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Monday, May 25, 2015

Grifter wedding goes wrong

by digby

The next time you see John McCain or any other Republican talking about "judgment" and responsibility, think about this:
The eleventh hour cancellation of Bristol Palin's Memorial Day Weekend wedding left mom Sarah with little alternative but to go ahead with the already planned reception - although significantly her daughter chose not to attend.

The bizarre set of circumstances mean't that while the former vice presidential candidate hung out with her daughter's ex-fiance and ex-Marine [and medal of honor recipient] Dakota Meyer and his family in Kentucky, Bristol made a very public showing of her non-attendance by posting a series of photos of her enjoying a 'weekend getaway' back in Alaska with her best friend who is an exotic model.

Sarah Palin had taken to Facebook last Monday to reveal that her 24-year-old daughter would not be marrying Meyer as previously planned just days after accusations emerged that the 26-year-old Marine had covered up a 'secret wife' he had married at 19 and then legally divorced.

Despite the cancellation, the former vice presidential candidate confirmed a celebration would still be held on May 23 and both families would be gathering for a barbecue at Meyer's Kentucky farm.

'This Kentucky farm is a beautiful setting for our friends and families to gather in celebration of life itself this Memorial Day weekend,' wrote Palin.

'Nothing is more precious to us than family, faith and America's freedom.'

But the 'celebration of life' appears to have quite heated at one point as this photograph showing Sarah Palin raising her finger in what appears to be a heated exchange with the man who was supposed to have become her son-in-law.

Days earlier Meyer had put out his own statement on Facebook page around the same time as the elder Palin and bearing striking similarities to her message, suggesting a concerted public relations offensive.

But if both sides were supposed to be maintaining a united front someone forgot to tell Bristol

She was absent from the 'celebration of life' in Kentucky and instead spent the weekend posting photos of her enjoying a 'getaway weekend' back home in Atlanta.

Sarah Palin makes a big issue of her family's supposed belief in traditional Christian family values, but after the embarassment of a cancelled wedding Bristol's choice of friend for her trip - 'exotic model and video vixen' Marina Lupas - was the last thing the family's tarnished image needed.

Lupas aggressively markets herself as an 'exotic model' on the internet, and her public photos leave little doubt about what she means. She and Bristol are long time friends and they spent the weekend enjoying the outdoors and driving an RV.

Photos from the family barbecue in Kentucky suggest Bristol didn't miss much with only about 100 people showing up.

Although in attendance was Fox News correspondent Rick Leventhal who tweeted photos of himself with both Palin and Meyer.
She would have been one heart attack away from running the world.

Will we ever know?

by digby

I was just cruising through my archives looking for something and came upon this story from the New York Times:

Report on 9/11 Suggests a Role by Saudi Spies
Published: August 2, 2003

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 — The classified part of a Congressional report on the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, says that two Saudi citizens who had at least indirect links with two hijackers were probably Saudi intelligence agents and may have reported to Saudi government officials, according to people who have seen the report.

These findings, according to several people who have read the report, help to explain why the classified part of the report has become so politically charged, causing strains between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Senior Saudi officials have denied any links between their government and the attacks and have asked that the section be declassified, but President Bush has refused.

People familiar with the report and who spoke on condition of not being named said that the two Saudi citizens, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, operated in a complex web of financial relationships with officials of the Saudi government. The sections that focus on them draw connections between the two men, two hijackers, and Saudi officials.

The report urges further investigation of the two men and their contacts with the hijackers, because of unresolved questions about their relationship and whether they had any involvement in the 9/11 plot.

The edited 28-page section of the report, produced by a joint panel of the House and Senate intelligence committees, also says that a Muslim cleric in San Diego was a central figure in a support network that aided the same two hijackers. Most connections drawn in the report between the men, Saudi intelligence and the attacks are circumstantial, several people who have read the report said.

The unclassified parts of the report also suggest a connection between Mr. al-Bayoumi and Saudi intelligence. The report says that "one of the F.B.I.'s best sources in San Diego informed the F.B.I. that he thought that al-Bayoumi must be an intelligence officer." The report also says that "despite the fact that he was a student, al-Bayoumi had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia."

I know you knew this already. I just thought it was worth mentioning again since poor old former Senator Bob Graham is still trying to get those pages declassified more than a decade later.

You simply cannot take what the government says about our policies in the Middle East at face value. It operates on a different level. But again, you knew that.

Headline 'O the Day: Feature not bug edition

by digby

I have written for a long time that the fact that the public sector helped build the black middle class over the past four decades is one of the main reasons the right wing hates it so much.  I've heard the racist talk for years when I've stood in line at the DMV and the Post Office or overhearing conversations about "the problem with teachers." (You don't hear it as much about cops and firefighters, but all you have to do is look at the lawsuits against "quotas" to know it exists.)  These people consider government work largely a "welfare program" and resent the fact that public employees have good benefits and decent salaries because they are undeserving. And by "undeserving" they mean black. 

Racism isn't the only explanation for the right's hostility to public sector jobs. But it underlies much of conservatism's ongoing loathing for government which many of them see as catering to the lazy, undeserving poor (even those who work for a living!).  If the government benefits African Americans in some way, regardless of whether it also benefits whites, some people are against it. 


Bernie who?

by digby

Honest to God ...

Meanwhile I'm sure they'll continue to tell their audience about Ben Carson's every utterance. Because he represents Real America.

It only took one lobster eating surfer dude ...

by digby

My piece for Salon this morning ...

Imagine making it so that banks can collect extra fees from mothers with small children who are trying to feed them on less than four hundred dollars a month. How cruel do you have to be to think that making them only carry 20 dollars cash will somehow teach them a lesson?

But this is what’s happening in states governed by miserly Republicans who are determined to wring every last dime out of people who have nothing and give it to people who have more than they can spend in a lifetime. In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, for instance, they are making long lists of prohibited foods for those who use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs.) The list of other prohibited purchases includes “herbs, spices, or seasonings,” all nuts, red and yellow potatoes, smoothies, spaghetti sauce, “soups, salsas, ketchup,” sauerkraut, pickles, dried beans sold in bulk, and white or albacore tuna.

They were particularly adamant that nobody on the program be allowed to eat shellfish, lobster in particular, which seems odd considering that it’s Wisconsin and the lobster catch there is decidedly small. (In fact, it’s non-existent.) I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn that this lobster hysteria stemmed from a Fox News documentary which seems to have been the catalyst for these crackdowns on foodie welfare cheats. Media Matters reported on it back in 2013:

Prior to its August 9 airing, Fox News hyped the special, “The Great Food Stamp Binge,” on Fox News Insider, FoxNews.com, and several of its daytime shows. Each preview focused on Jason Greenslate, a freeloading surfer who Fox correspondent John Roberts interviewed in Southern California. FoxNews.com described Greenslate at length in an article that teased the “new documentary”:

“The Fox News Reporting documentary profiles, among others, a California surfer and aspiring musician named Jason Greenslate. Greenslate shows how he supports his beach-bum lifestyle with food stamps, while dismissing the idea of holding down a regular, steady job.

“‘It’s not that I don’t want a job, I don’t want a boss. I don’t want someone telling me what to do. I’m gonna live my own life,’ Greenslate tells Fox News’ John Roberts. ‘This is the way I want to live. And I don’t really see anything changing. I got the card. It’s $200. That’s it.’”

As promised, “The Great Food Stamp Binge” labeled Greenslate “the new face of food stamps,” devoting two full segments to his lifestyle in a shameless attempt to characterize SNAP recipients as freeloaders.

Yes, he was shown eating lobster on screen. Since Fox News viewers are the most misinformed people in the universe (well, America anyway) and elected Republicans seem to be among Fox News’ most ardent fans, it stands to reason that some California surfer hippie refusing to work would inflame them so much that they couldn’t see past it. Fox even had staffers deliver copies of the documentary to members of congress prior to a vote on cutting food stamps, just to make sure that hippie didn’t go unnoticed by even one Republican. You can bet it’s made the rounds of all the state houses as well.

Asking for it

by digby

Ok, this is very creepy.  It's about a document from Bill Gothard's home schooling cult that tells people like the Duggars how to deal with sexual abuse:
The document describes a situation in which social workers visited a home and informed the parents that their oldest son had sexually abused younger members of his family.

According to the document, the boy repented for what he had done and was later asked to answer a list of questions in writing to shed more insight on what happened.

The questions included asking what factors had contributed to his sin, what could have been done to prevent it, and what factors “in the home contributed to immodesty and temptation.”

“The information he gives is so helpful that every parent should read it and diligently apply the lessons that this family learned the hard way,” the document states.

The most striking part of the document comes when the boy seems to blame his actions on the lack of “modesty” in his home, especially when it came to his young sisters.

The boy wrote that modesty was a “factor” in his actions because it “was not at the level is should have been in my family.”

“It was not uncommon for my younger sibling to come out of their baths naked or with a towel,” he wrote.

He also said his younger sisters acted inappropriately when they wore dresses, saying they “did not behave in them as they should.”

He then said his sisters didn’t realize what they were doing to him because they didn’t realize their “own nakedness,” and it wasn’t taught properly to them. He seems to blame this on his mother, who he says didn’t see the human body as a big deal because she is a nurse.

The boy said he spoke with his mother who had “no idea” how “visual” men are sexually compared to women. He said changes have since been made in his home.

“This was not a major reason for the offending, but it allowed my little sister to be open to what I made her do,” he wrote.

He then wrote, “A different lifestyle, with more modesty, might have prevented what happened.”
The document then provides guidelines as to how to prevent this type of situation. These include “[insisting] on modesty at all times” and “[not allowing] boys to change diapers.”

There was this as well:
The document suggests that a victim of sexual abuse is damaging themselves by being “bitter” about what happened.

It also seems to imply the victim should be feeling guilt about what happened. The reasons for this guilt may be “disobedience” or “not reporting it,” it states.

In addition, the document reference there is a potential for “moral vaccination.”
That term is described in an article by Recovering Grace:

Moral vaccination” seems to reference a concept Gothard shared in seminars and conferences in the 1980s, when he told the story of a woman who struggled with unwanted sexual thoughts and eventually was raped. In the anecdote, Gothard described the rape and the woman’s subsequent aversion to sexuality as inoculation against lust.

I think we can all agree that this throwback attitude should have been left in the caves. But then you stop to think about it and see that there are many people, not just the Duggar Quiverful types for whom this attitude still subconsciously informs their views about women and assault. The right sees sexual assault as a false narrative in which women are pretending to be victims when they were actually active participants in the act in one way or another. (Those little girls who were "immodest" in their dresses for instance.) And if women are assaulted they likely put themselves into a situation they shouldn't have been in in the first place and must take some responsibility for what happened to them.

That's Bill Gothard's gothic patriarchal culture. It's also our culture.

Update: Because he cares about the victims, this Republican politician wants the chief of police fired for releasing Josh Duggar's arrest report. Uh huh.

Update II: That Buzzfeed story I linked at the beginning should have included some acknowledgement to Kathryn Joyce for her book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement
and Sarah Posner who has written reams about Gothard as well. You really should read up on this if you haven't.
"Bring 'em on"

by digby

The original Arlington West memorial, Santa Barbara, California; the USS Ronald Reagan is in the background

With all the bellicose talk coming from the right these days, it appears we are on the cusp of forgetting. We shouldn't do that.


Damned dirty hippies

by Tom Sullivan

The sun is just up and I put out the flag. It is Memorial Day again. There will be a ceremony downtown later to honor America's war dead. Some in Washington are clamoring to send more Americans to join them.

We have seen stories lately that Memorial Day originated in 1865 with freed slaves in Charleston, SC. They took it upon themselves to give a proper burial to hundreds of Union soldiers from a prison camp at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club who had been buried in a mass grave. Whether that event was the inspiration for the national holiday established in 1868 is conjecture. According to Yale historian David W. Blight, the “Martyrs of the Race Course” have since been moved to the National Cemetery at Beaufort, South Carolina. The track is now a park adjacent to the Citadel military college.

I was on the Isle of Palms a few miles east of there on October 7, 2002, watching, the night George W. Bush gave the televised speech in Cincinnati. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at Saddam Hussein in an effort to convince the American people we needed to go to war against Iraq (as the White House had already decided). The well-orchestrated, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld propaganda effort has been much in the news lately. A decade later, Americans have largely concluded, knowing what we know now, that we, the Bush administration, and a cheerleading national press were misled by bad intelligence.

No, we weren't. David Corn put it plainly last week: "George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, & Co. were not misled by lousy intelligence; they used lousy intelligence to mislead the public."

Matt Taibbi mocked the "bad intelligence" argument last week, "It was obvious even back then, to anyone who made the faintest effort to look at the situation honestly, that the invasion was doomed, wrong, and a joke." What's more:

Do people not remember this stuff? George Bush got on television on October 7th, 2002 and told the entire country that Saddam Hussein was thinking of using "unmanned aerial vehicles" for "missions targeting the United States."

Only a handful of news outlets at the time, most of them tiny Internet sites, bothered to point out that such "UAVs" had a range of about 300 miles, while Iraq was 6,000 miles from New York.

What was the plan – Iraqi frogmen swimming poison-filled drones onto Block Island?

It was nuts. It was nuts at the time. What Bush's "intelligence" lacked in quality he had made up for in quantity. That was obvious. If he had anything solid, he would not have recited a laundry list of conjecture. The intelligence wasn't just bad. It was a joke. Anyone with a scrap of remove could see it, as Taibbi says. Yet most of the country went along, including our watchdog press. Taibbi concludes:

Now a lot of these same people are green-lighting stories about how wrong Jeb Bush is for not admitting to what is at last obvious, "knowing what we know now." But forget what we know now. We knew then, but we're just not admitting it.

For the record, I wrote this to my senators and congressman from that Isle of Palms kitchen the day after the Bush speech in 2002:


“Facing clear evidence of peril,” George W. Bush last night recalled President Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. I lived through the Cuban missile crisis, Senator. Those were real missiles, only 90 miles away, and not weapons we worried might be developed, might be intended for us.

Clear evidence of peril? I grew up and lived most of my life under the threat of nuclear annihilation on thirty-minute notice from hundreds of Soviet nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. We knew – unequivocally – that the Soviets had the bombs and the delivery systems, and that their ICBMs were aimed right at us. This country has never faced a more imminent and direct threat.

Against this backdrop the President would have us shaking in our shoes and supporting immediate preemptive war against a dictator and tyrant who might – if he has a death wish in development, too – threaten the United States from halfway round the world using crop dusters armed with mustard gas?

This is Bush’s “significant threat”? So why do Iraq’s immediate neighbors Saudi Arabia and Turkey – both defended by our military – not support Mr. Bush on this? On Larry King Live last night Sen. John McCain observed that the worst-case scenario from Iraq is Hussein launching a chemical or biological attack against Israel, not against us. Israel faced something like this already. And if Hussein tried it again, the Israelis – if unfettered – would reduce him to a greasy patch, and we would help them do it.

Bush keeps trying unsuccessfully to tie Iraq to 9/11 to gain support for his jihad. Again last night, he was unsuccessful. His reasoning as to why we should act immediately against Iraq? “We’ve experienced the horror of September the 11th.” “Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.” Because there are bad people out there who don’t like us, and Saddam Hussein is one of them. (And he keeps bad company.) He might be tempted someday to commit illegal acts of violence against us, so we are justified in committing illegal acts of violence against him first. Shoot at anything that goes bump in the night… and ask questions later.

A brilliant foreign policy. It makes me nostalgic for the good old days of 1962.

Let’s let the U.N. authorize legal military action, if it will, before Bush straps on his six guns and sets off on a lynching party. Do not support this Texas vigilante’s putsch.

Damned dirty hippie.

Observe Memorial Day without so much saber rattling, okay?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bipartisanship at last

by digby

I have always said that the only way to achieve bipartisanship in the modern era is for President Obama to enlist the Democrats to pass the conservative's agenda unchanged and without compromise. It would especially good if he could twist some liberals' arms to get it done so the Villagers would see it as legitimately mainstream.

Looks like we might see this in action at long last:
House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and GOP leaders have turned to some unlikely allies to rally support for a key trade bill: Tea-Party conservatives, including some prominent names from the raucous House Freedom Caucus.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently tapped Rep. Tom McClintock to give the weekly GOP address, in which the conservative Californian declared: “Trade means prosperity.”

At the monthly “Conversations with Conservatives” event, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) informed his colleagues he’s an unequivocal “yes” on granting President Obama so-called “fast-track” trade powers.

And both McClintock and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) huddled with reporters in a leadership office last week to talk up the virtues of legislation to help pass Obama’s trade agenda.

Salmon, typically a source of heartburn for leadership, denounced some of the conservative “Pat Buchananites” he runs with as “protectionists.” Those who warn Obama can’t be trusted on trade are making a weak argument, he said, because Congress has given Republican presidents the same authority.

Finally, Salmon pointedly challenged critics who’ve complained about the secrecy of the process to head down to a classified briefing room in the Capitol’s basement to read details of a major 12-nation trade deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“I’ve read every jot and tittle … 123 pages,” Salmon told reporters during the press briefing, while seated next to House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the No. 4 leader. “To go out there and rail against it when you haven’t even looked at it is insane.”

Salmon, who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, didn’t stop there. In a closed-door GOP conference meeting the following morning, he was the first one to step to the open microphone, making an impassioned plea in support of fast track and the trade deal as Ryan looked on.

“I can't believe Republicans — the party of free trade — are coming out against this,” Salmon told his colleagues, according to sources in the room.

There are just as many House conservatives who have their doubts about handing President Obama broader trade powers, referred to in Washington parlance as Trade Promotion Authority or TPA.

But the aggressive lobbying effort by these conservative lawmakers is seen as a positive sign for TPA following weeks of chatter that the bill was on life support in the lower chamber.

“I’m as conservative as any of them. Salmon’s a great spokesman, I’m a great spokesman. McClintock’s a great spokesman. That’s the reason I think we’re gonna see it pass,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), a member of Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s GOP vote-counting team who’s bullish that TPA will be sent to Obama’s desk. “I think it looks good.”

After clearing several tough procedural hurdles, the fast-track bill is slated to pass out of the Senate this weekend. But the House won’t take up the measure until early June, after the chamber returns from its weeklong Memorial Day recess.

TPA specifically would give Obama the ability to send trade pacts to Congress for fast-track approval, meaning lawmakers could cast an up-or-down vote but not amend the agreement.

Scalise’s whip team won’t disclose how many of the 245 possible GOP votes they’ve locked up so far. But one leadership ally, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), told The Hill the target is roughly 190 Republican votes and 30 Democratic votes.

“Every week, we’re starting to move in the right direction and pick up a lot of these members we normally don’t get for big initiatives,” said a GOP aide who is familiar with the TPA whip count. “Even if there is opposition from the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus side, it has been relatively muted.”

Part of the reason there hasn’t been more organized, vocal conservative opposition to the trade bill is because Republicans typically are big boosters of free-trade, open-market principles. So for many GOP critics, coming out against the trade legislation has been a tricky endeavor.

“I’m a free trade guy,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a Freedom Caucus member, said before explaining that he’s still “undecided” on TPA as he works to add trade-preference language for Israel back into the bill.

While Freedom Reps. John Fleming (R-La.) and Dave Brat (R-Va.) are firmly opposed to TPA, other members — including Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Reps. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) — say they are “leaning no.”

“I have supported all previous trade agreements we voted on in the House. I will support future trade agreements ... but TPA is a process bill and I want to have a good grasp of the process before I would support it,” Amash told The Hill. “I am a ‘lean no’ because I don’t have enough information about the process, but I am not a firm no.”

The split among conservatives is a good omen for Ryan and GOP leaders, who likely wouldn’t be able to move the bill if there was united Tea-Party opposition in the conference.

Yes, many of these are the same "populist"  Tea Partyers who pretend to be antagonistic toward big business.

Yes, as I said, as long as the president agrees to pass a conservative agenda he will be able to claim some "bipartisan" achievements. I'm sure there will be much celebrating in Washington if he can get this one done. The hippies really hate it ---

Yes, our police torture citizens who are in the midst of medical emergencies

by digby

David Washington crashed into a car and a street sign after having a medical emergency, but the officers just assumed he was disobeying orders. They tasered him, blasted a long shot of pepper spray directly in his eyes and when he fell out of the car they let it run over his foot. And then the cop asked the sick citizen if he understood why he had to be sprayed.

I've been writing about this for years. They torture people who cannot respond. They don't bother to even try to ascertain if there might be something wrong. They do it to deaf people and people who are having epileptic seizures. Obviously, they do it to people who are mentally ill and not a danger to anyone all the time. They do it at will and rarely does anyone care.

If there wasn't a body cam recording this, they would have said he was like a raging Giant, threatening them menacingly and they had no choice but to subdue him by whatever means they could.

And think about this. They are at the scene of an accident. How could possibly not have been concerned that the man was injured? The lack of common sense is staggering.

Chart 'O the Day "L" word edition

by digby

Kevin Drum:
Here's a fascinating tidbit of research. A pair of grad students surveyed 2,000 state legislators and asked them what they thought their constituents believed on several hot button issues. They then compared the results to actual estimates from each district derived from national surveys.

The chart on the right is typical of what they found: Everyone—both liberal and conservative legislators—thought their districts were more conservative than they really were. For example, in districts where 60 percent of the constituents supported universal health care, liberal legislators estimated the number at about 50 percent. Conservative legislators were even further off: they estimated the number at about 35 percent.

Here's the chart:

Kevin wonders why this is so and speculates that it's the Fox effect as well as the hard right nature of the modern GOP.

I think that's true.  But I would also guess that the mainstream media continuously saying "this is a conservative country" as if it's self-evident has an effect too.

First they came for the Clintons and I did nothing ...

by digby

Uh huh:
Roger Eugene Ailes (born May 15, 1940) is president of Fox News Channel, and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group. Ailes was a media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush and for Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign (1989)...

Days after the 9/11 attacks, Ailes gave President George W. Bush political advice indicating that the American public would be patient as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible. The correspondence was revealed in Bob Woodward's book Bush At War.
But, you know, he's fair and balanced so it's all good.

Speaking of Ailes you have to read this amazing interview in The Hollywood Reporter if you missed it a couple of weeks ago. There's a ton of fascinating stuff in there but in keeping with the topic of this post:
As the country enters a presidential campaign season with dynastic implications, Ailes has a dilemma: How much oxygen does he give the fringe GOP candidates who could torment likely frontrunner Jeb Bush and potentially aid Hillary Clinton in the process. It's not a question he answers directly. "I just don't think I should weigh in on it, even in the press because people will think, 'Well, that's the way he's making the network go.' But it looks like Hillary is going to do whatever she wants," he says, "and the press is going to vote for her."

Asked if he thinks Ted Cruz, the intransigent Texas tea party candidate, has a chance of securing the GOP nomination, Ailes deflects: "Listen, we elected Warren G. Harding. Anybody has a chance. You don't know who you're going to be running against. If the other guy falls on his rear end, you could win."

It's not as if he's hiding his agenda. In fact, it's blithely assumed by the reporter and everyone else that he's trying to help the Republican get elected. He makes no bones about it and any sentient being who watches Fox can see it.

And that's perfectly fine. But Stephanopoulos, who also worked as a political operative and retired from that profession just five years after Ailes (about 20 years ago) is a whore because he gave some money to Clinton's charity.

This has to be the most hypocritical right wing scandal to date. And it may just backfire. These smug jerks are going after Villagers by name now.

On the other hand ... never mind ...

So everyone just noticed that Marco Rubio looks good on paper?

by digby

Apparently.  This article in the New York Times has everyone all atwitter. Apparently everyone just noticed that Republicans need to attract at least a few Hispanics and that the Great Whitebread hope Scott Walker is unlikely to be that guy (and not just because he's an obvious boob but because he's actually come out against legal immigration.)

Anyway, I'll just take this moment to reprise my Salon piece from months ago about why Rubio makes the most sense.

Recognizing his obvious presidential timber after he boldly led Senate Republicans to hold hands and jump over a cliff in his very first weeks in the Senate, the Arkansas GOP introduced a bill this week which would change existing law to allow Tom Cotton to run for the office in 2020. One might ask why they would wait so long for his leadership  — and for all we know, the draft Cotton movement is already afoot for 2016 — but perhaps they recognize that it might be better if he has more than a couple of months of experience before he takes the reins of the most powerful government on earth. (It’s possible that they also recognize it’s going to take a while before people have forgotten that he boldly led Senate Republicans over a cliff in his very first weeks in office …)
But the urge for a fresh face among GOP strategists is palpable. After all, if they plan to run against Hillary the ancient mariner who’s been around politics since we were all sending notes to each other via post office, they have to have someone besides Jeb Bush who, if you squint your eyes when he comes on TV, looks and sounds an awful like Poppy, who’s been around since they were all sending notes via pony express. There’s a groundhog day aspect to the upcoming presidential race for a lot of reasons and while it may seem that Hillary Clinton is the one stands to lose the most from that, it remains a fact that she would be the first woman nominee of a major political party in our country’s history and you just don’t get any fresher than that. The Republicans, on the other hand, have a major problem with virtually every member of the US electorate except older white conservatives.
There are a lot of old white conservatives, to be sure. But not enough to win a national election. As I wrote in this piece from a couple of weeks ago, Republican pollsters and strategists have crunched the numbers and they realize that in order to win they have to do substantially better with Hispanics and other minorities than George W. Bush did in 2000. It’s possible that some of them believe that means Jeb is a logical choice to re-capture some of that Bush magic (although anyone who’s seen him on the stump would be hard pressed to believe that “magic” is a word that springs to mind.) Moreover, while he can certainly deploy his Mexican American wife and his children to speak for his openmindedness about immigration, the fact that the kids are grown and in office themselves will only show him to be just another older white, male politician. Jeb isn’t young. He is eligible for Social Security this year. Jeb Bush as the voice of the new generation of Republicans doesn’t exactly have the ring of authenticity to it.
And that brings us to Marco Rubio. The beltway wags have dubbed this current period in the presidential cycle the “donor primary” with the GOP candidates all rushing to kiss the rings of the big money boyz in the party. It’s widely assumed that Jeb Bush is their guy. (After all, brother Dubya may have screwed up the world in flamboyant fashion but he damned sure got those tax cuts for the rich passed first thing.) And for reasons that continue to be obscure, a lot of pundits think Scott Walker is a formidable force despite the fact that he can hardly go a day without saying something that further proves he’s anything but. And yet, for all the talk about these two being the billionaires’ favorite toys, it was Rubio who made the big splash at the Koch Summit a few weeks back.
The Koch brothers’ conservative network is still debating whether it will spend any of its massive $889 million budget in the Republican presidential primaries, but the prospect of choosing a GOP nominee loomed over the network’s just-concluded donor conference in the California desert. In an informal straw poll of some conference donors, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came out ahead of four other would-be GOP presidential candidates who had been invited, according to an attendee familiar with the results. The poll was conducted by Frank Luntz, a veteran GOP pollster, during a break-out session of the conference, which wrapped up Tuesday after a long weekend of presentations and discussions at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
The Koch network isn’t the only game in town, of course, but it’s certainly the biggest player. And they liked the Senator from Florida very much. Why? Because they want to win. And Rubio, as rough around the edges as he certainly is, is the one hopeful they can conceivably contrast with an older, white woman as a “first” of equal importance. He’s young, he’s Hispanic and he’s good looking. He’s the anti-Hillary whom they believe might be able to siphon off enough of those Latinos who are going to be necessary to get the GOP over the line.
Up until now the beltway handicappers have barely mentioned him. But he’s starting to make his move. National Review reports that the buzz is starting:
Jeb Bush’s announcement in December launched both a fundraising juggernaut and an aggressive hiring spree, and Scott Walker’s speech in Iowa the following month lifted Walker to the top of national polls. But a little more than a month later, says the operative, “The Jeb boom is over and people are having second thoughts about Walker.”
The beneficiary in terms of buzz is Marco Rubio, who now has many of the party’s top donors looking at him in a way they weren’t even a month ago. Though Rubio hasn’t made as much noise as his competitors as the 2016 campaign has gotten underway in earnest, his knowledgeable presentations and obvious political talent are nonetheless turning heads or, at least, enough of them. Rubio hasn’t made a big splash, neither building a “shock and awe” campaign like Bush nor delivering a marquee speech like Walker (who afterward seemed almost to be caught off guard by his rapid ascent). Instead, Rubio appears to be gambling on the idea that, in what is sure to be a long primary with a crowded field, a slow-and-steady approach will prevail.
The piece goes on to note that Florida billionaire Norman Braman announced that he is prepared to give Rubio substantial backing and that at the “American Enterprise Institute’s annual donor retreat in Sea Island, Ga., one attendee says Rubio got rave reviews from a crowd that included several billionaires.” He is likewise making a good impression on the intellectual wing of the party (which says more about the intellectual wing of the party than it does about him.)
It’s a long way to the Republican convention next year and speculation about the outcome is little more than a parlor game at this point. But Rubio is the potential nominee who makes the most sense on paper and it seems that a number of billionaires are willing to wager some of what amounts to tip money for them (and a vast fortune for the rest of us) on his campaign. If he can figure out the difference between ISIS and Iran before he has to debate someone who knows the answer, he could be the one they are waiting for.

And, by the way, he also is an Adelson favorite. Just saying:

Mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is smitten:
In recent weeks, Adelson, who spent $100 million on the 2012 campaign and could easily match that figure in 2016, has told friends that he views the Florida senator, whose hawkish defense views and unwavering support for Israel align with his own, as a fresh face who is “the future of the Republican Party.” He has also said that Rubio’s Cuban heritage and youth would give the party a strong opportunity to expand its brand and win the White House…
Since entering the Senate in 2011, Rubio has met privately with the mogul on a half-dozen occasions. In recent months, he‘s been calling Adelson about once every two weeks, providing him with meticulous updates on his nascent campaign. During a recent trip to New York City, Rubio took time out of his busy schedule to speak by phone with the megadonor.
Rubio really is a GOP dreamboat, isn’t he? He even calls when he’s on the road!

I have no idea if he will win, obviously. This is all parlor game bullshit. but I find it amusing that it's taken this long for people to recognize Rubio's play and see that he is the best they can do.

If you think it isn't about sex, think again

by digby

Katha Pollit's column at the Nation this week proves it:
What if there were something that simultaneously cut the unintended-pregnancy rate and the abortion rate, while saving a bundle of taxpayer money? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Turns out there is. In 2009, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation donated over $23 million to the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a five-year experimental program that offered low-income teenage girls and young women in the state long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs)—IUDs or hormonal implants—at no cost. These devices, which require no further action once inserted and remain effective for years, are by far the best method of birth control available, with less than a 1 percent failure rate. (The real-use failure rate for the Pill is 10 times higher.) One reason more women don’t use LARCs is cost: While they save the patient money over time, the up-front price can be as high as $1,200. (Even when insurance covers them, many teens fear the claim forms sent to their parents would reveal they are sexually active.) Another reason is that women simply don’t know about LARCs and assume the cheaper pills available at clinics are their only option.

Given the opportunity to make an informed decision at no cost, around 30,000 participants in Colorado chose LARCs. The results were staggering: a 40 percent decline in teen births, and a 34 percent decline in teen abortions. And for every dollar spent on the program, the state saved $5.85 in short-term Medicaid costs, in addition to other cost reductions and the enormous social benefit of freeing low-income teens from unwanted pregnancies and what too often follows: dropping out of school, unready motherhood, and poverty.

That is an amazing success story. For once government works at achieving the goals it intended to achieve. Huzzah.

Well, think again:

As Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg put it, using an IUD could mean “stopping a small child from implanting.” (Fun fact: Lundberg is the head of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.) That IUDs work by preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs is a cherished conviction of abortion opponents, who reject the massive amount of scientific evidence that the devices work by preventing fertilization. It is “theoretically possible” that IUDs can prevent implantation, Turok said, “but the chances are infinitesimally small.” And he noted that “every legitimate scientific organization defines pregnancy as implantation,” not fertilization. But to opponents, a woman with an IUD is like an abortion clinic on legs: Who knows how many “small children” she’s killing in there?

Besides, teenagers shouldn’t be having sex. “We’re providing this long-term birth control and telling girls, ‘You don’t have to worry. You’re covered,’” said Representative Kathleen Conti. “That does allow a lot of young ladies to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places.” (Because the fear of pregnancy has worked so well to keep girls virginal.) Other reasons to kill the program? IUDs cause breast cancer (unproved). Birth rates are down in two Colorado counties (so?). STD rates are up (no, they’re not; in fact, they’ve stayed the same, which strongly suggests LARCs don’t increase sexual activity).

I do want to thank the president for acting like America's Dad circa 1957 and validating this idea with his comments about Plan B being inappropriate for teenagers. It didn't help.

But this is really all on the social conservative fanatics. It's typically anti-science and filled with lies. And it also, once again, shows that what they care about isn't preventing babies from dying, but preventing girls from living.

IUDs are a terrific form of contraception for any woman, but particularly for younger people whose lives are fairly chaotic and their own sense of responsibility isn't fully formed. They will have sex --- that should go without saying. They always have, they always will. The question is whether you want to force women to give birth as a form of punishment for their "dirty" behavior and make the consequences of this natural behavior life changing.


Like that could happen

by Tom Sullivan

Privacy advocates worry that military drones could soon be used to spy on Americans. An activist friend trying to get reporters to publicize how the military plans for its squadrons of Predators, Reapers, etc. to share the National Airspace System (NAS) with private and commercial aircraft is greeted with the kind of skepticism one might have gotten a few years ago for suggesting the NSA was bulk-collecting Americans' phone records. Like that could happen.

Others have worried about hackers hijacking unmanned or commercial aircraft and, say, flying them into buildings. Like that could happen.

According to Der Spiegel last week, IT expert Chris Roberts has shown what, in theory, could happen with commercial airliners:

According to the FBI document, which was first made public by the Canadian news website APTN, Roberts was able to hack into the onboard entertainment systems -- manufactured by companies such as Panasonic and Thales -- of passenger planes such as the Boeing 737, the Boeing 757 and the Airbus A320. He did so a total of 15 to 20 times between 2011 and 2014. To do so, he hooked his laptop up to the Seat Electronic Box (SEB) -- which are usually located under each passenger seat -- using an Ethernet cable, which is unsettling enough.

But Roberts may also potentially have used the SEB to hack into sensitive systems that control the engines. In one case, he may even have been able to manipulate the engines during flight. He says that he was able to successfully enter the command "CLB," which stands for "climb," and the plane's engines reacted accordingly, he told the FBI, according to the document.

Der Spiegel reports that two years ago a young Spaniard, Hugo Teso, briefed officials from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on how hackers might exploit backdoors to gain control of aircraft systems remotely. You might not even need a computer, he explained, because he developed a smartphone app for that. EASA was not amused.

Esti Peshin, Israel Aerospace Industries cyber-programs director, told a recent security conference in Washington there is already a PDF "blueprint for hackers" available online, according to the blog Security Affairs:

It is important to point out the fact that there might be some relation between the hacking of drones made easily accessible on Google and the downing of a CIA drone caused by Iran. GPS hijacking has become a growing phenomenon that will most likely grow even further in the near future, as drones take over more responsibilities and are used in multiple situations. The estimated cost for getting what it takes to hack the drones varies from $2,000 to $3,000 and this is certainly an investment that hackers can spare.

Todd Humphrey, assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Radio navigation Laboratory, believes that as well:

Humphrey demonstrated to Homeland Security agents that spending around $1,000 on equipment and designing an application able to send signals to the drone’s GPS receiver he is able to gain complete control of the vehicle.

Humphrey calls it "an Achilles heel for homeland security." Which is no doubt why the Air Force and civilian developers are in such a hurry to introduce 30,000 drones into the national airspace in the next five to ten years. Just when you thought it was safe to stop ducking and covering.

Privacy concerns

John Horgan of National Geographic magazine wrote in 2013 about the privacy concerns with the technology:

During the last few years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, unmanned aircraft monitored Baghdad 24/7, turning the entire city into the equivalent of a convenience store crammed with security cameras. After a roadside bombing U.S. officials could run videos in reverse to track bombers back to their hideouts. This practice is called persistent surveillance. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) worries that as drones become cheaper and more reliable, law enforcement agencies may be tempted to carry out persistent surveillance of U.S. citizens. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects Americans from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” but it’s not clear how courts will apply that to drones.

What Jay Stanley of the ACLU calls his “nightmare scenario” begins with drones supporting “mostly unobjectionable” police raids and chases. Soon, however, networks of linked drones and computers “gain the ability to automatically track multiple vehicles and bodies as they move around a city,” much as the cell phone network hands calls from one tower to the next. The nightmare climaxes with authorities combining drone video and cell phone tracking to build up databases of people’s routine comings and goings—databases they can then mine for suspicious behavior. Stanley’s nightmare doesn’t even include the possibility that police drones might be armed.

Like that could happen:

But don't worry. Drones don't kill people. People do, right?

Liberal and conservative groups are uniting around the threat to both physical security and Fourth Amendment concerns posed by the technology and provisions in the Patriot Act the NSA has used to justify domestic surveillance. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has joined 29 other groups in supporting the End Warrantless Surveillance of Americans Act (H.R. 2233) introduced by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) along with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY). Speaking of backdoors, EFF writes:

H.R. 2233 has goals similar to last year’s Massie-Lofgren amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for FY 2015, which passed overwhelmingly with strong bipartisan support: 293 ayes, 123 nays, and 1 present.  That legislation would have closed the so-called National Security Agency “backdoors”—security flaws engineered into products and services to enable or facilitate government access to, and warrantless searches of, the contents of Americans’ communications—by prohibiting NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency from using appropriated funds to mandate or request that companies build backdoors into products or services.

H.R. 2233 goes further, because the prohibition on mandating or requesting backdoors would apply to any federal agency. This change is especially important for U.S. companies, who have suffered reputational harm overseas, and even lost business, in the wake of revelations about the extent of NSA spying. H.R. 2233, like the Massie-Lofgren amendment, does have an exception for backdoors mandated by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, a law that we’ve long had concerns about.

H.R. 2233 would also address the “backdoor search loophole” by prohibiting any officer or employee of the United States from searching through communications collected under Section 702 for communications of a particular U.S. person without a court order. This provision has exceptions for certain limited circumstances.

What’s new is that H.R. 2233—unlike last year’s Massie-Lofgren amendment—aims to prohibit backdoor searches for particular U.S. persons of communications collected under authorities other than Section 702—including, according to Rep. Lofgren, Executive Order 12333. While many people have never even heard of this presidential order, as the Washington Post pointed out in October, “Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has acknowledged that Congress conducts little oversight of intelligence-gathering under the presidential authority of Executive Order 12333 , which defines the basic powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies.”

The 30 groups "urge the Congress to move speedily to enact this legislation." Like that could happen.

I have written repeatedly about the Midas cult, the obsession our culture has with turning everything it can imagine into gold, whether we should or not. Because it is somehow un-American not to. There is also a perversion of the American can-do ethos that says "if you can imagine it, you can do it." And should, because it is somehow un-American not to. (Watch the video above.) But that aphorism popular with entrepreneurs also works for terrorists and rogue governments.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies

SIFF-ting through cinema, Pt. 2

By Dennis Hartley

The Seattle International Film Festival is in full swing, so this week I am continuing to share a few highlights with you. SIFF is showing 263 films over 25 days. Navigating such an event is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. Yet, I trudge on (cue the world’s tiniest violin). Hopefully, some of these films will be coming soon to a theater near you…

The Forecaster- There’s a conspiracy nut axiom that “everything is rigged”. Turns out it’s not just paranoia…it’s a fact (and cyclically predictable). At least that’s according to this absorbing documentary from German filmmaker Marcus Vetter, profiling economic “forecaster” Martin Armstrong. In the late 70s, Armstrong formulated a predictive algorithm (“The Economic Confidence Model”) that proved so spookily accurate at prophesying global financial crashes and armed conflicts (sometimes to the day), that a shadowy cabal of everyone from his Wall Street competitors to the CIA made Wile E. Coyote-worthy attempts for years to get their hands on that formula. And once Armstrong told the CIA to “fuck off”, he put himself on a path that culminated in serving a 12-year prison sentence for what the FBI called a “3 billion dollar Ponzi scheme”. Funny thing, no evidence was ever produced, nor was any judgement passed (most of the time he served was for “civil contempt”…for not giving up that coveted formula, which the FBI eventually snagged when they seized his assets). Another funny thing…Armstrong’s formula solidly backs up his contention that it’s the world’s governments who are really running the biggest Ponzi schemes…again and again, throughout history. An eye-opener!

Rating: ***½   (Plays May 25 and 29)

Beti and Amare- It’s an old story: In the midst of the Italo-Abyssinian War, teenage Ethiopian girl meets mute alien boy, who has hatched from an egg that has appeared out of nowhere next to a desert well. Girl brings boy to her uncle’s isolated home, where she is hiding out from Mussolini’s invading forces and marauding members of the local militia while her uncle is travelling. Romance ensues (how many times have we seen that tale on the silver screen?). German writer-director-DP-editor-producer Andy Siege has crafted a fairly impressive debut feature that is equal parts harrowing war drama, psychological thriller and sci-fi fantasy. I don’t know if these were conscious influences, but Siege’s film strongly recalls Roman Polanski’s 1965 psychodrama Repulsion, and 1970s-era Nicolas Roeg (more specifically, The Man Who Fell to Earth and Walkabout).

Rating: ***   (Plays May 27 and 29)

Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy- French filmmaker Stephanie Valloatto’s globetrotting documentary profiles a dozen men and women who make their living drawing funny pictures about current events. I know what you’re thinking…beats digging ditches, right? Well, that depends. Some of these political cartoonists ply their trade under regimes that could be digging a “special” ditch, reserved just for them (if you know what I’m saying). The film can be confusing; in her attempt to give all 12 subjects equal face time, Valloatto’s frequent cross-cutting can make you lose track of which country you’re in (it’s mostly interior shots). That aside, she gets to the heart of what democracy is all about: speaking truth to power. It’s also timely; in one scene, an interviewee says, “Like a schoolchild, I told myself: I shouldn’t draw Muhammad.” Then, holding up a sketch of you-know-who, he concludes: “Drawing is the correct answer to the forbidden.”

Rating: ***   (Plays May 27, 28 and 29)

The Price of Fame- Well, this one looked good on paper (I had anticipated something along the lines of Melvin and Howard), but after a promising start, writer-director Xavier Beauvois’ “true crime” dramedy about a pair of bumbling, would-be extortionists falls curiously flat, despite earnest performances from an affable cast. The story is based on a late ‘70s incident in Switzerland in which two down-on-their-luck pals (played in the film by Benoit Poelvoorde and Roschdy Zem) cooked up a bizarre and ill-advised plan to dig up the coffin of the recently interred Charlie Chaplin and then hit his family up for money to have the body returned. The caper itself takes a relative backseat to the main thrust of the film, which is ostensibly a character study. Therein lies the crux of the problem; these aren’t particularly interesting characters (at least as written). And the third act is nearly single-handedly destroyed by that most dreaded of movie archetypes: the Maudlin Circus Clown. Beauvois’ idea to use Chaplin’s compositions for the soundtrack is clever, but he overdoes it. Peter Coyote (!) does do an interesting turn as Chaplin’s longtime assistant.

Rating: **   (Plays May 27, 29 and June 5)

Diner- This slice-of-life dramedy marked writer-director Barry Levinson’s debut in 1982, and remains his best. A group of 20-something pals converge for Christmas week in 1959 Baltimore. One is recently married, another is about to get hitched, and the rest playing the field and deciding what to do with their lives. All are slogging fitfully toward adulthood. The most entertaining scenes take place at the group’s favorite diner, where the comfort food of choice is French fries with gravy. Levinson has a knack for writing sharp dialog, and it’s the little details that make the difference; like a cranky appliance store customer who refuses to upgrade to color TV because he saw Bonanza at a friend’s house, and decided that “…the Ponderosa looked fake”. This film was more influential than it gets credit for; Tarantino owes a debt of gratitude, as do the creators of Seinfeld. It’s hard to believe that Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Daniel Stern, Timothy Daly, Steve Guttenberg and Paul Reiser were all relative unknowns at the time!

Rating: ****   (Special archival presentation; plays May 26)

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