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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Compassionate conservatism

by digby

No, I'm not talking about Paul Ryan's latest phony stab at redemption.  I'm talking about this horrible thing:
State Rep. David Simpson (R-TX) gave a presentation on his recent tour of the Texas-Mexico border, explaining that officials believe tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors are fleeing abuse and sexual slavery in Central America.

"We need to love the immigrant, love people, and remember that these children are being fodder in this situation," Simpson said at one point.

Once the floor opened up to questions, one constituent, who the Longview News-Journal identified as Longview resident Terri Hall, took the microphone to suggest that migrants were crossing the border in such large numbers because of a "well-planned, well-thought-out" government operation.

"I understand the humanitarian and the compassion. But you are to represent us," she said. "We have children, and we have elderly people who have immunodeficiency disorders. These are people that are coming in with diseases -- leprosy, tuberculosis, polio. You need to represent us."

Hall's comment was met with loud applause.
Of course it was.

Unfortunately, this is as American as apple pie. The following is an excerpt from Rick Perlstein's forthcoming book called "The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan." It's about how we welcomed the Vietnamese refugees who were forced to leave their country after having allied themselves with the US during the war:

Because we're so good ...

Freedom of religion but not freedom from religion

by digby

Via TPM:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and two other groups on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the mayor of Warren, Mich., who banned an atheist group from setting up a station alongside one run by a prayer group in the city hall atrium.

Mayor Jim Fouts (R) said that the group's "reason station" would be opposed to prayer and compared atheists to Nazis and members of the Klu Klux Klan.

"The city has certain values that I don't believe are in general agreement with having an atheist station, nor in general agreement with having a Nazi station or Klu Klux Klan station," Fouts told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "I cannot accept or will not allow a group that is disparaging of another group to have a station here."

Fouts has let a prayer group run a station where they hand out fliers and offer prayers to passersby since 2009. Yet the mayor rejected Douglas Marshall's request to run a "reason station" where he would offer to have philosophical discussions with people who walk by in the city hall atrium.

"They don't walk up to people," Fouts told the AP, explaining how the prayer group operates its city hall station. "They are just there if someone wishes to seek solace or guidance from them. The atheist station does not serve that purpose. It will not contribute to community values or helping an individual out."

Right. Because no atheist could possibly want to seek solace an guidance from a like-minded person. Because we are evil servants of Satan.

Opportunity for all (if you have the bucks)

by digby

You know what this country needs more of? It needs more participation in the political process by the 1%:
Two top veterans of President Obama’s campaigns are asking political campaigners to pay $5,000 per person for the chance to learn their secrets and then work for five weeks in an unpaid campaign job somewhere in America.
Democratic operatives and progressive activists are questioning this training program launched by Obama campaign architects Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird. The $5,000 program promises access to the wizardry of Obama’s presidential bids — and a five-week, unpaid gig on an “important Democratic campaign.”

Run by Bird and Stewart’s consulting company, 270 Strategies, the new program’s emphasis on placing paying customers in essentially volunteer roles on Democratic campaigns is atypical in the campaign training industry, and some Democrats say it sets a dangerous precedent. The firm’s first-ever “270/360 Training Intensive” program is scheduled to begin in September.

The program’s website describes a six-week program, consisting of five days of “intensive” campaign training at 270’s Chicago HQ featuring Stewart and Bird and other “architects of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns,” followed by five weeks of volunteer work on an “an important Democratic campaign in the United States.”

The cost for the five-day training with Bird and Stewart is $3,500. It costs $1,500 more if a student wants the five weeks of work experience. Critics say those costs are way above the market rate for campaign trainings.

“It’s deeply concerning that leaders in our party are launching a ‘pay to play’ system for would-be campaign staff,” said a Democratic campaign veteran. “As Democrats, we should be working together to eliminate workforce barriers — such as unpaid internships — rather starting programs that further discourage participation in electoral work.”
To Mikey Franklin, a former progressive field staffer who’s now trying to end the D.C. practice of unpaid internships, asking people to pay to to volunteer goes against progressive values.

“It’s a basic principle that people should work for pay; they shouldn’t pay to work,” Franklin said. “It’s shameful that 270 Strategies are throwing their progressive values out of the window by charging $5,000 for a 5-day training and an unpaid internship. How will we win for the 99% if we only recruit from the 1%?”
I'm going to guess that "progressive values" aren't really the point. The point is parlaying the Obama system, developed on the backs of millions of small donors, into big bucks. As our Democratic elites keep telling us, the problem isn't "income inequality" it's lack of "opportunity" to become rich. This just happens to be a rare opportunity. God bless America.

By the way, these are the same guys behind the centrist Ro Kanna's attempt to take out liberal Mike Honda in California, further proving that "progressive values" really aren't in play here.

Man, we really are exceptional

by digby

Via Matt Ford in The Atlantic:
How large is America's prison problem? More than 2.4 million people are behind bars in the United States today, either awaiting trial or serving a sentence. That's more than the combined population of 15 states, all but three U.S. cities, and the U.S. armed forces. They're scattered throughout a constellation of 102 federal prisons, 1,719 state prisons, 2,259 juvenile facilities, 3,283 local jails, and many more military, immigration, territorial, and Indian Country facilities.

Compared to the rest of the world, these numbers are staggering. Here's how the United States' incarceration rate stacks up against those of other modern liberal democracies like Britain and Canada:

How is this explained by people defending America as the land of the free? It would seem to be a rather obvious contradiction in terms.

The good news is that prison reform seems to be floating up on the agenda of both parties. I'm not quite sure why --- traditionally, nobody has cared much about the issue. But maybe some advocacy groups are making some strides in the beltway and polling is showing that it isn't the loser these politicians have always believed. (I wish I thought it came from a spontaneous attack of conscience among our leaders, but I think that's a long shot.)Whatever it is, it would be nice if it actually added up to something. That chart is absolutely shameful. Even setting aside the issues of justice, morality and decency, the cost of this prison state (especially combined with our outlandish global military empire) is obviously unsustainable.

Frontline recently did a comprehensive program on our prison system. Oy.


Is no place sacred? 

by digby

Today at Salon I talk about some horrible people who are showing up at Dealey Plaza in Dallas waving around guns and passing out literature spewing hatred for the president. This is not the first time people have done that. But it ended very badly last time.
The morning of November 22, the Dallas Morning News featured a full page ad “welcoming” the president to Dallas. After a preamble in which they proclaimed their fealty to the Constitution and defiantly asserted their right to be conservative, they demanded to be allowed to “address their grievances.” They posed a long series of “when did you stop beating your wife” questions asking why Kennedy was helping the Communist cause around the world. Here’s an example:
WHY has Gus Hall, head of the U.S. Communist Party praised almost every one of your policies and announced that the party will endorse and support your re-election in 1964?

WHY have you banned the showing at U.S. military bases of the film “Operation Abolition”–the movie by the House Committee on Un-American Activities exposing Communism in America?

WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?

WHY has the Foreign Policy of the United States degenerated to the point that the C.I.A. is arranging coups and having staunch Anti-Communists Allies of the U.S. bloodily exterminated.

WHY have you scrapped the Monroe Doctrine in favor of the “Spirit of Moscow”?

MR. KENNEDY, as citizens of the United States of America, we DEMAND answers to these questions, and we want them NOW.
You get the drift. And you probably recognize the tone. The subject may have changed somewhat but the arrogant attitude combined with the aggrieved victimization is a hallmark of right wing politics even today.

As we all know, later that day the President was gunned down in Dealey Plaza. The entire world was shocked and traumatized by that event and the course of history was changed.

You'd think these allegedly patriotic Americans would have some respect. But that would be too much to ask. They are a vulgar lot who obviously cannot see that their hideous display on such hallowed ground is truly repulsive to decent people. It's sick.


Telling married women to "close their legs" doesn't seem to be working out for them

by digby

Who would have guessed that the party which characterizes women who used birth control as evil sluts would have trouble getting women to vote for them?

Republicans launched a new crop of super PACs, recruitment programs and messaging campaigns to boost the GOP’s female candidates and win over women who vote. The latest such effort, an unrestricted super PAC unveiled in June by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, cleared $1 million in its first four weeks.

“We cannot permit liberal orthodoxy to marginalize women or suppress their enthusiasm for our candidates,” declared Fiorina, chairwoman of the American Conservative Union Foundation, in the mission statement for her new Unlocking Potential Project. The Unlocking Potential PAC’s top donors last month were Marmik Oil Co. President Michael Murphy and his wife, Arkansas designer Sydney Murphy, who each gave $500,000.

But female Republican fundraisers, PAC organizers and candidates remain badly outgunned by their Democratic counterparts, particularly in Senate contests. Democratic women in this midterm’s most competitive Senate races uniformly raised more than their GOP opponents. Polls in the Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina Senate races all show sizable gender gaps.

And controversies related to women seem to keep dogging the GOP. The Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling granting religious employers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate gave Democrats fresh fundraising fodder. The ruling helped push receipts at EMILY’s List, the Democratic women’s political action committee, to well more than a half-million dollars in June alone, the group’s biggest haul in any month this year. The ruling has sparked proposed legislative fixes on both sides of the aisle.

“That is a huge motivator, both for voters and for donors,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky said about the Hobby Lobby ruling, “and Republican Senate candidates are on defense about it — especially in Colorado.”
I'm fairly pessimistic about the right wing's alleged impending destruction --- they've always been around and I'm going to guess they always will be. And they've rigged a system that's fairly easily rigged (by design) to allow outsized influence even if they are a minority party. But this insane attack on birth control may just make a difference. Public opinion on abortion has remained the same even as the right has successfully rolled back access in much of the country. The stigma has never fully been removed. But birth control? 95% of American women have used it and the birth control methods which are under assault by the right wing are the birth control methods favored by married women. These are the "sluts" these neanderthals are telling to just "close their legs" if they don't want to get pregnant. It strikes me as a very foolish move.

I have been burned too many times in predicting that they must have gone to far with one thing or another. But these men in congress declaring that they shouldn't have to "pay for" maternity leave, the ignorant statements that women's bodies won't allow them to become pregnant from rape and now this idiotic jihad against birth control as if the only women who "need" it are nymphomaniacs could actually be hurting them. It doesn't take much of a defection from their ranks for that "demographic" (an insulting way of looking at half the population) to make it impossible for them to win. The only female GOP majority in recent years has been white, married women. Screaming that they're all a bunch of whores probably isn't a good way to retain their loyalty.


The right-wing conning of America continues

by David Atkins

The Republican big money men are literally making Americans more ignorant about basic science for this own profit, and making America both a laughingstock and an impediment to fixing the world's most pressing crisis:

A new international survey shows that Americans are more divided and doubtful about climate change than people in other leading countries, even as the scientific evidence supporting it keeps piling up.

Ipsos-MORI, one of the largest market research companies in Great Britain, released its new Global Trends 2014 survey covering data from 200 questions with over 16,000 interviewees in 20 countries. The survey asked about a variety of issues, including technology, the economy, privacy, government and the environment.

When asked if they agreed with the statement, "The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity," just 54 percent of Americans surveyed said yes. Although this number indicates a majority, the United States still ranked last among 20 countries in the poll.

The U.S. number was ten points lower than the next lowest countries on the list, Britain and Australia, where 64 percent agreed that humans are causing climate change. China topped the list, with 93 percent of its citizens agreeing that human activity is causing climate change. Large majorities also agreed in France (80 percent), Brazil (79 percent), Germany (72 percent) and other countries.

Similarly, 91 percent of those from China agreed with statement, "We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly." Only 57 percent of Americans thought so -- again, last among 20 nations surveyed.
Still, there's hope:

Keith Gaby, communications director for climate and air at the Environmental Defense Fund, told CBS News that while American opinion is divided, there is some common ground. He noted a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that found 61 percent of respondents believe some type of action is needed against global climate change. Two-thirds in that survey said they either strongly or somewhat supported carbon emission caps.

"But it is true that a very loud minority has made action on climate change more difficult. I think that's because the issue -- which should be judged on science -- has gotten caught up in partisan politics," Gaby told CBS News in an email. "We need to [reopen] a productive, [bipartisan] dialogue about solutions that will help our environment and our economy."
By the time the world's sociopathic wealthy are finished with their conman routine designed to prevent rapid moves away from the fossil fuel industry, most of them will be departed from this earth, having passed away comfortable and rich.

The least we can do is curse their memories and make sure their heirs don't stand to gain disproportionately from the blood money they've stolen at all of our expense.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

QOTD: An American patriot

by digby

... or ignorant sociopath, you decide. This is William Gheen, head of the anti-immigrant group known as ALIPAC --- the group that exhorted its members to send used underwear to the border for the kids down there:
"Well, what the illegals that are coming — and especially the ones that are coming from China — are going to do to America are much more powerful and lasting impacts than anything Al Qaeda could blow up, short of a nuclear detonation."

"And how do you put a price tag on a family, let’s say that’s been in the United States for 300 years, and four or five different members of that family have gone off to World War II and Korea and maybe World War I to fight for the American way of life, and then finally they get to their grandson that’s alive in the year 2020 who doesn’t get to go to the college of their choice because invaders have been brought in the country and put in those seats ahead of him. That child’s life, that negatively impacts that child’s ability to self-actualize, to be all they can be, impacted because the future has been stolen by this usurpation, this treason, this treachery from the highest levels of our own government right here in the United States of America."

"Once they get enough people in here to get the boat really sinking, and then they get the borders destroyed and they start taking up all the guns and we’ve got wave after wave of future illegal immigrants just pouring in, pouring in, pouring in, the existing stock of Americans are going to be so politically and economically buried under this wave, that it’s a weapon from which we can never recover."

Friendly reminder for all uninformed morons:
While the number of unaccompanied youth crossing the border has doubled to nearly 60,000 in the past year, the total number of undocumented immigrants has mostly declined. About 1 million people have been caught crossing the border nearly every year between 1983 until 2006, but that number has dropped to about 400,000 in 2013.
Via Right Wing Watch.

Making everyone frustrated is a feature not a bug

by digby

My piece in Salon today discusses the new call from Chuck Schumer for jungle primaries like we have in California all over the country.  What a great idea it is --- if you're a centrist bucket of lukewarm spit:
If this were to work the way they want it to work what you’d end up with ... is the partisan minority voters having to hold their noses and vote for someone they really don’t like in order to elect someone the majority in the district also doesn’t like. (And the worst case scenario is when a bunch of candidates of the same party cancel each other out in a district that should go their party’s way and leave their voters to choose between two candidates from the opposing party. )

Yet we’re supposed to believe this system is designed to make everyone excited about the political process and get them engaged once again? Hardly. This is pretty obviously designed to drive down participation by wringing every bit of political passion and ideological commitment out of it and leave politically involved citizens with a very bad taste in their mouths. The only people who could possibly be excited by this are the people who hold the purse strings and have a strong interest in maintaining the status quo. Making everyone frustrated is a feature, not a bug.
Read on. There are some examples that show this only works part of the time.  But it's playing more and more into the political establishment's hands.  Considering the discipline and cohesion among Republicans, Democrats would only play along if they want a good excuse to pretend to have been rolled by Republicans when they do the bidding of the big money special interests. Because that's the result. And they know it.


"Minority Report" for dummies

by digby

Jeremy Scahill is out with a blockbuster story about the criteria the government uses to put you on a list of suspected terrorists. It's terrifying, all right. The rules are so loose and contradictory it basically can put anyone on there it chooses:

“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”

The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.

This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed.

“If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent with experience running high-profile terrorism investigations. “Because you appear on a telephone list of somebody doesn’t make you a terrorist. That’s the kind of information that gets put in there.”

The fallout is personal too. There are severe consequences for people unfairly labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government, which shares its watchlist data with local law enforcement, foreign governments, and “private entities.” Once the U.S. government secretly labels you a terrorist or terrorist suspect, other institutions tend to treat you as one. It can become difficult to get a job (or simply to stay out of jail). It can become burdensome—or impossible—to travel. And routine encounters with law enforcement can turn into ordeals...

In 2012 Tim Healy, the former director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, described to CBS News how watchlists are used by police officers. “So if you are speeding, you get pulled over, they’ll query that name,” he said. “And if they are encountering a known or suspected terrorist, it will pop up and say call the Terrorist Screening Center…. So now the officer on the street knows he may be dealing with a known or suspected terrorist.” Of course, the problem is that the “known or suspected terrorist” might just be an ordinary citizen who should not be treated as a menace to public safety.

So if any of you have been having trouble getting work or feel unusually harassed by authorities perhaps you should ask if you're on the "Watch List." Of course, they won't tell you. Then they'd have to kill you.

Read the whole story. It will scare you and not just because the government has assumed the power to arbitrarily "categorize" its citizens as threats to the state, although that's plenty scary. What's truly alarming is the fact that this manual makes almost no sense and is completely irrational and contradictory. If this is how they are allegedly protecting the nation, I'd start building some bomb shelters and safe rooms. These people have totally lost the thread.


Prince of the Village

by digby

So rumors have David Gregory on the ropes with NBC planning to fire him, the only question is whether to wait until after the mid-terms. His ratings are the worst of the Sunday morning shows and are down almost 50% from Monsignor Tim Russert's day.

Replacements mentioned are Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie or Morning Joe and Mika. (Not kidding ...)

But let's be serious here folks.  We know who the real heir to the MTP throne is, don't we?


Why wait? You know it's going to happen eventually ...

The libertarian legal game plan to repeal Obamacare is truly mind-boggling

by digby

Dave Weigel explains something that I had not fully understood before --- the Obamacare repeal legal game plan:
At least 4 million people, who signed up for Obamacare in states that chose not to set up exchanges (or in the case of Oregon, tried and failed to set up their own), are currently panicking about the threat of erased subsidies and higher payments. Why do I attribute this to libertarians? Like I wrote in 2013, and like Alec MacGillis has been writing, the Halbig case's chief advocate was Michael Cannon, a Cato Institute scholar who had previously campaigned to stop states from setting up their own exchanges.

Cannon's goal, stated bluntly and frequently, was that Obamacare had to be brought down by any means necessary. States that did not set up exchanges were in a better position to sue the government. Fewer people in the exchanges meant higher overall costs. To insurers, the "death spiral" was an apocalypse scenario; to Cannon, it meant freedom.

"A victory for the Halbig plaintiffs would not increase anyone’s premiums," he wrote Monday.* "What it would do is prevent the IRS from shifting the burden of those premiums from enrollees to taxpayers. Premiums for federal-Exchange enrollees would not rise, but those enrollees would face the full cost of their 'ObamaCare' plans."

This is the Leninism I'm referring to in my headline. Cannon's no socialist—quite the opposite!—but he saw a solution to the Republican crisis of watching people grow used to new entitlements. Rip the entitlement away, weaken the system, and a painful short term would give Congress no choice but to undo the law. Take away some of the beams, and what do you know? The roof collapses.
An what "undoing" the law means in this context is removing the requirements for pre-existing conditions and the basic package of coverage --- which means that people affected will go uncovered or pay an unaffordable price for an inadequate policy. You know, like it used to be. Which in their minds was a great system apparently.

Remember, this is how they really feel about this:

They're children, Part XXII

by digby

Dday conducted an in-depth interview with progressive Caucus Chair Keith Ellison after Netroots Nation in which Ellison says a lot of interesting things. But I liked this the best:
Raul Grijalva worked with our progressive partners and brought forth a white paper which we adopted that said children first. Children first. And we don’t want anything to do with, in fact I firmly oppose, this hateful idea that we’re going to throw kids who could be victims of trafficking back to the wolves. We won’t do it. We’re going to be aggressive and robust in defending this idea of kids first.
Thank God there's somebody out there who is taking the only decent and moral position on this.

That's the starting point: we are not going to throw these kids back to the wolves.  Once you've made that obvious decision you can start to look at all the other options to mitigate this problem.

I'm sure these children would rather be with their parents and their parents would rather their kids be with them.  They are human beings, after all. Imagine what it takes to send your kid off on a trek of a thousand miles because you are afraid they are going to be killed if you don't. Only desperation could drive any parent to do such a thing. Our government needs to deal with that horrific reality.  These kids are refugees.

Oh, and this is about as silly an approach to dealing with it as possible:

That's Neidermeyer Perry there, posing for another photo-op yesterday in yet another costume.  Those Texas boys do love their get-ups. As he said, it's all about the "visual."

I'm sure the kids will all be "deterred" when they the sight of him and will scurry the thousand miles back home as fast as their little legs can carry them.

USA! USA! #13! #13!

by David Atkins

The United States is exceptional. Exceptionally poor among industrialized nations, that is, when it comes to energy efficiency:

Germany is #1 in the World for Energy Efficiency, according to the 2014 scorecard released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) today. Sixteen nations were studied. Six of the top 10 were from Europe. Canada was the only North American nation to make the cut, placing 9th.

“Germany is a prime example of a nation that has made energy efficiency a top priority,” ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel said in a press release. “The United States, long considered an innovative and competitive world leader, has progressed slowly and has made limited progress since our last report, even as Germany, Italy, China, and other nations surge ahead.”
We could do this, too, and create millions of green jobs along the way. But we don't because...well, I don't need to get into it, do I? You already know the answer why.

We don't do it because Republicans are exceptionally awful.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pants on the ground

by digby


This week, Ocala Florida City Council approved an ordinance prohibiting anyone on city property from wearing their trousers two inches below their waist, Channel 9’s WFTV reported.

The “sagging pants” regulation is enforceable on sidewalks, streets, parks, sports, recreation and public transportation facilities and parking lots.

Police are expected to issue warnings at first, however failure to comply after being cautioned may lead to a $500 fine or up to six months in jail time.

Does anyone know if this law can be enforced if the reason your pants are falling down is because you're carrying a heavy gun in your pocket? Because that can happen. I wouldn't want anyone to have their 2nd Amendment rights violated here.


Jonah's baroque fantasy

by digby

Did Jonah Goldberg just get a new thesaurus or something. Lordy, his latest is just.. well, to borrow one of his brand new words, "baroque." He's going on about how political correctness is sort of, maybe, not all bad because it makes people nicer. Or something. And then he explains why liberals are assholes anyway.

I'll let Edroso take it from here:
The New Conservatives are watching their pressure gauges and tracking the New Mores. Apparently these studies are desperately needed (and possibly eligible for a grant!), because the New Conservatives are locked in a Mores Race with the liberals to see who's got the best political correctness, and Goldberg wants potentially donors to know that the libs' sexual Sputnik is still in orbit:
Democrats recognize this, which is why they’ve cynically exploited changes in family structure, female labor participation, and reproductive technology and declared that Republicans have declared war on women
This is like saying "Democrats cynicallye xploited growing tolerance of minority groups to make us look like bigots." There's a step missing there, Goldberg, can you guess what it is?
Progressives are steadily dismantling the beautiful cathedrals of traditional manners and customs, arguing that they’re too Baroque, too antiquated. They use the sledgehammer of liberation rhetoric to destroy the old edifices, but their fidelity to liberty is purely rhetorical. In place of the old cathedrals they build supposedly functional, modern, and utilitarian codes of conduct. But these Brutalist codes are not only unlovely, they are often more prudish than traditional approaches...
It's like he knows us, right? To capture chick votes we smashed the cathedrals of courtly love! Which was awkward, you know, because all those apses and semitransepts are so vaginal, but it was worth it to get rid of that meddling Christ. Then we put up a Government Fucking Center. A bit sterile, but it does the job, especially after you put down the hemp mats.

Goldberg thinks he can do better:
What I would like to see from conservatives is recognition that some of the cathedrals are outdated. But instead of arguing that they should be razed and replaced with Jacobin Temples of Reason with rites and rituals grounded in abstraction, why not argue for some long overdue updating and retrofitting? I guarantee you more women prefer a modified version of the traditional process of wooing, courting, and dating before sex than the “modern” schizophrenic system of getting drunk enough for a same-day hook up but not so inebriated to forget to get a signature on the consent form. Traditional notions of romance and respect are far better tools than the mumbo-jumbo campus feminists have to offer. The problem is that the mumbo-jumbo feminists are fighting largely uncontested.
Ooooh baby, no. "Jacobin Temples of Reason with rites and rituals grounded in abstraction" is so hot! Don't abandon it. Rub it all over your sweet, dimpled, alabaster bod and give it to us, just like that ....

Alternatively, you could go with Roy's example:
I look forward to seeing this conservative modified version of the traditional process of wooing, courting, and dating before sex. "I'm here to read you some pastorals." "OK [continues texting]." Later: "I swear by my life and my love of it I won't cum in your mouth."

Turnout problems

by David Atkins

It's no secret that Democrats have a turnout problem. It's bad:

The study, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, shows turnout in the 25 states that have held statewide primaries for both parties is down by nearly one-fifth from the last midterm, in 2010. While 18.3 percent of eligible voters cast ballots back then, it has been just 14.8 percent so far this year. Similarly, 15 of the 25 states that have held statewide primaries so far have recorded record-low turnout.


This is all the more depressing when you realize that, less than 50 years ago, primary turnout was twice as high.

But, really, this isn't all that new. As you can see above, turnout has been dropping steadily for years.

What's perhaps most notable, though, is the partisan difference. Republican primary turnout overtook Democratic turnout for the first time in 2010, and that difference is even bigger this primary season.

Part of this is a cultural problem with the left. When conservatives don't get what they want, they tend to double down at the ballot box. When progressives don't get what they want, many of us tend to storm away and fantasize about engaging the system outside of electoral politics somehow. This is part of why conservatives have been successful in moving the country to right.

I've brought these points up again and again. Politicians don't care about people who don't vote, and the Tea Party gets coddled because they actually vote in primaries and Democrats tend not to.

But, of course, Democratic politicians also bear a lot of the blame. It's awfully hard to get motivated to vote when you know that not much is going to change regardless of the outcome.

Even so, you can't lay the entire blame for the problem at the feet of centrist corporate Democrats. The trend toward lower turnout started in 1970, hardly the heyday of the DLC. Yes, Democratic politicians need to do a better job of advancing progressive priorities and building base enthusiasm. But progressive voters also need to come out and actually vote, too.

Religious war 2014

by digby

No I'm not talking about the Middle East where they are very busy destroying themselves with it. Right wing watch catches the beginning of a new wave of religious wars right here in the good old US of A --- instigate by alleged Christians against Christians:

Flip Benham’s group Operation Save America disrupted the services of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans on Sunday while the congregation was honoring a member who had died. The organization framed their action as simply an effort to “present the truth of the Gospel in this synagogue of Satan” as part of their efforts “to defeat the culture of death.”

At the Unitarian Universalist “church” in New Orleans, Deanna Waller, Jay Rogers, Mary Claire, Ken Scott, Russell Hunter, Toby Harman and others presented the truth of the Gospel in this synagogue of Satan. As God would have it, the “church” was filled with students from a “social justice” training school. According to Rev. Flip Benham, OSA National Director, the team presented a “dynamic witness.”

During an open “meditation” time, Deanna shared the Word of the Lord. When the female “pastor” took issue, Deanna reminded her that, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2). In violation of their “sacred tenants” of peace and tolerance, Deanna and others were summarily escorted out of the service.

Other saints stayed and dialoged until the conclusion of the service. It created no small stir. The “social justice” candidates ran to the Christians and asked them many questions. Our brethren gave them the reason for the hope that lies within them and defended the faith. Seeds of truth were sown. may the Lord water them in Jesus’ name.
Here's how that looked from other perspective:
Rev. Deanna Vandiver, a guest speaker at Sunday’s service, said in a Facebook post that Benham’s group tried to “terrorize people as they worship.”
“The disturbance took place as the congregation was holding a moment of silence for a member of the church who had died the week before, said the Rev. Deanna Vandiver,” the Uptown Messenger reports. “She then invited the protesters to stay if they could join or observe the worship service respectfully, and if not, to take their protest outside the building. The congregation began to sing, and church leaders then began to lead the most vocal protesters outside, though a few chose to stay quietly through the remainder of the service.”

“I think we were an easy target, because we’re literally just a few blocks down the road from where they’re building this clinic,” Vandiver said. “But we are not interested in being terrorized. Freedom of speech does not trump freedom of religion.”
Actually we have come to believe that freedom of religion now means the freedom to impose your religious belief on others so I don't think that's quite true.

And they're harassing people in their homes too:
In addition to protesting Planned Parenthood sites, Operation Save America is also holding demonstrations outside the homes of providers. A neighbor to one of those homes — who asked that his name be withheld out of concern that the group would target him — said his family has already endured two sessions of protests, with dozens of people holding signs on the sidewalk near his house featuring graphic images that he has done his best to hide from his young children.

“My kids are scared,” the resident said in an interview Monday afternoon. “It’s all these ugly pictures. They’re talking on the loudspeaker. I try to speak to them civilly, and it’s very difficult to do, because they’re looking for a confrontation.”

You know how to stop this I'm sure. It's simple. Just do as you're told. Any abused wife can tell you how that works ...

Courts make decisions. It's what they do.

by digby

Talk about missing the forest for the trees:

You might be tempted -- particularly if you are a Republican -- to see today's D.C. federal appeals court ruling invalidating subsidies for people buying insurance in the federal marketplace under Obamacare as a major moment in the political path of the law. You also might be tempted -- particularly if you are Democrat -- to see today's 4th District Court of Appeals decision that the subsidies were ok as a major moment in the political path of the law.

Don't do it.

While these decisions could have major policy implications for President Obama's signature legislative accomplishment, there is virtually no chance that either one will have any near or even medium term impact on the politics surrounding Obamacare.

Why? Because minds are entirely made up about the law.

Among all Americans, more people disapprove of Obamacare than approve. And, with the occasional blip here or there, those numbers have been steady for the better part of the last three years.
That's nice. Some people hate the program and others like it. What that has to do with the courts' decisions this morning I do not know. I actually haven't seen even one person assert that these decisions are a major moment in the "political path" of the law. What does that even mean in the context of these opinions?

Yes, courts are political animals. But they do make decisions. They even call them that. And at some point the Big Court is probably going to make a Big Decision about this issue. Why anyone thinks that public opinion being divided on this would have any relevance whatsoever to that fact is beyond me. Sure, the Supremes could punt. But as this post indicates, the political stalemate on Obamacare has been in place for some time and the Court certainly didn't punt on earlier questions. This is what they do.

Rick "Neidermeyer" Perry's latest lunacy

by digby

Those hipster glasses aren't working:
Now that he’s off drugs and wearing some sharp Warby-Parkers, Perry is making another run at the presidency. And as the Texas Governor (for what seems like the last century) he’s milking the refugee crisis at the border by remembering the Alamo and standing his ground against the hordes of “illegal” children and nursing mothers who are invading his state. He said yesterday that he “will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor”.

It looks like the geek specs haven’t improved his verbal clarity. One can’t be sure who it is he thinks are assaulting the American people but by process of elimination one can only assume it must be the little children. From their squalid detention areas apparently. Suffice to say that whatever this assault is, this must be stopped and the best way to do that in Perry’s estimation is to send in troops. (He’s a Republican — if cutting taxes won’t solve it, starting a war is the only thing left to do.)

That's from my Salon piece this morning. That weird comment is only the beginning ...

One more time: The Republicans have no incentive to moderate

by digby

So theconservative majority on the D.C. Circuit Court panel seized the opportunity to strike down about half the Obamacare subsidies. Of course they did:

A federal appeals court panel in the District struck down a major part of the 2010 health-care law Tuesday, ruling that the tax subsidies that are central to the program may not be provided in at least half of the states.

The ruling, if upheld, could potentially be more damaging to the law than last month’s Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. The three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with plaintiffs who argued that the language of the law barred the government from giving subsidies to people in states that chose not to set up their own insurance marketplaces. Twenty-seven states, most with Republican leaders who oppose the law, decided against setting up marketplaces, and another nine states partially opted out.

This is a purely technical glitch in the drafting language. If we had a normal, functioning government it wouldn't even have made it to the courts, it would have been fixed with a voice vote and the president would have signed it the minute anyone became aware of it. But we don't have a normal, functioning government so this issue is working its way through the court system and will end up before the Supremes, where the five man majority could bat their eyes and fatuously declare that this is a problem only the congress can fix, knowing all the while that we have a bunch of terrorists running the House who will never do it.

I don't know if the Court is that irresponsible, but it looks as though we're going to find out.

This is why I theorize that the Republicans don't really need to win the presidency and have little reason to moderate. They don't even need to win the Senate --- it makes little difference if they do. With one gerrymandered House of congress willing to do whatever it takes and a hardcore ideological majority on the Supreme Court they can enact their agenda regardless of what the majority of this country desires. After all, what they really care about is making government dysfunctional. This furthers their political and ideological aims.

And while one might think they would like to have the presidency in order to control the Commander in Chief function, which they love, they don't really need that either. The Deep State is always in control and neither party is going to do anything to upset it beyond the very outside margins. (Actually, I think the Cheney administration actually did try to change things --- for the worse --- and it scared them a little.) And anyway, the GOP enjoys carping from the outside, portraying the Democrats as feckless, effeminate fops who are unable to run the world's only Superpower even as there are almost no real differences among them. It's all good.

The Republican Party run by the modern conservative movement is the most effective and successful minority party in history. They fully exploit every flaw in our system for their own advantage and then skillfully demonize their opponents if they try to use the same techniques. They are well funded by billionaires with a strong interest in paralyzing democracy and have a bunch of followers whose worldview is organized around discontent and hatred of "the other" which makes a government system full of veto points a perfect vehicle for their agenda. Oh, and they revel in shamelessness which is their way of flexing their power and ensuring that everyone knows who's really in charge. And everyone does.

Making a contrast with a recalcitrant House

by David Atkins

It's basic Congressional politics in America: if your opponent is insane and wants deeply unpopular things, put out a message bill and back them into a corner with a view toward embarrassing them in the next election. The Democratic Senate hasn't been doing a very good job of that with the GOP Senate minority or the GOP House.

But the President also has the power of executive orders to make the contrast, and President Obama is increasingly using that power. And it just so happens the Senate made the right call, too:

President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order aimed at protecting workers at federal contractors and in the federal government from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American,” Obama told a group of LGBT activists gathered in the East Room of the White House. Later, he added, “we’re on the right side of history.”

It’s a move that both answers years of calls for action from LGBT activists and serves as a reminder of the limits of presidential power. While the executive order applies to 30,000 companies employing 28 million workers — one-fifth of the U.S. workforce — it does not reach all employers nationwide.

The administration had held off on the order as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act made progress moving through Congress, including a bipartisan 64-32 vote in the Senate. But after months of inaction from the House, and as Obama responds to midterm pressures, the White House chose to act where it could this summer.
The more of these actions, the better. The best chance Democrats have of doing well in the midterm elections is to do the right things--or at least to try to do them--and then point out to voters just how awful the Republicans are.

It's not fantastic, but it's the best accountability America has for this situation.


Monday, July 21, 2014

"Why elect Democrats if they act this lily-livered when doing the right thing carries any political risk?"

by digby

There are a lot of horrors in the world every day --- and especially today. Watching the footage of the carnage of the Malaysian air crash is just awful. The scenes from Gaza are sickening, particularly the hundreds of kids who've been injured or killed. I'm angry and sad and feel impotent in the face of it all.

But you don't have to go around the world to see such displays of disgusting cruelty. Right here in the United States we are witnessing a reprehensible example of callous disregard for the lives of children by our own political leaders of both parties when it comes to the refugee crisis on our border. I'm with Emily Bazelon on this:

Where should the 57,000 children who are already here go? The answer is: Every state should be raising its hand and offering to take some of them. This is not a border-state problem. It is not up to Texas and Arizona to carry this load just because they’re the first places the children land. States in the Northeast and the Midwest can take some of these kids too. Yet some states are looking only for excuses to say no. Their leaders—including in my own state of Connecticut—are behaving shamefully. This NIMBY response is the worst kind of hypocrisy, especially coming from supposedly liberal blue states. Got a star on the flag? That means you have to pitch in right now.

Instead of showing some heart, my governor, Dannel Malloy, is looking heartless and feckless. He claims otherwise: “Obviously, our hearts go out to the children in this situation,” his communications director said. But that is an empty piety if I’ve ever heard one. Asked by the Obama administration to temporarily house 2,000 immigrant children at a nearly vacant training school in the town of Southbury, Malloy said no. “We don’t currently have the ability to meet this request,” the same spokesman claimed.

Malloy’s administration says Southbury is too small and decrepit. Never mind that the federal government would pay for getting the facility ready for the children and for upkeep. If Southbury, built in the 1930s for developmentally disabled people, is really unusable, then Malloy should find another place for these kids. The only reason why he so far has not is politics: He is in a battle for re-election with Republican candidate Tom Foley. “The bottom line is that too many swing voters fear immigrants, and Malloy doesn’t want the ‘optics’ of hundreds of brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking children being bused into Connecticut,” the New Haven Register editorialized last week. This is just ugly. Since Malloy also faces a third-party challenger from the left, maybe he should rethink his political calculus anyway. But the bottom line is this: Why elect Democrats if they act this lily-livered when doing the right thing carries any political risk?

On the Cowardly Governors list with Malloy: Terry Branstad of Iowa, a Republican. Branstad too expressed “empathy” for the immigrant kids and then said no to taking any children, even as a facility for at-risk youth was readying a 48-bed unit. “We’ve always felt we’ve been good partners with the state. We met with officials and decided it was not in any of our best interests to do it,” Steve Gilbert of Sequel Youth and Family Services told the Des Moines Register of deciding not to take the kids. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, scrapped a proposed site in his state without coming up with another alternative.

Yes, "it's not in their best interest" because they're fucking jackasses. And here I thought politicians were a bunch of despicable cowards for failing to accept the Guantanamo prisoners and insisting they be kept in a prison camp indefinitely. Apparently, the same goes for little children.

Good God, this is sick. It's not a million children ferchristsakes, it's 60,000. We spend vast sums of money on total bullshit every day in this country chasing down phantom drug dealers, paying off corrupt politicians and keeping our 1% fat and happy. If we can't deal with this crisis in a humane and decent fashion then it's pretty clear we are no longer a decent country. These are children.

Oh, and I don't want to hear one phony pious word out of any of these jerks about what good Christians they are and how they follow the teachings of the Bible. To quote Max von Sydow in Hannah and her Sisters, "if Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he would never stop throwing up."

Shame on these horrible politicians and the horrible xenophobes to whom they are catering.


Job killer

by digby

Here's your statistic 'o the day:

State-by-state hiring data released Friday by the Labor Department reveal that in the 13 states that boosted minimum wages at the beginning of this year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January to June. The average in the other 37 states was 0.61 percent, the Associated Press reports.

Huh. An here I thought a raise in the minimum wage would ruin everything. Isn't that something?

Two Americas, exemplified

by David Atkins

This is what massive income inequality looks like, physically:

A luxury condo building on New York City’s Upper West Side has gotten clearance from the city to have a separate entrance, or a “poor door,” for low-income tenants, according to the New York Post.
Extell, which is building the 33-story complex, will build a specific door for the 55 affordable housing units it’s including in order to be allowed to build a bigger building. The low-income units, which are available to people making 60 percent of median income or less, will also be in a segment that only contains affordable apartments and that faces the street while the luxury apartments will face the river.

In New York City, this arrangement is relatively common. Luxury builders get credits to use up more square footage than they normally could by promising to build affordable units as well. Those developers can then sell the credits to cover the costs of building the low-income housing. Because Extell considers the affordable segment to be legally separate from the rest of the building, it says it is required to have different entrances.

And besides being made to use a separate entrance, some low-income residents in luxury buildings are prohibited from using the amenities offered to the wealthy tenants, which in the case of this particular building include swimming pools and regulation-sized basketball courts. Several buildings in the city ban affordable housing or rent-regulated tenants from using perks like gyms, rooftops, and pools, and the practice is on the rise.
It's almost like something out of a bad novel. Except that it's happening right here and now.

The horror of America's prisons in 20 minutes

by digby

Everybody's put this up today and for good reason. It's just so great:

One of the things I like about Oliver's new show is that he's taking on issues that rarely get any any attention --- anywhere. And because he has the time to really dig in, he's able to make them entertaining and informative.

Our prison system is an atrocity, it truly is. The numbers of prisoners alone should ring alarm bells with anyone who has a sense of justice. In fact, it's so bad and the problems so huge that it seems overwhelming.  But we have to do something about this and oddly enough there may even be some help from the far right on it. There's always a chance that these civil liberties and criminal justice issues have a small overlap there that could make a difference.

How can we miss Chalabi if he won't go away?

by digby

My piece in Salon this morning is about good old Ahmad Chalabi and his return to the spotlight. (He never seems to go away ....)An excerpt:

The night Chalabi arrived in Iraq having enabled an invasion of his own country was a triumph surely very few have experienced. It reached a high point when he sat next to Laura Bush at the 2004 State of the Union but unfortunately, he had betrayed his patrons by doing a little double dealing with their true mortal enemy: Iran. (You know the old Neocon saying: wimps go to Bagdad, Real Men go to Tehran.) He was accused of forging Iraqi currency with stolen plates from the Iraq mint. And they believed him to have sent his Iranian friends some very sensitive information. These charges were never proven but after a brief stint in the Iraq government in 2005, in which he was held (rightly) responsible for his influence on the U.S. government to institute “de-Bathification” and even more charges of corruption, Chalabi withdrew from the scene. The last we had heard he was holding salons in his basement with various Iraqi experts on finance and government.

So why bring all this up now? Well, heeee’s baaaack. Since the eruption of violence and the emergence of the terrorist group ISIS in Iraq last month, the beltway and the press have made the belated observation that Prime Minister Maliki

Read on. His story still fascinates me, particularly the fact that he has continued to snow American hawks for decades now. They want so much to believe his con job that he can sell it over and over again ...

That's why we like her

by digby

I know that liberals are considered to be so far out of the mainstream that Villagers remains convinced that even crazed extremists like Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo are more legitimate representatives of America than they are. So I can only imagine the laughter and glee with which this analysis from Nate Silver will be met inside the beltway since it marks Elizabeth Warren as more liberal than even the dreaded George McGovern. They so yearn to get back to hippie bashing and it's been awfully difficult when the Republicans have been acting like a bunch of right wing yippies, tearing up the place and laughing in their faces as they do it.

But why should liberals care? If you spend your life worrying about what the Village thinks you'll end up like a predictable corrupt Democratic functionary, which is to say you'll have the influence of a potted plant.

You can click here for the methodology.

By the way, liberals have a right to be represented in our political system too. They may not be as many of us as there are wingnutty lunatics, but there are tens of millions of us.

Raising the minimum wage creates more jobs

by David Atkins

It's almost as if conservatives are wrong about everything:

New data released by the Department of Labor suggests that raising the minimum wage in some states might have spurred job growth, contrary to what critics said would happen.

In a report on Friday, the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not. The data run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, would cost 500,000 jobs.
Even if it weren't true that a higher minimum wage creates jobs due to the stimulative demand-side effect, American minimum wages are so low that at a certain point jobs that pay worse than that aren't worth creating. Most people who work minimum wage aren't teenagers living at home looking to make a few extra bucks to save up for an iPod. They're middle-aged people, often with families.

The minimum wage needs to be a living wage. The business-side discomfort with raising the wage would be more understandable if every sector was hurting. But it isn't. The rich are richer than ever, corporate profits are at record highs, the stock market is soaring. We don't need to coddle McDonalds and WalMart by paying their employees less than living wages.

But in any case, raising the minimum doesn't hurt the economy at all. It actually creates more jobs.


by tristero

What PZ says. This is a situation in which the only hope for a positive resolution hinges upon both sides renouncing and vigorously prosecuting their own propensity for violence and ethnocentric aggression. What Israel is doing is unconscionable and the US should withdraw support. And, as PZ says, that in no way excuses for so much as a micro-second launching rockets into Israeli neighborhoods.

Related: Horrible. Nothing like dehumanizing others to justify murder.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

"You couldn't have been more wrong!"

by digby

This is the best clip of the year:

It’s impossible for you to have been more wrong, Rick. Your call for inflation, the destruction of the dollar, the failure of the US economy to rebound. Rick, it’s impossible for you to have been more wrong. Every single bit of advice you gave would have lost people money, Rick. Lost people money, Rick. Every single bit of advice. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. Not a single one. Not a single one, Rick. The higher interest rates never came, the inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened, the dollar never crashed, Rick. There isn’t a single one that’s worked for you.

He still maintains he was right though. And in Bizarroworld, he was.
If the crime doesn't exist they have to invent it

by digby

Apparently, the ATF doesn't have enough real crimes to stop:
An undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) infiltrated Jeremy Halgat’s life for three years before he lured him into drug crimes “designed and engineered by the government.” He had Halgat’s home searched and found nothing. He tried to get Halgat to buy illegal guns and Halgat recited federal gun law. Finally, after many rejected requests and a heavy hand by the agent, ATF Task Force Officer Agostino Brancato got Halgat to play a role in a cocaine sale, in pleas that exploited their false friendship, and Brancato’s false claims of monetary desperation.

A federal magistrate judge recommended this week that criminal charges against Halgat carrying a term of up to 20 years in prison be dismissed.

“[T]he government’s investigation deployed techniques that generated a wholly new crime for the sake of pressing criminal charges against Halgat,” Judge Cam Ferenbach wrote.
ATF has become known for engaging in a lot of ethically, if not legally, dubious operations. Last year, a Milwaukee Sentinel investigation (one in a series of exposées on ATF) found that the ATF used mentally disabled individuals in its undercover stings, and later arrested them for actions they performed during the stings. And a pair of federal court decisions in California last year revealed that “ATF recruited ‘chronically unemployed individuals from poverty-ridden areas,’ invented a fictitious cocaine stash-house with 20 to 25 kilograms of cocaine, and asked the defendants if they had ‘a crew . . . a couple of other homies’ that could participate in a robbery. To ensure that the defendants would suffer harsher criminal penalties, the ATF agent also imagined up nonexistent guards and told the defendants to bring guns.”

“[W]as there any evidence that these arrests, as well as all other fake stash house robberies being used by the ATF to get firearm arrests, helped in any fashion the war on drugs?” the judge wrote in one of these cases.

Police agencies coercing people into committing crimes so they can arrest them is not completely unheard of. (It's been used liberally to create the idea that the nation is crawling with Islamic terrorists.) It's nice to see a judge actually call them out on it.

And why is the ATF investigating drug crimes? One can only surmise that The Drug War is a convenient catch all for all the police agencies.  Even the NSA is cooperating with the DEA all over the world.  And here. 

Update: Also too this, which is only related tangentially but fits in well with the construction of the police state apparatus at all levels of the nation in recent years:

Bill Maher may be an ass, and he often is, but when he's right he's right.

If you build it they will use it.

Sunday Funnies

by digby

Tom Tomorrow in The Nation

McFadden in the New York Times

Ruben Bolling at The Nib:


Loathesome wingnut 'o the day

by digby

This one is always hard to choose, but I think we've got a winner:
"The whole idea is to invite retaliatory fire, to tell your civilians not to hide or to flee the areas where the Israelis are about to hit, and then get the civilian casualty numbers up," Lowry explained. "And then use that as a propaganda tool, and hope the media will report it as if it's Israel's fault."

"The four little kids, for example who were killed right on the beach, right on the Mediterranean in Gaza, you think that's Hama's fault?" Carlson wondered.

"Yeah," Lowry insisted. "It's wouldn't be happening, there's no reason for this conflict except for that Hamas is sending the Rockets over into Israel."

"Why don't they tell people, 'When Israel warns you that they're about to hit, please flee, please go somewhere someplace safe'?" he continued. "They don't. And you've had various Hamas officials over the years bragging, 'We're going to win because we love death more than you love life.'"
It shouldn't be surprising. The last few weeks have made very clear that the only children these people care about are ones who haven't been born yet. Callously blaming them for their own deaths --- as if they meant to die to make a political point --- is just par for the course. They were children.

Let's face it, when Tucker Carlson sounds compassionate by comparison, you should know by now that you look like a sadistic ass.

(And you know that these kids were just playing outside a shed on the beach where their father stores his boat. And that they don't have anywhere to hide anyway. More here.)

The Latest Eating Disorder 

by tristero

Eating for health can make you sick. It's helpful to read Jordan's original post to see how crazy it got for her.

Eating specifically for nutrition strikes me personally as both puritanical and a fools errand. It's puritanical because eating should be about pleasure, not a demonstration of moral virtue like "you should live a healthy life," something Jordan has learned the hard way. As for the actual value of "eating for health," from what I've read, the nutrients in food and their interactions are not well understood even by experts. For a layperson like myself, it is absolutely impossible to remember, let alone follow, most of the recommendations, which, anyway, are often contradictory. Instead, simply eating a highly varied diet of real, delicious home-prepared food seems automatically to take care of my "nutrient balance" - whatever the hell that means. (Treats - edibles high in sugar and/or processed with unpronounceable ingredients - are not really "food," at least as I see it.)

I suspect it's likely that Michael Pollan's famous motto - Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants - is about all most of us need to know unless you have specific diet-related health problems. Food should be served and enjoyed, not prescribed and endured.

The executive order that everybody thinks is just ducky

by digby

This piece in the Washington Post by John Napier Tye was a member of the State Department until very recently:

In March I received a call from the White House counsel’s office regarding a speech I had prepared for my boss at the State Department. The speech was about the impact that the disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance practices would have on U.S. Internet freedom policies. The draft stated that “if U.S. citizens disagree with congressional and executive branch determinations about the proper scope of signals intelligence activities, they have the opportunity to change the policy through our democratic process.”

But the White House counsel’s office told me that no, that wasn’t true. I was instructed to amend the line, making a general reference to “our laws and policies,” rather than our intelligence practices. I did.

Even after all the reforms President Obama has announced, some intelligence practices remain so secret, even from members of Congress, that there is no opportunity for our democracy to change them.

Public debate about the bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ data by the NSA has focused largely on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, through which the government obtains court orders to compel American telecommunications companies to turn over phone data. But Section 215 is a small part of the picture and does not include the universe of collection and storage of communications by U.S. persons authorized under Executive Order 12333.

From 2011 until April of this year, I worked on global Internet freedom policy as a civil servant at the State Department. In that capacity, I was cleared to receive top-secret and “sensitive compartmented” information. Based in part on classified facts that I am prohibited by law from publishing, I believe that Americans should be even more concerned about the collection and storage of their communications under Executive Order 12333 than under Section 215.

Bulk data collection that occurs inside the United States contains built-in protections for U.S. persons, defined as U.S. citizens, permanent residents and companies. Such collection must be authorized by statute and is subject to oversight from Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The statutes set a high bar for collecting the content of communications by U.S. persons. For example, Section 215 permits the bulk collection only of U.S. telephone metadata — lists of incoming and outgoing phone numbers — but not audio of the calls.

Executive Order 12333 contains no such protections for U.S. persons if the collection occurs outside U.S. borders. Issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to authorize foreign intelligence investigations, 12333 is not a statute and has never been subject to meaningful oversight from Congress or any court. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has said that the committee has not been able to “sufficiently” oversee activities conducted under 12333.

Unlike Section 215, the executive order authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons. Such persons cannot be individually targeted under 12333 without a court order. However, if the contents of a U.S. person’s communications are “incidentally” collected (an NSA term of art) in the course of a lawful overseas foreign intelligence investigation, then Section 2.3(c) of the executive order explicitly authorizes their retention. It does not require that the affected U.S. persons be suspected of wrongdoing and places no limits on the volume of communications by U.S. persons that may be collected and retained.

Did you know about this? If you were reading Emptywheel, you did, but I'd guess that most people are unaware that our democratic process is completely short-circuited in this way. Everyone understands that their communications don't stay within US borders, right?

For all the caterwauling about the president abusing his power by delaying the implementation of a law they've voted over 50 times to repeal, the Republicans have no problem with this sort of thing for some reason. (Of course it was signed by Ronald Reagan so it's divinely inspired ...) Still, the difference between these National Security orders and the order to delay a little piece of he Affordable Care Act is profound. The people can see the results of this alleged Obamacare tyranny and decide at the voting booth if they approve. All this National Security abuse is always, always done in secret, classified to death and the details even kept from those tasked with oversight.

I guess if you think being allowed to temporarily delay offering health insurance to your employees is worse than 30 years of unaccountable government spying on Americans with no oversight then this makes sense.

Don't ask for a living wage or you'll be replaced by an iPad

by David Atkins

This is an actual billboard in San Francisco:

Pando Daily has more on this:

Its message — that minimum wage increases will lead to service workers being replaced by apps — is continued on an accompanying website — BadIdeaCA — which claims to be “holding activists accountable for minimum wage consequences.”

So who the hell pays for billboards threatening waitstaff with redundancy if they demand a living wage? A bit of digging and clicking reveals that the campaign is backed by Employment Policies Institute, the conservative lobbying group which regularly campaigns on behalf of the restaurant industry.
So, this is obviously disgusting on the part of the restaurant industry and its flacks. But it's worth noting that restaurants are already beginning to replace servers with tablets.

There are a lot of progressives out there who are very hostile to the idea that mechanization of jobs has had a huge impact on the workforce and will increasingly do so in the future. It runs against the narrative that the entirety of the screwing over of the middle class was a pure product of Reaganomics and political decisions to benefit the rich, and the correlated narrative that we really can return to the economy of the mid-twentieth century if we only go back to the old tax rates and trade deals.

The fact remains that within one year a bunch of server jobs will be gone because restaurants will replace order-taking with tablets. Within a decade or two we won't need truck or cab drivers anymore. IBM can already diagnose cancer five times better than doctors. The flattening of the teaching profession will continue apace as the technology and techniques behind MOOCs continue to improve. 3D printing will render much of what manufacturing remains obsolete. Anything requiring mid-level management or analysis will be done better by computer within two decades at the max, and probably sooner.

Pushing for a higher minimum wage is important. But ultimately we're going to have to decouple human dignity from "having a job." There just won't be enough jobs to go around, and tweaking the tax rates of super-wealthy just won't cut it at a certain point.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies

Love the one you're with: A Summer's Tale

By Dennis Hartley

I'm about to lose any (infinitesimal) amount of street cred that I may have accidentally accrued thus far in my "career" as a movie critic with the following admission. I was originally introduced to the work of Eric Rohmer in a roundabout and pedestrian manner. In Arthur Penn's brilliant 1975 neo-noir, Night Moves (one of my all-time favorites), there's a memorable throwaway line by cynical private investigator Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman). After his wife says she's off to catch a Rohmer film, Harry scoffs (mostly to himself), "I saw a Rohmer film once. It was kind of like watching paint dry." Since I was hitherto unaware of this Rohmer fellow, I was intrigued to explore his oeuvre (glad I did).

This is why I had to chuckle when I checked the time stamp and realized that it's nearly 8 minutes into the Rohmer film A Summer's Tale before anyone utters a line of dialog; and it's a man calling a waitress over so he can order a chocolate crepe. As for the "action" that precedes, well...a young man arrives in sunny Dinard, unpacks his clothes, and heads to the beach to check out the scene. He has a beer and a sandwich. He kicks around the boardwalk until dark. He has dinner. He gazes out his window and strums a nondescript melody on his guitar. The next day, he strolls on the boardwalk some more, then decides to grab a crepe and some coffee. As Harry might say, it's kind of like watching paint dry.

But not to worry, because things are about to get much more interesting. In fact, our young man, an introverted maths grad named Gaspar (Melvil Poupaud) will soon find himself in a dizzying girl whirl. It begins when he meets the bubbly and outgoing Margo (Amanda Langlet) an ethnologist major who is spending the summer waitressing at her aunt's seaside crepery. The taciturn Gaspard is initially discombobulated by Margo's forwardness and chatty effervescence; he cautiously tells her that he's expecting his "sort of" girlfriend Lena (Aurelia Nolin) to join him on holiday any time now (she was a little vague as to when she would arrive). No pressure, Margo assures him, she has a boyfriend (currently overseas) and just wants to pal around (can men and women ‘just be friends’?) So they pal around; days pass and still no sign of Lena. Margo is having serious doubts about this 'Lena', so without compunction she sets Gaspar up with her friend Solene (Gwenaelle Simon), who, she tells him, is looking for a "summer romance". Sparks fly between Solene and Gaspar…right about the time that Lena finally arrives. Crunch time.

A Summer's Tale could very well prove to be this summer's best (and smartest) romantic comedy, which is unusual for a couple of reasons. For one, this film was made in 1996. Released in France that year as Conte d'ete, it is only just now making its official U.S. theatrical debut. And then there is the awkward fact that the film's writer-director has been dead since 2010 (oh well...nobody's perfect). This was my first opportunity to see it, and I would rate it amongst Rohmer's best work (most strongly recalling Pauline at the Beach , which starred a then teenage Langlet, who is wonderful here as the charming Margo). If you're unfamiliar with the director, this is as good a place as any to start. In a way, this is a textbook “Rohmer film”, which I define as "a movie where the characters spend more screen time dissecting the complexities of male-female relationships than actually experiencing them". But don't despair; it won’t be like watching paint dry. In fact, even a neophyte should glean Rohmer's ongoing influence (particularly if you've seen Once , When Harry Met Sally, or Richard Linklater's "Before" series). One gentle caveat: any viewer of A Summer's Tale (or any Rohmer film) will sheepishly recognize his or herself at some juncture, yet at once feel absolved for being, after all, only human.

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