Sunday, March 09, 2014
The jawdropping, stunning, breathtaking chutzpah of Michele Bachmann
Via RightWing Watch:
Michele Bachmann told CPAC attendees today that the conservative movement must fight back because it is "at its core is an intellectual movement" based "on the greatest ideas that have ever been conceived in the mind of man."
So true. I think this illustrates the point very well:
Speaking with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann warned that President Obama is “threatening Israel,” and by doing so is fulfilling biblical prophecies and bringing about the End Times. The Minnesota congresswoman told Perkins that Obama is pressuring Israel to “give up its land to terrorists” allied with Al Qaeda, which will lead to a “final war, destroying and reducing to rubble Israel.”
“That’s in the natural, I just believe that as believers in Jesus Christ who see the authority of scripture, I believe that the Lord and his strong right arm will have Israel’s back and will be her protector,” Bachmann said. “The question is, will we as the United States cooperate in standing with Israel and blessing Israel, or will we join those nations that come against her? We are definitely on the wrong side. It is jaw dropping, it is stunning, it’s breathtaking.”
And then she lectured Jews for selling out Israel:
Bachmann also skewered the Jewish community in the US for its wide support for Obama. She said that Obama “was helped enormously by the Jewish community,” who she says care more about supporting Obama than Israel:
The Jewish community gave him their votes, their support, their financial support and as recently as last week, forty-eight Jewish donors who are big contributors to the president wrote a letter to the Democrat [sic] senators in the US Senate to tell them to not advance sanctions against Iran. This is clearly against Israel’s best interest. What has been shocking has been seeing and observing Jewish organizations who it appears have made it their priority to support the political priority and the political ambitions of the president over the best interests of Israel. They sold out Israel.
I'm sure that American Jews are thrilled to be lectured by Michele Bachman about how to properly support Israel.
Oy veh ...
digby 3/09/2014 05:00:00 PM
Handling their "guns"
Nothing new under the sun.
digby 3/09/2014 03:30:00 PM
Very young guys making these decisions ...
Why shouldn't they have to at least pay for the privilege?
The US Army's use of Metallica's oeuvre as a tool in its interrogations in Iraq is well documented, but it opted for something a little more esoteric in Guantanamo Bay, according to one Canadian industrial metal band.
It shouldn't ... (And they're not the first to object.)
"We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people," founder cEvin Key told the Phoenix New Times. "We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions."
While Metallica politely asked the US military to stop using their music for the sleep deprivation of detainees, Skinny Puppy took it one step further.
"So we thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the US government for musical services," Key added. "Thus the concept of the [band's new] record title, Weapons."
Despite the band's aggressive sound, they said they had never envisioned their music being used in such a way.
Asked how he felt about their songs allegedly being used in the detention camp, Key replied: "Not too good. We never supported those types of scenarios. … Because we make unsettling music, we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn’t sit right with us."
But music is used widely in the war zone too --- to pump up the soldiers and demoralize the enemy. And weirdly, it's often the same music they use to torture prisoners. I'm reminded of this article from 2004:
As tanks geared up to trample Fallujah and American troops started circling the city, special operations officers rifled through their CD cases, searching for a sound track to spur the assault.
That's reassuring, don't you think?
What would irk Iraqi insurgents more: Barking dogs or bluegrass? Screaming babies or shrieking feedback?
Heavy metal. The Army's latest weapon.
AC/DC. Loud. Louder!
I won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives
Nobody's putting up a fight
I got my bell, I'm gonna take you to hell
I'm gonna get you . . .
While the tanks flattened Fallujah this month, Hell's Bells bombarded the town. Speakers as big as footlockers blared from Humvees' gun turrets. Boom boxes blasted off soldiers' backpacks. As the troops stormed closer, the music got louder. The song changed; the message remained the same.
I'm gonna take you down - down, down, down
So don't you fool around
I'm gonna pull it, pull it, pull the trigger
Shoot to thrill, play to kill . . .
Louder. Turn it up. LOUDER!
Never mind that Iraqis didn't understand the words.
"It's not the music so much as the sound," said Ben Abel, spokesman for the Army's psychological operations command at Fort Bragg, N.C. "It's like throwing a smoke bomb. The aim is to disorient and confuse the enemy to gain a tactical advantage."
I'm like evil, I get under your skin
Just like a bomb that's ready to blow
'Cause I'm illegal, I got everything
That all you women might need to know
Hour after hour. For days on end.
"If you can bother the enemy through the night, it degrades their ability to fight," Abel explained. "Western music is not the Iraqis' thing. So our guys have been getting really creative in finding sounds they think would make the enemy upset.
"These harassment missions work especially well in urban settings like Fallujah," he said. "The sounds just keep reverberating off the walls."
Kuehl teaches information operations at Fort McNair's National Defense University in Washington, D.C. His classes are part of the Army's psychological operations, or PSYOPS, programs. He shows soldiers how to exploit information to gain power, how to get inside the enemy's head, how mental manipulation helps win wars.
"Almost anything you do that demonstrates your omnipotence or lack of fear helps break the enemy down," Kuehl said. "You have to understand your target audience, what makes them tick. You have to know that the same message could be received differently by different audiences."
Sometimes that's good. Heavy metal that tortures Iraqis' ears also can help homesick Americans. For a 19-year-old Marine who has been coiled in a tent for weeks, ready to strike, Metallica's Enter Sandman might be more inspiring than any officer's pep talk.
Dreams of war, dreams of liars
Dreams of dragon's fire
and of things that will bite
Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight . . .
"Our soldiers like this music," Kuehl said. "So that's what they're going to blast."
Sometimes, though, the songs might have an unintended effect. They might motivate the enemy instead of upsetting him.
You have to be sure, Kuehl said, that you know whose ears you're assaulting.
We are the world
"With the increasing globalization of the world, we know that some Iraqis do listen to American music, even heavy metal, on the Internet, the radio and TV," Kuehl said. "Even during the height of the Taliban, they could get Western music or videos."
Although some insurgents might have been reeling in horror at the Metallica attacks, or abandoning their fortresses to fight the frightful noise, others might have been fist-pumping at the familiar riffs, getting just as revved up as the Americans.
Hush little baby, don't say a word
Never mind that noise you heard
It's just the beasts under your bed
In your closet, in your head . . .
Military experts agree about the historic use of music to pump up the troops. But stories differ about the origins of its use as a weapon.
In December 1989, while Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega was holed up in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City, U.S. soldiers shot heavy metal music at his compound 'round the clock. Some say the songs were set off to muffle negotiations between the general and his adversaries - a "music barrier" against eavesdropping reporters.
Others say the music was played to perk up the Marines. That it annoyed the general was at first a bonus. Then a breakthrough.
"I always heard that some soldier got tired of listening to the same stuff, so he popped in an AC/DC tape and turned it up loud," said Abel, the Army spokesman at Fort Bragg. "Then Noriega commented that the rock 'n' roll was bothering him. Once the guys found that out, they cranked it up even more."
Led Zeppelin. Jimi Hendrix. "Anything weird or kind of strange," Abel said. "Howling laughter. Cackling cries."
Aaah aaah aaaaah ah! Aaah aaah aaaaah ah!
Come We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands . . .
"Since the Noriega incident, you've been seeing an increased use of loudspeakers," Abel said. "The Army has invested a lot of money into getting speakers that are smaller and more durable, so the men can carry them on their backs."
Under pressure, Abel estimated that 30 loudspeakers swooped into Fallujah this month - bolted to gun turrets, strapped to soldiers. Speakers on the Humvees can pump Metallica's sledgehammer riffs across miles, he said.
Take my hand
We're off to never-never land . . .
The Army doesn't issue an official list of songs to play during an attack, Abel said. "These guys have their own mini disc players, with their own music, plus hundreds of downloaded sounds. It's kind of a personal preference how they choose the songs," he said.
"We've got very young guys making these decisions."
digby 3/09/2014 02:00:00 PM
It's on him
The more Pope Francis strives to seem like a regular guy, the more he is praised and beloved as a revolutionary. But is it dangerous for the church to put so much weight on one man?
The last I heard, the church puts so much weight on the Pope that it even developed a Doctrine of Infallibility. They've been putting a whole lot of weight on the pope for a couple of thousand years:
The doctrine of the Primacy of the Roman Bishops, like other Church teachings and institutions, has gone through a development. Thus the establishment of the Primacy recorded in the Gospels has gradually been more clearly recognised and its implications developed. Clear indications of the consciousness of the Primacy of the Roman bishops, and of the recognition of the Primacy by the other churches appear at the end of the 1st century. L. Ott
Pope St. Clement of Rome, c. 99, stated in a letter to the Corinthians: "Indeed you will give joy and gladness to us, if having become obedient to what we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will cut out the unlawful application of your zeal according to the exhortation which we have made in this epistle concerning peace and union" (Denziger §41, emphasis added).
St. Clement of Alexandria wrote on the primacy of Peter c. 200: "...the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with Himself the Savior paid the tribute"... (Jurgens §436).
The existence of an ecclesiastical hierarchy is emphasized by St. Stephan I, 251, in a letter to the bishop of Antioch: "Therefore did not that famous defender of the Gospel [Novatian] know that there ought to be one bishop in the Catholic Church [of the city of Rome]? It did not lie hidden from him"... (Denziger §45).
St. Julius I, in 341 wrote to the Antiochenes: "Or do you not know that it is the custom to write to us first, and that here what is just is decided?" (Denziger §57a, emphasis added).
Catholicism holds that an understanding among the apostles was written down in what became the scriptures, and rapidly became the living custom of the Church, and that from there, a clearer theology could unfold.
St. Siricius wrote to Himerius in 385: "To your inquiry we do not deny a legal reply, because we, upon whom greater zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent than upon the whole body, out of consideration for our office do not have the liberty to dissimulate, nor to remain silent. We carry the weight of all who are burdened; nay rather the blessed apostle PETER bears these in us, who, as we trust, protects us in all matters of his administration, and guards his heirs" (Denziger §87, emphasis in original).
I'm pretty sure the church knows what it wants with the whole pope thing. They've been at it for quite a long while.
Many of the Church Fathers spoke of ecumenical councils and the Bishop of Rome as possessing a reliable authority to teach the content of scripture and tradition, albeit without a divine guarantee of protection from error.
digby 3/09/2014 12:30:00 PM
Prosecutors balk at being told they have to be honest
Radley Balko has posted a piece about the courts starting to make note of the fact that many prosecutors are crooked, incompetent, and/or dishonest. He quotes a South Carolina Supreme Court justice:
“The court will no longer overlook unethical conduct, such as witness tampering, selective and retaliatory prosecutions, perjury and suppression of evidence. You better follow the rules or we are coming after you and will make an example. The pendulum has been swinging in the wrong direction for too long and now it’s going in the other direction. Your bar licenses will be in jeopardy. We will take your license.”
Apparently, the prosecutors don't care for this sort of talk. Balko writes:
You’d think that there’s little here with which a conscientious prosecutor could quarrel. At most, a prosecutor might argue that Beatty exaggerated the extent of misconduct in South Carolina. (I don’t know if that’s true, only that that’s a conceivable response.) But that prosecutors shouldn’t suborn perjury, shouldn’t retaliate against political opponents, shouldn’t suppress evidence, and that those who do should be disciplined — these don’t seem like controversial things to say. If most prosecutors are following the rules, you’d think they’d have little to fear, and in fact would want their rogue colleagues identified and sanctioned.
No, they didn't.
The state’s prosecutors didn’t see that way.
[The main prosecutor singled out in the judges comments] accused him of bias and sent a letter asking him to recuse himself from criminal cases that come out of her district. In one sense, Wilson is unquestionably correct. Beatty is biased. He’s clearly biased against prosecutors who commit misconduct. But that’s a bias you probably want in a judge, particularly one that sits on a state supreme court. It’s also a bias that isn’t nearly common enough in judges. (Not only do most judges not name misbehaving prosecutors in public, they won’t even name them in court opinions.)
They are saying that if you think prosecutors should be honest you are biased against prosecutors. Which may actually be true, since so many of them are dishonest.
Other prosecutors around the state jumped on, and now at least 13 of the head prosecutors in the state’s 16 judicial districts, along with South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, are asking for Beatty’s to be recused from criminal cases. This would presumably end his career as a state supreme court justice.
This is our justice system in 2014.
Read the whole thing. We have a serious problem with our justice system. And I doubt if anyone cares. After all, in America, honesty is for chumps.
digby 3/09/2014 11:00:00 AM
So much for the GOP's youth outreach
Gollowing up on David's post below, I think this is just fascinating. Dave Weigel reports from the Rand Paul rally --- er, CPAC, on these fault lines in the GOP:
[The]conference also skews libertarian, more and more every year since Ron Paul ran for president (2008) and Rand Paul went to the U.S. Senate (2010). Large-print placards around the conference center warn attendees not to distribute “campaign material.” Stretch your legs and you’ll see a half-dozen students wearing STAND WITH RAND T-shirts, bright red, decorated with silhouettes of the Brillo-haired Kentuckian.
Oh my. What a conundrum. These baby libertarian Republicans who care so much about the freedom to not pay taxes and carry a gun don't seem to have groked what the Republican Party really is. Paul is, literally, a party of one.
In that same 2013 poll, CPAC-ers were asked whether their “most important goal” in politics was to “promote individual freedom” or to “secure and guarantee American safety at home and abroad.” Seventy-seven percent chose liberty. Eight percent, basically a rounding error, pushed the hawk button.
And now, Russia was starting a small war. Conservatives had been hating the Russians long before they had been Standing With Rand. All day Thursday, the thousands who packed into CPAC’s main ballroom heard their movement’s icons cry out against isolationism. They’d known foreign adventurism and intervention as Obama policies, blights on both parties, not part of the Republican Party they were rebuilding. They were being tested, and by people who claimed to know much more about how the party should defend America.
“Can you just imagine Ronald Reagan dealing with Vladimir Putin?” asks onetime UN Ambassador John Bolton, one of the only representatives of the George W. Bush administration to show at CPAC. “Reagan called a strong defense budget the ‘vital margin of safety.’ We are losing that vital margin all around the world. … Putin has a growing defense budget and ours is shrinking.”
If you’re Standing With Rand, that’s never worried you. The senator had supported the forced cuts of sequestration, encouraging his colleagues to “jettison some of the crap” in the defense budget and live with lower spending levels. If you’re, say, a 21-year-old CPAC attendee, you were born after the Soviet Union dissolved. You were 8 years old on Sept. 11, and maybe 10 for the start of the war in Iraq. You’ve never been a hawk.
And at CPAC, you’re seeing the hawks sprint back into the spotlight. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio uses his Thursday speech to rally conservatives in a global fight against “totalitarianism.” Afterward, he tells the New York Times that “there are forces within our party, there have always been in American politics, that basically say, ‘Who cares what happens everywhere else? Just mind our own business.’”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ventures from the main conference to an alternative all-day meeting of hawks—itself, a sign of how much ground has been lost to the libertarians—and explains how he differs with Paul. Sure, the Kentucky senator was right about Syria, but the hawks were right about Iran.
“When Iran describes Israel as the Little Satan,” he says, “and America as the Great Satan, we have every interest to make sure they don’t acquire the weaponry to kill millions of Americans.”
Cruz and 42 other Republican senators had signed on to new sanctions against Iran. Paul had not.
On Friday, Paul arrived at CPAC for a full day of movement building. Around noon, he was scheduled to talk to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, so his advance team encourages Stand With Randers to get Paul in full view of the camera. Hassan Sheikh, 26, a law student who runs Nebraska’s branch of Young Americans for Liberty, talks about Ukraine while the shot is being blocked.
How confusing. Weigel then interviews Rand Paul's former staffer "the Southern Avenger" who explains that conservatives don't understand that it's wrong to be hostile to Russia because they are human beings just like us. (Unlike say, African Americans ...)
“We’ve got to make sure we’re not goading ourselves into yet another expensive adventure in a foreign country,” he says, wearing a Stand With Rand shirt over a white shirt and tie. “Our allies in Europe and Asia don’t need us the way they used to. It’s absolutely preposterous that we have more than 440 military bases all across the world. That’s just an expense that taxpayers don’t need.”
Paul arrives, talks, and leaves, so he can be guided to a crowded book signing in CPAC’s exhibit hall. Aaron and Elizabeth Littlefield, aged 21 and 18 and newly married, come away with valuable copies of Paul’s Government Bullies. They didn’t follow politics when the war in Iraq began; they have only really paid attention to the Obama foreign policy. And they don’t like it.
“Obama’s foreign policy has shown the United States to be weak—that we don’t want to do anything,” says Elizabeth. “Countries don’t take our red lines seriously. We are starting to lose our standing.”
“Ron Paul was a staunch isolationist,” says Aaron, “whereas Rand Paul does believe we live in an international community. That’s one of the big differences between supporters of Ron and Rand.”
Rand's big speech was received with wild applause --- but the only foreign policy question he addresses is the use of drones to kill Americans, which his followers don't like.
Actually they don't know what to think. They have, as Weigel points out, come of age during the Iraq war, which nobody likes now, and the Obama administration which they loathe with every fiber of their being. They are unacquainted with the GOP's traditional love for their own hatred of enemies abroad.
But they're coming around:
“I was in middle school when the Iraq war started,” he says. “I didn’t think much of it. As I got older, I figured going over there wasn’t the best idea.”
It's in the DNA.
“It’s kind of indicative of this entire administration,” he says. “Foreign policy’s been put on the back burner. When Romney got criticized for bringing up Russia, I think that was a key moment.”
I know that people like to think that Rand Paul can bring in a new generation with his libertarian ideas. And maybe a little re-brand will be helpful in getting some of the younger white guys to get ininvolved with a party that is majority geriatric. (They have plenty in common, after all --- mutual loathing of doing anything for people who don't look like them and a belief that the country should be run only by rich white guys.) But a hawkish foreign policy is a major organizing principle on the American right and has been since WWII. I doubt it's going to change. It's certainly possible that it could change. But let's just say that it's a long shot. Young white, conservative guys, as a group, tend to like wars. They just need one of their own.
digby 3/09/2014 09:30:00 AM
A party in tatters
by David Atkins
Let's put three stories side by side.
First, Rand Paul crushed the straw poll at CPAC:
Though hot off the stove from his now-famous 13-hour filibuster, Rand Paul just narrowly edged Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2013. This year, he managed to bring in 31 percent of the 2014 vote, followed distantly by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with 11 percent. Ben Carson clocked in at No. 3 with 9 percent.
It's the makings of a hands-off-government political dynasty: Ron Paul has twice won the CPAC poll in years past. But the younger Paul, who's emerged as a bona fide conservative star in his own right, offers what is potentially a more realistic tie to the party's establishment base.
Second, the more libertarian Paul faction loses control of the Iowa GOP:
The leader of the Republican Party of Iowa announced without explanation today that he will resign later this month.
Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker will step down "effective upon election of a new state chairman" on March 29.
The news comes on the same day that the influence on the Iowa GOP from the "liberty" faction, of which Spiker was a part, was significantly diminished as mainstream Republicans turned out in force to reclaim dominance.
The majority of GOP state convention delegates elected today are pro-Branstad Republicans, who showed up in large numbers to at-times tedious and lengthy county conventions typically frequented by only the most diehard activists.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's re-election campaign led a big push to get more Republicans to turn out to the neighborhood and county meetings where the people who influence party business are elected. It was a reaction to the very well organized takeover by the liberty faction two years ago.
Third, establishment Republicans are even more aggressively trying to destroy embarrassing insurgents in their own base than before:
This election season, Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are taking a much harder line as they sense the majority within reach. Top congressional Republicans and their allies are challenging the advocacy groups head on in an aggressive effort to undermine their credibility. The goal is to deny them any Senate primary victories, cut into their fund-raising and diminish them as a future force in Republican politics.This is not the sign of a party and a movement on the rise. This is rats on a sinking ship.
“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said in an interview, referring to the network of activist organizations working against him and two Republican incumbents in Kansas and Mississippi while engaging in a handful of other contests. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”
Elevating the nasty intramural brawl to a new level, Mr. McConnell on Friday began airing a radio ad in Kentucky that attacked both Matt Bevin, the businessman challenging him in the Republican primary, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, one of the groups trying to oust Mr. McConnell and a political action committee that has been a particular thorn in his side.
Mr. McConnell’s ad, his first singling out the Senate Conservatives Fund, raises a criticism that Speaker John A. Boehner and other Republicans have leveled at the activists — that they are fund-raising and business enterprises more than political operations. The ad refers to unnamed news media reports that assert that the PAC “solicits money under the guise of advocating for conservative principles but then spends it on a $1.4 million luxury townhouse with a wine cellar and hot tub in Washington, D.C.”
I know it may not feel that way at times. But these guys are in trouble and they know it. The only things keeping them afloat are a coalition of aging voters, Koch money, and temporarily gerrymandered districts.
thereisnospoon 3/09/2014 07:30:00 AM
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Saturday Night at the Movies
The 1% rundown: Child's Pose
by Dennis Hartley
I'm sure you recall the “affluenza" case in Texas, in which a 16 year-old from a wealthy family received 10 year's probation and a stint in rehab as "punishment" for killing four people in a drunk driving accident? A psychologist for the defense defined "affluenza" as an affliction unique to children of privilege; claiming that the young man's coddled upbringing led to an inability to connect actions with consequences. We have to assume that he said this with a straight face, because judge and jury bought it. Which begs a question: Does the world have two justice systems...one for the rich and one for the poor?
Child's Pose, a new film from Romanian writer-director Calin Peter Netzer, would seem to reinforce that suspicion. Shooting in a unfussy, Dogme 95-styled manner, and armed with a script (co-written by Razvan Radulescu) that blends droll satire with social realism, Netzer paints a portrait of contemporary Romanian class warfare through the eyes of a haughty bourgeoisie woman named Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu). We are introduced to Cornelia, a middle-aged, well-to-do architect who power-puffs every cigarette like it's her last, as she is lamenting to her sister (Natasa Raab) about her relationship with her adult son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache). Why does she always have to initiate contact? He hasn't phoned her for weeks...it must be that controlling wife of his ("That creature...she's got him by his tail, like a little mouse."). "Stop pestering him," her sister says. It quickly becomes apparent that Cornelia is the one who has control issues.
Cornelia's need to know every detail of Barbu's daily life seems to go above and beyond the normal parental concerns for a child's welfare. In a particularly telling scene, she invites her housekeeper (who she has hired to regularly clean her son's home as well) to take a break and join her for a cup of coffee. Cornelia masterfully turns the chit-chat into an intelligence-gathering session. How is their place..."messy as usual"? When she dusted Barbu's nightstand, did she happen to notice which book was there? Is it the one she recently sent, she wonders? Cornelia casually offers the maid a 200 Euro pair of shoes she found whilst cleaning out her closet (a payoff, disguised as an act of noblesse oblige).
One evening, Cornelia is attending an opera recital when she is suddenly torn away by her sister, who has bad news. Barbu is down at the police station; he has been involved in a car accident. He's okay, but he has struck and killed a teenage boy. The look on Cornelia's face speaks volumes. There's none of the expected shock, or sense of panic. Rather, you can see all the gears turning. This is it. This is her "in". Barbu is in trouble. Big trouble. But mama can help. Mama has her connections. She knows what to kiss, and when. She knows how the system works. She's already formulating an action plan...not necessarily out of a maternal drive to "save" her son from jail, but to get him back under her thumb, where he belongs (Gheorghiu telegraphs all of this beautifully, wordlessly).
As you watch Cornelia serpentine her way though Bucharest like a preying viper, playing the cops, witnesses, and the victim's working-class family like violins, it almost becomes a moot point that her spoiled, ne'er do well son is guilty as hell of negligent homicide. That's because you're so gob smacked by Cornelia's gumption that you can't help but develop a morbid fascination with whether or not she is actually going to pull all this off. Of course, there would have to be some enabling factors involving the inherent corruption within "The System" as well, and Netzer doesn't spare any barbs there either.
While some viewers may be put off by the deliberate pacing (I’ll confess it took me about 20 minutes to get in tune with what the film was even going to be about) those with patience will be rewarded. Gheorghiu’s performance is the most compelling reason to stick with it; she’s the most conniving, insufferably narcissistic maternal nightmare you’ll love to hate this side of Livia Drusilla . It would be easy to say that the film’s message is “money talks, justice walks”, but the ambiguous denouement gives me pause. It seems that no victory that’s bought and paid for comes without a hidden cost. I’m not a religious man (had to look this up on Mr. Google) but how does that quote go…“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul”? Erm, amen to that.
Previous posts with related themes:
Dennis Hartley 3/08/2014 05:30:00 PM
All the problems in the world laid at Obamacare's feet
I honestly think that a whole lot of conservatives (and some not-so-bright Indies) will attribute all the existing problems with the health care system to Obamacare --- long waits, insurance beefs, bad diagnoses, malpractice, high costs, all of it. They will easily convince themselves that it was great before and now it's terrible even though it was really terrible before and is slightly less terrible now. After all, everybody said, "we have the best health care in the world!" Now it's flawed. Thanks Obamacare.
I actually had a personal experience that leads me to believe that it might not just be coming from their own prejudice but from people who work in the health care business. I was on a typically long and arduous call the other day with an insurance rep trying to straighten out a billing error and was told right upfront that the whole thing was a mess because of Obamacare. I pointed out that the bill in question was from 2012, but this person insisted that the "changes" to the health care system had messed everything up. I don't know if he was freelancing or if he'd been told that, but he said it. I know he was full of it, but I'd imagine there are others out there who would believe it. And when you combine that with the fact that employers are continuing to do what they've been doing for years --- raising co-pays and reducing benefits -- I suspect that some people are hearing similar tales from their workplace.
So, for a while at least, anyone who has a bad experience with the health care system will probably blame it on Obamacare if they're inclined to think in "government can't do anything right terms." Some will undoubtedly believe it forever. The relevant question will be if the people want it repealed. And they don't:
Even the GOP can only muster 33% to go back to the way it was.
digby 3/08/2014 04:00:00 PM
Kerning experts turn to sex. In 1960.
You have to see this whole thing to truly understand how daft it is, but this should be enough to give you the gist. It's a new conspiracy theory about Barack Obama's birth:
... Maraniss "calculated" in his 2012 book that Ann and Obama Sr. "were having sex, most likely at his apartment on 10th Avenue in Kaimuki[,]" "within weeks of the first day" of the "Russia" class. Although not at "10th Avenue" as Maraniss claimed, the 1960-1961 Honolulu Polk directory does show Obama Sr. residing(r) at 625 11th Ave.
No, I have no idea what the hell they're trying to say. But I am impressed with the fact that someone would actually take the time to speculate about this.
... But Ann's daughter, Maya Soetoro, postulated "with a chuckle" in David Mendell's 2007 Obama biography From Promise to Power that her hapa-Kenyan brother "was conceived" in a "nondescript concrete dormitory building just inside the campus" in which Obama Sr. "had been living" "while he and Ann dated." Since, in reality, Obama Sr.'s apparent 11th Avenue address in the fall of 1960 was not a dormitory "just inside the campus," but rather a house over 1.5 miles from campus, we have to ask if Maya was confused, purposefully deceitful, or a combination of both.
NoMoreMisterNiceBlog has the whole story here.
digby 3/08/2014 02:30:00 PM
The Kochs aren't exactly forced to clip coupons because of their political spending
Lee Fang takes a fatuous piece of Wall St. Journal "reporting" downtown:
In her column, “The Really Big Money? Not the Kochs,” Strassel cites a Center for Responsive Politics list to claim that unions “collectively spent $620,873,623 more than Koch Industries” on political races. Of course, if you actually visit this page on the CRP website, the list runs below a disclaimer noting that it does not include certain Super PAC spending or most undisclosed dark money spending, the preferred route for the Koch brothers for decades. In fact, the CRP site notes that union spending might appear inflated since unions’ traditional PAC spending is coupled with outside Super PAC spending. For the purposes of this chart, union spending is inflated compared to the giving of companies like Koch or Super PAC donors like Sheldon Adelson.
For the last election, Koch PACs spent $4.9 million in disclosed contributions (figures that appear on the chart referenced by Strassel). But they also spent over $407 million on undisclosed campaign entities, which does not show up in the CRP chart.
Here's how it really looks:
And in case you're wonder if that's got the brothers counting coupons because they've blown their "savings" think again:
The following illustration compares an human being against a stack of $100 currency note bundles. A bundle of $100 notes is equivalent to $10,000 and that can easily fit in your pocket. 1 million dollars will probably fit inside a standard shopping bag while a billion dollars would occupy a small room of your house:
The Kochs have 75 of those rooms. The 412 million they spent in 2012 is a rounding error.
digby 3/08/2014 01:00:00 PM
The Sanders question
He's right. It's absolutely shameful.
Speaking of which, Howie posted something very interesting yesterday about Senator Sanders:
Why Settle is the name of an ActBlue page that suggests that we do not have to always settle for vile careerist corporate shills as presidential nominees. Alternatives are offered. One of those alternatives is the great independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. And yesterday, John Nichols offered SandersThe Nation's platform to explain why he's prepared to run (against Hillary Clinton and whichever right-wing automaton the Republicans put up. "Sanders," writes Nichols, "has begun talking with savvy progressive political strategists, traveling to unexpected locations such as Alabama and entertaining the process questions that this most issue-focused member of the Senate has traditionally avoided… [H]e says his political instincts tell him America is ready for a 'political revolution.'"
"I like Hillary," he responded to Nichols; "she is very, very intelligent; she focuses on issues. But I think, sad to say, that the Clinton type of politics is not the politics certainly that I’m talking about. We are living in the moment in American history where the problems facing the country, even if you do not include climate change, are more severe than at any time since the Great Depression. And if you throw in climate change, they are more severe. So the same old same old [Clinton administration Secretary of the Treasury] Robert Rubin type of economics, or centrist politics, or continued dependence on big money, or unfettered free-trade, that is not what this country needs ideologically. That is not the type of policy that we need. And it is certainly not going to be the politics that galvanizes the tens of millions of people today who are thoroughly alienated and disgusted with the status quo. People are hurting, and it is important for leadership now to explain to them why they are hurting and how we can grow the middle class and reverse the economic decline of so many people. And I don’t think that is the politics of Senator Clinton or the Democratic establishment."
He's got a point. I don't know if Sanders is going to throw his hat in the ring but I do know that we should have a primary campaign that features one or more Democrats who will challenge the status quo. That is the mechanism in our system in which the grassroots of both parties get a chance to weigh in and try to shape the debate. It allows for questioning on subjects important to the base of the party and can potentially move the campaign in directions the voters care about.
If Hillary Clinton is unopposed and is never asked the tough questions by those on the left, she will run a general election campaign from the very beginning and it will be a wasted opportunity for the progressive faction of the Democratic Party. And there's little reason for the Clinton campaign to need to do that. The Republicans are a party in chaos and it's highly unlikely they could beat her even if she ran to the left of Sanders. But the consultants and the Party Poohbahs, as well as Clinton herself, will take the easy way out if they can and avoid any controversial policy issues for as long as possible. That's the political professional's preferred approach and I suppose it's understandable. But they aren't the only ones with a say in this. The activists and the grassroots have a say in it to. Or they should have, anyway. If Sanders agrees to run, it's worth supporting him so that he can qualify for debates and other venues where he can ask some tough questions on our behalf and present the liberal argument to the people of this country when they are paying attention to politics. We need that. Desperately.
And by the way, it certainly sounds like Sanders is thinking seriously about it.
BTW: That Pew Poll of the millenials I mentioned in the previous post also says this about voters aged 18 -33:
There is a huge amount of support among millenials for Barack Obama despite their feelings of alienation from political parties. I don't know if that support will automatically translate to support for Hillary Clinton, but I think it would be foolish to simply assume it. They have not adopted the "Democratic brand" and that is the single best indicator of how people are going to vote. These people haven't voted a lot yet so there's still plenty of room for them to surprise us. Dig down into that millenial data and you'll see some rather deep fault lines that I hope the Party is taking into account before it does its usual premature triumphant victory dance.
None of this is to say that I think Clinton will have a problem winning. It's hard to imagine at this point that she won't be the next president (although I've certainly been wrong about that before...). And as a woman, there's a big part of me that will be personally thrilled to see a woman president --- especially since I assumed America would only be allowed to elect a socially conservative, right wing Republican woman. (Clinton is a lot of things but she is not a right wing social conservative.) So, there is that. And it's not nothing. But I believe that both Obama and Clinton as "firsts" are cautious politicians who have failed to see that these historic presidencies are actually opportunities to take on the entrenched power structure since they also come at a time when the world is in transition in a dozen different ways. They certainly have to battle the conservatives, and that presents obvious institutional impediments to change, but they have more power than they think they do.
digby 3/08/2014 11:30:00 AM
Will borders hold?
So far, they mostly have. But you can feel the tension, all over the world:
The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research group, has used United Nations migration estimates to produce this fascinating, and somewhat addictive, interactive map. Choose from the “Select Country” pull-down menu below the map, and it will show you (to the nearest thousand) how many immigrants to and emigrants from that country there were as of last year, along with those migrants’ countries of origin or destinations.
We learn, for instance, that Russia and Ukraine are each other’s leading sources of migrants, with more than 2.9 million Ukrainians now living in Russia and nearly 3.5 million Russians living in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia and the United States are the top destination countries for Syrian migrants (139,000 and 76,000, respectively). The U.S. draws immigrants from nearly every country in the world, from Mexico (nearly 13 million) to Mauritius (3,000).
Borders are an organizing construct and have proved very useful. But humans will migrate. They always have and they always will. And when our system destabilizes because of greed, rapid cultural change or something as catastrophic as global warming, you can bet that borders are not going to hold them back.
This is what our species has always done to survive --- when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
digby 3/08/2014 10:00:00 AM
How banning abortion after 20 weeks becomes the reasonable, mainstream, "compromise" position:
Efforts to restrict reproductive rights are ongoing in several states, but no state is being quite as ambitious as Alabama. Yesterday, the Republican-led state House approved four bills on abortion, including one that would prohibit women from terminating an unwanted pregnancy just six weeks after conception.
The bill would make exceptions if the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life or if a fetus would be stillborn or die shortly after birth but does not make an exception for rape or incest.In case it’s not obvious, women sometimes don’t know they’re pregnant until after six weeks. In practical terms, then, Alabama state law would expect women to seek an abortion before they might know they want one.
An unborn fetus is “a life regardless of the painful, painful circumstances,” McClurkin said.
Physicians would be required to check for a fetal heartbeat. Doctors who perform an abortion without documenting the heartbeat could be charged with a Class C felony, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
That seems extreme and somewhat silly. But keep in mind that while the latest Pew poll finds that millenials are far greater advocates for gay rights and have little trust in the moldy old institutions of religion and political parties than previous generations, they do not support reproductive rights in greater numbers than anyone else. (And oddly, they support gun rights to the same extent everyone else does as well. In fact, when it comes to white millenials, it appears they really aren't that much different from the olds. What makes them different is the larger numbers of people of color.)That's depressing. If young people can care about gay rights and gun rights, one would hope they'd be equally concerned with women's rights. But then, women's rights are always waiting their turn. Mom doesn't eat until the family is done.
digby 3/08/2014 08:30:00 AM
Friday, March 07, 2014
Stopped clock alert: David Brooks is right. Really right.
This is the best column I've read by him in many a moon and it gives me a tiny bit of hope that the right will get on board with the idea that torture by solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment:
We don’t flog people in our prison system, or put them in thumbscrews or stretch them on the rack. We do, however, lock prisoners away in social isolation for 23 hours a day, often for months, years or decades at a time.
We prohibit the former and permit the latter because we make a distinction between physical and social pain. But, at the level of the brain where pain really resides, this is a distinction without a difference. Matthew Lieberman of the University of California, Los Angeles, compared the brain activities of people suffering physical pain with people suffering from social pain. As he writes in his book, “Social,” “Looking at the screens side by side ... you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.”
The brain processes both kinds of pain in similar ways. Moreover, at the level of human experience, social pain is, if anything, more traumatic, more destabilizing and inflicts more cruel and long-lasting effects than physical pain. What we’re doing to prisoners in extreme isolation, in other words, is arguably more inhumane than flogging.
This seems obvious to me. Simple human empathy should be enough to show that this is a form of torture. The anguish this causes in prisoners has been clear since ... forever. But having science back up what any decent person would already know, adds a layer to the moral argument that might convince at least a few people. (I have no hope for a large number of my fellow Americans on this --- they believe torture in our prisons is useful --- and entertaining.)
Brooks' conclusion is quite something for a Republican, even one who sells himself as a moderate:
The larger point is we need to obliterate the assumption that inflicting any amount of social pain is O.K. because it’s not real pain.
Imagine that. He thinks even prisoners have a "need for health, which is social, emotional and relational." What a concept. If our criminal justice system made a decision to end the practice of "social pain" we would have taken a large step toward becoming civilized again.
When you put people in prison, you are imposing pain on them. But that doesn’t mean you have to gouge out the nourishment that humans need for health, which is social, emotional and relational.
digby 3/07/2014 06:00:00 PM
California still believes in progress. Other places are heading in the opposite direction.
This piece by Irin Carmen about the new California law allowing non-doctor medical professionals to perform abortions ins a must read. This legislation was based upon real science and a genuine belief that the right to control your reproduction is fundamental and should be available to women who need to end unwanted or unhealthy pregnancies.
Unfortunately, that story of rationality and progress on this issue is all too rare:
This is going the wrong way in most of the country. Even as gay rights have become accepted at warp speed by historical standards, women's fundamental rights have been eroded in equal measure.
I hate to be a grudge about this, but I have to blame Democrats, including Democratic women, for being all too willing to accommodate the right's onslaught and allow their propaganda to flourish. The mere fact that we are simultaneously fighting over birth control should prove that this is not about squeamishness over abortion. And the people who continue to advise us that the best strategy is to enthusiastically support "pro-choice" politicians who insist that the goal of "zero abortions" is desirable and attainable if only we provide enough birth control and economic support are affirmatively helping them. Too many people only hear the "zero abortions" part and come away with the belief that members of both parties believe that abortion is so bad that we must try to eliminate it.
It would be nice to think that the old saw of "as California goes, so goes the nation" still applies. But it's a very heavy task trying to reverse the momentum on this issue. It's going at full speed in the other direction.
More here on the new "20-week ban" part of the strategy. I thought this bit of editorializing was especially interesting:
In the court of public opinion, however, 20-week bans raise relatively few hackles.
Right. They're no biggie. They only affect 1% of the population. Even though:
the circumstances of these abortions are often dire, as most fetal abnormalities are only detectable at 20 weeks, according to Planned Parenthood, a group that provides contraception and abortions.
Yes, that's a shame. They probably should have thought of that before they had a pregnancy with fetal anomalies. But what can we do? Now that it's been brought to their attention that it's ok to think abortion after 20 weeks is wrong, (and that some of the avatars of the pro-choice movement are on board) why shouldn't most people think the 20 week cut-off is perfectly fine?
And when the anti-abortion zealots move the goalposts again, I'm sure there will be many Democrats telling us that we can't draw any lines in the sand because people are uncomfortable with abortion. And over time, step by step, their dream will be realized: we'll have "zero" abortions.
Or, I should say, "zero legal abortions."
digby 3/07/2014 04:30:00 PM
The vigilante lobby
I can't see any other way to look at Wayne LaPierre's speech to CPAC:
1. LaPierre On America Becoming Too Dangerous For Children To Play Outside
"All across America, everywhere I go, people come up to me, and they say, 'Wayne, I've never been worried about this country until now.' And they say it not with anger, but they say it with sadness in their eyes. 'I've never been worried about this country until now.' We're worried about the economic crisis choking our budgets and shrinking our retirement, we're worried about providing decent healthcare and a college education for our own children. We fear for the safety of our families. It's why neighborhood streets that were once filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air now sit empty and silent. In virtually every way, for the things we care about most, we feel profound loss. We're sad, not because we fear something is going wrong, but because we know something already has gone wrong."
2. LaPierre: Americans Buying Guns Because Of "Reckless Government Actions" And Because The "Entire Fabric Of Society" Is In "Jeopardy"
"It's why more and more Americans are buying firearms and ammunition. Not to cause trouble, but because that America is already in trouble. We know that sooner or later reckless government actions and policies have consequences, that when government corrupts the truth and breaks faith with the American people, the entire fabric of society, everything we believe in and count on, is then in jeopardy."
3. LaPierre On How The National Media Is One Of America's "Greatest Threats"
"One of America's greatest threats is a national news media that fails to provide a level playing field for the truth. Now it's all entertainment, ratings, personal celebrity, the next sensational story, and the deliberate spinning and purposeful use of words and language, truth be damned, to advance their own agenda. You see it every day in this country. And here's how you know the media is lying: they still call themselves journalists. I'll tell you they've never been honest about the NRA. They hate us. Just for saying out loud and sticking up for what we believe. As if we have no right. So they try to ridicule us into oblivion or shame us into submission. But their moral indignation, it should be directed right into their own makeup mirrors. The media's intentional corruption of the truth is an abomination. And NRA members will never, and I mean never, submit or surrender to the national media."
4. LaPierre: "Knockout Gamers" And "Haters" Just Two Reasons We Need Unlimited Rifles, Shotguns, And Pistols (Also "Waves Of Chemicals" Could Collapse Society At Any Moment)
"We don't trust government, because government itself has proven unworthy of our trust. We trust ourselves and we trust what we know in our hearts to be right. We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want. We know in the world that surrounds us there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
5. LaPierre Quotes From "Independence Day" At Speech's Emotional Peak: The NRA "Will Not Go Quietly Into The Night!"
"This election, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, it's going to be a bare-knuckled street fight. They're going after every House seat, every Senate seat, every governor's chair, every statehouse they can get their hands on. And they're laying the groundwork to put another Clinton back in the White House. They fully intend to finish the job, to fulfill their commitment, their dream, of fundamentally transforming America. Into an America that I guarantee you won't recognize. But mark my words -- the NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight. I promise you that."
Basically, he's saying that everyone needs to be armed and prepared to shoot first and ask questions later. Whether it's the jackbooted cops or the rampaging criminals, they're all trying to kill you and you'd better kill them before they get the chance.
George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn heard the call. I'm sure they won't be the last.
digby 3/07/2014 03:00:00 PM
The GOP openly trying to stifle free speech. Hitting too close to home?
Louisiana doesn't like this:
“They clearly have protected free speech rights and can say whatever they want to criticize an elected official as long as it does not violate our registered service mark,”
Yeah. It's all about protecting the "trademark." The Lieutenant Governor, Jay Dardenne, has demanded the billboards be removed saying it will "confuse" people. Move On is refusing.
All I know is that these people just hate these satirical ads because it hits home and people like them. That's why Blue America does it as frequently as possible:
digby 3/07/2014 01:30:00 PM
They ain't done yet. (The Jeff Sessions moment)
Adam Serwer has a nice piece up today providing some important context for the failureof President Obama's nominee to head the civil rights division, Debo Adegbile, to win a majority in a Democratic Senate. He characterizes the Democrats who voted against him as "frightened" but I'd characterize them as opportunists. They know which side their racist bread is buttered on. Times have changed, but not that much. "Law and order" isn't just a TV show --- it was one of Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy slogans and it was all about keeping the you-know-whats in line. That's ultimately what was in play here. And there are, apparently, still enough Democrats who want to join that game still. Oh progress ...
But Serwer rightly points out that the attack on this nominee to head the civil rights division is part of another long term GOP strategy:
Republicans don’t just oppose Adegbile. They oppose the civil rights division itself. That’s a tremendous irony given that it was first established under a Republican president – over the opposition of many Southern Democrats.
There's more at the link. This strategy is designed to stoke the grievances of white people who are being screwed by society and the focus them on racial and ethnic minorities as the cause of all their woes. That along with this long term scheme to sabotage civil rights and suppress the vote along with the emergence of that old stand-by of "law and order" signals that there's still life in that old racist strategy yet. And this vote shows that there are still Democrats who are subject to being intimidated/seduced by it.
Yet recently when a president of their own party has been in charge of the division, Republicans have sought to purge it of civil rights lawyers perceived as too liberal. Failing that, they’ve simply declined to zealously enforce civil rights laws. During the Obama administration, Republicans have painted the division as racist against white people, and came to the defense of predatory financial industry practices that helped drive the American economy to the brink of destruction.
Where they have been unable to hamper the civil rights division’s enforcement of civil rights laws, they have turned to the conservative majority on the Supreme Court to neuter the division by gutting the laws themselves.
During the George W. Bush administration, an internal Justice Department report found Bush appointees had attempted to purge the division of liberals, or as one Bush appointee Bradley Schlozman put it, “adherents of Mao’s little red book.” The report found that Schlozman, who had vowed to “gerrymander” all those “crazy libs” out of the division, replacing them with Republican loyalists, had violated civil service laws with his hiring practices. His colleagues saw it differently – the Voting Section chief at the time, John Tanner, complained that before Bush, one had to be a “civil rights person” to get hired in the division. Imagine.
Shortly after Obama took office, conservatives seized on a now-discredited conspiracy theory that the new administration had sought to protect the New Black Panther Party. They argued that “If you are white,” in the words of Bush-era Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky, “the Division won’t lift a finger to make sure you’re ‘protected.’”
Apropos of nothing, I heard Fox's Brett Baier call this a "Jeff Sessions moment" the other day. I'm not entirely sure what he meant. On repeated viewing I realized it may not have meant what I thought it meant. But considering Jeff Sessions' history you can see why I might have been startled and thought the right wingers saw this as payback:
In 1986, Reagan nominated Sessions to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions judicial nomination was recommended and actively backed by Republican Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton. A substantial majority of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which rates nominees to the federal bench, rated Sessions "qualified," with a minority voting that Sessions was "not qualified."
Just to show how much the nation has changed, here's a quote from Sessions during the Adegbile debate:
At Sessions' confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, four Department of Justice lawyers who had worked with Sessions testified that he had made several racist statements. One of those lawyers, J. Gerald Hebert, testified that Sessions had referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as "un-American" and "Communist-inspired" because they "forced civil rights down the throats of people."
Thomas Figures, a black Assistant U.S. Attorney, testified that Sessions said he thought the Klan was "OK until I found out they smoked pot." Sessions later said that the comment was not serious, but apologized for it. Figures also testified that on one occasion, when the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division sent the office instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close, Figures and Sessions "had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them,'" by which Figures said Sessions meant civil rights cases generally. After becoming Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, Sessions was asked in an interview about his civil rights record as a U.S Attorney. He denied that he had not sufficiently pursued civil rights cases, saying that "when I was [a U.S. Attorney], I signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation, where we as part of the Department of Justice, we sought desegregation remedies."
Figures also said that Sessions had called him "boy." He also testified that "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks.'"
Sessions responded to the testimony by denying the allegations, saying his remarks were taken out of context or meant in jest, and also stating that groups could be considered un-American when "they involve themselves in un-American positions" in foreign policy. Sessions said during testimony that he considered the Klan to be "a force for hatred and bigotry." In regards to the marijuana quote, Sessions said the comment was a joke but apologized.
In response to a question from Joe Biden on whether he had called the NAACP and other civil rights organizations "un-American", Sessions replied "I'm often loose with my tongue. I may have said something about the NAACP being un-American or Communist, but I meant no harm by it."
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said, “The civil rights division must protect the civil rights of all Americans, it must not be used as a partisan tool to further the political agenda of any special interest groups, as too often has occurred in this administration in my opinion,” adding that “I do not believe the president’s nominee is therefore qualified, because I do not see the required degree of objectivity and balance that will be necessary.”
He didn't use the "n" word. He called African Americans a "special interest group." Progress.
digby 3/07/2014 12:00:00 PM
They just lie, Part XXIV
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) fired up the audience Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference with an anecdote about what he called the heartlessness of giving out free school lunches -- but it turns out that "moving" story never really happened.
I doubt Ryan cares. He believes that giving kids free school lunches is a waste of money that rich people could use more productively by buying jewels and designer handbags. It is interesting that he also feels he needs to lie and pretend that it's all about kids feeling that nobody cares about them if they get a hot lunch. Which is absurd.
Ryan used a story about a young boy choosing a lovingly made brown bag lunch over a free school meal, relayed to him by Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson, to illustrate that Democrats offer Americans a "full stomach and an empty soul."
But when Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler looked into that tale, he gave it "four pinocchios" because Anderson presented it out of context.
Kessler found Anderson told the story at a 2013 congressional hearing that Ryan chaired, and claimed she had spoken to the boy herself. Kessler notes her story closely paralleled an exchange from a book called "An Invisible Thread," in which an executive offers to either give a young, homeless panhandler money to eat for the week or else make lunch for him each day. The boy insists on having his lunch made for him in a brown-paper bag, because that means "somebody cares" about him.
A spokesman for Anderson told Kessler that the secretary "misspoke" and was actually describing a television interview she had seen with Maurice Mazcyk, the boy described in the book. Kessler further noted that school lunch is not brought up in the book, which means Anderson inserted the program into the anecdote.
They're getting so filled with contradictions they are pretty much reduced to speaking gibberish.
digby 3/07/2014 10:30:00 AM
Look who loves the Keystone Pipeline
Hey guess what? Short term, self-interested Wall Street ethics aren't confined to Wall Street:
It will create some construction jobs. I don't know what is meant by "significant" but for those who need the work any job is significant. And I get why people who would get those construction jobs are in favor of the pipeline even if they know there could be environmental disaster. Food in the belly today over whatever happens tomorrow is a powerful incentive. But that isn't 65% of the American public. What about all those people who already have jobs and know there will be a danger of environmental disaster? Apparently they just don't give a damn. I guess they figure it will allow them to drive their gas hog cars a little bit longer and for them, that's all that matters.
Why do they hate their children so much?
digby 3/07/2014 09:00:00 AM
Public banking gets off the ground in Vermont
by David Atkins
Last weekend I mentioned in my longish essay on the future of the Left the need for maximalist policy at a local level, including a strong push for public banking such as exists in North Dakota.
Some good news in that vein: 15 Vermont towns have just voted to establish a public bank that will serve the people, not Wall Street.
By a more than three-to-one margin on Tuesday, communities voting on whether to support the creation of a public bank in Vermont approved the idea, calling for the state legislature to establish such a bank and urging passage of legislation designed to begin its implementation.This is a good start. The idea needs to be replicated all across the country until the federal government starts to take notice.
In a show of direct democracy that also exposed the citizenry's desire for a more localized and responsible banking system, fifteen of nineteen towns passed the resolution during 'Town Meeting Day'— an annual event in which voters choose local officials, approve municipal budgets, and make their voices heard on a number of measures put before local residents for approval.
The specific proposal under consideration, Senate Bill 204, would turn an existing agency, the Vermont Economic Development Authority, into a public bank that would accept deposits and issue loans for in-state projects. Currently, the only state in the U.S. to maintain a public state bank is North Dakota. However, since the financial downturn of 2008, other states have looked into replicating the North Dakota model as a way to buck Wall Street while taking more control of state and local finances.
thereisnospoon 3/07/2014 07:30:00 AM
Thursday, March 06, 2014
I am not the first one to observe that American conservatives have always secretly admired the former Soviet Union. They are both, after all, authoritarians and they both have a feel for the "efficiency" of the police state (as long as it's directed the the 'right" people, of course.) But this survey at CPAC takes it to a new level:
[H]ow bad do they think Obama is? Would they, for example, prefer to have Russian President Vladimir Putin running the country?
It’s an absurd question, of course. But it’s one the conservative website The Daily Caller kind of asked when it put out an “URGENT NEWS POLL” asking: “Who would make a better president? Obama or Putin?”
Rather than wait for the answers, The Huffington Post decided to do the field work. We spoke to a dozen attendees out in the hall, showing them the Daily Caller’s webpage and asking them for a reaction. One person said she would take Obama over Putin. The majority was ambivalent, while a few talked themselves into the potential benefits of a Putin administration.
Here are some of their answers.
Somebody get Grover or Newtie over there to instruct these poor kids about how they're supposed to answer this question. They are completely lost.
Ed Porter: “I feel so uncomfortable answering. My instinct on that is: I don’t know. I would think Putin would be just as lawless, but he would have actual leadership and gravitas. It pains me to say it. But I’d go with him.”
John Rhodes: “Neither one. I would stay home. Putin has a long-term strategy. There is nothing we can do over Crimea and even then it is not worth it … It would be the first election I didn’t vote in."
Emily Hillstrom: “I think Obama will still make a better president. Putin discriminates against people. He puts them in jail. I just don’t think he is a good leader. He also invaded Ukraine.”
Sarah Kelley: “I don’t know. Putin is a lot more forward with the way he does things.”
Conor (declined to give his last name): “Putin.”
Huffington Post: “But he puts people in jail.”
Conor: “So does Obama.”
Huffington Post: “But he just invaded a neighboring country.”
Conor: “So would Obama.”
Huffington Post: “But then why Putin, if they’re both bad?”
Conor: “Because, hope and change.”
Brent (asked for his last name not to be used): “Putin. He has done a stronger job of playing international politics.”
The Huffington Post asked Brent about Putin’s domestic record. In response, he said that on 2nd Amendment rights, the IRS screening of Tea Party groups, and domestic surveillance, Obama was pursuing policies that are “hallmarks of everyday circumstances in Russia.”
“As absurd as the poll is, there is greater respectability for someone who can effect change,” he added.
Mark Roepke: “It’s tough. Putin is an effective leader. He is getting things done. It depends where I live ... I probably don’t want a Soviet running this country, but I already got a socialist.”
digby 3/06/2014 06:00:00 PM
A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has now become the least popular U.S. Senator in the country.
I guess the more people see him, the less they like him. Here's a list of the most appearances on the Sunday shows in 2013:
Key findings: "Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn't much variability in his numbers by party- he's at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents, suggesting he could be vulnerable to challenges in both the primary and general elections the next time he's up."
If you add up all the appearances he makes during the week, it's a wonder he has time to vote.
digby 3/06/2014 04:30:00 PM
You can fix inequality on the front end and on the back end. I prefer the front.
by David Atkins
A new report shows that boosting the minimum wage to a paltry $10.10 an hour would reduce SNAP expenditures by $4.6 billion:
Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would cut federal government outlays on food stamps by $4.6 billion per year, according to a study released Wednesday.The standard way you'll hear most progressives address inequality issues is to allow the labor market to run as usual, but levy heavy taxes on the back for redistribution.
The estimate published by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, is among the first to assess the effect of increasing the minimum wage on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as food stamps). The study backs supporters who say the policy change would benefit not just low-wage workers, but also taxpayers by reducing government expenditures.
The group’s analysis found that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 from the current $7.25 rate would lower total food-stamp aid by $4.6 billion, or 6% of the program’s budget.
“Our results show that a minimum-wage increase to $10.10 would reduce the need for 3.5 million people to support themselves on food stamps,” said Michael Reich, one of the study’s authors and an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.
No doubt that is the simplest way of doing it. But it also creates some problems, including a perception of unfairness, the potential to simply lower the tax rates when conservatives are put in charge, and capital mobility in which the richest people simply leave the country.
Front-end fixes that distribute wealth more fairly before it makes it to the hands to the plutocrats is more desirable in my book. They're harder to get rid of legislatively, they eliminate the "we're overtaxed" argument, and they reduce the incentive for capital mobility.
Raising the minimum wage, altering the structure of corporate law to encourage worker ownership, and instituting regulation and transaction taxes on Wall Street to encourage real long-term investment instead of job-slashing hollow corporations are all examples of front end fixes.
We need to focus on both sides of the equation, of course, but it would be great if the progressive movement as a whole spend a little more time on the front end than it does.
thereisnospoon 3/06/2014 03:33:00 PM