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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Buh Bye

by digby

Karen Hughes is leaving quite the legacy, isn't she? (But damn, does she have a great resume, or what?)

Here's my best blog post on Karen, from when she took her first tour of the world . Say what you will about her, she accurately reflected the president around the globe. God help us:

Idiot Abroad

Ezra Klein once asked something to the effect of "why would Bush send a seven foot tall white woman to aid our public face in the Islamic world?" It's a good question, but more importantly, why would you send a seven foot tall white woman who speaks like a 6th grader to aid our public face in the middle east and convince the entire world that all Americans are as dim-witted as the president and that Osama bin Laden is right?

Sid Bumenthal puts it like this:

This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is of course the most populous Arab country ... Saudi Arabia is our second stop. It's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, yet has the -- is proud of the saying that 'all are Turks.'"

Hughes appeared to be one of the pilgrims satirized by Mark Twain in his 1869 book, "Innocents Abroad," about his trip on "The Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion." "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty to us ... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans -- Americans!"

If you would like to read some commentary that makes George W. Bush sound downright erudite, check out Hughes' entire statement:

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: We're going to be visiting, as you know, three unique and very important countries, three countries we have a very strong partnership with one of them. We also face very significant public diplomacy challenges in one of them. One of my missions is to go to listen. I hope to listen, to seek to understand, to show respect. Listening is a two way street, and so I hope that those people I meet will also return that open spirit and be willing to listen. I'm going to take a lot of questions, I'm going to participate in a lot of give and take and I hope they'll be willing to listen to my discussion (inaudible).


I just wanted to talk a little bit to answer your questions about, kind of, my approach. As I said I view this trip as the beginning of a new dialogue that is very much people driven -- public diplomacy is people-driven and it's policy driven, because our policies affect people's lives. I don't see this as a matter of opinion polls or public relations, I see this as a matter of policy. That's really what drew me to public service in the first place. When I first decided to leave reporting and go to the political process it was because I realized that the decisions made in the political process made a very real difference peoples lives. So when I talk about people I'm talking about policies, I'm talking about our policies and the impact they have on people. I think that's what we've got to focus on here. I also -- I go as an official of the United States government, but I'm also a mom, a working mom, and so I hope that I could help, in some places, put a human face on America's public policy.


... just one of the points that we're going to make as we meet with people is, is talk about our American story and how it's a collective story that's written by individuals. We all have unique stories to tell. My own background as a granddaughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner and a Kentucky railroad worker. Dina, of course came here from Egypt, and we're very proud that our first stop in Egypt we're going to be taking someone who I think Egypt is very proud of Dina, the fact that she emigrated from Egypt as a young child, and has risen to the highest levels of our American government, and that's a wonderful American story.

Karima has her own American story. She is the daughter of a Palestinian father and a German mother and I'm sure that Bill has some part of an American story, although I haven't heard it yet (laughter) I'm sure he will be glad to share it with you. He currently lives in Wisconsin and I don't know what his family roots are.

When she isn't talking about being a mom, which she seems to think is a unique and important qualification for being the voice of American public diplomacy, she's actually advancing jihad. From the Blumenthal piece:

Hughes' simple, sincere and unadorned language is pellucid in revealing the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said in Egypt at the start of her trip, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." Somehow, magically, these evildoers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve. "Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why President Bush mentions God in his speeches, she asked him "whether he was aware that previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our Constitution cites 'one nation under God.' He said, 'Well, never mind.'"

With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proof for what Osama bin Laden has claimed about American motives. "It is stunning ... the extent [to which] Hughes is helping bin Laden," Robert Pape told me. Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted the most extensive research into the backgrounds and motives of suicide terrorists, is the author of "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," and recently briefed the Pentagon and the National Counterterrorism Center. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he said, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."

Pape's research debunks the view that suicide terrorism is the natural byproduct of Islamic fundamentalism or some "Islamo-fascist" ideological strain independent of certain highly specific circumstances. "Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there must be, first, the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and the local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals. If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the U.S. occupation of the Arabian Peninsula, driven by our religious goals, and that it is our religious purpose that must confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful not only to religious Muslims but secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

We know what happened when Bush put poor little Brownie in charge of federal disaster response and it wasn't pretty. We're going to be lucky if "Hurricane Karen" doesn't set off WWIII.

She's off to a good start.

The good news is that she's listened and she's learned and she's bringing back to the White House some incredible insights:

Ms. Hughes promised to take what she learned from hearing dissenting views back to Washington. She was struck, she said, when a Turkish official told her to try to imagine the situation of Iraq, a next-door neighbor, sliding into possible civil war and engulfing Turkey from the perspective of "the common Turk."

"I will be sure to bring that message back to President Bush when I get back to Washington," she said.


Gilded Age Politics

by digby

It isn't just that the very,very rich are gobbling up more and more oftheir share of the nation's wealth just as the did during the Gilded Age. The political cross currents are depressingly familiar as well.

This unfortunately explains why Rahm Emmanuel is telling the candidates that they should hammer on the Mexicans --- Stan Greenberg has run some new focus groups and discovered ... the new Reagan Democrats! (This time they hate Mexicans instead of blacks, but hey, it's all good for our purposes.)

I'm not entirely surprised. When the rich get richer, uninformed people blame those who are below them on the economic scale. It's a strong feature of right wing populism. (See: Dobbs, Lou.)

The difference this time is the growing and influential population of Hispanic citizens who are not going to allow this reflexive ignorance to become the easy demagogic tool it once was. The Democratic strategists had better find something better than this unless they want to spend another two decades fighting over the same diminishing electoral terain they've been battling over for the past two decades.

*Jack Balkin has written a fascinating discussion of populism and progressivism, and the pitfalls of each, in this paper. It's a good time to study up if you haven't cracked your Hofstadter lately.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Huckabee Is Lying

by tristero


Huckabee is lying. He was deeply involved in the release of Wayne Dumond, the serial rapist who, upon his release, raped and murdered at least one woman. And the mainstream press - by refusing to do even the most basic investigation into the Huckabee case - is colluding with Huckabee in his lies. By the press, we're not talking a loony tune like Malkin but the oh-so-respected Gail Collins of the oh-so-mainstream New York Times bending over backwards to absolve Huckabee. Those fluffing Huckabee aren't the likes of James Guckert pretending to be a reporter instead of a hooker, but the Associated Press failing to report facts, just taking Huckabee at his word.

Here's the truth
about the extraordinary steps Gov. Mike Huckabee took to help win Dumond's freedom. He has since blamed others for Dumond's release to kill again, but his actions over many years demonstrated his support for Dumond and, ultimately, the instrumental role he played in the parole board's decision to free him.
The truth is that Wayne Dumond was a rightwing cause celebre. They thought Dumond, who was in jail for the rape of a distant cousin of Bill Clinton, was a victim of Clinton's vengeance and may have been innocent. In fact, Dumond had a long history of violence, including involvement with murder, as well as sex crimes before his incarceration for the rape of Clinton's distant relative. And Dumond was positively identified by his victim.

Regarding his influence with the parole board, a former member said:
“For Governor Huckabee to say that he had no influence with the board is something that he knows to be untrue. He came before the board and made his views known that [Dumond] should have been paroled ... “
Huckabee, as you will discover if you read the article, never bothered to find out the truth about Wayne Dumond. He simply did the bidding of the most extreme rightwing operatives, going so far as to write a "Dear Wayne" letter to the rapist and murderer:
On the day of the vote, Huckabee released a statement in support of the board’s action: “I concur with the board’s action and hope the lives of all those involved can move forward. The action of the board accomplishes what I sought to do in considering an earlier request for commutation ...

“In light of the action of the board, my original intent to commute the sentence to time served is no longer relevant.”

Huckabee’s office then released a letter to Dumond denying his application for a pardon.

“Dear Wayne,” Huckabee wrote, “I have reviewed your applications for executive clemency, specifically a commutation and/or pardon. ... My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel now that parole is the best way for your reintegration into society. ... Therefore, after careful consideration ... I have denied your applications.”

Huckabee was able to achieve what he wanted to do in the first place: Release Dumond from prison with no apparent political cost to the governor.
What about Huckabee's claim that the release of Huckabee was really Tucker and, more importantly, Clinton's fault?

It's another lie. Here is an article from the Village Voice written right after Huckabee freed Dumond, in that brief period befor it is known he began raping again, and started killing. The article's subhead is "A Pardon That Clinton Didn't Grant":
As Clinton was abandoning Arkansas for national politics, he stymied DuMond's release from prison, ignoring the judgment of his own parole board in June 1990 that DuMond's continued incarceration was a "miscarriage of justice..."
Regarding Jim Guy Tucker:
In late 1991, on the campaign trail, Clinton began to be pestered about the DuMond case. Recusing himself, in April Clinton turned over the matter to his lieutenant governor, Jim Guy Tucker. Unlike Clinton, Tucker read every word of DuMond's voluminous file, a DuMond lawyer told the Voice. Tucker promptly reduced DuMond's sentence, making him eligible for parole. Seven years later Republican governor Mike Huckabee signed DuMond's release papers.
Huckabee screwed up royally. Unlike Clinton, and unlike Tucker, he enthusiastically maneuvered for the release of a serial rapist and murderer. Let me say it plain:

The evidence in no way supports Huckabee assertions that he wasn't involved in the release of Dumond but the exact opposite. Huckabee worked hard to release a convicted rapist from prison for one reason only: because extreme rightwing operatives believed that Bill Clinton had unfairly persecuted an innocent man - possibly even ordering the rapist's castration - in order to advance his career. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the supposed attack that led to his castration is doubtful, as Gene Lyons discussed. And once Huckabee released him, Dumond raped and killed at least one woman, and was implicated in a second.

And that is the truth.

[UPDATE: Let's drive the point home. Here is the odious Steve Dunleavy in June, 1996:
"The new Governor, Mike Huckabee, has assured me Wayne will be a free man," Mrs. Dumond said Thursday. "He is not one of the Clinton crowd. He is a very fair man. He has always been disturbed about the way the Clinton people never wanted my husband free," she added. And there was a very good reason for the Clinton people not wanting her husband to go free.


The story of Wayne Dumond is not for the innocent eyes of the young, but every adult of voting age should read closely. These are the cold facts as an Arkansas court saw it: A 17 year-old girl says she was kidnapped and raped on Sept. 11, 1984, in Forrest City, Ark. Dumond, father of six, Vietnam veteran, churchgoer, was convicted in August 1985 of the rape. He was sentenced to life PLUS 20 years. An appeal by Dumond, under Gov. Clinton, got a response of: "No merit."


After 4.5 years, with his freedom gone, his manhood gone, a five-person parole board recommended that Dumond go free for time served. John R. Steer, managing editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, records the following reaction from then Gov. Clinton: "Clinton had a romping, stomping fit. The victim was a distant cousin and St. Francis County [where this all took place] had a lot of votes and he deeply resented the pressure to free Dumond." Clinton refused to sign a release. And Dumond rotted.


"Sometimes, " said Mrs. Dumond, "I just want to give up. But now, who knows? The new governor [Huckabee] has personally assured me that Wayne's case will be the first thing on his desk, after he clears up everything from this Whitewater thing."

Dwayne Harris, a spokesman for Huckabee, the Republican lieutenant governor who will succeed Democrat Tucker, told me Friday that Huckabee " has voiced a very special intention to thoroughly review the case of Wayne Dumond."

(Note: I will gladly link directly to the original NY Post article if anyone has a link.) BTW, much of the apparent exculpatory evidence Dunleavy discusses comes from Dumond and only Dumond. And, as Murray Waas says:
Much of what Dunleavy has written about the Dumond saga has been either unverified or is demonstrably untrue. Dunleavy has all but accused Ashley Stevens of having fabricated her rape, derisively referring to her in one column as a "so-called victim," and brusquely asserting in another, "That rape never happened."

The columnist wrote that Dumond was a "Vietnam veteran with no record" when in fact he did have a criminal record. He claimed there existed DNA evidence by "one of the most respected DNA experts in the country" to exonerate Dumond, even though there was no such evidence. He wrote that Bill Clinton had personally intervened to keep Dumond in prison, even though Clinton had recused himself in 1990 from any involvement in the case because of his distant relationship with Stevens.]
[UPDATE II: The second to last sentence was revised for clarity.]

[UPDATE III: Here's some more:
A Huckabee researcher reportedly attempted to refute some of the statements. He was unsuccessful. He tried, for example, to say Huckabee had never met with the Parole Board. The Parole Board members quickly dispensed with that nonsense. And it was noted that Huckabee's recent book baldly misstates that Dumond died before being convicted of any murders in Missouri. He was convicted in one and was a prime suspect in another similar killing when he died in prison.]

Smaller Government

by digby

Never let it be said that the authoritarian Bush administration voraciously seeks more power wherever and whenever it can get it:

On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.

Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.

That's what Republicans mean when they say they want to "keep the government out of your lives."

Warrantless eavesdropping, torture and throwing you in prison indefinitely? Not so much.

Good Cause

by digby

Women's Voice, Women's Vote is launching a new voter registration drive for this campaign cycle tomorrow and it looks like it going to be fun:

20 million represents the number of single women who did not vote in 2004. Imagine the possibilities when they do vote! At Women's Voices. Women Vote, we are trying to make this possibility a reality.

Please join us next Wednesday, October 31, as we launch our 2008 mobilization program with the premier viewing of our new "20 Million Reasons" Public Service Announcement campaign, starring Emmy-award winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Louis-Dreyfus joins fellow actors Christine Lahti, Amber Tamblyn, Sarah Paulson and Jurnee Smollett. Filmed on a replica of the Oval Office, the result is a patriotic and provocative PSA and media campaign designed to mobilize the largest group of non-voters in America - unmarried women.

The engaging spots feature a group of women who reflect the diversity and greatness of our country including: Tina Gainsborough, an 87 year old daughter of a suffragette whose first vote was cast in 1932; Farrah Seigal an 18 year old magician about to vote for her first time; Jasmine Segura a Los Angeles Country firefighter; Marlisa Grogan an Iraq war veteran; Trina Ray a Jet Propulsion Lab astronomer who works on the Cassini satellite probe to Saturn; and Ana Cubas who celebrated her 18th birthday by becoming a US citizen and voting.


The "20 Million Reasons" campaign will be broadcast on TV, radio and will be distributed across the Internet and social networking sites in English and Spanish.

WVWV is non-partisan and this is a good cause on the simple merits --- more women voting, the better for the country, regardless of the politics. But the fact is that single women vote in far, far greater numbers for progressive candidates and causes than any other single demographic group. If they can be mobilized, it would be a juggernaut the Christian Right could only dream of.

I've had the pleasure of seeing a bit of this campaign and I think it's going to be fun and hopefully effective. Keep your eyes open for it --- and if you haven't registered to vote, or know others who haven't, you can do it right there on the WVWV site.

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

by digby

Will Bunch reports on the young fellow who was tased down in Florida:

"I am a far more reasoned individual than I was a short while ago, and the reasoned response of the university has helped me a great deal," Meyer wrote.

Shorter version: He loves Big Brother.

Yep, a little electroshock therapy for someone who tries to ask difficult questions of an elected official -- now that's we call a good journalism education! Now that his thought process has been cleared up, we can expect to see Andrew Meyer asking questions from the White House press room in about 12 years or so. (Just kidding, most reporters on the presidential beat only look like they've been lobotomized.)

I'm laughing, but only because it's easier than crying. One of the things that has obviously worked very well on the press in recent years has been sheer, thuggish intimidation. When they aren't in actual agreement, they are clearly frightened.

Greenwald discusses this in today's update on the public affairs officer (and future Michele Malkin contributor) Colonel Stephen Boylan:

The ultimate significance of this matter, which goes far beyond the specific question of what Col. Boylan did or did not do in this case (though that is important in its own right), is articulated perfectly by Zack in this comment. The type of hostility, pseudo-intimidation, and stonewalling expressed by Col. Boylan here (in the emails of undisputed authenticity) is the type to which reporters are frequently subjected when they step out of line, particularly with war reporting. That is one reason why so few of them ever do.

And just survey the long list of media outlets and journalists which have been the target of swirling, right-wing lynch mob campaigns for perceived offenses in reporting about the war -- The Associated Press, Reuters, Eason Jordan, The New Republic, Ashleigh Banfield. There is a clear attempt to create strong disincentives for any journalist or commentator to do anything other than cheerlead loudly and deferentially.

"Don't tase me bro" could be the DC press corps' motto. As you can see, it works very well. After a while you don't even have to do anything --- taming the press corps now is as easy as simply threatening to deny them access. The people who don't comply tend to be the older guys like Seymour Hersh, who have become immune, and certain younger, iconoclastic types who are just temperamental rebels. A real tasering may be required for them at some point.

Ignorant Gasbag

by digby

If the world is very, very lucky, Rudy Giuliani will not win the GOP nomination for president and will begin his inevitable career as a moronic right wing talk radio blowhard by next summer:

Do I think the mission overall in Iraq is the correct one, I think without a doubt it is," the former New York mayor said at Insight Technologies, which makes tactical weapon lights and laser systems for the military.


"Suppose Hillary Clinton and John Edwards' new position was their position back then, that it was a mistake to take him out," Giuliani said, referring to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "Wouldn't we be dealing with Saddam Hussein becoming nuclear right now? If Iran was becoming nuclear what would he be doing? Sitting there letting his arch enemy gain nuclear power over him? Or would we now be dealing with two countries seeking to become nuclear powers."


"This is the world we live in. It's not this happy, romantic-like world where we'll negotiate with this one, or we'll negotiate with that one and there will be no preconditions, and we'll invite (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad to the White House, we'll invite Osama (bin Laden) to the White House," Giuliani said.

"Hillary and Obama are kind of debating whether to invite them to the inauguration or the inaugural ball," he added.

Rush had better hope this guy becomes president because he's going to give him a run for his money if he gets into the big money Republican media game of hyperbolic gibberish and idiotic nonsense. He's got the shinin'.

Update: Via Duncan, I see that Ezra wonders why the Village isn't writing about the fact that the GOP front runner is a barking madman. I think it's simple. They don't think he is. They also don't think Ann Coulter is a shrieking lunatic or that Rush Limbaugh is a lying sack of offal or that one should find anything morally objectionable about torture or indefinite detention or invading countries on false pretenses. They believed for years that Tom Delay was a regular guy and that James Dobson is full of good ideas.

The Village, in other words, is comprised of the same people who are giving money and time and support to the lunatic Rudy Giuliani. They think being simultaneously stupid and madly aggressive is normal. After all, they pretty much gave George W. Bush a nonstop blowjob for years until he had been below 40% national popularity for so long they couldn't ignore it.

The Boylan Email Mystery Solved

by tristero

With great care, I sifted through all the evidence about who wrote the "Colonel Steven Boylan" emails to Glenn Greenwald. After much parsing of internet arcana, I've concluded that beyond a doubt these e-missives were not written by Colonel Boylan but rather by someone else with the same name.

Therefore Colonel Steven Boylan should not be held responsible for what Colonel Steven Boylan writes and fobs off as his, ie, Colonel Boylan's. It is not his, i.e., Colonel Boylan's, fault that his email account is identically similar to Colonel Boylan's despite the fact that a fool could easily discern the difference.

Besides, even if we (mistakenly) assume that Colonel Boylan is, in fact, Colonel Boylan - which he is not - the notion of holding a military officer accountable for the words s/he writes during wartime is simply an outrageous idea on Glenn Greenwald's part. The next thing you know he'll insist that officers be held responsible for their actions.

With that cleared up, we can now devote our full attention to far more pressing issues.


[NOTE: There are those among you who may think Twain said something similar about Shakespeare. This is, at best in dispute. As is whether Twain and Shakespeare were in fact both pen names for Samuel Clemens.]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Liberal Error

by digby

Atrios brings newbies up to speed about why it's such a stupid idea to bring the fake "social security crisis" back into the political dialog and also links to a Matt Yglesias post about the "whole mountain of stupid" Villagers like Joe Klein forced us to climb when Bush decided his tiny 04 mandate meant he could destroy the nation's most successful program.

One of the problems with Klein (who has admittedly become ever so slightly less reflexively Villager in recent months) is that his views were so long considered to be the epitome of those of a sensible liberal. This had the unfortunate effect of making average citizens naturally loathe and despise liberals while at the same time marginalizing actual liberals as being beyond the pale even though they are at least as large a constituency as the social conservatives who are worshipped and embraced as Real Americans among the village elders. It remains a serious problem for Democrats who have to tip-toe around these false designations to reach out to their own voters without getting the whole village lynch mob running after them with bar-b-que forks and sharpened swizzle sticks.

And on social security, the "liberals" like Klein were at their absolute worst, spouting gibberish that it had to be "fixed" for reasons that gave any sane person a headache:

Government was, and very much still remains, the last of our major institutions that stuck in the Industrial Age, where the paradigm is top-down, centralized command and control, assembly line, standardization, and one size fits all.

In the Information Age, Clinton knew that the paradigm was the computer, that the government had to be more decentralized, that bureaucracies had to become more flexible, and that our social safety net had to reflect that--the fact that people had more information and have to have more choices about where they get their health care, where their money for their retirement is held, and so on.

I wrote this
about Klein's gibberish at the time:

The government has to be more like a computer. Bureaucracies have to be more flexible and our social safety net has to reflect that because people have more information so they have to have more choices about where they get their health care and where they put their retirement money. Huh?

I can't find anywhere where Klein actually explains why we need to have all these choices about our safety net or why having more information compels it. Indeed, as Josh Marshall pointed out earlier, it is counterintuitive. In a world in which people are asked to take many more chances in their careers, where pensions really are a relic of the past, where health care can be yanked from beneath you in a moments notice, it seems to me that government guarantees of basic security are more important than ever.

Klein's DLC catechism has all the markings of someone who jumped on a sexy trend when he was younger and hasn't realized the fashion has changed. There is no there there. He's like one of those e-venture capitalists of the late 90's spewing fast talking bullshit about "new organizational paradigms where knowledge is defined in terms of potential for action as distinguished from information and its more intimate link with performance." In other words, gibberish.

It was fashionable for one brief period to think that turning government into a collection of kewl, outsourced, totally, like, stand alone pods of individualized data collection and service modules, but most people sobered up sometime in early 2000. It was always crap.

There is no crisis. That's not just a slogan. Even with Bush spending like a drunken sailor we're still good until 2047. Bringing this into the conversation now for any reason is a big mistake especially when we've got a real impending crisis on our hands with medicare, which can only be cured with comprehensive health care reform. (And if you want to talk about a financial crisis, there's the billion a week we're tossing down the rabbit hole in Iraq.) Social Security as an issue helps nobody but Republicans and their enablers like Joe Klein who want to persuade people that modern life requires that they constantly put absolutely everything they have in the world on a roulette wheel called "the market." I understand why wall street types want to get their mitts on a piece of that action but I don't understand why why anyone who calls himself liberal would think it's a good idea.

*And yes, I understand that Obama was not endorsing anything particularly radical --- but after all we went through to finally get it off the agenda, seeing a Democrat putting the issue back in play is just depressing.

Mistah Soljah

by digby

I wrote before that I thought Obama was doing a very clumsy Sistah Soljah in South Carolina with this homophobe gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. Turns out McClurkin is actually emceeing the show and gives a rousing speech at the end about the evils of homosexuality, (and the campaign continues to defend it) so I think there's little doubt that this is intentional.

I'm sure Obama is listening to his advisors tell him that he has to win South Carolina or it's over. And apparently South Carolina is a stew of bigotry and resentment, the place where the dirty tricksters pull out all the stops to win. This kind of thing is perfectly in keeping with that sort of strategy. But as I said before, it's a mistake, particularly for the man whose rationale for running is a desire to heal the nation's political and philosophical wounds.

This is also one of the dangers of trying to run a "unity" campaign at a time when the right has become so extreme that "reaching out" to them often means legitimizing bigots, xenophobes and warmongers. It's possible to do it, but it takes a very deft diplomatic hand and an unusual ability to communicate well with all concerned without giving up your principles. That's exactly what was supposed to be Obama's strong suit. This error is hardly reassuring.

* Like Atrios, I'm also not crazy about the legitimizing of a phony social security crisis. This is NOT helpful. There are many, many ways to go after Hillary Clinton without validating right wing bullshit. If "unity" means using irrational, faith-based nonsense, whether from wall street or the church, to win votes, then it's going to be a very hard sell. If liberals are expected to reach out from our "hermetically sealed" worldview to bigots, the least those who insist we do it can do is commit to using reason. I think that's only fair. This country and the world have had quite enough of fairy tale governance.


by digby

I received this email from Slate this morning:

I'm writing to let you know Slate has unveiled a new series on the 2008 candidates' marriages this week. Melinda Henneberger, author of If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear, is exploring the dynamics of the candidates and their spouses, and what their marriages might tell us about the kind of president they would be.

Well, since I don't think Melinda Henneberger can possibly know anything about the inner workings of the candidates' marriages and I don't think their most intimate relationship would tell me anything particularly relevant about what kind of president they would be anyway, this doesn't interest me. Pretending to know what goes on in other people's marriages is far more likely to be a projection of your own beliefs not theirs and I don't care about Melinda Henneberger's inner life.

Furthermore, I don't believe it's any of the public's business beyond what the candidates themselves choose to share, because they already put everything relevant on the table, including their finances and their religious beliefs, and submit themselves to endless questions for months. It's not as if we don't have years long campaigns in which to pose every possible question to the candidates and get an idea of where they stand and how they might govern. Doing voyeuristic "investigative work" on their marriages is unnecessary.

People should be able to maintain one small piece of privacy for themselves and be allowed to simply say what they choose without being subjected to cheap Dr Phil psychobabble based on nothing but leering speculation and half-baked supposition. This is gossip, not campaign coverage.

It's also very depressing that the woman who wrote a book called "If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear" is doing this series, apparently also aimed at women. I truly doubt that most women want politicians to "listen" to them chattering irrelevantly about their marriages, something which we can't possibly have enough information about to make any kind of judgment at all, much less a political judgment. Women really do have issues and concerns that are relevant to government and civic life and would be far better served with campaign coverage that addresses those things instead of reading Melinda Henneberger's thoughts on marriage.

If reporters spent less time in general pretending to analyze the candidates' personalities and their private lives and more time analyzing the policies and political landscape we might not end up with people like George W. Bush for president. By all accounts his marriage is extremely stable and highly successful. Go figure.

Krugman says we're doomed.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Change Election

by digby

I don't know if anyone's noticed, but George W. Bush is being disappeared from the presidential campaign and everyone's running against incumbent Hillary Clinton. Subtly, but relentlessly, the public psyche is being prepared to deny Junior ever existed. And it could work. For many different reasons, most Americans want nothing more than to forget George W. Bush was ever president. So, we see a very odd subliminal narrative taking shape in which the blame for the nation's failures of the last seven years is being shifted to Clinton (and the "do-nothing" Democratic congress) as if the Codpiece hasn't been running things since 2000. (Not that the radical wingnuts haven't always blamed the Clenis for everything, but the disappearing of Bush is a new element.)

I certainly don't blame the Republicans for trying to do it. It makes sense, since their boy is an epic failure and the original Clinton is still very present in people's minds. It will be quite a trick to pull off, but I can see the press already helping them do it. (Naturally.)

It's an interesting phenomenon and one for which I hope the Democratic strategists are prepared. Their underlying theme seems to be, "If you want change, vote Republican!"

Colonel Jackass

by digby

This is truly outrageous. I'm actually quite shocked that a Colonel and public affairs officer could ever write something so simpleminded, petty and crass. He is clearly unfit for this duty and should be relieved.

I would think Col. Boylan would have more important matters to attend to than writing me emails about how Alan Colmes is the "real talent" and how I lack the balls to go visit him in Iraq -- beginning with finding out who has been working secretly with right-wing outlets in the Beauchamp and Bilal Hussein matters, if he does not already know. The linchpin of a republic under civilian rule -- as well as faith in the armed services by a cross-section of Americans -- is an apolitical military. Like all other branches of the government intended to be apolitical, this linchpin is eroding under this administration, and that ought to be of far greater concern to Boylan and Petraeus than hurling petty insults.

Glenn gets to the heart of the problem when he discusses the politicization of the military. We have known forever that the officer corps tilted heavily conservative, but for public affairs people to be involved in this sort of thing is, as far as I know, unprecedented. (Have you ever seen this sort of letter in the newspaper?)

The conservative movement's Coulteresque dirty, take-no-prisoners political tactics have become standard operating procedure in every corner of the US Government over the past seven years and it is going to take a gargantuan effort to sweep it clean. Sadly, I'm not seeing much emphasis placed on this in the current congress, so it's very difficult to see how it will happen under a more popular president, even a Democratic one that is being sabotaged from within his or her own government on a daily basis.

Update: This must be some kind of joke:

On Tuesday, while “wildfires raged” in California, FEMA staged a live press conference at which agency staffers posed as journalists and asked softball questions. One of those staffers, Director of External Affairs John “Pat” Philbin, has now resigned.

He has instead landed an “amazing opportunity” to head public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Update II: Now the Colonel is being coy (and extremely unconvincing) about whether he actually sent the e-mail. It certainly appears that he's the one who sent it, but even if he didn't his replies are those of an arrogant jackass. If someone sent the email as a hoax, they perfectly captured his unprofessionalism.

I hope he doesn't think he has a career waiting for him in PR in the private sector because this is the kind of messy mistake that public affairs people are called in to clean up, not create.

If Only

by tristero

Seems like everyone's predicting the imminent implosion of modern christianism. And yes, it does look that way, doesn't it? Despite the wide variety of clinical-level personality disorders on display amongst the current Republican candidates, the so-called "religious" right can't find the particular flavor of lunacy that makes them get all hard. Call it electile dysfunction. As it happens Rich's point is underlined by a simultaneous article in the Sunday Times on the same subject.

I truly wish this were so, that we didn't have to worry about the theocrats amongst us. But I don't believe it for a second. The "intelligent design" creationism movement, despite taking a huge hit from the outcome of the Kitzmiller trial, has regrouped. It's new strategy is very simple and dangerous: Rather than advocate directly for creationism, they have designed and are selling a bad biology textbook that makes all sorts of specious critiques of Darwin and evolution. Get it? While you can insist that schools obey the law and not establish religion, it is very difficult to design a law that keeps schools from purchasing, and using, a terrible, error-filled textbook.

Furthermore, as far as I know, no viable candidate for the presidency has come out in favor of a rollback - I would prefer elimination - of the "faith-based" government handouts to political operatives in a priestly vestments such as Chuck Colson.

Rich and Kirkpatrick also ignore, or fail to emphasize, the unbelievably deep pockets of modern christianism. These are seriously wealthy people who take the long view. If, as is likely, there is no compellingly nutty candidate in '08, they'll bide their time, fund christianists in '10, and look forwards to '12.

They also forget the oft-made observation, apparently wished for by the right as often as the rest of us fear it, that the U.S. is one terrorist attack away from dramatically increased authoritarianism. Christianism would thrive in such an environment.

Finally, there is the wholesale, near-invisible adoption of at least some portions of a christianist worldview by even the most mainstream media. Here is a tiny little detail from Kirkpatrick's article as one of many possible examples. It's so small you might miss it no matter how opposed you are to christianism :
But in the wake of the ban on public-school prayer, the sexual revolution and the exodus to the suburbs that filled the new megachurches, protecting the unborn became the rallying cry of a new movement to uphold the traditional family.
The fact that the phrase "protecting the unborn" was not enclosed in quotes is a minor, trivial detail, but a telling one (note also the "traditional family" trope as well).

It means that for the author, or the editor, or both, conventional usage has dignified the pro-coathanger position as a normative one. To say the least, "protecting the unborn" is not really an accurate description of what that movement was, and is, up to. If it was, those so anxious to protect the unborn would begin by demanding high quality pre-natal care for all expectant mothers. Rather, what this movement really is about is coercion. It's about coercing every mother to bring every pregnancy to term. It's also about forcing poor, pregnant women to avail themselves of exceedingly dangerous back-alley abortions if they need (or choose) to terminate a pregnancy.

In short, slowly, inexorably, christianism has been mainstreamed to the point where we just slide right by some its most extreme, and kooky, expressions and accept them as "the way to look at the world." This will continue, unless it is confronted and confounded.

Anyone in fall 2007 who thinks christianism's been beaten back to the margins of American cultural and political life simply doesn't understand who these people are, what they've been doing for some 82 years, and how far they have advanced over the past 8 years. It is a sad truth that the fight against American christianism will continue for a very long time to come. The mere absence, at present, of a viable national presidential candidate for '08 who supports their theocratic agenda isn't even a tiny victory but simply a statistical blip.

[UPDATE: In comments, Digby reminds us of there may be method behind the madness, Let a "liberal woman" preside over the Herculean clean up of George Bush's stables. Since that will be all but impossible to do in a mere 4 years, it will make their job easier in '12 to portray Dems (and liberals) as ineffectual and elect another white male sympathetic to theocracy. ]


by digby

Jesus H. Christ. It's hard to imagine that any news day could be this slow.

The wildfires in Southern California this week have served to remind the world once more about one of the singular and underappreciated skills of George W. Bush: The man is a generous hugger.

There he was, amid the charred remains of some formerly upscale neighborhood, embracing the weary and the dazed victims of the fire. He made a little speech as one of the unfortunate locals was snuggled up to his side, his arm clinching her close. The gesture suggested strength, solidarity, compassion. The resident looked almost reassured.


Journalistic skepticism compels us to note that presidential hugs usually are photo ops, staged for the cameras and calculated to deliver the prepackaged sentiment, as Bush 41 once put it, "Message: I care." But the visual evidence also compels us to remark that Bush 43's hugs are among the least stage-y of his mannerisms. There's an athletic, energetic, almost muscular quality to them. They seem, in a word, genuine.

This is something that many men -- at least many men of Bush's background and generation -- have long found difficult. Hugging, particularly hugging another man, is the kind of casual yet intimate PDA that such men shy from. It's acceptable with family members, and on formal occasions, like weddings and funerals, or if you've just won the Super Bowl. But let's not push it.

The reason he's been hugging so many people is because his administration has been one disaster after another.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday Night At The Movies

Oh come, all ye Pagans: DVDs for All Hallows Eve

By Dennis Hartley

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to horror flicks. I don’t truck with the slasher genre. I can’t take any film involving claustrophobic captivity. Physical torture as “entertainment” is out; the inexplicable success of films like “Hostel ”, “Saw” and “Turistas ” baffles me (“art” imitating Abu Ghraib is something I can live without).

If I am in a mood to have the bejesus scared out of me, an old fashioned, atmospheric suspense yarn, like a Peter Weir (“The Last Wave” or “Picnic at Hanging Rock ”), or a taut thriller a la Polanski (“Rosemary's Baby”, “The Tenant” or “Repulsion”), will usually suffice. Oh, I can take a little gore and viscera if it’s delivered with a nod and a wink (so over-the-top that it’s funny fare like “Dead Alive”, “Shaun of the Dead” or “Bubba Ho-Tep”) or just for pure campy fun (“Young Frankenstein”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show ” or “Little Shop of Horrors”). I can always tune in to the nightly horrors on the Nancy Grace Show if I crave a dose of real murder and mayhem, eh?

In addition to any film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Tod Browning or F.W. Murnau (duh!), here are a few more recommendations, submitted for your Halloween pleasure:

The Abominable Dr. Phibes/Dr. Phibes Rises Again!-MGM reissued these Vincent Price classics as a “two-fer” DVD a couple years ago. In the first film, weird Dr. Phibes finds a plethora of wickedly imaginative ways to kill off the doctors he blames for his young wife’s untimely death (I suppose that’s one approach to dealing with the health care crisis). In the sequel, things get even more twisted when the doc finds it necessary to wreak revenge on all those who thwart the planned resurrection of said dead spouse (lovely Caroline Munro-yowsah!). IMHO, these are THE quintessential Price films.

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter-“What he doesn’t know about vampires wouldn’t even fill a flea’s codpiece!” This unusually droll Hammer entry benefits from direction and a clever script by Brian Clemens, one of the creators behind “The Avengers” TV show. And may I mention it also features Caroline Munro? (Uh, I’m not obsessed…)

Cemetery Man -Rupert Everett is the sleep-deprived keeper of a cemetery where the freshly buried don’t care much for the accommodations; after several days, they start clawing their way back out. It’s up to the weary cemetery man to give them the old zombie coup de grace so that they may rest in peace. Everett’s (literally) soul-sucking 9-5 gig is spiced up considerably when voluptuous Anna Falchi sashays into his bone yard. The cryptic, mind-blowing final shot is on a par with the last scene in “The Quiet Earth”.

Don't Look Now-Based on a Daphne du Maurier ghost story, this vivid, one-of-a-kind psychological thriller from director Nicholas Roeg precipitates the likes of “The Sixth Sense” by a good 25 years. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie portray a couple dealing with the post-traumatic stress following the drowning death of their child. Roeg slowly builds a subtle sense of impending doom, drenched in the Gothic atmosphere of Venice.

Ed Wood -A perfect marriage between a particular film director’s sensibilities and the subject. Tim Burton’s penchant for turning quirky underdogs and outcasts into endearing protagonists (while letting his vivid imagination run wild in the process) found its ideal match in the tragicomic real-life story of the cross-dressing, ultra-low budget director Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Johnny Depp). Martin Landau steals every scene as Bela Lugosi.

Forbidden Zone-A cult film that nearly defies description. Picture if you will: an artistic marriage between John Waters, Guy Maddin, Busby Berkeley and Rod Serling. Now, imagine the wedding night (er-I’ll give you a moment). Suffice it to say, any film that features the late Herve Villchaize as the King of the Sixth Dimension, Susan Tyrell as his Queen and Danny Elfman channeling Cab Calloway in a devil costume is a dream for film geeks; a nightmare for others. Directed by Danny’s brother, Richard Elfman.

The Kingdom -“Dansk scum!” Lars von Trier pulls out all the stops in his twisty tale of the bizarre goings-on in a Danish hospital. Zombies, ghosts, a demon lovechild and a hypochondriac clairvoyant are all tossed into the mix along with the usual soap-opera hanky-panky between doctors and nurses, all demarcated by a Greek Chorus of mentally-challenged kitchen workers. Alas, “The Kingdom II” is currently on PAL DVD only.

The Lair of the White Worm-Before you put this Ken Russell flick in the player, you might want to shoo out any children, nervous adults or members of the clergy who might be hanging out in your media room. Amanda Donohue is a sexy, slinky serpentine siren, and a pre-Hollywood Hugh Grant camps it up as a modern-day “worm slayer”. There’s enough Freudian imagery here to choke a psych major. Over the top and quite a hoot.

(aka Nochnoy Dozor) A genre-defying film from the land of Eisenstein that tosses “Dark City”, “Delicatessen”, “Highlander”, “Constantine ” and “The Matrix” into a blender and produces one of the more unique thrillers of recent years. Vampires, a shape-shifting sorceress, and agents of Darkness and Light all converge in modern-day Moscow. Don’t look for a logical story; this one is about the exhilaration of pure cinema. A “two-fer” DVD, including the 2006 sequel, “Daywatch”, is due out on October 30.

The Sadist -This low budget wonder from 1963 weaves a truly frightening tale about some California motorists who find themselves stranded at a deserted gas station in the middle of nowhere and completely at the mercy of a sadistic, pistol-wielding creep (Arch Hall, Jr.). Interesting to note that the DP was none other than the great Vilmos Zsigmond!

And the best DVD box set to plow through on a dark and stormy night:

The Val Lewton Horror Collection -“Horror” may be a bit of a misnomer when you are talking about the best work from producer Val Lewton, well represented in this nine film collection. Thrillers like “The Seventh Victim”, “I Walked with a Zombie”, “Isle of the Dead” and “The Cat People” are more about building a sense of foreboding atmosphere and suspense than splashing the screen with blood and gore. All of these beautifully shot B&W films display an artistry that belies their B-movie budgets.

The Kids Are In Play

by digby

Stalkin' Malkin politics continues apace:

Virginia state Senate candidate Chap Petersen Friday accused his opponent Jeannemarie Devolites Davis of crossing the line by including his personal information in an attack ad.

Petersen held a news conference Friday in front of the Republican incumbent's campaign office to address a piece of negative mail sent out this week by Devolites Davis, the wife of Rep. Tom Davis.

The mail raises questions about Petersen's prior work for a lobbying law firm and whether he properly disclosed clients' names on a public form.

Circled in red on the mail is part of a public document that lists Petersen's home phone number and Fairfax City address.

The names of the former state delegate's wife and two young daughters are also listed.

Petersen said a strange, jarring phone call to his home answered by his wife alerted him to the disclosure. He said his wife was so unnerved by that call and others that she refused to answer the phone and spent the day at her parents'.

"The thing that really bothers me is it was part of an attack ad," Petersen said. "This ad is meant to incite anger at me, and then you have my daughters' names circled and my home phone number circled and my home address circled. The net effect is to get somebody angry at me and have them contact me."


Devolites Davis defended her campaign mail in her own news conference, pointing out that Petersen himself published the names and pictures of his family.

"I wanted to show this piece to all of you that Mr. Petersen sent to the mail to all of his voters," Devolites Davis said.

The mail showcases the Petersen family, naming each child. Devolites Davis also said Petersen's phone number is listed in the white pages and that he included his home address in a blog he wrote.

"If he's concerned about public safety, what he did, sending their pictures out and their names, is far more egregious than me having a couple of names on an economic interest statement, and so I'm perplexed by his concern," Devolites Davis said.

New rules for Democrats. If you put your home phone number in the phone book or a picture of your kids on a mailer to your supporters, your opponents are perfectly justified in publishing your home address, phone number and kids names circled in red in an attack ad and send it to a bunch of gun-toting, right wing neanderthals. If some freak starts calling your house after getting it, it's your fault for admitting to having children.

Here's how a local TV station put it:

Devolites Davis points out the Petersen's home address and phone number can be easily be found on the Internet and in election filings. She also says Petersen put his family in play when he sent out a flyer talking about his kids' activities - noting his daughter's gymnastics lessons and hockey matches.

"If you're going to serve in public office, you're going to fill these forms out and they are available to everybody," said Devolites Davis. "They are not private information - they are available to any person who wants to see them."

This is the new reality for Democrats, I'm afraid. The kids are now "fair game." Why wouldn't they be? The Republicans think nothing of outing CIA agents for political purposes. Why should they care about siccing some nutcase on a kid? As we saw with the Graeme Frost thing, if you advocate for Democratic policies, or you have the temerity to allow your child to participate in civic life in any way, you are asking to be stalked, threatened and harmed by those who oppose you. Get used to it.

You'll be glad to know that this practice isn't considered to be a big deal by Villagers and their friends:

University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato said the mailer went too far, but doubted the issue would "effect the election."

"I don't blame anyone in the public eye being upset at having the home address and phone number listed," Sabato said. "As a rule, candidates and campaigns ought to stick to official numbers and addresses. This is a venial sin instead of a mortal sin."

Too true. Hey, if your little seven year old girl can't take the heat then maybe daddy and mommy ought to stay out of the political kitchen, eh? Politics ain't beanbag, kid.

H/T to NickM
Dogwhistling Dixie

by digby

You've all heard by now about the Obama campaign hiring "ex-gay" singer Donnie McClurkin for their South Carolina gospel tour and refusing to fire him when it became known. Here's the official explanation:

“The Obama campaign is trying to bridge real divides and bring people together. Two things are certain: We will never be able to bridge those divides if we are unwilling to listen to voices we don’t agree with, and we will never change anyone’s mind if we refuse to talk to him,” Griffs said in a statement.

Come on. What kind of turnip truck does this guy think we just fell head-first off of? This is obviously a very clumsy South Carolina "Sistah Soljah" which is really disappointing coming from Obama, the self-proclaimed healer of our blue and red wounds. The point of these exercises is to give a wink and a nod to bigots by picking out some despised element of your own coalition and demonstrating to targeted voters that you are against them too. Just because in this case it's aimed at conservative African Americans who don't like gays rather than racist whites who don't like African Americans doesn't make it any less ugly.

I would be skeptical of their intentions if the campaign had chosen by happenstance an African American pastor or gospel singer who was against gay marriage or even who believed that homosexuality was against biblical teachings. People can differ in their personal opinions and one can't be expected to sign on to every litmus test in order to perform for a campaign. But this man is a crusader for the idea that being gay is a disease, using himself as the example of one who has been cured. You can "talk" to someone like that but the divide will never be bridged. It's an assault on reason as well as an insult to gays.

This stuff doesn't happen by accident. Homeboy Lee Atwater, the Grand Vizier of the dark arts of the southern strategy and the man who made Willie Horton a household name, called South Carolina the "firewall" -- that's where a ruthless negative campaign could stop the momentum of any GOP insurgent who had the temerity to buck the Big Money Boyz's designated candidate. He perfected it in 1988 and his successor in ugly campaigning, Karl Rove, destroyed John McCain's surging campaign there in 2000. Atwater knew very well that South Carolina was a place that trafficked in race baiting and nasty attacks on patriotism and he used them to great effect. This history is known to everyone who has followed politics for the past two decades so it is simply not believable to me that Obama's campaign didn't do this purposefully. South Carolina is ground zero for American bigotry.

The truly ironic thing about it is that homophobia is the new black among many of the Southern heritage groups down south. It is itself a dogwhistle. I wrote about this some time back in this post I did on racist codes for FDL:

Perhaps the most obscure form of racist code speech is rampant neo-confederate homophobia. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Anti-gay language, crude or not so crude, can be found in many neo-confederate tracts and articles. They often use the traditional language of anti-semitism. (All that "disease" talk. )I was confused by this for a while, wondering if the antebellum south had had an underground gay sub-culture that had been scorned as a southern tradition. But it is actually just another code for traditional bigotry which they base on this:

When I served on the State Textbook Committee, I asked each publisher, "what is your definition of family?" Almost without exception, the publishers, out of deference to the homosexual, lesbian, and feminist movements, define family as two or more people living together who care for one another. By their definition, any two people living together – men, women, married, unmarried – are now defined as a family.

The antebellum South was a society founded on the traditional family of husband, wife, and children. Even today, more than the rest of the US, the South is still more family oriented. Southerners still do not move as often as other people do. More than 75% of the people living in Alabama today were born in Alabama.

Because the South was, and is more family oriented, and because our definition of family is increasingly unacceptable to many Americans, all things Southern, including our concept of family, are attacked.

This convenient conflation of "traditional" southern culture and family, of course, ignores the fact that slave families were ruthlessly broken up. (And anyway the slaves had a mental defect that made them want to run away.) But, no matter. You can see how easily the neoconfederates have incorporated this "family values" rhetoric and substituted their overt racism with overt homophobia.

This is not something for Democrats to be playing around with in the name of "building bridges" and singing kumbaya. Obama is making a huge mistake and he should rectify it.

And I second Jane Hamsher in saying this:

Gotta give it up for Aravosis and the GLBT blogosphere. They have really hammered this thing, and the narrative has taken root in the traditional media — at a time when Obama can least afford to have this kind of backlash.

Play with bigots and reap the whirlwind.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Quiz Day

by tristero

As long as we're doin' quizzes today:

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

Looking For A Hissy

by digby

Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution
notices that some extremely irresponsible politicians have been meeting with an aggressively anti-Israeli and anti-American middle eastern politician who says things like this:

• "We are all happy when U.S. soldiers are killed [in Iraq] week in and week out. The killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is legitimate and obligatory."

• In October 2003, after rockets were fired at the hotel at which Paul Wolfowitz was staying in Baghdad, that "We hope that next time the rockets will be more accurate and effective in getting rid of this virus and his like, who wreak corruption in Arab lands."

• That he felt "great joy" at the 2002 space shuttle Columbia disaster because one of the astronauts was Israeli.

• That the real axis of evil is "oil and Jews," and "The oil axis is present in most of the U.S. administration, beginning with its president, vice president, and top advisers, including Rice, who is oil-colored, while the axis of Jews is present with Paul Wolfowitz."

I feel a faint coming on, don't you? Click here to find out who it is --- and who is meeting with him.

Now, I don't personally have a problem with meeting batshit insane foreign politicians. It falls under the heading of "diplomacy", no matter how distasteful. (And frankly, if that's the new criteria, we can clear Bush and Cheney's schedule for the rest of their term.)

But the last I heard, the right wing didn't agree. I wonder what they think of this?

Or this?

H/T to Julia
"You cannot protect America in the long run if you fail to protect our Constitution"

by digby

This morning I took one of those tests * to determine which presidential candidate most closely reflects your views. I'm a liberal, as you know, with pretty orthodox views (except for perhaps a stronger civil liberties streak than some) so I expected that I would come up Kucinich, the person generally perceived to be the most liberal candidate. If a person's vote were based solely on their positions on the issues, I always figured he'd be my guy. (Of course the choice is more complex than that.)

But it isn't Kucinich. It's this guy.

And when I read things like this, it makes a lot of sense:

Mr. President, for six years, this President has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t respect the role of Congress nor does he respect the rule of law.

Every six years as United States Senators we take the oath office to uphold the Constitution. Our colleagues on the House side take that oath every two years. That is important.

For six years this President has used scare tactics to prevent the Congress from reining in his abuse of authority. A case and point is the current direction this body appears to be headed as we prepare to reform and extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Many of the unprecedented rollbacks to the rule of law by this Administration have been made in the name of national security.

The Bush Administration has relentlessly focused our nation’s resources and manpower on a war of choice in Iraq. That ill conceived war has broken our military, squandered resources and emboldened our enemies.

The President’s wholesale disregard of the rule of law has compounded the damage done in Iraq and has made our nation less secure and as a direct consequence of these acts, we are less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated in the world.

Consider the scandal at Abu Ghraib – where Iraqi prisoners were subjected to inhumane and humiliating acts by U.S. personnel charged with guarding them.

Consider Guantanamo Bay. Rather than helping to protect the nation, the prisons at Guantanamo Bay have instead become the very symbol for our weakened moral standing in the world.

Consider the secret prisons run by the CIA and the practice of extraordinary rendition that allows them to evade U.S. law regarding torture.

Consider the shameful actions of our outgoing Attorney General who politicized prosecutions – who was more committed to serving the President who appointed him than the laws he had sworn to uphold.

And consider, of course, the Military Commissions Act – a law that allows evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence.

It denies individuals the right to counsel.

It denies them the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions.

And it denies them the single most important and effective safeguard of liberty man has known – the right of habeas corpus, permitting prisoners to be brought before a court to determine whether their detainment is lawful.

Warrantless wiretapping, torture – the list goes on.

Each of these policies share two things in common.

First, they have weakened our ability to prosecute the global war on terrorism – if for no other reason than they have made it harder, if not impossible, to build the international support and cooperation we need to fight it.

And second, each has only been possible because Congress has not been able to stop this President’s unprecedented expansion of executive power, although some in this body have tried.

Whether or not these policies were explicitly authorized is beside the point. In every instance, Congress has been unable to hold this Administration to account for violating the rule of law and our Constitution. In each instance, Republicans in the Congress have prevented this body from telling this Administration that “a state of war is not a blank check.”

And those aren’t my words, Mr. President – those are the words of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who was nominated by Ronald Reagan.

And today, it appears that we are prepared to consider the proposed renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – a law that in whatever form it eventually takes will almost certainly permit the Bush Administration to broadly eavesdrop on American citizens.

Legislation, as currently drafted, that would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that helped this Administration violate the civil liberties of Americans and the law of this country.

Mr. President while it may be true that the proposed legislation is an improvement on existing law, it remains fundamentally flawed because it fails to protect the privacy rights of Americans or hold the Executive or the private sector accountable if they choose to ignore the law.

That is why I will not stand on the floor of the United States Senate and be silent about the direction we are headed.

It is time to say “no more.”

No more trampling our Constitution.

No more excusing those who violate the rule of law.

These are our principles.

They have been around at least since the Magna Carta.

They are enduring.

What they are not is temporary. And what we do not do in a time where our country is at risk is abandon them.

My father was Executive Trial Counsel at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals during 1945 and 1946.

What America accomplished at those historic trials wasn’t a foregone conclusion. It took courage – when Stalin and even a leader as great and noble as Winston Churchill wanted to simply execute the Nazi leaders, we didn’t back down from our belief that these men—as terrible as they were—ought to have a trial.

We did not give in to vengeance.

As then, the issue before us today is the same.

Does America stand for all that is still right with our world? Or do we retreat in fear?

Do we stand for justice that secures America? Or do we act out of vengeance that weakens us?

Mr. President, I am well aware that this issue is seen as political. I believe that Democrats were elected to strengthen the nation – elected to restore our standing in the world.

I believe we were elected to ensure that this nation adheres to the rule of law and to stop this Administration’s assault on the Constitution.

But the rule of law is not the provenance of any one political party – but of every American who has been safer because of it.

Mr. President, I know this bill hasn’t even been reported out of the Judiciary Committee yet.

But I am here today because if I have learned anything in my 26 years in this body—particularly during the last 7 years—it is that if you wait until the end to voice your concerns, you will have waited too long. That is why I have written to the Majority Leader informing him that I will object to any effort to bring this legislation to the Senate floor for consideration.

I hope that Senator Leahy is able to remove this language – he is a dear friend and I know his respect for the rule of law runs deep.

But if he cannot, I am prepared to filibuster this bill.

President Bush is right about one thing: this debate is about security. But not in the way he imagines.

He believes we have to give up certain rights to be safe.

I believe the choice between moral authority and security is a false choice.

I believe it is precisely when you stand up and protect your rights that you become stronger, not weaker.

The damage that was done to our country on 9/11 was stunning. It changed the world forever.

But when you start diminishing our rights as a people, you compound that tragedy. You cannot protect America in the long run if you fail to protect our Constitution. It is that simple.

Mr. President, history will likely judge this President harshly for his war of choice and for fighting it with a disregard for our most cherished principles.

But history is about tomorrow. We must act today to stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Mr. President, this is the moment. At long last, let us rise to it.

There are many things that engage me in politics. But what evokes my passion are civil liberties and social justice. The fundamental underpinning of those values in the American experiment reside in the Declaration of Independence and our constitution. I wish we could rely on people's good natures or the evolution of our civilization to make those ancient documents unnecessary, but it's quite clear that we can't. Without them, all of those fine ideals will never be realized. Indeed, we won't even be able to hang on to what we already have.

It's more obvious today than it ever was since rather than progressing as we mostly have in our history, America is backsliding at a rather alarming rate at the very time when the stakes couldn't be higher. We are the most powerful nation on earth and in grave danger of becoming the most loathed nation on earth. That is a very dangerous place to be.

Standing up for our constitution is essential to our liberty as citizens and our safety as a country. Chris Dodd is leading the way, and good for him. You can sign the Harry Reid petition here, and if you're of a mind, you can contribute to his campaign here.

Update: Dodd will be on Meet The Press this Sunday for the full hour as part of Russert's ongoing series with the presidential candidatres. I'm sure it will cover many issues (and Dodd will have to explain in detail every passing comment he made in 1974) but it is an opportunity for him to expand on this issue. Monsignor Tim may even allow him to talk a bit about it since he's written a book about his Dad the Nuremberg Prosecutor.

* It should also be noted that the questions in that poll seem to be reflective of the confines of the debate as currently constructed by the campaigns rather than offering all possible options. It's been pointed out that the questions on immigration are particularly narrow, which is unfortunate.