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Monday, August 31, 2009

Four Years Ago Today

by digby

.... we were just beginning to understand how bad it was. We saw people being rescued from atop buildings. We knew many were homeless. The talk of looters was rampant and the media was eating up the rumors. The right was nearly hysterical.

Here's a typical post from that day:

By Michelle Malkin • August 31, 2005 01:42 AM

***scroll down for updates…Louisiana Gov. requesting federal troops…looting in Biloxi…hospital evacuations…someone looted a Dyson vacuum cleaner…”Finding vs. looting…”***

Darkness is descending on New Orleans, literally and figuratively. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, the N.O. Times-Picayune blog reports that the local children’s hospital is under siege:


Things are spiraling completely out of control–and contrary to some naive observers, the crimes are not just being committed by people desperate for basic food and sustenance.
In fact, according to right wingers the place had descended into total anarchy:
Something has happened in New Orleans that is unprecedented. We’ve seen it happen on a smaller scale during other natural disasters. The looting, the anger, the despair was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida. However, while the area damaged by Andrew may have been just as large as the swath of total destruction left by Katrina, Andrew never quite destroyed the spirit of community and shared faith which allowed Floridians to maintain a patina of civilization that kept them from lunging at each other’s throats and descending to the level of animals whose only thought was of obeying the primal instinct present in all of us for self preservation.

Make no mistake. Unless something truly dramatic happens in the next 48 hours, the situation in New Orleans will degenerate into something heretofore seen only in refugee camps and places like Somalia. People will start forming themselves into mobs for protection. And those mobs will start fighting both the authorities and each other for scarce resources as people get hungrier and thirstier by the hour.

It was revealed later, of course, that 90% of the reports of criminal activity were completely bogus and the most famous of the incidents was actually a result of the police shooting completely innocent people (a case which is still being investigated today.)

Of course civilization did break down, but not quite the way these hysterics portrayed it. It broke down in the Convention Center a couple of days later because the authorities left thousands of people to fend for themselves out of fear of the rampaging mobs that existed only in the fevered minds of the thinly disguised racists of the right. The shame of that is still haunting.

But on August 31st we still didn't know how bad it really was or how bad it was going to get.

Here's what I wrote that day:

Game Cancelled

BagNews Notes has the most interesting take on the compelling images of New Orleans: he looks at pictures of the refugees at the Superdome and observes:

Beginning with the weekend evacuation, one unstated subtext running through much of the reporting involved the disparate prospects between rich and poor. In many accounts, for example, the more well-to-do were securing refuge by way of upper-floor hotel rooms, or escape via rental cars and long-haul taxi rides.

On the other hand, those of modest mean mostly headed for the football stadium.

In looking through the painful photos coming out of this ravaged city, I was particularly struck by the scenes shot at the New Orleans Superdome -- which seemed to have transformed, almost overnight, into the world's largest disaster shelter.

Besides people trying to adapt to the building as living quarters, what I found ironic was the fact that this was the only way the lower income evacuees -- not to mention the needy or indigent -- would ever get close to these field level seats.

The pictures coming out of New Orleans are all horrible. But the income disparities among the citizens are brought into stark relief by this tragedy. Everyone is affected of course, but those who had little to begin with are truly left with less than nothing now. A whole lot of people who were hanging by a thread already just dropped into total despair. That dimension of the tragedy really makes my heart ache.

That was only one facet of the tragedy as it turned out. The worst was yet to come.

I highly recommend that you read this post from the indefatigable Scout Prime, who has been blogging non-stop about Katrina since the day it hit. Watch the videos. Remind yourself.

The Patriots

by dday

The counter-protesters at an event in Austin, TX yesterday just took the vile rhetoric we've seen on display this August one extra step:

"the protesters had Larry Kilgore, a “Christian activist” and candidate for governor who has endorsed executions for homosexuals; Debra Medina, a Ron Paul Republican and a slightly-less long-shot candidate for governor; and Melissa Pehle-Hill, yet another fringe candidate and a member of a self-appointed “citizens grand jury” investigating Barack Hussein Obama, aka Barry Soetoro."

Kilgore captured the sentiment of the mob. (video here)

“I hate that flag up there,” Kilgore said pointing to the American flag flying over the Capitol. “I hate the United States government. … They’re an evil, corrupt government. They need to go. Sovereignty is not good enough. Secession is what we need!”

“We hate the United States!"

Just a lone nut, I guess. Except the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, flirted with the secessionists a few months ago. He didn't attend this protest, which I guess is a positive step.

But this has increasingly become the Republican base. A group of people who feel completely justified in chanting "We hate the United States!" I seem to remember being told that I hated America and I was "on the other side" and "in league with the terrorists" because I didn't agree with an unnecessary, illegal and ultimately disastrous war. I don't have tape of myself from every day in that time, but you can trust me that I never chanted "We hate the United States" in front of a state capitol building.

Note, too, the lady who used the phrase, "the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots," a quote from Thomas Jefferson, often misappropriated by extremists and the Patriot movement. Timothy McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt that bore this inscription when he was arrested for murdering 168 people in Oklahoma City.

What the report reflects is a reality that law enforcement trying to deal with domestic terrorism in America must confront: Their subjects are thoroughly American; many of the people drawn into these movements are, if anything, "hyper-normal." Their version of "patriotism," for instance, is so extreme that they actually hate not just their government but their fellow citizens -- in essence, their country: because, you see, it has been "perverted" from its original purposes.

The hyper-normality is a kind of intentional camouflage. The Patriot movement, and militias in particular, were a very specific and intentional strategy adopted in the 1990s by the white supremacists and radical tax protesters of the American far right -- and the whole purpose of the strategy was to mainstream their belief systems and their agendas. The tactic was to adopt the appearance of normal, "red-blooded" Americanism as a way of pushing out the idea that their radical beliefs are "normal" too.

In the process, they often adopted time-worn "patriotic" sayings and symbols, such as the "Don't Tread On Me" flag Beck wears, as their own -- though with a much more menacing meaning. If you've seen that flag at an Aryan Nations compound, as I have, you never quite look at it the same.

This is why the meaning of Thomas Jefferson's quote above is quite different for them than it is for you and me. To all outward appearances, it is just an expression of avid patriotism. But to a Patriot movement follower, it means something potentially deadly.

Patriots who use the symbols of American history while claiming overtly to hate America. This would be something good to ask Dave Neiwert about tomorrow.

Losers And The Left

by digby

Chris Matthews had on David Corn and Eugene Robinson to discuss the fact that the liberals are going to ruin everything like they always do. Surprisingly, neither Robinson and Corn seemed to agree, at least not entirely:

Corn: There are different ways of compromise. I don't believe in making the perfect the enemy of the good or the possible, but I do believe that Obama in certain ways miscalculated...I think he entered the debate thinking he could do this in a non-partisan fashion and I think that was a miscalculation. It's winding up in a very polarized manner and I think he's getting the, at this stage, he's getting the worse for that.

Matthews: It's funny. What has changed, Gene and David, has been the tone of the country. We did come in January, well maybe this guy will get a few breaks from the other side and now it looks like we're down to Olympia Snow it looks like being the 60th vote after Ted Kennedy.

Robinson: Yeah well, how did we get there? Well there would be two competing narratives about that. Mine would be that the Republican party has adopted a strategy of saying no, basically, and Obama has offered and has offered and has offered, maybe too early on some occasions and maybe hasn't gotten anything in return. ... but I think there is a sentiment out there in the country that wants bipartisanship and I think the White House calculates that being seen as the party that offers that is a good thing. And if you fast forward everybody's starting to think about 2010, by then the economy could be coming back we could be out of this cycle of unemployment, things could be getting better ...
Matthews then showed Bill Clinton at Netroots Nation telling the audience that it was politically necessary to get a bill out. The discussion continued:

Matthews: ... I completely buy what he's saying. In politics if you lose, you lose. And if you think you're going to get any credit from the center or from the right or any of the commentators from that part of the world you're crazy. The Democratic left will be pounced on, blamed for defeat. So this idea that you're waiting for the perfect bill or you won't go without the public option is suicidal, but that's my thought ...

Corn: That's not necessarily the issue. (And I can remember a day Chris when you didn't think Bill Clinton was so Godlike). But that aside, I do think there is a way to have a clear fight. And I think this is one of the problems Barack Obama is having here ... I think the health care fight has become a very muddy fight now. Iit's not a clear battle and it's not clear what he stands for in terms of the details of this bill.

And you can't just pass anything. It has to be something that people recognise as good for them and they have to have a clear understanding of this bill. So, to that degree, I think Bill Clinton is right; passing something is better than nothing. But if it's something that's unclear and people don't really understand, and can be demagogued even after passage, that won't necessarily help the Democratic Party politically.

Matthews: I think it should be a page or two long, it should be that everybody's got to enroll, everybody's got to be part of it and it should regulate and control the insurance industry so it doesn't make a killing out of this

Robinson: Absolutely. But Bill Clinton's message cuts both ways. It's also a message to Democrats who may be recalcitrant who may be unwilling to to stick with what is the majority view of the Democratic caucus to what the bill ought to loo0k like. And part of that message is , you know, if the Democrats go down in 2010, who's going to lose? It's those marginal Democrats in 2010 who are going to be in trouble, and it is better for them for the Democrats to pass a bill even if it goes further than what they might like ...

Matthews went on to describe the left as the PLO, determined to blow everything up to which Corn replied:

Right now it's not the left that's controlling the ballgame here. it really is the White House and Max Baucus and others. So if anything is going awry, it's not because poeple on the left are criticizing.

Setting aside Matthews' usual soporific CW and general inanity, both Corn and Robinson make the same important point: if the Democrats don't pass decent health care, it's the Blue Dogs who are going to suffer, not the liberals. Matthews is right about one thing: Americans don't like losers and even if they don't like the health care plan, failure to pass anything will blow back on everyone in the party --- it's not like Republican challengers in marginal districts are going to go easy on the Blue Dogs and give them credit for voting against health care. It will be like 2002, where no matter how much the Democrat marched around with a flag, he still got nailed for being unpatriotic.

Some of these Blue Dogs are probably going to lose anyway. They were swept up in Obama's coattails and in this sour political and economic environment his coat frayed immediately. But if health care actually works and the economy is looking better, a few more of them might hang on. If it tanks, they'll be tarred with its failure, not the left, who are all in safe districts.

I've been writing about this for some time as have many others in the blogosphere. But it's good to see the normal conventional wisdom being challenged by Robinson and Corn on Hardball. It went in one of Matthews' ears and then got lost somewhere in his head, but it's possible that some other people heard it and realized that automatically scapegoating the hippies doesn't actually make sense in this circumstance.

The Blue Dogs and the Senate corporate lackeys are the ones standing in the way of health care reform, not the progressives. If anybody pays the price for failure it will be from among their numbers and from where I sit, that's exactly as it should be. If they don't want that to happen, maybe they should stop playing the role of the GOP before it went crazy, cooperate and pass real health care reform. It's for their own good.

*All of this assumes that the White House and the leadership actually want to keep their large majority and want to pass health care reform. Whether that's the case is increasingly unclear.

Two Million Buck Chuck

by digby

PCCC and DFA are launching a new ad in Iowa calling out that tweeting nincompoop Chuck Grassley.

Sign on as a supporter of this ad.

"Senate Democrats shouldn't water down reform to appease Republican politicians. There is Main Street bipartisanship back home for the public option."


by digby

During last week's funeral events, the fatuous gasbags must have said at least 12,397 times that Ted Kennedy's "greatest regret" was in failing to agree to Richard Nixon's health care plan. I had never heard this before, but it was spoken about as if it was not only common knowledge, but the impetus for Kennedy's alleged shift from principled liberalism to post partisan conciliation, which I had also never heard before.

Turns out, it would be news to Teddy too:

The only actual quote I could find of Kennedy saying anything remotely like this comes from a 2004 interview with Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe in which Kennedy discusses an oral history project with the University of Virginia's Miller Center:

Kennedy said he would discuss "missed opportunities" as well as accomplishments. For example, Kennedy said, he has wondered whether Democrats should have taken a rare opportunity during the Nixon administration to accept Nixon's national healthcare proposal. While many Democrats believed the plan was flawed, it may have been better to sign onto it, given that decades later, the nation still has more than 40 million uninsured people, Kennedy said.

"I'll have to go back and look at whether we should have jumped on that. Did we make a mistake waiting?" Kennedy said.

In The Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, author Peter Canellos made a similar claim to that of Pearlstein, but he sourced his claim back to the Milligan article.

It's possible that Kennedy said this privately, but that isn't how people were portraying it. In fact, the way they said it sounds suspiciously like the sort of thing that was always said about him ("He should have taken Nixon's deal") and which was then attributed to him once he became a beloved elder statesman who everyone wanted to claim as their own. All popular politicians are reimagined as villagers once they die.

The Metric System

by dday

The commanding general in Afghanistan basically said yesterday that our strategy in the country is failing.

A top US general in Afghanistan has called for a revised military strategy, suggesting the current one is failing.

In a strategic assessment, Gen Stanley McChrystal said that, while the Afghan situation was serious, success was still achievable.

The report has not yet been published, but sources say Gen McChrystal sees protecting the Afghan people against the Taliban as the top priority.

The report does not carry a direct call for increasing troop numbers.

"The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort," Gen McChrystal said in the assessment.

McChrystal is engaging in some sleight of hand here. The top priority for the Obama Administration, at least in the President's public statements, has never been "protecting the Afghan people against the Taliban." We've heard about dismantling Taliban safe havens, but not that our military should be used as an internal security force. We should at least have that debate if it's the new goal.

I'm more concerned that the Administration feels it has to race to show progress, basing their continued presence in Afghanistan not on any security objective, but simply meaning to justify the presence through demonstrable benchmarks. If the benchmarks, or "metrics" in the new parlance, are not tethered to a fundamental mission or strategy, how can we possibly define success? In recent years, the success or failure in achieving benchmarks or metrics have had no impact on the larger decisions of escalation or drawdown. A benchmark strategy just looks like a justification strategy rather than any kind of real assessment.

This is why we need a timetable to bring our troops home. We do not have a clear reason for remaining in the country - Al Qaeda has departed, we cannot expect to eradicate every safe haven everywhere in the world, nor can we expect to radically transform centuries of political and social reality in that part of the world through nation-building. As Bill Moyers said in his excellent interview with Bill Maher:

Here Obama has 68,000 troops over there and the Generals are asking for another 20,000 -- maybe 30,000 more troops -- saying it’s not enough. The military and the hawks will always say "not enough." Obama has to say "enough" -- or he’s going to be drawn into it.

Now they’ve shifted the mission of troops: to protect the villages of Afghanistan. 100,000 Americans can’t protect the villages of Afghanistan – and now they say we’re going to be there to build a nation – we’re not good at building other nations – we’re hardly good at building our nation. If you're an Afghani and look up and see Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California legislature coming to build your nation, you’re going to run – you’re going to put up a No Trespassing sign. We need to come home.

We have this two-track problem, as Moyers expertly pointed out. We have a President, or more to the point a political system, captive to corporate special interests. And we have a promising foreign policy in other respect on the verge of being snuffed out by an obstinate focus on a nation-building experiment halfway across the world which we cannot even really hope to affect. We can defend our national security with law enforcement and intelligence and local information sharing. We do not need a war.

We Can't Handle The Truth

by digby

Matt Taibbi's new article on the humongous clusterfuck that is health care reform isn't easy to read. But you must. It isn't online yet, so you'll have to go to the grocery store and buy it (or stand in front of the newsracks and read it.)

This is the best we can do for the moment:

America’s disastrous health care system is responsible for incalculable amounts of illness, death, lost productivity and federal deficit — not to mention anxiety, anger and disgrace. And it’s not going to get fixed, writes Matt Taibbi in the new issue of Rolling Stone, because it’s encased in another failed system: the U.S. government. Rather than attempt to remedy the problem this summer, our government sat down and demonstrated its dizzying ineptitude. “We might look back on this summer someday and think of it as the moment when our government lost us for good,” writes Taibbi. “It was that bad.”

Taibbi breaks down the five steps Congress took to be sure no bill would pass — aiming low, gutting the public option, packing it with loopholes, providing no leadership and blowing the math — in his story, which is available on stands now. In a series of video interviews for RollingStone.com, Taibbi explores one of our system’s most severe flaws, explains how the government wedged itself into an awkwardly damning position, and looks at how the proposed bill would change the ordinary American’s life.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in the American health care system is that 31 percent of costs are associated with administration and paperwork. Here Taibbi examines the easiest way to eliminate the red tape:

Taibbi on how the Democrats wound up on the defensive — and theories that the government struck a sideline deal with the pharmaceutical industry:

Inside the “individual mandate” that would require people to buy insurance and how the bill might make conditions worse than before:

"Mainstream" Republicans are now batshit insane winguts who are incapable of governance. So the Democrats have stepped into the breach to govern like the Republicans used to. Whither the Democrats.

Update: And let's not forget the media. Here is a remarkably common sense piece of advice about what to do about it from the Miami Herald.

See No Evil, Make More Money

by digby

Ezra has an interesting graph up about the Madoff scandal which illustrated this:

[T]he central feature of [Madoff's] scheme, viewed in the clear light of its collapse, seems to have been this: "[I]n investing, trust matters as much as greed. And investors trusted Madoff. They knew him, or his family, or his friends, or they trusted the intermediaries who sent their money to him."

That's not only a plausible explanation of how Madoff convinced his investors that the laws of financial gravity had lifted, but how the financial industry did the same for the country, not to mention itself. Every bank felt more comfortable going into this madness because every other bank was walking in as well. And if all the banks were trading these products and trusting these trends, then what reason was there for the rest of us to worry about the fundamentals of the market?

I would suggest that there are two more aspects to this, one of which is arguably more important and was foreshadowed by the Enron scandal which should have been a warning: complexity and greed.

The first is simply the fact that many of these bankers didn't understand what was going on any more than the layperson. Naturally, they didn't want to admit that, so they pretended they did. Recall this prescient (and dismissed) 2001 story about Enron by Bethany McLean of Fortune magazine:

Enron now trades at roughly 55 times trailing earnings. That's more than 2 1/2 times the multiple of a competitor like Duke Energy, more than twice that of the S&P 500, and about on a par with new-economy sex symbol Cisco Systems. Enron has an even higher opinion of itself. At a late-January meeting with analysts in Houston, the company declared that it should be valued at $126 a share, more than 50% above current levels. "Enron has no shame in telling you what it's worth," says one portfolio manager, who describes such gatherings as "revival meetings." Indeed, First Call says that 13 of Enron's 18 analysts rate the stock a buy.

But for all the attention that's lavished on Enron, the company remains largely impenetrable to outsiders, as even some of its admirers are quick to admit. Start with a pretty straightforward question: How exactly does Enron make its money? Details are hard to come by because Enron keeps many of the specifics confidential for what it terms "competitive reasons." And the numbers that Enron does present are often extremely complicated. Even quantitatively minded Wall Streeters who scrutinize the company for a living think so. "If you figure it out, let me know," laughs credit analyst Todd Shipman at S&P. "Do you have a year?" asks Ralph Pellecchia, Fitch's credit analyst, in response to the same question.

The same story unfolded with the mortgage business just a few years later. It's a feature, not a bug. Which leads us to the other aspect of this: greed. Even if they suspected that the scheme didn't make sense, they didn't want to say anything because they were making so much money.They may not understand it, but they sure as hell want to ride the tiger as long as possible.

So, in one sense it was a matter of "trust," in that they may have trusted that somebody somewhere must have known what they were doing. But one of the major lessons of the past decade of cascading financial scandals is that they happened because people didn't understand the business but they didn't say anything (and shut down anyone who did) because they didn't want to spoil the party.

And it's still happening today.

They Knew. They Just Didn't Give A Damn

by digby

March 2006:

Video has been obtained by a US news agency showing President George W Bush being briefed by officials on the eve of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The confidential video obtained by the Associated Press shows very strong warnings being given to Mr Bush about the potential strength of the storm.

It appears to contradict subsequent suggestions by the Bush administration that the threat had been unclear.

Critics say more could have been done sooner to evacuate the city.

Speaking by video link from a room in his Texan holiday ranch on 28 August last year, Mr Bush is shown telling officials: “We are fully prepared.”

He does not ask any questions as the situation is outlined to him.

Along with the video, AP obtained transcripts of seven days of briefings relating to Katrina.

The footage does the president no favours, the BBC’s Justin Webb reports from Washington.

It shows plainly worried officials telling Mr Bush very clearly before the storm hit that it could breach New Orleans’ flood barriers.

In the past, the president has said nobody anticipated a breach but the video shows Michael Brown, the top emergency response official who has since resigned, saying the storm would be “a bad one, a big one”.

“We’re going to need everything that we can possibly muster, not only in this state and in the region, but the nation, to respond to this event,” Mr Brown says.

He also gives a strong, clear warning that evacuees in the Superdome in New Orleans could not be given proper assistance.

Another official, Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center, tells the final briefing that storm models predict minimal flooding inside New Orleans during the hurricane.

But he adds that the possibility of anticlockwise winds and storm surges could cause the levees at Lake Pontchartrain to be overrun afterwards is “obviously a very, very grave concern”.

His concern was borne out by events when levees collapsed, letting in the floodwater disastrously.

The president, however, said four days after the storm: “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”

Mr Bush later accepted he shared some of the responsibility for the flawed response to Katrina and the White House talked of the “fog of war” rendering decision-making difficult.

You can see the video of the bored Bush staring blankly as he was warned that the storm was potentially devastating. here.

Recall that the right blamed the government for failure, but they insisted it was the Democrats in state and local government, not Republicans.

And I think we know who they really blamed, don't you?

h/t to bb
Clearly A Political Move

by dday

I didn't bother to watch Dick Cheney's Traveling Emporium and Snake Oil Sales Extravaganza on Fox News Sunday, mainly because I knew that pro-torture Chris Wallace and the whole pro-torture team over there would treat it like a fanzine fluff piece. Wallace's hourlong fellatio session probably satisfied Cheney immensely, and predictably, the other networks saw fit to publicize Little Dick and his concubine, because what a former Vice President says is automatically news! News! News! Don't you remember all those prime-time slots for Walter Mondale, Dan Quayle and Al Gore recently?

In this case, there was some news made, although not of the variety that's being reported. First of all, Cheney, who appears to think that the Bush White House functioned under the auspices of the law, believes that the Attorney General of the United States is a political appointee. I'm sure that, in the case of Alberto Gonzales, that was true. It's not how the American system works, of course.

The president is the chief law enforcement officer in the administration. He’s now saying, well, this isn’t anything that he’s got anything to do with. He’s up on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard and his attorney general is going back and doing something that the president said some months ago he wouldn’t do [...] Well, I think if you look at the Constitution, the president of the United States is the chief law enforcement officer in the land. The attorney general’s a statutory officer. He’s a member of the cabinet.

Fourthbranch would have been the world's best Revolution-era Tory. He truly believes in the divine right of kings. Witness later in the interview, where he in his capacity as chief law enforcement officer of the United States decides to toss out the law books.

WALLACE: Do you think what they did, now that you’ve heard about it, do you think what they did was wrong?

CHENEY: Chris, my sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives, in preventing further attacks against the United States, in giving us the intelligence we needed to go find al Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed. … It was good policy. It was properly carried out. it worked very, very well.

WALLACE: So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you’re okay with it.


Worked so well, in fact, that CIA and military interrogators killed dozens of detainees in their custody. But what's a little torture and murder when you're talking about saving lives? Oh, and Cheney's answer is a lie, but that's redundant.

Perhaps the most absurd thing about Fourthbranch, and also what gets him through the night, I would gather, is how he actually thinks his Administration has a good record on counter-terrorism.

I seem to recall the Bush/Cheney era a little differently. Cheney thinks it was a sterling success when it came to national security and counter-terrorism. Perhaps there's something to this. After all, except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks against Americans, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush's inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, and waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush's international unpopularity, the Bush/Cheney record on counter-terrorism was awesome.

After the previous administration established a record like that, President Obama didn't ask Cheney for tips? The nerve.

You see what Cheney is doing here. He wants to politicize the Bush terror policies - the investigations being sought by the Attorney General are "clearly a political move," he says - so that any attempt to question them becomes a partisan food fight instead of simply the application of law. This is his metier and he does it very well, judging from all the attention he receives every time he emerges from the bunker. Conservatives, ever on the lookout for victimization, cry that the Justice Department is being all political by investigating torture and murder, and the media cover the ping-pong match.

Also, Cheney won't cooperate with any "improper" investigation. A Justice Department-directed investigation. You know, "fuck you" and all that.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Whole Foods Boycott

by tristero

As one of the first bloggers (if not the first) both to object to Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey's insane op-ed opposing healthcare reform and to suggest a boycott of Whole Foods, let me be among the first to agree with Michael Pollan that the chain should not be boycotted. I, for one, plan on immediately shopping again at Whole Foods, assuming, of course, that they've cut all corporate ties with John Mackey.

Until then, Whole Foods is more than welcome to make their money catering to all the hordes of Mackey's fellow conservatives who just love to shop there. People, for example, like this brilliant mind. She makes such a tremendously convincing case that elitist liberal scum (like Michael Pollan) want her to pay more for her food thereby depriving her of the scratch to purchase common salt-of-the earth American goods like Ikea; or that wholesome, inexpensive treat sold at all NASCAR rallies: Haagen Daz ice cream; or that third set of overpriced designer sneakers.

And oh! How she'll love the prices at Whole Foods!

[Update: I hope it is clear that the gaping hole in Pollan's argument is not that Mackey is a rightwing lunatic. Of course, he has every right to be a rightwing lunatic. No, the problem Pollan deliberately elides is that Mackey very publicly advocated far right nonsense and heaped contempt on the values of his customers. In short, Mackey has publicly bitten the hands that feed him.

I don't care whether Whole Foods takes a stand in favor of healthcare reform, although it certainly would make self-interested corporate sense if they did. As far as I'm concerned, they simply need to stay neutral from this debate. But as long as their CEO feels it necessary to publicly advocate against the wishes of its customers, I see no reason why I can't pick up my food at farmer's markets and other sources. Of course, some of the suppliers are as politically nuts as Mackey, but they don't go around rubbing their customers' noses in that fact.

If Mackey wants to use Whole Foods as a bully pulpit to sell rightwing garbage, that's totally cool with me, it's a free country. And Ill be happy to shop at Whole Foods again once they return to their main business, which is not selling junk ideas but selling decent food.]

Four Years Ago Today

by digby

I wrote this:

Commenter antifa wrote in another thread on Sunday night:

I called Mama Marisol, got her on her cell phone. She had her crystal ball in the front seat, and she was 'leavin-leavin, cher.'

Heading up Basin Street past St. Louis 1, she saw all the skeletons sitting on top of their tombs, rolling their bones and readin' em, shakin' their heads at her.

This won't end well.

Mama marisol was right, cher. This is terrible.

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay

Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And all these people have no place to stay

Now look here mama what am I to do
I ain't got nobody to tell my troubles to

I works on the levee mama both night and day
I ain't got nobody, keep the water away

Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to lose

I works on the levee, mama both night and day
I works so hard, to keep the water away

I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I'm goin' back to my used to be

I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
Gonna leave my baby, and my happy home

That night was the beginning of one of the most horrific events this country has ever experienced. All I felt that day was a sense of dread, not knowing how bad it was. But it was so much worse than I could have imagined:

The Timeline for August 30th


MIDDAY — CHERTOFF CLAIMS HE FINALLY BECOMES AWARE THAT LEVEE HAS FAILED: “It was on Tuesday that the levee–may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday–that the levee started to break. And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to start to drain into the city.” But later reports note that the Bush administration learned of the levee breach on Aug. 29. [Meet the Press, 9/4/05; AP]

PENTAGON CLAIMS THERE ARE ENOUGH NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS IN REGION: “Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said the states have adequate National Guard units to handle the hurricane needs.” [WWL-TV]

MASS LOOTING REPORTED, SECURITY SHORTAGE CITED: “The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked,” Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson said. “We’re using exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used for search and rescue while we still have people on rooftops.” [AP]

U.S.S. BATAAN SITS OFF SHORE, VIRTUALLY UNUSED: “The USS Bataan, a 844-foot ship designed to dispatch Marines in amphibious assaults, has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. And it just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina came roaring ashore. The Bataan rode out the storm and then followed it toward shore, awaiting relief orders. Helicopter pilots flying from its deck were some of the first to begin plucking stranded New Orleans residents. But now the Bataan’s hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty.” [Chicago Tribune]



Here's what the right had to offer that day:

I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared.

And then this:

Knuckle Smacking [Jonah Goldberg ]

Doc Bainbridge chastises me for my insensitivity and implores my more mature colleagues to take me to task. He even goes so far as to call me Taranto-esque, for what that's worth.

Perhaps Professor Bainbridge — of whom I am a fan — thinks something really awful will befall the denizens of the Superdome and therefore making a joke at their expense is wrong. My guess is that it will simply be a really unpleasent time for the remainder of the day, but hardly so unpleasent as to sanctify them with refugee or some other victim status. I assumed the reference to gill-growing and whatnot made it clear where I was coming from. I'm sorry if we don't always fulfill the good professor's expectations around here. But it can't be all brandy-snifters and Latin puns in the Corner.

Immediate reactions to tragedy are always telling. And it only got worse as the week wore on.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what a living nightmare really is, read this story from today's NY Times Magazine about the plight of one of the hospitals during those horrible days, the awful decisions they faced and the people who made them.

It's almost impossible to believe that it happened in a country that hadn't been obliterated by an apocalyptic event so extreme that the entire national infrastructure was completely paralyzed. It wasn't. It just didn't respond:

I'm planning to revisit Katrina all week, as I usually do. Hopefully, there will be some good news as well. But I think it's important to remember what happened there, especially as we see the red faced anger coming from people who don't believe that Americans have an obligation to help their fellow man in times of trouble. It's clarifying.

Still Crazy After All These Years

by digby

Yesterday, in my invitation to the upcoming conversation with Dave Neiwert about his book The Eliminationists, I wrote:

There times when a writer publishes a book at exactly the right moment and this is one of them. With violent mainstream rhetoric hitting peaks we haven't seen in nearly 40 years, the village is struggling to comprehend where it's all coming from and what it means. They haven't been paying attention.

On the other hand, there are times when a writer's timing and thesis are so wrong, it's inuntentionally funny. For instance, John Podhoretz published his tribute to George W. Bush Bush Country: How George W. Bush Became the First Great Leader of the 21st Century---While Driving Liberals Insane just before everything went to hell in a handbasket.

Here's another one:

Poor Kurt Anderson obviously believed the hype that America had permanently cast off its long history of racism, the right wing had been permanently neutered by the election of Barack Obama and a new era of post partisan cooperation was sweeping the the nation. I guess somebody had to write that book, but I wouldn't have taken that bet in a million years. (Maybe for a million dollars ...)

He dances quite admirably during that segment, but it's not very pretty. After our summer of teabaggers packing heat and "Obama is Hitler" rhetoric it's a little hard to argue that our political differences have been solved, particularly since their behavior seems to have seriously affected the debate, at least in the village.

The crazy and the hate is still with us. If you want to read a good book about modern American politics, just read Nixonland
. The original title was Nixonland: Politics and Culture of the American Berserk, but the publishers foolishly insisted on changing it. Not only was the original more interesting it was more accurate. We're still living it.

Bill Bradley's Model Congress

by dday

In 2000, angered by the rightward, DLC-led turn of the Democratic Party, I became interested in Bill Bradley's candidacy for the Presidency and voted for him in the California primary. Needless to say, he didn't win that year, and he retreated to the world of speeches and occasional op-eds as an eminence grise of politics. During that 2000 campaign he would talk very adamantly about how all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care. It was a pillar of his campaign. Now a member of the punditocracy, he can imagine some grand compromise between the left and right on the issue.

Since the days of Harry Truman, Democrats have wanted universal health coverage, believing that if other industrialized countries can achieve it, surely the United States can. For Democrats, universal coverage speaks to America’s sense of decency and compassion. Democrats also believe that it will lead to a healthier and more productive country.

Since the days of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have wanted legal reform, believing that our economic competitiveness is being shackled by the billions we spend annually on tort costs; an estimated 10 cents of every health care dollar paid by individuals and companies goes for litigation and defensive medicine. For Republicans, tort reform and its health care analogue, malpractice reform, speak to the goal of stronger economic growth and lower costs.

The bipartisan trade-off in a viable health care bill is obvious: Combine universal coverage with malpractice tort reform in health care.

On what planet does Bill Bradley spend most of his time? Let's grant him for a second the possibility that Republicans want to reach a compromise at all on health care reform, something they have not at all shown in every single day of this debate. Mike Enzi, one of the "bipartisan" negotiators, is still referring to death panels and has been quoted as saying he's only participating in talks to stop a bill from getting passed. So you have to waive a lot to get to Bradley's notion of a model Congress.

But tort reform, which is one of those conservative buzz words which has been drained of most of its meaning, has been a state issue, at the behest of Republicans, for many years, and 38 states have enacted it in one form or another. It would be curious for Republicans to compromise on universal health care in exchange for something most states already have. What's more, given that we have this evidence from over 75% of the country, we can pretty quickly determine that medical malpractice suits are at best tangential and more accurately completely meaningless to the health care debate. Josh Richman, a very good journalist in the SF Bay Area, rounds up that evidence:

From Bloomberg News:

"(A)nnual jury awards and legal settlements involving doctors amounts to “a drop in the bucket” in a country that spends $2.3 trillion annually on health care, said Amitabh Chandra, a Harvard University economist. Chandra estimated the cost at $12 per person in the U.S., or about $3.6 billion, in a 2005 study. Insurer WellPoint Inc. said last month that liability wasn’t driving premiums."

The Congressional Budget Office in 2004 concluded that medical malpractice tort reform wouldn’t have a significant effect on health care costs:

"Malpractice costs amounted to an estimated $24 billion in 2002, but that figure represents less than 2 percent of overall health care spending. Thus, even a reduction of 25 percent to 30 percent in malpractice costs would lower health care costs by only about 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent, and the likely effect on health insurance premiums would be comparably small."

And Americans for Insurance Reform, a coalition of nearly 100 consumer and public interest groups around the country, issued a report in July which found:

• Medical malpractice premiums, inflation-adjusted, are nearly the lowest they have been in over 30 years.
• Medical malpractice claims, inflation-adjusted, are dropping significantly, down 45 percent since 2000.
• Medical malpractice premiums are less than one-half of one percent of the country’s overall health care costs; medical malpractice claims are a mere one-fifth of one percent of health care costs. In over 30 years, premiums and claims have never been greater than 1% of our nation’s health care costs.

Democrats like Bill Bradley validate conservative claims on things like tort reform despite all evidence to the contrary, then decide that honest men can strike a wonderful compromise despite having no negotiating partner on the other side.

Just in case you were wondering why Democrats lose national debates.

The Newest Village Gasbag

by digby

I feel so much more informed having watched the Stephanopoulos round table with Liz Cheney, who was referred to as a "Republican Strategist." (I guess "Bipolar Strategist" Glenn Beck wasn't available.) Luckily, we had "Democratic Strategists" George Will, Gwen Ifill, Sam Donaldson and EJ Dionne on there to balance out the discussion. Not that it was necessary since she is such a reasonable, dispassionate member of the political scene, especially when it comes to the issue of torture. Let's just say she had a few things to say. At a very high decibel level.

The only one who felt comfortable arguing with her on a subject with which she was so obviously personally invested, being as she's the spawn of Torquemada and all, was Sam Donaldson who valiantly tried, but sadly, didn't have the facts at hand. The others simply grinned like jack-o-lanterns (except "village strategist" George Will who helpfully supplied some misleading facts from an anonymously sourced, self-serving article in the Washington Post. See: Greenwald)

She also argued against health care, although it was hard to understand since she apparently believes that the Democrats' proposals included torture, which she oddly seemed to be arguing was a bad thing.

Meanwhile, on John King, Orrin Hatch reiterated that the CIA is going to be too timid or too angry to stop a terrorist attack if any of them are held accountable for their actions. And once again, I have to say how much this worries me. If this is the character of the people we have working in the CIA then they all need to be fired immediately and we need to find some patriots who won't sell out their own countrymen out of fear or pique. It's a tough job and criminals, wimps and traitors don't qualify.

All in all, I learned a lot this morning --- mostly that I will never get those two hours of my life back.

It's Bork, Stupid, Part Deux

by tristero

Tobin Harshaw, writing in the NY Times Opinionator blog about Kennedy's role in the defeat of Bork's SCOTUS nomination back during Reagan, takes a swipe at this post of mine:
Tristero at Hullaballoo knows that it can be proved that Kennedy relied totally on the facts, if only somebody else would actually go and find them.
Typically, in the blogosphere, this would set off entertaining backnforth nastiness, generate mutual accusations of illiteracy, and conclude with pretzelled suggestions as to what should be put, and exactly where, to various family members related to the combatants. Instead, I'll travel the road rarely taken and simply concede, without any excuses, Harshaw's point: he's right. I should have done more studying and written a well-researched defense of Kennedy's denunciation of Bork.

More importantly, at the very least someone should have written such a post. But nobody has, at least no one with enough visibility to get on Mr. Harshaw's radar (or mine; please feel free to send links).

Kennedy's speech against Bork was one of the Senator's shining moments. It was also one of the last times that a major liberal voice swiftly and directly confronted - without retreating! - a blatant attempt to place extreme right activists in positions of power where they could wreak havoc on the country.* So... instead of celebrating Kennedy's effort, or even treating it as a he said/she said dustup, Harshaw juxtaposed two video clips - one of Kennedy, the other of the Army/McCarthy hearings.

That's right: a staff writer at the New York Times directly compared Teddy Kennedy's yeoman efforts to prevent a well-documented rightwing lunatic from becoming a Supreme Court justice to McCarthy's fact-free witchhunt against non-existent communists. Fox News didn't do this. The New York Times did.

This comparison - Ted Kennedy to Joseph McCarthy - is, to be very, very kind, utterly outrageous, but it is not entirely Harshaw's fault. Or, if you prefer, there is nothing we can do to entirely prevent such fatuous nonsense, but we can certainly make it more difficult to pull off with a straight face. So how about it progressives?**

Even more important than Kennedy/Bork, the extreme right is about to roll out many "new products" for the fall (those who remember September 2002 know what I'm talking about); some, like the "Tea Party Express," have already started and are timed to climax in September. The bestseller lists are swamped with rightwing screeds, the airwaves filled with nothing but their hateful spokesmen or expressions of sorrow, deliberately emptied of all progressive content, on Kennedy's death.

And so, whaddawegot for September?

Uh, huh. That's what I was afraid of.

*Of course. there were other liberals who've done fantastic things, eg, Wellstone. But neither he nor any other liberal has since had the national name recognition of a Kennedy or his iconic, legendary, stature. At the very least, Kennedy's derailing of Bork should not be ignored by progressives, as it has been, almost universally, during the eulogies of the past few days. He saved the country.

**Oh, you bet your bippy I'll posting the details on Bork, but I shouldn't be the only one.

Feel The Magic

by digby

If you feel like making yourself stupid, read this:

With polls showing that President Obama is losing ground, The Post asked political experts what he could do to regain the initiative. Below are contributions from Scott Keeter, Michael S. Berman, Newt Gingrich, Donna Brazile, Robert J. Blendon, Christine Todd Whitman, Dan Schnur, Ed Rogers, Harold Ford Jr. and Ed Gillespie.

It's as bad as you imagine it would be.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Night At The Movies

Torah! Torah! Torah!

By Dennis Hartley

Care to repeat that anti-Semitic remark

World War II movies can generally be divided into four distinct categories. There’s the no-nonsense, historically accurate docu-drama (The Longest Day, Battle of the Bulge, Tora! Tora! Tora!). There’s the character-driven, grunt’s-eye-view yarn that is either “based on a true story” or endeavors to retain historical feasibility (Saving Private Ryan, The Big Red One, Hell Is For Heroes). There’s the Alistair MacLean-style action-adventure fantasy; not so believable but maybe keeping at least one toe grounded in reality (Where Eagles Dare, The Dirty Dozen, The Eagle Has Landed). And finally, there’s the “alternate reality” version of Dubya Dubya Two (Castle Keep, The Mysterious Doctor, and, um, The Keep ). Quentin Tarantino’s new war epic, Inglourious Basterds, vacillates somewhere in between action-adventure fantasy and alternate reality.

Sharing scant more than a title with the, erm, more correctly spelled 1978 original (which was itself a bit of a knockoff of The Dirty Dozen) Inglourious Basterds is ultimately less concerned with WW2 than it is with giving the audience a Chuck Workman on acid montage of 20th century cinema, “101”. It’s not like we haven’t come to expect the cinematic mash-up/movie geek parlor game shtick in Tarantino’s films, but he may well have outdone himself in this outing, referencing everything from the Arnold Fanck/Leni Riefenstahl mountain movies (!) to Al Pacino’s final stand in Brian DePalma’s Scarface .

Tarantino wastes no time reminding us of his particular obsession with Sergio Leone right out of the starting gate (aka “Chapter 1” in Tarantinospeak), with a prelude cut straight out of Once Upon a Time in the Westand pasted into “Nazi-occupied France”. Remember Henry Fonda’s memorably execrable villain in that film? He appears to have a soul mate in SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a disarmingly erudite sociopath who has been assigned the task of methodically combing France to round up and eliminate Jews who might be hiding out in the countryside. Landa is very good at his “job”, which has earned him the nickname of “The Jew Hunter” (charming, no?). After setting you up with an antagonist that you know you are going to love to hate (especially after his introductory scene) Tarantino serves up some heroes that you are going to hate to love (I’m starting to think that boy just lives to make his audiences squirm…okaaay?).

A scenery-chewing Brad Pitt stars as Lieutenant Aldo Raine (whose name, I am assuming, is a clever-clever homage to the late actor Aldo Ray, who was a staple player for many years in war films like Battle Cry, The Naked and the Dead, Men in War and The Green Berets). Lt. Raine has been charged with assembling a Geneva Convention-challenged terror squad comprised of a hand-picked group of Jewish-American G.I.s. Their special assignment: Kill Nazis. Oh, I know what you might be thinking-“Wasn’t that the general goal of the Allied forces in Europe in WW II?” Yes (if I may retort), but as far as I recall, the mission orders normally didn’t include a directive to also (literally) take scalps. And forget about taking prisoners; although they usually purposely leave a lone survivor (not before they etch out a Charlie Manson-esque souvenir in his forehead).

At any rate, the self-anointed “Basterds” have managed to “carve out” quite a name for themselves, and have become the bane of evil Nazis (or as Raine refers to them in his Huckleberry Hound drawl, “GNAT-sees”) everywhere (these are some bad-ass Jews). Even the Fuhrer (Martin Wuttke) fears them; he is particularly chagrined whenever the name of the dreaded “Bear Jew” (Eli Roth) is mentioned. This particular team member (known to fellow Basterds as Sgt. Donny Donowitz) has earned his nickname from his swarthy, hulking appearance and a preference for dispatching Nazis utilizing a baseball bat (move over, Sandy Koufax). These happy Jews, this band of bubelehs have even enlisted a Nazi-hating German defector (Til Schweiger) who fits right in (he’s a psycho!).

Now, don’t despair-this outing is not strictly a Braunschweiger fest. No Tarantino film (at least from Jackie Brown onward) would be complete without an ass-kicking heroine. Shosanna Dreyfus (played with smoldering intensity by Melanie Laurent) is a French Jew with a personal score to settle with one of the main characters (yes, it does bring The Bride in Kill Bill to mind). She’s a clandestine resistance fighter (a la Melville’s Army of Shadows) who has covered up her Jewish heritage by changing her name and “hiding in plain sight” as the proprietress of a popular movie house (which of course conveniently affords Tarantino the opportunity to REALLY pile on the movie homage-and create the ultimate dream girl for film geeks like me). Her story eventually converges with the Basterds (and her quarry), which culminates in an audacious, grand guignol-fueled finale.

Love him or hate him, there are two aspects of filmmaking that Tarantino has inarguably proven to have a golden ear and an eagle eye for: crackling dialogue and spot-on casting. As usual, every actor seems to have been born to play his or her respective part in this film, especially Waltz (is there a more appropriate name for an Austrian actor?). Repellent as his character is, there is a twinkling, pure joy of performance bursting just beneath the grease paint that is exhilarating to watch. Pitt, who actually doesn’t get as much screen time as the pre-release hype and movie trailers may have led you to believe, seems to be having the time of his life. Diane Kruger is excellent as a German movie star who is feeding intelligence to the Allies. A heavily made-up Mike Myers can be seen as a British general (the type of supporting character “back at HQ” that you could picture Anthony Quayle, Jack Hawkins or Trevor Howard playing back in the day). As you might expect, there are cameos a-plenty, including Rod Taylor (as Winston Churchill) and Bo Svenson (a veteran from the original film who you’ll miss if you blink). Don’t strain your eyes trying to spot the cameos by QT stalwarts Harvey Keitel and Samuel L. Jackson; they are heard, but not seen. Tarantino appears as a dead German soldier who is shown being scalped (which undoubtedly fulfills the fantasies of some of his detractors).

One aspect that makes this film an anomaly in the QT oeuvre is the fact that much of the dialogue is spoken in-language by the French and German actors. It’s quite a testament to the director’s formidable writing skills that after the first few scenes, you don’t really notice that some characters will frequently switch idioms (especially the amazing Waltz, who proves fluency in German, French, Italian and English). Even when subtitled, the words veritably sing and dance with Tarantino’s unmistakable, idiosyncratic pentameter.

In the context of purely visual storytelling, I think that Inglourious Basterds signals the director’s most assured, mature and resplendent work to date (beautifully lensed throughout by Robert Richardson, who was the DP on both Kill Bill films and previously a veteran of 11 Oliver Stone collaborations). This is particularly evident in the film’s opening scene, which immediately draws you in with an eye-filling, gorgeously expansive exterior shot of the French countryside. The prelude to the film’s finale is arguably THE visual highlight of any QT film to date. In a possible homage to Joan Crawford’s Vienna (whose name is derived from the French word for “life”) donning her rose red blouse for the final showdown with her black-clad nemesis in Nicholas Ray’s deliriously lurid revenge western Johnny Guitar, Shosanna (whose name derives from the Hebrew word for “rose”) dons her vividly Technicolor red dress as she prepares for the showdown with her black-clad nemesis, scored with David Bowie’s “Putting Out Fire” (originally used as the theme for Paul Schrader’s 1982 version of Cat People). It’s a ballsy move by Tarantino, but not unlike his similarly brash gamble of doing a wholesale lift of the theme song from Across 110th Street for Jackie Brown’s opening credits, I’ll be damned if it ain’t the perfect choice (maybe he figured it would have been pushing his luck to also “borrow” the “harmonica man” theme from Once Upon a Time in the West?).

Finally, I wanted to share a thought or two about the violence, which is de rigueur for any Tarantino film, and which invariably provides the catalyst for discord in any conversation between QT disciples and QT detractors. Yes, scalping is an abhorrent, gruesome thing to watch. There are stabbings, shootings, and deaths by strangulation and bludgeoning. This is not Pinocchio . Yet, if you were to add up all of this simulated mayhem in actual screen time, I’m guesstimating that it wouldn’t be much more than 10 minutes (out of a 153 minute total running time). With the possible exception of Kill Bill - Volume One (an over-the-top affair in the bloodletting department by anyone’s standards) I think that the knee-jerk tendency is to perceive a higher ratio of violence in Tarantino’s films than actually exists. In fact, do you want to know which scene has the most white-knuckled, edge-of-your seat, heart-pounding suspense in this film? A fucking game of charades. Charades. I won’t spoil it for you; just know that wherever Alfred Hitchcock is, he’s probably looking down on QT with a nod and a wink…from one inglourious basterd to another.

All The Way To The End

by digby

Ted Kennedy "politicized" his own funeral, in his own words, written in a letter to the Pope and read by Cardinal McCarrick at Arlington National Cemetery:

I want you to know, your Holiness, that in my nearly 50 years of elective office I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I've worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I've opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States Senator.

I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to get access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national policy that guarantees health care for everyone.

Go ahead. Wellstone that, wingnuts.

Update: Ed Rollins just said that Senator Kennedy got the last word.

Let's hope so.


One Of Them

by digby

Just documenting the atrocities. It speaks for itself:

President Barack Obama is a fascist.

This and other assertions flew through an emotionally-charged town hall meeting conducted by Sen. Chuck Grassley Monday in Pocahontas.

"The president of the United States, that's who you should be concerned about. Because he's acting like a little Hitler," said Tom Eisenhower, a World War II veteran. "I'd take a gun to Washington if enough of you would go with me."


Grassley said the attendance at the town hall meetings has been six times what it was last year.

"It's great that so many people are getting involved and want to participate in these meetings," he said. "I want to hear what people have to say, and encourage every Iowan to participate in the democratic process by having dialogue with their elected representatives."


Dwayne Hornor, of Varina, said he still was not satisfied that his concerns had been addressed, but that he was, however, satisfied with Sen. Grassley.

"Grassley is pretty much, how would you say, one of us," he said. "If it had been Harkin this might have been a bit more vocal."

He's one of them alright. Borderline nuts.

Why is it that these people keep alluding to shooting Obama all the time? (And why doesn't anyone give a damn?) Are they so far gone that they really believe that potential government spending requires them to start shooting? Seriously, nobody's taxes have gone up. Nobody's. The recession was already a year old when Obama took office and Bush spent a huge surplus on tax cuts for rich people which these fools all applauded like trained seals.

So they are not very convincing when they try to say that their violent rhetoric is based upon some abstract fear of deficits and socialism. Nothing that Obama has done so far can possibly justify the wild-eyed, slavering, full blown lunacy we are seeing at these town halls.

The simple truth is that they are all a bunch of self-centered, childish sore losermen who refuse to accept that a Democrat won the presidency. And for at least some of them, the fact that a black Democrat won the presidency has obviously sent them around the bend. They are in the grip of a powerful reckoning in which it turns out that most Americans don't actually agree with their cramped worldview. Hence the crack-up.

Does Satan Have Good Intentions?

by digby

As most of you know, I'm not a religious person, although I try to always be respectful of those who are believers. There is much I don't know and in this realm I just try to maintain my secular equilibrium. But please, could someone who knows more about theology than I do please, please explain this to me?

Over at Townhall, horrible little shit Gary Bauer offers the Christian Case for Torture.

For Christians, intent is integral to determining whether and when certain techniques, including water-boarding, are morally permissible.

I guess the reason it was wrong to crucify Jesus was because the Romans had bad intentions, otherwise it would have been perfectly justified. It certainly explains why the Inquisition was fine and dandy. You learn something new every day.

And then there's this:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been lobbying for three decades for the federal government to provide universal health insurance, especially for the poor. Now, as President Obama tries to rally Roman Catholics and other religious voters around his proposals to do just that, a growing number of bishops are speaking out against it.

As recently as July, the bishops’ conference had largely embraced the president’s goals, although with the caveat that any health care overhaul avoid new federal financing of abortions. But in the last two weeks some leaders of the conference, like Cardinal Justin Rigali, have concluded that Democrats’ efforts to carve out abortion coverage are so inadequate that lawmakers should block the entire effort.

Others, echoing the popular alarms about “rationing,” contend that the proposals could put a premium on efficacy that could penalize the chronically ill.

“No health care reform is better than the wrong sort of health care reform,” Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, declared in a recent pastoral letter, urging the faithful to call their members of Congress.

In a diocesan newspaper column this week, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver agreed, saying the proposal was “not only imprudent; it’s also dangerous.”

The bishops’ opposition — published in diocesan newspapers, disseminated online by conservative activists, and reported in a Roman Catholic newspaper to be distributed this weekend at churches around the country — is another setback for Mr. Obama’s health care efforts. His administration has been counting on the support of Catholic leaders to help rally believers behind his health care plan. Just last week, he held a conference call with 140,000 religious voters to appeal to what he called their “moral convictions.”

I think this pretty clearly outlines what their "moral convictions" are and they don't seem to apply to people who are already born.

I don't mean to tar all Christians with these examples. But I do wonder about Christian Churches which accept this stuff. And I am more convinced than ever that trying to find "common ground" with people who agree with or fail to speak out against this myopic moral worldview out of common decency is a waste of time. Many churches are, as they ever were, political institutions with a political agenda and a thirst for power. Pretending otherwise is folly.


LA Invitation

by digby

All of you folks who live here in "the Southland" (or anywhere else for that matter) are cordially invited to come meet our good friend and wonderful writer Dave Neiwert next Tuesday, September 1st at Brave New Studios to hear him speak about his new book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.

There times when a writer publishes a book at exactly the right moment and this is one of them. With violent mainstream rhetoric hitting peaks we haven't seen in nearly 40 years, the village is struggling to comprehend where it's all coming from and what it means. They haven't been paying attention. And because of that there are many people out in the country who are shocked by it too.

Neiwert's book explains the method by which this malignant discourse begins on the fringes and finds its way into the mainstream. It's a primer that everyone, particularly journalists and politicians, should read in order to fully understand why the tea parties are anything but benign exercises in free speech.

So, if you can, come meet Dave at Brave New Studios to hear him talk with John Amato about this timely and important subject. It promises to be a very enlightening (and fun!) evening.

Here are the event details:
Date: Tuesday, September 1st

Time: There will be a reception at 6 pm. The program will begin promptly at 6:30 pm.

Note: Please be aware that they are filming this event so the studio door will be shut at 6:30 pm sharp.

Location: 10536 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232
Please enter through the gate behind the building.

RSVP: Please RSVP by emailing ewagner-at -bravenewfoundation.org
Seating is very limited, so we will be taking a small number of RSVPs.

Parking: There is free parking on the streets on either side of our building.
Please do not park in the parking spots behind the building as they are reserved.

I hope to see you there.