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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Poor Judgment

by digby

Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman reported this unpleasant news (for anyone who cares about morality and the rule of law) on Friday night:

[A]n upcoming Justice Department report from its ethics-watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the “torture” memos of professional-misconduct allegations.

While the probe is sharply critical of the legal reasoning used to justify waterboarding and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques, NEWSWEEK has learned that a senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action—which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

The report, which is still going through declassification, will provide many new details about how waterboarding was adopted and the role that top White House officials played in the process, say two sources who have read the report but asked for anonymity to describe a sensitive document. Two of the most controversial sections of the 2002 memo—including one contending that the president, as commander in chief, can override a federal law banning torture—were not in the original draft of the memo, say the sources. But when Michael Chertoff, then-chief of Justice’s criminal division, refused the CIA’s request for a blanket pledge not to prosecute its officers for torture, Yoo met at the White House with David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief counsel, and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. After that, Yoo inserted a section about the commander in chief’s wartime powers and another saying that agency officers accused of torturing Qaeda suspects could claim they were acting in “self-defense” to prevent future terror attacks, the sources say. Both legal claims have long since been rejected by Justice officials as overly broad and unsupported by legal precedent.

That's excellent news. Now we know that all the president ever has to do is call in a legal functionary and have him write a memo legalizing whatever he wants to do and he's good to go. I feel safer already.

Emptywheel has more, here. She calls it "painful" and I have to agree. The whole report is likely to be a whole lot worse.

No Mystery

by digby

So, Tom Harkin says that they had a HCR deal in place before the Massachusetts election. Dday wonders if the administration would like those three months in which they comments:
Kevin Drum sees a silver lining here, that there exists a pathway amenable to everyone that merely can be accomplished by the House passing the Senate bill, and the additional fixes done in a reconciliation “sidecar.” But he adds, “Why this isn’t happening is a mystery.”

No it isn’t. There are several major stumbling blocks where reconciliation simply won’t work. The biggest one is abortion, though the design of the exchanges doesn’t seem to be a real good fit for reconciliation, either. But the abortion issue is the one that doesn’t have a sidecar fix where the votes are probably consequential. Nobody has yet figured out how to overcome the dozen or so Stupak followers who would vote against the entire bill if Ben Nelson’s compromise on abortion services funding remains. Jim Moran seemed to hint at a deal on that front, but with the Senate composed as it is there doesn’t seem to be a good way to accomplish it. Basically you’re talking about a stand-alone deal affirming the Hyde Amendment and banning coverage on the exchanges. And if that is the only path for passage of the entire bill, don’t expect Republicans, even those who are virulently anti-choice, to help out with that. They don’t have much of a problem voting against things they supported in the recent past.

I would actually love to see the Republicans put in that position. But since Stupak and his made men are working with the Republicans I doubt it will come to that. But it would be an interesting moment for them.

The Simple Answer

by digby

More Krugman:

Those who think that “too big to fail” is the essence of the problem have to explain why Canada, with basically just five banks, has avoided crisis. Those who blame the Fed for keeping interest rates too low too long have to explain why Canada, which basically had the same interest rate experience we did, didn’t have anything like the same problems.

So what’s Canada’s secret? Regulation, regulation, regulation. Much stricter limits on leverage, much stricter limits on unconventional mortgages, and an independent consumer protection agency for borrowers.

Barney Frank’s reform bill would move the United States a long way in Canada’s direction. And that may be the simplest way to explain why it’s a good thing, eh?

In a conversation last evening with some smart friends I idly mused that perhaps the Republicans would figure out a way to "support" some very watered down legislation so they could cop some of that populist cream in the election. But I suppose the question is whether or not the bankers will allow their employees to do that --- and what is entailed in the bills. If it's Canadian style banking regulation, I think I was wrong.  They cannot sign on to regulations. Indeed, I'm not entirely sure they can pass it in the House or get 51 votes in the Senate for that.

It's too bad if that's the case because the Democrats really need to place at least some of the blame for this mess on the big money boyz who gambled and lost.  And they need to use government to fix it unless they truly do want  the Republicans to reap the rewards by touting deregulation as the problem. Of course, that assumes they want to retain the majority, which they quite possibly do not. Governing is a pain.

Ailes And "It"

by digby

The ABC round table got much more interesting today with the addition of Roger Ailes to the roundtable. (I suppose the right could characterize it as their answer to obama's foray into the Republican Lion's Den last Friday.)

KRUGMAN: If I can just — you know, what bothers me is not the nasty language. Glenn Beck doesn’t, you know, it’s not — what bothers me is the fact that people are not getting informed, that we are going through major debates on crucial policy issues; the public is not learning about them. And you know, you can say, well, they can read the New York Times, which will tell them what they need to know, but you know, most people don’t. They don’t read it thoroughly. They get — on this health care thing, I’m a little obsessed with it, because it’s a key issue for me. People did not know what was in the plan, and some of that was just poor reporting, some of it was deliberate misinformation. I have here in front of me when President Obama said, you know, why — he said rhetorically, why aren’t we going to do a health care plan like the Europeans have, with a government-run program, and then proceeds to explain whey he’s different. On Fox News, what appeared was a clipped quote, “why don’t we have a European-style health care plan?” Right, deliberate misinformation.

All of that has contributed to a situation where the public…

AILES: Wait a minute, wait a minute…

KRUGMAN: I can show you the clip, and you can…

AILES: The American people are not stupid…

KRUGMAN: No, they’re not stupid. They are uninformed.

AILES: If you say — if (inaudible) words are in the Constitution, if the founding fathers managed — they didn’t need 2,000 pages of lawyers to hide things, then tell, then tell…

KRUGMAN: Oh, come on. Legislation always is long.

AILES: … then tell people it’s an emergency that we get it, but it won’t go into effect for three years. So you don’t have time to read it, you…

KRUGMAN: People, again, this was a plan that is — it’s actually a Republican plan. It’s Mitt Romney’s health care plan. People were led to believe that it was socialism. That’s — and that was deliberate. That wasn’t just poor reporting.

HUFFINGTON: Well, Roger, it’s not a question of picking a fight. And aren’t you concerned about the language that Glenn Beck is using, which is, after all, inciting the American people? There is a lot of suffering out there, as you know, and when he talks about people being slaughtered, about who is going to be the next in the killing spree…

AILES: Well, he was talking about Hitler and Stalin slaughtering people. So I think he was probably accurate. Also, I’m a little….

HUFFINGTON: No, no, he was talking about this administration.

AILES: I don’t — I think he speaks English. I don’t know, but I mean, I don’t misinterpret any of his words. He did say one unfortunate thing, which he apologized for, but that happens in live television. So I don’t think it’s — I think if we start going around as the word police in this business, it will be…

HUFFINGTON: It’s not about the word police. It’s about something deeper. It’s about the fact that there is a tradition as the historian Richard Hofstetter said, in American politics, of the paranoid style. And the paranoid style is dangerous when there is real pain out there. I mean, with…

AILES: I agree with you. I read something on your blog that said I looked like J. Edgar Hoover, I had a face like a fist, and I was essentially a malignant tumor…

HUFFINGTON: Well, that’s…

AILES: And I thought — and then it got nasty after that…

HUFFINGTON: … that was never by anybody that we ...

AILES: Then it really went nasty, and I thought, gee, maybe Arianna ought to cut this out, but…

Hofstadter would simply summon his inner Frenchman and say, "et voila."

Taylor Marsh made a very  smart observation about Walters' other sexy interview:
Scott Brown doesn’t even have a business card, but people are asking him about 2012. My favorite part of the Walters interview is that Brown has “no regrets” about his nude Cosmo spread.

Brown told Barbara Walters “you have to have a sense of humor about yourself,” and links the centerfold to many of his successes that came later in life. “If I hadn’t done that… I never would have been sitting here with you. It’s all connected,” Brown told Walters.

It’s a reminder of political symbolism that now exists, where resume and policy are puny substitutes for the “it” factor, especially when it meets the perfect moment in time.

The Republicans are especially adept at this kind of politics. They are the ones who turn movie stars into presidents, after all. But in what is probably a very astute reading of the zeitgeist, they have recently been focusing heavily on the sex symbol style: Schwarzenneger, Palin, Carrie Prejean, now Scott Brown. (It's quite bold of them to go for the male centerfold, I admit, since that makes them feel all funny down there and all, but they can get away with things that Democrats can't because they don't have to worry about hypocrisy.)

Liberals usually have a leg up in popular culture, to be sure (except for the torture and violence porn that's so beloved by Americans of all stripes.) But when it comes to American Idol politics, and even despite the star power of Obama and the first lady, the Republicans are way out ahead. They've completely  moved beyond talent, intelligence, skill or experience and are now strictly focused on crazy blowhards and unadulterated sex appeal. It worked for Fox.

Too Little Too Late

by digby

Here's an interesting story in today's NY Times about the teabuggers. It discusses the interlocking relationships among the men an specifically notes the involvement of the Leadership Institute, which will be very familiar to longtime readers of this blog. Evidently, even Morton Blackwell eventually thought their "activism" was a bit much.

This story obviously wasn't that difficult to unravel. But the press didn't bother to do it until these guys were arrested on a federal offense. Instead, they flagellated themselves for failing to take the "reporters" as seriously as Fox news took them. Remember this?

ON Sept. 12, an Associated Press article inside The Times reported that the Census Bureau had severed its ties to Acorn, the community organizing group. Robert Groves, the census director, was quoted as saying that Acorn, one of thousands of unpaid organizations promoting the 2010 census, had become “a distraction.”

What the article didn’t say — but what followers of Fox News and conservative commentators already knew — was that a video sting had caught Acorn workers counseling a bogus prostitute and pimp on how to set up a brothel staffed by under-age girls, avoid detection and cheat on taxes. The young woman in streetwalker’s clothes and her companion were actually undercover conservative activists with a hidden camera.

It was an intriguing story: employees of a controversial outfit, long criticized by Republicans as corrupt, appearing to engage in outrageous, if not illegal, behavior. An Acorn worker in Baltimore was shown telling the “prostitute” that she could describe herself to tax authorities as an “independent artist” and claim 15-year-old prostitutes, supposedly illegal immigrants, as dependents.

But for days, as more videos were posted and government authorities rushed to distance themselves from Acorn, The Times stood still. Its slow reflexes — closely following its slow response to a controversy that forced the resignation of Van Jones, a White House adviser — suggested that it has trouble dealing with stories arising from the polemical world of talk radio, cable television and partisan blogs. Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself.

Some editors told me they were not immediately aware of the Acorn videos on Fox, YouTube and a new conservative Web site called BigGovernment.com. When the Senate voted to cut off all federal funds to Acorn, there was not a word in the newspaper, although a report in the Caucus blog that day covered the action. When the New York City Council froze all its funding for Acorn and the Brooklyn district attorney opened a criminal investigation, there was still nothing.


I thought politics was emphasized too much, at the expense of questions about an organization whose employees in city after city participated in outlandish conversations about illegal and immoral activities. (Acorn suggested some videos were doctored but fired or suspended many of the employees.)


Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person “a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere.”

Despite what the critics think, Abramson said the problem was not liberal bias.

Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, said he has studied journalists for years, and though they are more liberal than the general population, he believes they are motivated by the desire to get good stories, not to help one particular side. Conservatives who believe The Times isn’t critical of Democrats forget that the paper broke damaging stories about the personal finances of Representative Charles Rangel and the hiring of prostitutes by Eliot Spitzer.

But Rosenstiel said The Times has a particular problem with conservatives, especially after its article last year suggesting that John McCain had an extramarital affair. And Republicans earlier this year charged that the paper killed a story about Acorn that would have been a “game changer” in the presidential election — a claim I found to be false.

“If you know you are a target, it requires extra vigilance,” Rosenstiel said. “Even the suspicion of a bias is a problem all by itself.”

A little extra vigilance might have been useful in the follow-up to the ACORN "revelations," in which it was revealed that the tapes had been doctored. (It turns out that the O'Keefe gang had done a similar "expose" on Planned Parenthood, in which that organization had been forced to apologize to end the phony controversy, a fact which was also taken as an admission of guilt by the press.)Had they done that rather than fold under criticism by conservatives, they would known that all of this was done by acolytes of the Leadership Institute, run by the original dirty trickster, Morton Blackwell.

Instead, they promised to be more vigilant about following Fox News and talk radio's lead so they wouldn't miss out on these important "scoops" in the future. No wonder newspapers are dying.

Mrs Borat

by digby

I just realized what the problem is. She speaks as if English is her second language:

All the extra words, many of which are only barely applicable, combined with her truly bizarre sing-song cadence really does sound like a foreign language. Foreign planet that is.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Night At The Movies

CSI: Vaslui

By Dennis Hartley

Somebody’s watching me: Police, Adjective

“What do you think; would not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds?”
-Fyodor Dostoevsky

I think most people would agree that Bullittand The French Connectionqualify as two of the most seminal and recognizable examples of the “cop thriller”. Although each film has garnered a reputation primarily based upon its respective Big Chase Scene, what makes them most fascinating to me is the attention to minutia in the more static (some might say “boring”) parts of the narrative. In Bullitt, it’s a scene where Steve McQueen’s title character comes home after a shift. He walks into a corner grocery and perfunctorily scoops up about a week’s worth of TV dinners, without discerning their contents, then retires to his modest apartment to basically zone out. It’s a protracted sequence, virtually wordless, that may at first glance appear superfluous, but speaks volumes about the character. A likeminded scene in The French Connection depicts police detective Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) shivering outside in the cold for hours, wolfing street vendor food and drinking bad coffee out of a Styrofoam cup as he stakes out his quarry (Fernando Rey), who is enjoying a leisurely gourmet meal in an upscale restaurant. Both films demonstrate how unglamorous and mundane police work actually is in practice. It’s an underlying reality that most filmmakers working within the genre these days generally choose to overlook; more often than not, they opt to just “cut to the chase”, as it were.

“Unglamorous and mundane” could be a good descriptive for Police, Adjective, the latest film from Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest). In fact, this is the type of film that requires any viewer weaned on typical Hollywood grist to first unlearn what they have previously learned about crime dramas. There are no foot chases, car chases, shootouts, takedowns or perp walks. There are no fast cuts or pulse-pounding musical cues rolled out to telegraph “Dramatic Tension Ahead!” In short, the viewer is forced to (gulp!) pay attention, to observe, to surveil…to “stake out” the characters and events, if you will. The devil is in the details (you know-like real detective work.) And your reward? Well, you may not solve a major crime, but you could reach a certain state of enlightenment via a 15-minute climax involving a Dostoevskian discourse on the dialectics of law, morality and conscience (What?! You mean nothing blows up?!).

You do get some ample time to, um, observe, especially since you are watching a plainclothes cop named Cristi (Dragos Bucur) as he surveils a teenage suspect who may or may not be a low-level pot dealer…pretty much in real time for the first half of the film. Then, as if we haven’t received an adequate taste of Cristi’s job-related tedium, Porumboiu appends each sequence with a static, several-minute long close-up of the officer’s handwritten report, annotating every detail of what we have just seen. It’s almost as if we’re reading the shooting script; which made me wonder if the director was impishly conveying an allusion to the relative tedium of the filmmaking process as well (if you’re a fidgety viewer with a short attention span- consider yourself duly warned). Based on my description so far, you may be saying to yourself “This movie sounds like a waste of time.” Funny thing is, that is exactly what Cristi is thinking about his stakeout. He is becoming increasingly chagrined that his boss (Vlad Ivonov, an actor I took special note of in my review of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) insists that he keeps digging until he finds cause to set up a sting, because he intuits that it’s merely a case of a few kids just “being kids”-hanging out and getting high together, as opposed to a major drug operation. Besides, Cristi feels in his heart of hearts that his country is on the verge of joining other European nations in lightening up the penalties for personal pot use (yes-the innate stupidity of most pot laws appears to be universal, and requires no translation).

Cristi’s boss, however, sees this subjective attitude toward his assignment as an opportunity to teach the young officer an object lesson about the meaning of “duty”; literally starting with the etymology of the word “police” (hence the film’s unusual title). I know that sounds as dull as dish water, and it’s really difficult to convey exactly what it is that makes this film work so well; but if you stick with it, you will find yourself entertained, despite the challenging pacing. It may sound like it has the makings of a sober, introspective drama, but there is actually a great deal of comedy throughout. It’s not “ha-ha” funny, but extremely wry and deadpan funny (think Jim Jarmusch). One scene in particular, in which Cristi and his school teacher wife (Irina Saulescu) spiritedly banter about the lyrics of a pop song (literal vs. metaphorical context) is a real gem. I thought the film was also a fascinating glimpse at a post-E.U. Romania, and the unenviable task of redefining “policing” in a formerly oppressive police state still gingerly feeling its way as a democracy. Besides-when is the last time you saw a cop thriller wherein the most formidable weapon brandished was…a Romanian dictionary?

Note: The film is available on PPV in some markets…which gives you the option of, y’know…zipping through those surveillance scenes (I mean, erm, that’s what I’ve heard).

Reach Out

by digby

It would appear people are extremely happy that Obama hit it out of the park yesterday in his appearance at the Republican retreat yesterday, so I'm in a minority of those who think it wasn't all that. It's not that I don't think he performed well. He always performs well. And he's smart as can be, so I expect him to be able to parry lugubrious misrepresentations from idiots without any trouble at all. We liberals love that stuff.

Certainly, it is a welcome thing if he was able to please his supporters because they have been sorely disappointed lately and they deserved something to cheer about so I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade. Morale is important and if he made people feel charged up that's all to the good.

However, I remain concerned that the message is not as clear to the rest of the country as his supporters think it was. ("Don't mess with Obama.") I watched Clinton do this type of thing over and over again and it didn't change the dynamic at all. He was personally successful, but liberal ideology was degraded every time he conceded something like "I think we raised taxes too much" or "the era of big government is over." People loved his ability to out talk his accusers (in his case it was a real high wire act) but the agenda suffered greatly from his ceaseless efforts to cajole a psychotically hostile opposition into working with him. It resulted in passage of center right policies and his own impeachment. But then he didn't have a huge majority in congress either.

I suspect that average voters don't see Obama being persecuted as Clinton was, or subject to non-stop calumny by a rabid Republican majority. The Republicans aren't doing anything (and that's the problem.) I think people see Obama conceding that he hasn't been bipartisan enough and that he intends to keep trying. And that will never be a winner for our side because all the Republicans have to do is continue to obstruct to prove him a failure.

The Washington Post characterized the meeting in typical Goldilocks fashion:

Rarely has there been such an encounter between a president and the opposition party and certainly never on national television. It was the antithesis of the kind of snarling exchanges that often pass for political dialogue, whether between strategists in the two parties, candidates in the heat of a campaign or on the worst of cable television.

Nothing is likely to change overnight. "The main benefit is that greater interaction builds a measure of trust between the president and congressional Republicans," said John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute. "Trust opens up possibilities for collaboration on some future issue with a more bipartisan character. It also builds trust, which might come in handy if there is a different future political dynamic, like narrower Democratic majorities after the midterm election, or even possibly GOP control of one house."

In the short run, there was plenty of scorekeeping by partisans -- and reason for both sides to feel good about what happened at the House GOP retreat in Baltimore.

For Obama, who is trying to reestablish his standing with the American people after a difficult first year in office, it was the opportunity to rebut his opponents' criticisms while prodding them to abandon their rigid opposition to his major initiatives and begin to cooperate. White House officials were ecstatic with his performance.

For House Republicans, it meant having the president acknowledge on national television that they have ideas of their own. The office of House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) issued a release Saturday morning that said, in part, "The president himself helped put to rest once and for all baseless claims by members of his own administration that Republicans are the 'party of no.' "

Ultimately, the event may have been most beneficial for Obama, who badly needs a boost. He has emerged as the most polarizing first-year president in history. In that year, unemployment hit 10 percent, his health-care initiative failed to pass the Congress, his poll numbers eroded, independents deserted the Democrats in major statewide elections and some members of his party hit the panic button after Republican Scott Brown won the special Senate election in Massachusetts.

On Friday, however, Obama reminded his opponents of the singular power of the presidency, delivering a performance that easily eclipsed his State of the Union address. He was knowledgeable about GOP counterproposals. He was robust in his rebuttals without being peevish. He may not have won over his conservative critics, who snickered when he said he was not an ideologue, but he was able, repeatedly, to sound the call for bipartisanship and to challenge the opposition to help lower temperatures.

The Post saw the meeting as a welcome sign that the president was a powerful politician bent on using the bully pulpit to force bipartisanship. Unfortunately, they are not sure that Democrats have gotten their marching orders:

Obama's performance cheered Democrats primarily because they believe he bested the Republicans, not because he advanced the cause of bipartisanship.

Given that, further efforts to reach across the aisle may prove elusive. Asked what other confidence building measures might be offered, a White House official demurred. "I don't know the answer to that off the top of my head," he said. "One of the most important things is to continue the dialogue. It's hard to go beyond dialogue if you can't even have dialogue."

That will be the next test for Obama and congressional leaders in both parties.

If the dialog is the message then perhaps the Post is right --- he's using the bully pulpit to promote his bipartisan intentions. But given that there's a snowball's chance in hell that the Republicans would behave in a bipartisan manner even if Obama agreed to completely eliminate the capital gains tax, I'm not sure validating their good faith gets us anywhere.

If all this only means that Democrats will continue to move further right in order to reach across the aisle then I don't suppose it hurts anything --- they are already stretching themselves into pretzels to get there. But if the Republicans continue to successfully obstruct and then criticize Obama for failing to achieve his promise of bipartisanship, I think it exacerbates the problems we already have coming up in November. I suppose the American people may see through their ruse, but I think it might be just a little bit too complicated: they just see Obama unable to achieve bipartisan agreement with people he repeatedly portrays as rational actors. Therefore, he is weak and the Democratic agenda isn't mainstream.

I'm happy to be wrong about this and hope fervently that this interaction really did create a whole new dynamic in Washington. At the very least, Obama got to answer his knuckle headed critics so there is some satisfaction in that. But my intuition tells me that it won't change anything and could make things worse in the long run if Obama further backs himself into the bipartisan corner.

What Happened?

by digby

Brian Beutler has compiled a list of probable reasons why health care reform is now on life support. It's probably a little bit of all of them, but if I had to pick one thing it would be allowing Max Baucus to drag the damn thing out so long that everyone in the country was so appalled by the political process they couldn't stand even thinking about it anymore. It's a real mistake to squander public opinion. Once that's gone, Democrats always run for the hills.

But what the hell is it about Democrats that compels them to prematurely celebrate and then take a vacation all the time? it's proven to be a mistake over and over again.

Just As Bad

by digby

Tony Blair proves that you don't have to sound like a dribbling moron to be just as idiotic as George W. Bush.

* "This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception. It’s a decision. I had to take the decision. I believed, and in the end the Cabinet believed - so did Parliament incidentally - that we were right not to run that risk."

* "The decision I took - and frankly would take again - was if there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him. That was my view then and that is my view now."

* "This is a profoundly wicked, I would say almost psychopathic, man [Saddam Hussein]. We were obviously worried that after him his two sons seemed to be as bad, if not worse."

* "The point about those acts in New York is that, had they been able to kill more people than the 3,000, they would have. My view was you can't take risks with this issue."

* "Supposing we had backed off this military action, supposing we had left Saddam and his sons who were going to follow him in charge of Iraq - he had used chemical weapons, caused the death of over a million people.”

* On his claim in the dossier that Iraq possessed WMD: "What I said in the foreword was that I believed I was beyond doubt. I did believe it and I did believe that it was beyond doubt."

He went on to say "I have learned absolutely nothing and have no regrets whatsoever about being completely wrong about everything."

Nowhere To Say It

by digby

John at Crooks and Liars raises an interesting question about the probable results of the Citizens United case: what happens when all the expensive free speech is bought and there's none left for the rest of us?
I've had some experience with trying to buy ad space during elections, and as the days creep closer to one, the ad space becomes more expensive, for the most part. At least in my experience.

My question is what happens when Big Corp decides to buy up the last month, or two or three, of available ad space on all major media outlets for a particular election? That would have an incredible impact on either an election or like we have in California, a proposition. We saw what happened when the Mormons bought up a ton of air time in California to oppose Prop. 8.

I suppose the standard answer to that will be that there are a lot of cable networks out there, and there's the internet, so there's nothing to worry about, but I think it really does set up a problem. In our virtual town square, where every person, community group and corporation has the same right to speak, there are varying degrees of space and time in which to do it. If the corporations are allowed to buy up all the rows in the front and all the time slots before the vote is taken, it's pretty clear that the right to exercise free speech is being restricted. It seems to me that the right of free speech, particularly political speech, must contain the right to have your words heard as much as the right to speak them, or it doesn't add up to much.

Anyway, on practical terms, the fact is that TV ads are very expensive and there are only so many of them to go around. In states like California they are virtually the only way people hear about elections since there is no political press and no coverage on the news. It's always been a problem and is going to get worse with the ruling, as we get closer to the election and all the slots get bought out ahead of time. It's not impossible to see a scenario in which wealthy interests could simply buy up all the TV time in advance and have an election in which most people only hear one side of the story.

I don't have an answer for what to do about it except to advocate the standard progressive solution --- publicly financed campaigns. It seems to be more remote than ever but we should keep trying.

Oh, and let's try to impeach Roberts and Alito too. Just for fun.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Educational Programs

by digby

My Angry Penis

MY PENIS IS ANGRY!!!!!!! You want to know what happened to my penis? Joan happened to my penis! There I was, sleeping peacefully when Joan stormed in and dragged me out for “an educational program.” I thought was going to see Mr. Rogers! But nooooooo! It turned out to be the “Whine-gina Monologues!”

Yeah, that's weird and distasteful all right. Go read Emptywheel and Lindsay to find out just how weird and distasteful it really is.

Each new generation of wingnuts proves anew that the heart of their philosophy is a primal sexual insecurity.

Giving Himself Away

by digby

It would appear that Rahm finally said something so obvious that even the Cheeto-hating New Republic has had enough. Jonathan Cohn writes:

Rahm Emanuel thinks health care reform can wait. In an interview with the New York Times, Emanuel suggested that Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health care reform. As Ezra Klein observes:
The timetable Emanuel is laying out makes little sense. The jobs bill will take some time. Financial regulation will take much longer. Let's be conservative and give all this four months. Is Emanuel really suggesting that he expects Congress to return to health-care reform in the summer before the election? Forgetting whether there's political will at that point, there's no personnel: Everyone is home campaigning.
Moreover, there's a time limit on health-care reform. The open reconciliation instructions the Senate could use to modify the bill expire when the next budget is (there's disagreement over the precise rule on this) considered or passed. That is to say, the open reconciliation instructions expire soon. Democrats could build new reconciliation instructions into the next budget, but that's going to be a heavy lift. The longer this takes, the less likely it is to happen. And Emanuel just said that the administration's preference is to let it take longer. If I were a doctor, I'd downgrade health care's prognosis considerably atop this evidence.

My colleague Jonathan Chait agrees, and offers this helpful analogy:
Let's call this the "My boyfriend is going to do a world tour with his rock band, then have a totally platonic weekend in Vegas with his ex-girlfriend, then join the Army, and then we'll get married" plan. Anybody see any potential problems here?

The most generous reading I can give is that he's trying to derail any efforts to pass a public option or medicare buy-in through reconciliation and ensure that none of the deals he struck will be harmed in the process.

Which leads me to ask if they still don't ask the right question: did Rahm ever want to pass real health care reform? And if he did, can there be any excuse for his having mangled the legislative strategy so badly?

From the absurd strategy to try to call health care reform "deficit reduction", to backroom deals after the president ran explicitly on transparency, to allowing the hostage taking by the Gang of Six for months to a dozen other inexplicable tactics --- it all makes the most sense if you already assume that he wasn't fully committed to its passage.

Maybe not. I'm not one to mythologize single actors, and I do believe that the buck always stops with the president. But either Rahm is a brilliant legislative strategist, in which case he didn't bother to use his great powers to pass health care reform for reasons we can only speculate about, given the stakes --- or his reputation for brilliance is extremely overrated. But Rahm's culpability, whether intentional or not, has long been obvious and there's nothing surprising in these recent statements.

What She Left Out

by digby

This week Sally Quinn famously wrote an already notorious column about how all the presidents hav dissed the Village in recent years by refusing to socialize. She even gave George W. Bush a little slap for going to bed at 9:30.

But Bush wasn't really the president, was he?

The Cheneys have created one of the city's only salons, a voluntary activity you wouldn't expect from a man whose idea of heaven is fly-fishing in silence. About every six weeks, the Cheneys invite 16 scholars, artists and authors for dinner. Lynne kicks off the discussion but is aware the group doesn't need much help, since there are few shrinking violets. "Smart people are naturally funny and clever." The Cheneys spend some nights at official events, like the Kennedy Center Honors, other nights eating off trays in the den and a surprising number of nights casually out and about. The Cheneys have even dined at the mecca of Georgetown limousine liberals, chez Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. The Cheneys are the most social of the Bushies, asserts Quinn, which she feels accounts for the relatively friendly press coverage the Vice President gets. "It's harder to trash someone you've had pasta with the night before."

That's an article from 2002 about Lynne Cheney, by the way. If you want to revisit just how sycophantic and servile the press was during that period, give it a gander.

And then ask yourself if they've learned anything.

What Works

by digby

Here's how CNN is characterizing Obama's trek inside the lion's den so far:

Rick Sanchez: the tweets I've seen so far seem to indicate, and frankly one of them was from Virginia Fox, uh, but the tweets I've read seem to characterize this meeting as not so good, almost as --- they hate this guy.

Jessica Yellin: There is enormous frustration toward the president from Republicans in that room. One of the members stood up and said, "Mr President, you also have broken your promises. You said you'd hold health care negotiations on CSPAN, they were held behind closed doors. You promised that there would be no lobbyists in top positions, they're there." So enormous frustrations on both sides.

Look, the parties are at this critical pivotal moment. Do they want, does the Republican party want to make some bipartisan deals with Democrats, so that they avoid being called the Party of No going into the 2010 election, and let the Democrats have a win on bipartisanship? Or do they decide not to go along with President Obama on anything and risk being called the Party of No.

On the other hand, the Democrats are in the very awkward position of trying to compromise but how much are they willing to give up?

So, it's a very difficult dance. And Rick, I go back to that focus group I talked to you about during the state of the union. It's much more imperative right now for independents, that President Obama achieve bipartisanship. Independents blame President Obama more for the lack of bipartisanship because they say he promised to change things, the other side didn't promise to change it so it's up to him.

I think his performance was quite good. But I also think that his appearance there, as if he'd been summoned to explain himself, looks like weakness, especailly in a week in which he already gave a major address. The optics look very dicey to me.

Be that as it may (and I could be wrong) everyone surely must realize that if what Yellin just said is correct and the vaunted Soccer Independent Dads believe that it is 100% up to Obama to be bipartisan, then the Republicans have absolutely no real incentive to meet him halfway. Their base is fired up. If they can convince enough of these illogical SIDs that Obama has failed because he didn't magically deliver kumbaaya as promised, then they win by default.

This is a terribly important game they are playing and I don't think they are getting it right. On the optics, the President should have summoned them to him, not gone to them. As much as I wish it were different, we have no tradition of the Prime Minister question hour in America and the average voter will see his being put on the spot in that setting as a weakness.

And while his answers were all very convincing to me and, I assume, most Democrats, it's not likely to result in any movement among Independents because they don't understand these gestures and only see the bickering and lack of results --- which the Republicans will continue to deliver and blame on the Democrats.

On the other hand, if they only saw the chyron running on the bottom of that CNN story, they might think differently. It said:

"President Obama Joins GOP"

Update: Interestingly, the story immediately following was Tony Blair on the hot seat, under oath, answering for his Iraq decisions. I only wish that the American corollary today was Bush being grilled instead of Obama.

Stubbornly Clinging To Our Myths

by digby

This doesn't surprise me, but it's still a little bit deflating:

In the latest installment of the Pew Research Center's News IQ Quiz, just 32% know that the Senate passed its version of the legislation without a single Republican vote. And, in what proved to be the most difficult question on the quiz, only about a quarter (26%) knows that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster1 in the Senate and force a vote on a bill.

This is the problem with political obsessives --- we vastly over estimate the engagement of the busy American people and convince ourselves that we are representative of the average Joe. And then when a hunky centerfold who drives a truck wins a race, we over-interpret his victory.

Most people do not know the details of politics. All they see is that the country is screwed up, they are more insecure than ever and the people they entrust to fix things aren't doing it. When they demand bipartisanship it's because they assume that politicians are not acting in good faith and if they would only stop all the posturing they could get something done. To the extent they believe in ideology, it's mostly conservative, because it has been drilled into the body politic by non-stop repetition for the last quarter century: the solution to all problems is to cut taxes, deregulate everything, support the military.

I've told the story before about a young woman I knew at work a few years back, a Democrat, a liberal, more engaged in politics than most. She came running into my office one morning to excitedly tell me that she had heard someone on the previous nights PBS News hour who finally made sense to her on economics. It was Milton Friedman. She wasn't a stupid person or unusually uninformed. She just felt comfortable with everything Milton Friedman had said because it was what she had been hearing her whole life and it just "sounded right."

Our problem as activists and engaged political junkies is that we tend to think that everyone, especially the base, sees politics the same way that we do. In fact, we are not even the base. We are, at best, the vanguard of the base. And sometimes we are so far out ahead that we miss what's happening before our eyes.

And the Democratic Party is actually behind the curve. They fail to grasp that because the media are married to the he said/she said storyline, which always requires that both sides be seen as equally culpable, the people don't know about Republican obstructionism. And now they are inexplicably assuming that bipartisanship is of vast importance and they must make the case that the Republicans are preventing them from passing their program. But I don't think it's very likely that anyone wants to hear about how they can't get anything done because they only have an 18 vote majority in the Senate. And talking about why you can't do something is rarely a winning political message in any case.

They need to recognize that nobody really cares about bipartisanship per se. Voters just think that the reason that nothing gets done is because bipartisanship is required. If the Democrats can get something done without it there is absolutely no reason for them not to do it. Results are what matters, not process.

Unfortunately, I suspect the only reason the Democrats are so insistent on perpetuating the bipartisanship trope is because they lack the courage of their convictions and want to be able to share the blame if their plan doesn't work. And I would guess that weakness is something that average people just sense in their bones.

Terrorist Tried, Convicted In US Court

by tristero


Memo to New York City: If Wichita can hold a trial for a terrorist, so can we.
Obama Reaching Out

by digby

Watching that unctuous, cloying, precious, smarmy reptile Mike Pence with his trademarked furrowed brow and patented fake sincerity ask the president if he's open to across the board tax cuts is enough to make me puke. But then, Obama appearing at the Republican retreat explaining himself, insisting that he isn't an ideologue, listening calmly to their lies and phony posturing, is enough to make me puke.

I guess he wants to be seen as reaching out, and maybe it's a form of kabuki that the folks will find appealing. But it makes no difference in terms of what is actually passed by this congress and, as they did with Clinton, they will chop his hand off the first chance they get.

But hey, if they can get him to agree to enact huge portions of the Republican agenda --- and Ross Perot and Bob Dole agree to run in 2012, this whole thing might just work out for everyone.

Bring On The Pirates

by digby

Right but wrong:

The James Madison Institute is a libertarian think tank in Florida, and the cover of its latest Journal is a mock Central Intelligence Agency report on "the world's top 10 failed states."

It lists Somalia as the No. 1 failed state and adds eight other Third World nations before it gets to No. 10 - the Golden State of California - and asks "Will Florida join the list of failed states?"

It's the latest in a recent string of out-of-state publications riffing on California's social, political economic and budgetary woes and warning that its civic disease could spread.

J. Robert McClure, the institute's president, writes that "the jury is still out as to whether Florida - at the end of the decade ahead - will be prospering like Texas or foundering like California, Wisconsin, New York, and other states where government evidently exists primarily for the benefit of the governing, and onerous taxes and regulations consistently drive away the most productive citizens, harming the economy and eroding the quality of life."

I don't disagree that California is a failed state, I just disagree a teensy bit about the causes. It's the anti-tax conservative and libertarian zealots who have made this state ungovernable by lying to the people about the costs of their cynical experiment in defunding government. The question is whether or not other states will continue to fall for it, and with Colorado's repeal of its restrictive tax referendum last year and Oregon's vote this week, it's just possible that the rest of the country has wised up.

But if they don't, they may indeed catch our "disease." In fact, since we all live so cozily in our Union, the rest of the country tends to get sick whenever California does anyway, so I would probably go easy on the schadenfreude.

But hey, if Florida doesn't mind tripling its poverty rate, then it too can be a big success like Texas. But then right wing libertarians don't give a damn about poverty, do they?


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Original Modo

by digby

I thought I knew the whole Sally Quinn story from the home wrecking affair with the married Ben Bradlee to her ascendancy to the throne of Queen Village Tabby. But I must confess that until I read this great piece by Jamison Foser on her recent foray into Noonanland, I didn't know about this:

Monday, Dec. 31, 1979
Press: Brzezinski's Zipper Was Up

And the Washington Post is caught with its facts down

As the reporter was leaving, he began to joke around and flirt with her. Suddenly he unzipped his fly. —Washington Post, Dec. 19

In yesterday's story about Zbigniew Brzezinski, it was stated that at the end of an interview with a reporter from a national magazine—as a joke—Brzezinski committed an offensive act, and that a photographer took a picture "of this unusual expression of playfulness." Brzezinski did not commit such an act, and there is no picture of him doing so. —Washington Post, Dec. 20

The Iranian crisis was in its seventh week and OPEC was propelling oil prices to historic heights. But in that cosmopolitan capital on the Potomac, the best and the brightest were preoccupied with a more delicate matter: the open or shut case of Zbigniew Brzezinski's fly. As it turned out, President Carter's National Security Adviser had kept his zipper up, and the Washington Post was caught with its trousers down.

The brouhaha resulted from a free-form and free-floating three-part series by Post Staff Writer Sally Quinn, who is known in Washington for her withering (some would say bitchy) profiles of prominent personalities. She outdid herself with the Brzezinski series, which contains a few blatantly smirky and sophomoric passages. She began the first installment with an account of how he had used sexual innuendo to rebuff her requests for an interview. "You'll just have to come out here and live with me," he is quoted as saying. "That's the only way I'll do it."

Quinn never did interview Brzezinski. Instead, she pieced her story together from talks with some 50 of his friends and associates. He was depicted as a publicity hound consumed by his ambition to become Secretary of State—and more. "He likes to talk of himself as a sex symbol, to speak of the 'aphrodisiac of power,' " Quinn wrote. In one vignette, Brzezinski is described as boogeying lustily at a Washington disco, looking faintly ridiculous and "flirting with 16-year-olds." Quinn elsewhere describes him as a man "constantly torn between the thrill of making headlines and the risk of making a fool of himself."

It was a possibly believable, if unflattering, picture of the National Security Adviser—until the final paragraphs of the first installment, when Quinn related the zipper incident. She first heard of that encounter a year ago from Clare Crawford, a former Post staffer who is now a PEOPLE Magazine Washington correspondent. Crawford had just received from Brzezinski an autographed picture taken after she interviewed him for PEOPLE. At Crawford's office, says Quinn, she thought she saw a photo that showed Brzezinski unzipping his pants. Though hazy on details, Quinn now says that she heard someone say that this was indeed what Brzezinski had done. Before Quinn's series went to press, the Post tried unsuccessfully to get the wording of Brzezinski's inscription on the picture, but the paper evidently made no further attempt to verify the episode. read on ...

I didn't realize until now that Maureen Dowd learned everything she knows from Sally Quin. It's as if all the pieces of the puzzle have come together.

And I don't think we need to look any further to figure out why every White House since Carter has actively ignored her, do you?


by digby

... if the US did something like this:

Tony Blair is more of a 6am man than a 3am one, says an aide in response to claims that he has been burning the midnight oil in preparation for his grilling by the Chilcot inquiry tomorrow.

He has not been abandoning all other business to prepare for the inquiry. He was in Paris on Tuesday for a meeting of the quartet on the future of the Middle East, and it was announced this week that he would take up a lucrative post on the board of a hedge fund, Lansdowne Partners.

But Blair has been working hard to prepare himself for his six-hour session, refamiliarising himself with the documents and reading digests of the evidence given by previous witnesses.

He knows that even though he has been asked many of the questions likely to be posed today innumerable times, this represents his last chance to justify the war. He made a long speech in his Sedgefield constituency in March 2004 defending the invasion once it was clear no weapons of mass destruction would be found. But he feels tomorrow's hearing, probably more than the report's ultimate findings, will shape the judgment of history.

Our former president, his partner in perfidy, has no such worries. The Republicans are busily working on their airbrushing of history and there will be no official inquiries here. That would be looking in the rear view mirror. His biggest worry this month was whether or not to wear a blue tie for his speech to the Safari Club International Annual Hunters’ Convention. The invitation actually says: "His intellect and humor will make this a night to remember and share for years and years."

Kicking Them When They're Down

by digby

She's baaack:

In a report on TODAY Thursday, NBC investigative reporter Lisa Myers called Young’s book “salacious, full of tawdry details, betrayal and countless lies. And as brutal as it is about John Edwards, it’s also tough on Elizabeth, who, the book says, became intoxicated by power, and sometimes looked the other way.”

And then she licked her chops and declared it "delicious" and went on to spent a half an hour detailing every salacious, tawdry allegation in technicolor detail on MSNBC.

Myers is a tabloid journalist who specializes in sex scandals, although they keep pretending on NBC that she is a political reporter. But I really think that allowing her to use the details in this trashy revenge book (which sounds about as credible as Dick Cheney insisting that waterboarding isn't torture)as a source for a "news" story is a bit much.

The Edwardses are a tragic couple, nearly Shakespearean in their weaknesses and human errors. But they are not currently in politics and the sordid details of their marital problems have not been political news since everyone found out months ago that the country dodged a bullet. This is gratuitous.

I noticed earlier today that one of the nasty Gore reporters from the 2000 campaign, Sandra Soberaj, appeared on NBC dishing on Edwards as well. At least she has finally found the appropriate employer --- People Magazine. Myers should join TMZ or E!. Or maybe she should just become a paparazzi peeping Tom. It's where her talent really lies.

Has The Senate Made A Deal With Stupak?

by digby

Jim Moran didn't answer the question directly, but it sounds to me as if there's a deal.

Ed Shultz: Is the Stupak coalition, those who made abortion an issue, are they standing in the way of the 218 vote total?

Jim Moran: Well the reality is that there won't be any public funds paying for abortions. It's going to be very difficult for young women to find access to reproductive services. But that's just the reality.

I think we have to look at the larger objective of getting health reform and then we'll have to look at getting it right for the women of America in that area.

Yeah, that'll happen.

Moran did say that he thought health care generally was looking good and even said the public option was on the table. But the way he answered that question leads me to believe that they have found a way to appease Stupak, and the last I heard he would not vote for the Senate bill if it meant that he would have to settle for Nelson.

We'll see.

The Lilest Dirty Tricksters

by digby

It's a lot of fun watching the right wing squirm over the Breitbart wiretap boyz down in New Orleans, but we should keep in mind that their operation did something very, very destructive to liberal politics by using that doctored, bogus videotape to discredit ACORN. They could disappear tomorrow and every person on the right could disown them but their lasting legacy is substantial.

The timorous Dems bolted like frightened gazelles when those stupid tapes came out and withdrew ACORN's federal contracts with an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder. This was all over an amateurish right wing hit job designed to evoke racist stereotypes and the reaction proved how powerful those stereotypes still are.

For instance, did you know that the "pimp" in the tapes never actually appeared in the ACORN offices dressed that way? Apparently, they filmed those famous scenes of the costumed O'Keefe and his little miniskirted "ho" walking down the street (which were played on a loop all day yesterday and today) separately. They did not appear looking like that in the offices but I would bet you that most people believe they "fooled" the ACORN workers with those costumes, which makes them the dumbest people on earth.

And then there is the fact that the tapes were doctored, something people should keep in mind when they contemplate what they may have been up to with their latest little scam. (You can see the details of the doctoring, here.)

It's disgusting that the media tickled that racist id with such extravagant glee when those silly tapes came out, but the way the Democrats reacted to it was a self-defeating scandal.

Update: David Shuster was very good today calling out Breitbart for his ACORN calumny, although Breitbart babbled incoherently over him throughout.

Update II: Emptywheel deconstructs Brietbart's excuses in that piece here.


by digby

Somebody needs to tell Judd Gregg to lay off the stimulants. And then give him a bottle and send him to bed:
Contessa Brewer: Let's bring in now Republican Judd Gregg a senator of New Hampshire, a top Republican on the budget committee and a ranking member of the Senate banking committee. What do you think about the money the president is preparing to spend on jobs and what Mark was just saying, that it has to go hand in hand with other programs, job training, professional skill and certainly educating very young people?

Judd Gregg: Well we're running a 1.3 trillion dollar deficit this year. The government is going to spend over three trillion dollars. All of that deficit goes into the debt which will be paid by our children and our children's children. I think somebody's going to have to ask a more fundamental question. How are you going to get the economy going if you run up the debt to the point where we can't afford our government? Uh, that is a much more fundamental question.

If you want to do something to energize this economy, I think you put in place some plans that control the rate of growth of government so that people can have confidence that this nation is not going to go into some form of fiscal bankruptcy in five to seven years. And that will cause people to be willing to invest and be willing to take risks and create jobs. Jobs are not created by the government. You know long term, good jobs are created by a vibrant economy and you don't get a vibrant economy when the government and the size of the government and the debt of the government is overwhelming the capacioty of the economy to function right.

Francis: That's good in theory Senator ...

Gregg: That's not theory! It's not theory! Don't tell me it's theory!

Francis: tell me how to put it to work ...

Gregg: No you don't tell me it's theory. What are you... How do you get off saying something like that?

Francis: (who is a conservative by the way) Because it is good in theory. Of course, it's fantastic. Here's your opportunity senator... let me finish .. to tell us all how it would be put to work. I'm all for small government.

Gregg: You stop the spending spree. You stop the government from growing so fast that you can't afford to pay for it. You don't increase the size of government from 20% of GDP to 25% of GDP in two years. You don't add a trillion dollars of new debt to our kids back every year for the next ten years. You don't pass a budget... the president doesn't send up a budget that doubnle the debt in five years, triples it in ten years! You don't say that you're for fiscal responsibility and then propose a whole panoply of new programs that you can't pay for. That's not theory, that's reality! That's what we're facing as a nation. This is the reality of a fiscal meltdown of our country which is going to have a massive impact on people's lives and cost a lot of jobs in this country.

Contessa Brewer: So my partner Melissa, Senator Greg, is really asking for specifics. If you don't believe that we should have a 1.3 trillion dollar budget, which programs are you willing to cut. Are you willing to tell schools, no money for you? And do you side then with those who say, when you look back at the great depression, economists say that we landed back into real problems in 1937 when people got onto cutting the deficit and a lot of government spending was pulled back before it should have been?

Gregg: Well first off, nobody is saying no money for schools. What an absurd statement to make. What a dishonest statement to make. On its face you are being fundamentally dishonest when you make that type of statement.

Brewer: We're just asking which programs you would cut

Francis: tell us what to cut...

Gregg: Do you know how much money is spent on education in the federal governmen this year?

Brewer: Senator, you're going to be asked to cut certain programs if you're on the Senate banking committee. Which programs would you want to cut?

Gregg: Oh I have no problems telling you. I would freeze discretionary spending. A real freeze, not a freeze plus inflation. I would eliminate the TARP money which would get us close to 400 billion dollars. I would end the stimulus spending effective in June of this year, if not sooner, so we can recover all the money that's going to be spent outside the window of this recession and we shouldn't be spending it adding it to the debt. I would take a major effort to try to reform our entitlement programs. In fact we had a major vote yesterday to try to do that under a bill which I've proposed with Senator Conrad.

So I've made some very specific proposals and I'm willing to stand by them. The problem is that this administration's view of governance is that economic prosperity is created by growing the government dramatically and then it gets misrepresented by people like yourself who are saying that if you do any of this stuff you are going to end up not funding education. That statement alone is the most irresponsible statement I've heard probably in a month.

Brewer: it wasn't a statement, it was a question...

Gregg: And there are a lot of irresponsible statements made by reporters and that was the most irresponsible I've heard.

Francis: Senator, with respect, that's not what she said, she was asking you what you would like to cut ..

Gregg:  =That's exactly what she said! Go back and read your transcript.

Brewer: thank you for your time, Senator ...

Gregg: You can't be duplicitous about this! You can't make a representation and then claim you didn't make it. You've got to have some integrity on your side of this camera too.

Francis: She asked you what you would like to cut, she asked you if you would cut schools. You said no.

Gregg: You're suggesting we should have a zero in education. Well of course, nobody's suggesting that. Nobody's even implying that. But in your introduxction to me you said that. That education funding would be cut. Well, education funding isn't going to be cut.

Brewer: Well Senator, I'm sorry for any communication problems that we'v had, but as always, we appreciate your time ...

I'll let Gregg's tantrum stand on it's own. But I would just point out that it's not absurd in the least to ask if Republicans would cut education. Indeed, it's absurd to suggest otherwise:

President Ronald Reagan promised during the 1980 presidential election to eliminate the Department of Education as a cabinet post,[1] but he was not able to do so with a Democratic House of Representatives. In the 1982 State of the Union Address, he pledged:

The budget plan I submit to you on Feb. 8 will realize major savings by dismantling the Department of Education.[2]

Throughout the 1980s, the abolition of the Department of Education was a part of the Republican Party platform, but the administration of President George H. W. Bush declined to implement this idea.
In 1996, the Republican Party made abolition of the Department a cornerstone of their campaign promises, calling it an inappropriate federal intrusion into local, state, and family affairs.[2] The GOP platform read:

The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning.[2][3]

During his 1996 presidential run, Senator Bob Dole promised, "We're going to cut out the Department of Education."[3]
In 2000, the Republican Liberty Caucus passed a resolution to abolish the Department of Education.[4]
In 2008, presidential candidate Ron Paul campaigned in part on an opposition to the Department.[5]
And that brings us to the teabaggers:

Former Lt. Governor Jane Norton said she was spurred to try to win Colorado Democratic Michael Bennet's U.S. Senate seat by what she sees as the dramatic expansion of government in the Obama era. In stump speeches, emails and interviews, she has vowed to work to cut federal spending as a way to end the "government takeover" of the private sector. One of the ways Norton proposes to trim spending is to eliminate the federal Department of Education...
Although she is the clear frontrunner in the race to unseat Bennet, Norton has not been the top choice among conservative grassroots voters in the state- a bloc of voters being increasingly influenced by the anti-tax anti-establishment Tea Party movement here. For that reason, events like the one at the Lamplighter may be much more attractive to the Norton campaign than the small number of attendees might suggest. Blogger and Tea Party organizer Randy Smith is exactly the kind of local opinion leader Norton would like to win enthusiastic support from to shore up the conservative base in the state while downplaying her deep establishment connections...
"She believes state and local control is better than having them taken over by the the federal government... She supports a return to a balance that has state and local jurisdictions as preeminent, empowering parents rather than bureaucrats," he told the Colorado independent. The idea is not that radical, he said.

"Federal involvement in education is a matter of legislation, so now it's a matter of rebalancing... States have rights under the Constitution. We got to this point through intrusive government... [through] rolling federal intrusions, just as we're seeing in health care and with the Detroit automakers."

So, not only was Brewer right to ask whether Gregg planned to cut education as part of a deficit reduction plan, there has been a very longstanding belief  among conservatives that they should not be funding education at all.

If there was anyone at fault for spreading misinformation and lies on television it's Gregg with his irresponsible deficit fearmongering and  Hooverite prescriptions for the economy. God help us if he and his ilk actually get their way.

And you can't help but scratch your head when you think that a year ago, when everyone knew that the economy was in deep trouble and would need a lot of stimulus, the administration actually named this guy to be Commerce Secretary, a department which Gregg had voted to eliminate as well.  That tells you a lot about their judgment at the time.

Update: Crooks and Liars caught the footage:

A Good Man

by digby

You've all heard by now about the death of Howard Zinn, the great liberal historian and activist. Most of us have probably read his most famous work "The People's History of the United States" and know him from his prolific writing over the years in liberal magazines. But here's an interesting series of recent interviews from November 2008. This one is particularly interesting, considering the current populist upheaval around the bank bailouts:

More at The Real News


I Hear Them

by digby

I've been getting some lectures about being derisive toward the tea partiers because they are decent people with valid complaints and it's wrong to demonize them. And I'm sure some of them are. However, those who follow Glenn Beck, which most of them do, listen to crap like this day in and day out, so it's hard for me to see why I should accord them any more respect than they accord to me:

Well, you see, the dirty little secret that communists, Marxists, and progressives don't want you to know is their system has never ever worked.

And not only has it never worked, it has led to some of the most horrifying outcomes in history. You think that guy -- you think that guy was the only one that did it? And you think this guy is from the right? Oh, yeah, really?

Make sure you tune in tomorrow. People wouldn't support Mao and they wouldn't be wearing a Mao hat if they knew they were endorsing somebody who killed tens of millions of people. That's Anita Dunn -- she said, you know, "One of the great philosophers that I think of most is Mao."

She knows who he is, but most Americans don't, because progressives tend to breeze past that little speed bump in history. I told you back in December that this program is going to change. Tomorrow is the first real step in that direction.

You see, progressives knew 100 years ago you can't win a battle against our Founding Fathers. Progressives had to change the course of history by changing history itself. If you can convince people that killers are cool, and get them to wear a t-shirt, you'll win their hearts and minds.

And then there's this:

Beck: The traditional Democratic party is going up against the radical fringe left. I've been telling you that there's a difference between Democrats and progressives from the beginning now but nobody wants to listen. Here it is. There are Blue Dog Democrats, but they are not socialists, Marxists radicals. They are more like your grand father's Democrat. Most Democrats still love America, they love the founders and they love the constitution and believe in this country. But then there's another group and they have infiltrated not just the Democratic party, but the Republican party...

How many times have I said they [progressives] are like a virus feeding on the host of republic?

The progressives are parasites inside the Democrat Party...

John Amato of Crooksandliars wrote on Huffington Post, "for Woolsey to holding a fundraising events for a known Blue Dog should be a firing offense for the CPC." Progressive Democrats for America joined in, They started an online petition asking her to withdraw from the event. Woolsey said no. I don't know how this story ends quite frankly --- it's California and it's all going to end in a mudslide right into the bottom of the ocean eventually anyway --- but let me tell you something. The last time the progressives were in this position and they started gobbling power and they exposed themselves, people caught on and hated them.

When the teapartiers repudiate this jackass, I'll be polite to them. Until then, I have to assume they agree that I am a "parasite" and a "virus" and I'm just not inclined to excuse it or be politically "pragmatic" and seek an obviously impossible common ground. I'll leave that to the Village which, I'm afraid, is far too willing to validate the spirit, if not the letter, of what Beck is saying as well.

Update: And then there's this.


by digby

The White House says President Barack Obama was accurate when he took on a Supreme Court ruling in the State of the Union address, even though Justice Sam Alito mouthed, “Not true.”

Alito’s protest came when the president said: “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) … And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.”

A senior administration official told POLITICO on Thursday morning: “There is a loophole that we need to address and are working with Congress to address. There are U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-controlled corporations that could influence our elections because of this ruling."

The issue was raised by Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent in the case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: “[I]t would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans.”

Stevens continued: “The Court all but confesses that a categorical approach to speaker identity is untenable when it acknowledges that Congress might be allowed to take measures aimed at “preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s political process. … Such measures have been a part of U. S. campaign finance law for many years. The notion that Congress might lack the authority to distinguish foreigners from citizens in the regulation of electioneering would certainly have surprised the Framers.”

And on page 75, Stevens wrote: “Unlike voters in U. S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled.”

The nonpartisan Citizens for Public Integrity has asked: “Will the Citizens United Ruling Let Hugo Chavez and King Abdullah Buy U.S. Elections? Supreme Court Ruling May Open Door to Foreign State-Owned Corporate Political Spending.”

Conservatives jumped on Obama’s comment. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said on Fox News’s "Hannity" that Obama was “embarrassing our Supreme Court. … [T]his will be the huge take-away moment.”

Poor Sarah. They must not have gotten to the "activist judges" portion of her debate prep before her mind started wandering.

And anyway, I think that any justice who thinks that unregulated free speech for corporations is sacred while the speech of some kid with a sign that says "bong hits 4 Jesus" can be suppressed has already amply embarrassed himself.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Speech

by digby

I confess that I've always been strangely immune to the Obama speech magic for some reason, but he always puts at least one thing in them that I like. Tonight, it was this:
To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership.

The sermon about "change we can believe in" I could do without. Then again, I'm immune, so don't listen to me. As I said earlier, these speeches are always considered clinkers by the gasbags and the people usually love them. So I would think that this will be well received.

And the Republicans looked like asses, as usual.

Update: David Brooks just said:

If you took out health care and the fights we've had the last year and just read the rest of the speech, you wouldn't think it was a particularly liberal speech.There were a lot of tax cuts in there. There's a spending freeze, there's pay as you go, there nuclear power, there's free trade pacts. I was struck by how moderate the speech was. If you took away all the fighting in the last year, and started with this, I think the atmosphere in Washington would probably be different.

Yeah, sure it would.

Update II: The Bizaarroworld State of the Union speech and the Bizarroworld congress and the Bizarroworld president are creepy. I'm glad I don't live there.

Update III:

Sometimes, it just works its way to the surface and they can't keep it in:


by digby

Mark Halperin just declared that on the basis of the excerpts of the upcoming speech, Obama sounds like Michael Dukakis and that nobody is going to be persuaded. Halperin says he's simply got to do tax cuts or tort reform. Matthews characterized Halperin's opinion as saying that the speech was "a clinker."

I would just note that the gasbags almost always think these speeches are clinkers, but the public usually thinks otherwise. But I have to say that I haven't seen the villagers so dismissive in advance since Clinton faced the congress in the immediate aftermath of the Lewinsky revelations.

I think I'll reserve judgment until the speech is actually given. It's odd, I know, but I'm old fashioned about these things.

Update: Spocko writes in to tell me that the drinking game tonight is one shot if he says "reach across the aisle" and two shots for "some on the left."

I'm guzzling on "big government" and injecting 151 on "make the tax cuts permanent."

Update II: It actually didn't occur to me to put "capital gains tax cut" on the list. Should I drown myself in rubbing alcohol?

Update III: Gotta love the GOP failing to stand up for taxing the bankers. I hope the media at least mentions it tomorrow.