016.

Espousing a political worldview that protects free speech and “individual and property rights with equal protection for everyone under the law,” Koch said: “It is up to us. Making this vision a reality will require more than a financial commitment. It requires making it a central part of our lives.”
They are willing to spend whatever it takes to fulfill their vision. Yes, that will undoubtedly end up making them more money. But that's no longer their prime motivation. They are so rich that they've become Bond villains. They want to run the world.

Don't worry, nobody will notice the hypocrisy

by digby

Ok, this is just getting weird:
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has established a research and essay competition in honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz hosted by the National Defense University.

The king, who died Jan. 23 at age 90, oversaw the modernization of his country’s military during the time he spent as commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a position he held from 1963 until he became king in 2005.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the essay competition is a fitting tribute to the life and leadership of the Saudi Arabian monarch.

Lifetime Supporter of U.S.-Saudi Alliance]

The king was a lifetime supporter of his country’s alliance with the United States. Abdullah ruled Saudi Arabia from 2005 to his death, and served as regent of the country from 1995. He is succeeded by King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz.

“This is an important opportunity to honor the memory of the king, while also fostering scholarly research on the Arab-Muslim world, and I can think of no better home for such an initiative than NDU,” Dempsey said in a statement announcing the competition.

The competition will focus on issues related to the Arab-Muslim world and is designed to encourage strategic thinking and meaningful research on a crucial part of the world. The program will be in place at NDU for the next academic year, officials said.

I understand that the US believes Realpolitik requires that we pretend not to notice that Saudi Arabia is the state from which ISIS learns its behavior. And we all have to accept the fact that while we rend our garments over barbarity and "radical Islam" we simultaneously support the most barbarous, radical Islamic state. The state which spawned the notorious terrorists who perpetrated 9/11. This is the real world we live in here and as our great philosopher queen Ann Coulter pointed out, "we need oil."

But this ongoing lauding of the Saudi prince who just went to meet his harem of celestial virgins is a  farce. Just two weeks after virtually everyone in the nation proclaimed fundamentalist Islam the greatest danger the world faces today, after commentators scolded anyone who even mildly suggested that being sensitive to people's religious beliefs didn't translate into appeasement of evil, we have the highest reaches of the US Government extolling the home of Wahhabi Islam and our military is using it as an example of modernity in the middle east. It's completely absurd.

Nobody in this country or Europe sees this as anything unusual.  We're all used to hypocrisy about the superiority of our "values" and our morals. But one can only imagine what a crock our lectures sound like to Muslims around the world, particularly the majority moderates whom we are constantly exhorting to denounce the extremists. Americans may be too uninformed to understand how ludicrous this is but you can be sure that Muslims in the Middle East have no problem seeing just how inconsistent we are.  Somehow I don't think that's helping the cause.

The far right's hands across the water

by digby

I have a piece up at Salon today about some lines of convergence between the far right in Europe and the far right in America:
Europe’s far right has been vocal about all this for some time. And yes, their problems are different than ours. But we are now starting to see a similar impulse emerge in the U.S. as well, despite the fact that we managed to keep it somewhat at bay for nearly 15 years — at least as a matter of acceptable mainstream discourse, if not reality, for many individual Muslims caught in the government maw. We are certainly no strangers to xenophobia and nativism and this fits nicely into that niche for a lot of rank and file right-wingers. But this also fits into another niche that fueled the conservative movement for many decades — the original Threat From Within known as Communism. That paranoia, conflated with a free-floating fear of “the other” was one of the far right’s most successful organizing principles. And it’s that extremism that holds the real danger to our way of life if it once again finds its way into the conservative mainstream.

Islamic extremism and terrorism is a grave danger, no doubt about it. That it’s mostly a danger to fellow Muslims doesn’t seem to mitigate the West’s increasing hysteria about it. But America isn’t going to be instituting Shariah law or forcing women to wear veils any time soon. It might do some other things in reaction to that paranoia that are threatening to our way of life, however. We shouldn’t forget that when it comes to extremism, these are the people who openly celebrate it as a virtue.

Read on ...
Society's "trade-offs" in action

by digby

A libertarian explains America, the city on a hill:

End Obamacare, and people could die. That’s okay. We make such trade-offs all the time.
That's the actual headline. You see, the government doesn't force people to live in padded rooms to protect them from any danger, it allows people to go to work and drive cars and otherwise take risks. Therefore,  continuing a system in which vast numbers of people must go without health insurance because the for-profit insurance industry has no incentive to cover people who cost them money is no different. It's just another trade-off for freedom:
In a world of scarce resources, a slightly higher mortality rate is an acceptable price to pay for certain goals — including more cash for other programs, such as those that help the poor; less government coercion and more individual liberty; more health-care choice for consumers, allowing them to find plans that better fit their needs; more money for taxpayers to spend themselves; and less federal health-care spending. This opinion is not immoral. Such choices are inevitable. They are made all the time.
The government coercion involved in making people buy affordable insurance or pay a very tiny penalty is so burdensome that we must be willing to make the "trade-off" of people dying for lack of health care. It's a small price to pay for "individual liberty". Unless you're one of the dead people, in which case "society's trade-off" for more "choice" might not seem like such a good deal.

But we can always count on conservatives and libertarians to be eager to liberate us from our lives. It's what they do.

Anyway, this fine fellow is getting credit for an original idea. But we've heard this before haven't we?

That's society's "trade-off" in action. Makes you feel so free doesn't it?

QOTD: winning edition

by digby

And no, I'm not talking about Palin's rambling in Iowa. This is from Bobby Jindal at The Response, this past week-end's American Family Association's prayer rally for "a nation in crisis."
It is like God has given us the book of life. He doesn’t let us see the pages for today, tomorrow. He doesn’t promise us everything will go the way we want. He doesn’t promise you your sports team will win, or you’ll get the promotion at work. He doesn’t promise you you’re going to win the next election or that everything’s going to happen like you want.

“But he does let you see the last page in the book of life. And on the last page, our God wins.”
Ok, so the first part about the book is fine. God doesn't promise you a rose garden. But what in the world does "our God wins" mean? Is he saying that God is playing a game with us? Is God in competition with other Gods and at the end of the world, he will win? What exactly is on that last page? It sounds as if conservative Christianity is more akin to the Greek and Roman pagan beliefs, in which there were many Gods in perpetual battle with each other, than anything I learned in Sunday school.

The crowd reportedly went wild at this line so whatever it means, they like it.


Maybe night vision goggles?

by Tom Sullivan

The voter fraud frauds are at it again:

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Supporters and opponents of a Nebraska voter identification bill packed a public hearing Friday for a fierce debate over the measure.

The Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard heated arguments on a bill by Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill. The legislation would require voters to show a driver's license or state identification card at a polling place. Fifteen other states have such a law.


Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom testified in support of the measure, saying it protects the sanctity of the system and compared voter ID laws to a vaccination preventing polio.

Because America's Most Sanctimonious don't want their elections tainted by diseased Others — infected with too much poor, too much melanin, or too much not-one-of-us.

Talking with a newly minted ex-Republican over the weekend, I recounted attending a 2013 "boot camp" for training T-party sleuths how to purge voter rolls. I wrote at the time that,

... they emphasized the need for getting dead and inactive voters off the rolls because of the possibility of widespread voter fraud — or was it a widespread possibility? — for which they never seem to produce evidence. Basically, T-partiers are convinced that if they lose an election it must be because their opponents cheated. What else could it be? Zombies? Bigfoot?!

Much of the day focused on dead and inactive voters who remain on the rolls (by law) too long for the T-party's liking. So they employ crowd-sourced data-matching to get voters removed. Two women described perusing the MLS listings for homes for sale and foreclosures. Then they drive by, taking geocoded photos of the properties and any empty houses they find to prove to the local Board of Elections that people registered there no longer live there. They scour the daily obituaries for the freshly dead, then take the notices down to the local Board of Elections and try to have them removed from the voter rolls.

Of course, Board of Elections professionals could do all this with enough manpower and enough money from enough taxes ... oh, right.

Not once in seven hours, I told my new friend, did anyone suggest expanding the franchise or registering new voters and encouraging them to exercise their right to vote. It was utterly defensive, aimed at keeping the imagined, invisible hoards of THEM  from casting ballots.

Her eyes grew wide in shock as she said, "That's so sad."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The baby party has another tantrum

by digby

They have delicate feelings:
Soon after becoming House Speaker in 2011, Republican John Boehner started running the traps on inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint meeting of Congress. 
But when Barry Jackson, then Boehner’s chief-of-staff, checked with President Barack Obama’s top advisers, Jackson said he was left waiting a month only to get no response. Ultimately the Netanyahu speech went ahead in May but soon after Jackson faced the opposite problem: the White House had promised South Korea’s leadership an appearance before Congress, he said, without checking first with the speaker.

None of these slights justify what seems like payback now: Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu again, only this time without advising Obama or Democrats in Congress.

But the sequence of events does capture how much the normal courtesies between this White House and Congress have deteriorated — even in front of guests from another country.

“There appear to be no rules anymore. If you can do it, do it,” said Patrick Griffin, who recalls nothing quite like this even in the tempestuous times Griffin served as White House liaison between President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), herself a former speaker who oversaw similar joint meetings for foreign guests, said the management of the invitation was “inappropriate” and Boehner risks squandering his power in a fit of “hubris.”

Right. The Republicans have always acted like the mature grown-ups :

They always act like this.

A squabble in the fever swamps

by digby

A little fun on a lazy Sunday afternoon from TBOGG:

Good news, America!

Two of the most reprehensible people on the Internet — and that is not an exaggeration — are duking it out; revealing Breitbart family secrets, opening up old wounds, and saying things neither of them will ever regret saying because they are are the kind of people who will say anything for a website click and a buck because they are amoral soulless monsters.

Dana Loesch, –whom you may remember from her star turn on CNN saying she would like to pee on dead Muslims, because she is both measured in her responses and classy at the same time — has had it up to here with Chuck C. Johnson, ‘journalist,’ abortion-watcher, rape victim re-victimizer, and claimer of having ‘The Autism,’ which excuses all of his crimes against ethics in gaming journalism.

What should have been a private tête–à–tête between these two obvious soulmates who both previously worked at Andrew Breitbart’s Inland of Broken Toys That Nobody Wanted In The First Place, seems to have its genesis in Chuck outing Bible-n-gun toting American mom Holly Fisher.

According to our intrepid Chuck, Fisher seductively slipped the American flag from around her shoulders to engage in some All-American adultery-banging with a Tea Party dude while her soldier husband was keeping America free so that Chuck Johnson could 1st Amendment-report on her aforementioned adultery.

Nobody ever said that freedom of speech and the press wouldn’t get ugly from time to time.

This enraged conservatives who, you may remember, showed considerable restraint when Bill Clinton got a blow job that one time.

It was in all the papers, you should look it up.

Loesch took offense because she is BFF’s with her fellow gun/flag/Bible-toting sister in arms and unfollowed Johnson on Twitter — which is, like, 9/11 or Benghazi, or something maybe even worse. read on ...

It was inevitable that they'd start fighting among themselves. It's what people who are losing inevitably do.

And I know this because I am a liberal. BTDT... too many times to count. But these guys are so much more vicious. Of course they would be ...


Fast and furious on the taser trigger

by digby

Taser 'o the week:

It's not actually true that police are required to show three pieces of ID (I don't know where she got that idea) but that's not really the point. The point is that the guy asked a question and the police escalated in a matter of seconds, screaming and aiming their guns at him and tasering him when he wasn't being threatening. There was little reason for it. A bit of calm and common sense from the authorities could have avoided all of that.

They subsequently charged him with felonies, one for driving to a well lit spot rather than pulling over on the side of the dark highway (something I thought we were all supposed to do) and for allegedly attacking the police officers which is a charge they can apply to anyone they taser regardless of whether they were actually attacked. (I guess this is another one of those "I felt afraid" deals.)

I believe this is another example of the ongoing militarization of police. Unfortunately most American citizens have not yet been fully indoctrinated in the new reality in which their streets are considered a battleground and where the police are armed, paranoid combat troops who see all citizens as an enemy combatant until proven otherwise. They might even assume that when they put their hazard lights on and police pull them over it's not because they are criminal suspects. They might foolishly walk up and try to talk to them. They might even think it's ok to ask them for ID since the whole situation is kind of weird.

Someday they will have us well trained to accept that all our rights are suspended in the presence of police. We will know that we must obey their orders without question, submit completely, ask nothing and say nothing unless they ask us. They don't teach this in school but in America it's only after the fact that you may assert your rights --- at which point you can feel confident that no action will ever be taken against the police who violated them. Because they have a hard job and it's not for anyone to second guess their decisions in the moment.

But it's the thought that counts.

h/t @Chicago_Todd

I hope they don't mind the smell of Aquanet in that clown car

by digby

Donald Trump did a long interview on Fox this morning. He complained about people being overtaxed and the government being too big and then noted that when he goes to Europe he sees beautiful roads and highways and then comes home to potholes and crumbling infrastructure.

He announced that he's seriously considering running for president  ... and lamented that the whole world is laughing at America.

Where the people are

by digby

If half the people live in these blue shaded areas of the country can they really be called "elites"?

Using Census data, we've figured out that half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.

Here's the map, with said counties shaded in. Below the map is the list of all the counties, so you can see if you live in one of them.

It's even more stark than it appears.  Within those counties the humans are clustered in even smaller areas.   These are what we call "cities" and contrary to popular myth, they are as "real" as the rest of America.

Sunday funnies

by digby

Bryan McFadden, NY Times:


Let me count the ways

by digby

So every Villager is frantically tweeting this allegedly brilliant quote from Lisa Murkowski this morning:
"I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska”
Perhaps Lisa Murkowski doesn't understand that Alaska is in the United States? And that the people of the United States (not to mention the world) have an interest in insuring that the arctic isn't degraded any faster than we are already degrading it?

Perhaps she also doesn't understand that Iran is not part of the United States? That it is a sovereign nation over which the president has no authority while he does have authority over the "sovereign state" of Alaska?

Here's the full quote (above link):
What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,” said Murkowski, who spoke to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about the department’s plan during a brief phone call Friday, in a statement. “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory. … I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.”
Here is the cognitive dissonance. More and more Alaskans, particularly of the Republican stripe, identify the federal government and pork-barrel spending as the enemy, although Alaska was built by both.

Alaska’s appetite for federal dollars has always been voracious and is not confined to the stimulus. A study by Prof. Scott Goldsmith of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, noted that an “extraordinary increase” in federal spending drove the state’s pile-driver growth of the last 15 years.

In 1996, federal spending in Alaska was 38 percent above the national average. Thanks to the late Republican Senator Ted Stevens, who was Senate appropriations chief for several years, and to the military, which keeps expanding its bases here, Alaska’s share now is 71 percent higher than the national average.

Some of this owes to the expense of serving Alaska’s rural reaches. But much is bred in the bone. The federal government carved this young state out of the northern wilderness, and officials here learn to manipulate federal budget levers at a tender age.

Still, many see strings attached. Lynn Gattis, a Republican Party official, lives by a lake in Wasilla, surrounded by aspens. She is a sourdough Alaskan, meaning she was born here, and she is a pilot, which means she threads her way around those cloud-hugging peaks. She knows that the federal government paid for the port of Anchorage and the highway that leads to Wasilla allowed Target and Sports Authority to take root.

But she sees a government that delays oil exploration, as President Obama did recently; that regulates timber and salmon harvests and hydropower; and that, in her view, cares more about polar bears than about Alaskans. (The government lists as endangered the beluga whales of Cook Inlet, a vast gray expanse that stretches out from Anchorage. Some Alaskans argue that this could stall construction of a multimillion-dollar bridge, which as it happens would be paid for by the federal government.)

“It just feels like the federal government intrudes everywhere,” Ms. Gattis said. “Enough Ivy League lawyers — let’s get people who can dig a mine and run a business.”

This sentiment baffles Tony Knowles, a long drink of a man who worked on the North Slope oil rigs before becoming the governor of Alaska in 1994 as a Democrat. He understands the frustration that comes with bumping into federal officials at each turn. But the trade-off is not so terrible, he notes, such as having the feds pay to put broadband in Alaskan villages.

“Nobody likes to have all their eggs in one basket, and so you do feel vulnerable,” he said. “But Ted Stevens, who was a Republican and beloved, was never shy about bringing money in.”

Some Alaskans have made a founding narrative of their grievance. “Before statehood, when a distant federal bureaucracy managed our resources, Alaskans experienced devastating economic effects,” Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, says on his Web site.

The historical record is a bit more complicated. Federal dollars, fishing and timber sustained Alaska until the discovery of oil in the 1960s. Victor Fischer, who helped write the state constitution in the 1950s, shrugs.

“There’s all this verbiage that says we’re the frontier, rough and ready,” says Mr. Fischer, lithe and sardonic in his mid-80s. “The Feds paid for everything, but the conflict runs through our history.”
Yep. They didn't build that.

The fact is that the Arctic is vital to the continued health of the planet. It needs to be protected. Too many Alaskans, sadly, aren't dedicated to being good stewards and would turn the whole place into a strip mine if it meant putting some temporary money into their pockets. So I have an idea. Let's just have the federal government pay every adult who was an Alaska resident as of January 1, 2015 50k a year tax free for ten years. That would probably make up for anything they'd make on some short term projects in the wildlife refuges or the Arctic ocean. I'd have zero problem with that and I'd guess the majority of Alaskans would be for it too. Unfortunately, it would preclude some of the big guns getting rich so there would still be mighty outcry. But considering the history of federal largesse to the state it would hardly be unprecedented.


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