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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

They're Good

by digby

Most Americans think that the Democrats not only did something illegitimate by passing health care reform on a party line vote, it was so illegitimate that they were asking for violence and vandalism by doing it. Good to know.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll out this morning shows that more Americans blame the Democrats more than any other group when it comes to the inciting the violence and vandalism that have spread across the country in the week since health care reform became law. Fifty percent said passing the bill was a "bad thing," while 47% said it was a good thing.*

When asked about the violence, 49% of the 1,009 adults surveyed over the weekend said the "Democratic tactics" are a "major reason" for the violent incidents. Forty-six percent said conservative media was responsible, and 43% blamed the attacks on the rhetoric of Republican political leaders.

If that's the case, then our democratic system of government is effectively dead. Any minority party can simply block all legislation, make up a bunch of bullshit about "tactics," threaten them with violence and the people will back them. (Unless they are Democrats, of course, in which case they will be told the "elections have consequences" and be called obstructionists who refuse to allow the governing party the room they need to govern.)

If passing a party line vote in the US Congress is asking for violence and threats we have big, big problems.

Oh Blanche!

by digby

John Brummet at the Arkansas news has the goods on Blanche Lincoln's bogus claims about Bill Halter here. It's hard to believe she'd go here too, but she is:

Now, in an attempt to court the Obama voters she's repelled throughout the past year, Lincoln is running ads on African-American radio in Arkansas claiming she "stood with our president to pass healthcare reform." The ad continues: "Even though the Tea Party and insurance companies attacked Blanche Lincoln, she never abandoned our president, nor you."

The ads also take a shot at Halter's main accomplishment as lieutenant governor--creating a state lottery to pay for scholarships for college, a popular program in the low-income state. "Bill Halter keeps talking about lottery this, lottery that," says one man in the ads. "The lottery doesn't give me access to healthcare."

In response, the Halter campaign began running this ad:

"Who is Blanche Lincoln trying to fool on healthcare?" says the narrator. "Here's the deal: she didn't stand up to the special interests, she worked for them. She sided with those Republicans who tried to kill President Obama's reforms unless insurance company profits were protected. Insurance companies and HMOs rewarded Lincoln with more the $800,000 in campaign cash...Senator Lincoln, my people aren't fooled. Bill Halter is the one who'll stand up for us."

In addition to the healthcare ads, Lincoln has been touting her "A" rating from the NAACP, which the organization's Arkansas chapter takes issue with. "If I had to grade her even on health care reform she definitely wouldn't get an A," said Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas NAACP. "She'd maybe get a C minus."

I'd give her an "L" for liar.

She deserves absolutely no support from her African American constituents. She voted for the Senate bill only after extreme coercion and we'll never know if she would have voted for the final conference bill. She didn't vote for the reconciliation fix, so I'm thinking probably not. In any case, she was an enemy of the kind of health care reform that her Democratic constituents preferred and made it more difficult to pass anything at all every step of the way. She certainly does have chutzpah, though, in trying to send this message under the radar. I suppose she thinks that her Republican rivals won't use it against her because it's playing on black radio stations. Good luck with that.

Men In Costumes

by digby

Dave adds:

I had some trouble hearing Maddow, so I kind of blew a couple of the questions. To be clear:

-- What I expect at the April 19 militia march on Washington is, essentially, a smaller Tea Party with guns.

-- The main threat posed by the militias is not to average citizens but to law-enforcement personnel, who inevitably are the first people to have contact with these extremists that provokes violence. Inevitably, innocent bystanders will be involved as well, as they were on April 19, 1995. And the truth is, your average American is far more likely to be harmed by a right-wing domestic terrorist than an international terrorist.

But the chief reason to fear violent militiamen is the threat they pose to our law-enforcement officers, and from a broader perspective, the toxic effect their acts have on our society and the ability of average citizens to feel safe.

In some ways it's just an extension of the 101st Keyboarder phenomenon in the early post 9/11 years --- lots of macho posturing and delusions of heroism and bravery among immature men who want to play at soldier. Considering how many wars we have going, you'd think they'd join up. I'm sure the military could use some people who have a knowledge of weaponry and a desire to swear oaths to the constitution.

Of course, real soldiers don't get to take off their uniforms at the end of the day and go home to their nice comfortable houses and sit in front of the TV to eat freedom fries and watch Beck froth about the enemy within. This is much more fun.

And can someone please explain to me the need among so many of the manliest men to dress up in costumes?

Beating Blue Dogs of Kentucky

by digby

If you have a few minutes to spare, head over to Crooks and Liars to meet the best Democratic candidate for Jim "Cuckoo" Bunning's Senate seat, Jack Conway.

The other day I got Jack on the phone and asked him to come by Crooks and Liars today to talk with the Blue America community about his primary race and his probable November run against Rand Paul. He'll join us this afternoon at 5pm (ET/2pm PT) in the comments section below. Yesterday we posted a thumbnail rundown on the race here. Tomorrow Rand Paul and a mob of anger-stoked teabaggers have announced their intention to march on Jack's office to demand that he join the right-wing Attorneys General trying to overturn healthcare reform, just as conservative Republicans went crying to the courts to try to kill Social Security when progressives passed that. Problem for little Rand and his band of kooks is that Jack not only supported the healthcare legislation, he's already thinking of ways to perfect the bill and is one of the first Senate candidates I've spoken with who is excited about the Alan-- not Trey-- Grayson approach to cost controls by offering a Medicare-for-all solution to any American citizen who chooses to buy in.

He turned the frivolous law suit-crazed anti-healthcare fanatics down flat, saying that what they're asking for is "a Republican Party gimmick" that "makes for good Tea Party politics but is based on questionable legal principles." Unfortunately, his anti-Choice/anti-gay Democratic opponent, Mongiardo, is on the same page as the Republicans! He seems to be getting his campaign slogans from the same place as Trey Grayson, straight from Mitch McConnell's office. They're all talking about trashing the healthcare bill and "starting over," a pure GOP talking point.

They're chatting right now. Check it out.

Playing Chess With People's Lives

by digby

This is just ridiculous:

Wanda DuVall has been collecting unemployment benefits since she lost her job back in February 2009, saying that she filed her most recent claim on Monday. On Wednesday, she did not receive the deposit she expected and called the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation to find out what happened.

"They informed me that, unless a miracle occurs in Congress, my unemployment benefits would end. The 19th would be the last check," said DuVall, 69, a former employee of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

DuVall had been receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits, which provide up to 53 weeks of federally-funded compensation on top of the initial 26 weeks provided by states. The program will lapse on April 5 -- after that date, people like DuVall will lose eligibility for additional "tiers" of benefits after their current tier expires.

Last week, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate played a game of political chicken with a temporary extension, failing to extend eligibility for another month before adjourning for a two-week break. Republicans took a stand on deficit reduction, blocking a Democratic measure to extend benefits on an emergency basis without paying for them; Democrats voted to adjourn, gambling that people will simply blame the GOP for the lapse.

Why would they do that? They'll blame the people in charge, of course --- the Democrats. (Why does everyone believe average people think like Machiavelli?) In fact, here's what Wanda DuVall actually thinks:

"They just failed to pass it and they went on their vacation," said DuVall.

Evidently, this problem will be rectified. But every time this happens, a little teabagger gets her wings. And for good reason: the government seems like a bunch of Keystone Cops who either don't care about the suffering of their constituents or who are too ineffectual to fix these problems. Either way, it's just plain dumb.

Today Is Connie Saltonstall Day

by digby

Howie Klein notes that today is the day you receive all those desperate emails for end-of-the-quarter donations from the Democratic party committees --- and that the money will almost certainly be spent on preserving the seats of Blue Dogs who vote against everything you care about. It's more than a little bit frustrating.

But there's something you can do about it. You can Send the Democrats A Message They Can Understand.

Howie says:
As you may know, Blue America has a page dedicated to sending Democrats a message and contributing to Connie Saltonstall's primary campaign against Stupak is a music it is very healthy for Inside-the-Beltway Democrats of all stripes to hear. This morning I spoke with Connie and asked her if she'd do a guest post about why her race is more important than ever, even though pressure from Democrats forced Stupak to eventually vote for the healthcare reform bill. This is how she put it:
We all know by now that Bart Stupak finally gave in, dropped the ‘Stupak Amendment,’ and voted for the healthcare bill. While I applaud his vote, it does not change my determination defeat him in the Michigan primary on August 3rd.

Representative Stupak’s reluctant support of healthcare reform came at a very high cost. Mr. Stupak’s dogmatic insistence on inserting his own religious views into the legislative debate and threatening to deprive his constituents of needed healthcare reform eroded people’s trust in him. Throughout the debate there was the sense that our Congressman let us down and that sense has not disappeared with the change in his vote. For me and so many of his constituents, he crossed the line with his grandstanding.

My campaign is about getting past the kind of political obstruction that marred the healthcare debate. I look forward to working in Congress to represent the Democratic values of the First District-- affordable, accessible healthcare for all, healthcare that allows women the opportunity to make responsible life decisions for themselves and their families, protecting our Great Lakes and other precious natural resources, and fighting to put people in our district, so hard hit by this recession, back to work.

Since announcing my candidacy I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the enthusiasm, support and outreach for my campaign, both nationally and locally. People from all over the district are calling daily offering to donate and do anything they can to help. Political pundits like to say that someone from the lower peninsula cannot win in Michigan’s First District. I don’t believe that. I have heard from people all the way from Gogebic County in the Northwest of our district to Bay County in the southeast of our district. We are all Michiganders and our commonalties are far more important than our differences. I am here to give the people of Michigan’s First District a choice!

And Blue America wants to help her do just that. Please consider helping Connie, not because this is the last day of the quarter, but because we just have to save the Democratic Party and our country from characters like Bart Stupak.
As I wrote yesterday, Stupak got punk'd by the lobbyist for the Catholic Bishops --- a Republican ally to such a degree that they were willing to deny millions of the working poor access to health care in order to help the GOPs cynical obstructionist agenda. Stupak was either too stupid to see it or too cynical himself to care. Either way, his behavior should not be rewarded.

I realize he's now being vilified by the very people he worked so hard for, but that doesn't make him a hero. Indeed, it calls his judgement into serious question. For the sake of people everywhere who care deeply about a woman's fundamental human right to her own bodily autonomy, I can't think of a better message to the Party than if Bart Stupak lost his seat to Connie Saltonstall.

You can donate here.
Too Fine

by digby

I have the sinking feeling that the old administration arrogance is back. And that's not a good thing. Brad Plumer reports on the administration's bizarre decision to open offshore drilling:

Back in 2008—during peak "drill baby drill" season—Congress let the federal moratorium on offshore drilling expire. Now this move pushes drilling slightly closer to reality. So what's Obama thinking here? One possibility is that he's looking ahead to the climate-bill debate in the Senate. A number of conservative Democrats and even some Republicans like Lisa Murkowski have said that new drilling has to be a key part of any big energy legislation that tackles carbon emissions. (A separate bloc of coastal Democrats, meanwhile, has warned that drilling would be a dealbreaker for them.)

Still, it seems bizarre to fork over this bargaining chip before the bill is even released. What kind of negotiating tactic is that? Especially since this move is going to infuriate environmentalists—the folks you want pushing for your climate bill. Note that the administration did the same thing with nuclear power, another item that could lure swing senators. Back in January, the White House proposed a massive expansion of the nuclear loan guarantee program without getting anything tangible in return from pro-nuke Republicans. John McCain still wanders around complaining that the administration's not "serious" about nukes. Now, maybe that's the point—offer an olive branch and watch Republicans swat it down and look unreasonable. Right on cue, John Boehner's already whining about Obama's drilling plan. Not sure that strategy makes sense, though.

Another possibility, meanwhile, is that this move isn't focused on the climate-bill debate and is geared more toward public opinion. According to the EIA, gas prices are expected to go up quite a bit this summer (probably shooting north of $3/gallon), and the administration may want to step out ahead of the inevitable teeth-gnashing and garment-rending over the issue. So this could be more about the midterms than rounding up votes in the Senate. Though, granted, this drilling announcement won't affect summer gas prices in the slightest.

I think the White House is believing their own hype again. Somehow, the health care bill passing is now seen as the result of brilliant messaging and legislative tactics when in fact it was an ugly war of attrition that only passed because the Democrats had no choice but pass a bill as a matter of survival. It's a huge mistake to think it was a matter of great strategy because it wasn't. They barely got out alive and they should be very, very humble about their ability to play even one dimensional chess at this point.

I'm guessing they think they can work with Huckleberry Graham and that he can deliver. Dear Gawd. Even if he had the desire to be the GOP's bipartisan poster boy (for target practice), the neanderthals he represents in the South Carolina Republican party will yank his chain like he's a misbehaving pit bull. The likelihood that he is acting good faith is close to zero.

And if they still believe that offering up gestures of good will will work with these Republicans going into the election the Republicans believe they are going to win because of their obstruction strategy, they are cracked. The only way they will win any Republican votes is by forcing them into it because the GOP leadership is certainly going to be doing everything in their power to force them not to. They've proven that there is no such thing as a brave Republican willing to buck their party anymore.

One of the problems with "The Best and the Brightest" fellows is that they always get way too fine with their strategic planning. There really is no nuance with this GOP. You need to be a Grant, not a McClellan. I would have hoped they'd learned that lesson, but it appears they're going to give Lucy the football one more time.

Glad to be wrong about this. Don't think I am.

BTW: On the merits, this decision is crap. They must know that much. And it won't make one bit of difference with oil prices this summer, so any idea that they can manipulate public opinion with this decision is a joke. People go nuts over gas prices when they go up, period. Saying you've agreed to offshore drilling isn't going to change that.

Shoot the Looters

by digby

Eric Boehlert asks the right question: what if the right wing media want mob violence?

And yes, it's been the rationalizing that's been so disturbing to watch -- the way the GOP Noise Machine fervently excused last week's violent behavior and eagerly tried to shift the blame onto the victims of the intimidation, and then demanded to know what the big deal was.

I mean, who hasn't had the line on a propane tank outside his house slashed by vandals? This stuff happens all the time, right? Didn't scores of members of Congress, immediately following the vote in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq, find their office windows shattered by flying bricks hurled under the cover of darkness by nasty anti-war libs? Didn't they receive a steady stream of specific death threats and watch as relatives (and even their children) came under attack? Doesn't this kind of harassment and intimidation come with the territory, and hasn't it always been pushed out and legitimized by mainstream media outlets?

Um, not in America. But that may be changing as Fox News fuels the hate and does its best to provide cover and refuge for those supporting the intimidation campaign, as Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media rationalize the wave of political violence and do their best to shift the blame onto the targets -- onto the victims -- while always avoiding responsibility. (Did anyone on the left suggest Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) was to blame when a YouTube nut job posted a threat against his life?)

Note how so many embraced the frightening notion that because conservatives didn't like health care reform, the violence was expected and nobody should have been surprised because Democrats, by passing the bill (i.e. desecrating the Constitution), pushed people too far. "So why are people angry?" asked Fox News' Steve Doocy last week. "Maybe because they didn't want this bill?"

Talk about the rise of tyranny and the minority-rule mob.

And that's where the fear of the perpetual angry mob comes in, and perhaps why Fox News, rather than lamenting the ugly and cowardly eruptions, seems to be encouraging it, or at least rationalizing it. Perhaps Fox News wants that threat of mob intimidation on the table, and Fox News, the de facto Opposition Party, wants Democrats to be thinking about the political consequences of further upsetting that unhinged mob.

This cannot be emphasized too much. Just because you don't like a bill doesn't mean that the government has been undemocratically seized by illegitimate usurpers. It's the way our system works. I certainly understand the frustration when it happens, having just come through the Bush years, but this reaction is simply another manifestation of the right's fundamental problem with democracy itself. They are, frankly, trying to intimidate the majority into "thinking twice" about what might happen if they pass legislation the other side disapproves of. That's obscene.

It's also reminiscent of something I hadn't quite put my finger on. Until I read Boehlert's piece I hadn't seen the echoes of the early aftermath of Katrina, when the right ginned up paranoia and fear of a non-existent rampaging mob to justify their desire to shoot first and ask questions later. Here we had people who were victimized by a once in a century natural disaster and yet the voice of the right were, in effect, blaming them for their misfortune and warning them that if they "misbehaved" they would have to be killed.

I'm sure you recall this from Peggy Noonan:

After the Storm
Hurricane Katrina: The good, the bad, the let's-shoot-them-now.

As for the tragic piggism that is taking place on the streets of New Orleans, it is not unbelievable but it is unforgivable, and I hope the looters are shot. A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human beings--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens.

Of course, there were no pictures of rampaging mobs. There were rumors, many of them propagated by right wingers warning of violence And as it turned out, it was the authorities who were shooting people down in the streets for no reason. There were quite a few incidents, and in the end, it seems the "angry mob" was not the citizens, but the people patrolling the streets living under the misapprehension that they were under siege. And it was once again the right wingers who were claiming then and for a long time thereafter that the victims had been asking for it.

This fear and threat of mob violence is a very useful excuse and tool. There's nothing terribly original about it --- it's the law of the jungle --- but I suspect it would come a quite a surprise to the founders to see that the constitution was being used to justify it.

Read Boehlert's whole post. It's right on the money.



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Populist Neocon Princess

by digby

Ed Kilgore:

Today neoconservative patriarch Norman Podheretz appeared on that estimable right-wing bulletin board, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, to smite unnamed conservative critics of Palin, utilizing the Big Bertha of latter-day Republican rhetoric, the memory of Ronald Reagan:

Now I knew Ronald Reagan, and Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan. Then again, the first time I met Reagan all he talked about was the money he had saved the taxpayers as governor of California by changing the size of the folders used for storing the state's files. So nonplussed was I by the delight he showed at this great achievement that I came close to thinking that my friends were right and that I had made a mistake in supporting him. Ultimately, of course, we all wound up regarding him as a great man, but in 1979 none of us would have dreamed that this would be how we would feel only a few years later.

I don't know about you, but that sounds as arrogant and condescending toward Reagan as anything I've read. He's talking about 1979, after all, just a year before he became president. He sounds nearly addled (which is pretty much correct.) Moreover, the reasons for Podhoretz and his friends thinking that Reagan was "a great man" are not spelled out, leaving one with(I think the correct) impression that they simply decided Reagan was a great man on the basis of his political success. And I would suggest that it's the same with Palin. These folksy bozos are
useful to these guys. They can't win without the teabag contingent --- and after all, they do genuinely share their loathing of liberals:

Podhoretz goes on to suggest that liberal contempt for Palin is of a piece with liberal contempt for Reagan, and thus should never be echoed on the Right. This is all interesting because it's the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party--heavily focused on foreign policy, disproportionately led by people who are secular, Jewish, or both, and suspicious of the influence of the Christian Right and of right-wing "populism" generally--where disdain for Palin is most visible. Podhoretz is trying to rein that tendency in.

And it looks like his argument is already getting traction. In its "Arena" feature, Politico asked a bunch of prominent gabbers, most of them conservatives, to react to Podhoretz's piece, and they generally said he was right (with the occasional condescending reference to Palin's need for a little more seasoning).

This is completely predictable. Remember, Palin is the creature of Podhoretz's partner in neocrime's spawn, William Kristol.

It reminds me of this excellent example of intellectual dancing on the head of a pin, when all the right wing had to explain whether or not they believed in evolution. It wasn't pretty, but they did it. Here's our newest little apostate's pas de deux:

David Frum, American Enterprise Institute and National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I do believe in evolution."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "If intelligent design means that evolution occurs under some divine guidance, I believe that."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."
It ain't easy being a teabag intellectual. In fact it may not even be possible. Frum, after all, has been drummed out of the corps.


by digby

If anyone's wondering how it was that former Mistress of the Universe Carly Fiorina was able to run HP into the ground, it appears that it may have been because she and the people she hires are a bit slow on the uptake. Laura at DKos has the latest:
Carly Fiorina continues to break new bread ground in campaign hilarity with this Passover email to supporters (emphasis added):

Passover is a time of remembrance and thanks. This festival provides us all - Jewish, Christian and all faiths - an opportunity to reflect on the challenges we have faced and the triumphs we have achieved together. It is also a reminder of the resilient spirit that has carried people through trials of every kind through every generation.

This week, as we break bread and spend time with our families and friends, I hope we also take a moment to say a word of thanks for our freedom and for those who have given their lives in freedom's name. Let us also look ahead with hope to the opportunities to come.

One of Passover's major distinguishing features, of course, is that you don't eat any bread during it.

Fiorina's campaign was forced to explain:

We meant all bread, leavened and unleavened, and matzo is just unleavened bread so that's what we meant by that.

Uh huh.

Goldilocks Blueprint

by digby

No wonder Beck is calling his book The Overton Window:

Last night on CNN, Larry King discussed the rise of the tea parties with a variety of guests and featured footage from last weekend’s lobbyist-organized Tea Party Express rally in Searchlight, NV...King noted that programs like Social Security are mandatory and asked if the tea parties would like to “do away with” that program as well. Both tea party organizers enthusiastically said “yes, absolutely” and added that a compromise would be at least privatizing the system:

KING: Would anyone turn away Social Security now? Would you do away with it?

LOESCH: I would, yes.

KING: You would?

LOESCH: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Would do you away with it, Wayne?

ROOT: I’d certainly like to. At best, I do away with it because I could find better ways to spend and save my own $15,000 a year.

Silly teabaggers. Silly us.

But here's the thing. Until now we haven't had anyone around who wanted to abolish social security. Now we do. The liberals, of course, want to leave it alone. I'd guess that means the social security commission which is stacked with people who want to cut benefits will be juuuuust right.

*I do think it's interesting that these people who are railing about mandating people to buy insurance seem fine with a compromise which mandates that they buy mutual funds. But then intellectual consistency isn't their strong suit.

Not Quite 100%

by digby

I didn't know quite what to make of David Brooks' even-more-than-usually noxious column this morning, but luckily I read Pandagon and it all made sense:

I was surprised that his vendetta against famous, successful women became so hysterical this morning that he insinuated that Sandra Bullock should have been at home making a sandwich instead of winning an Oscar, and that would have saved her marriage. Even someone as dedicated to making sure that no woman who works makes more than minimum wage as Brooks usually makes an exception for Hollywood actresses, understanding that it would be disconcerting for modern audiences to adopt the Elizabethean practice of having young boys play female characters in the movies, and it would bring to a crashing halt the practice of having nude sex scenes in films. Unless of course you only made movies for the Catholic priest population, but I just don’t see that bringing in the big bucks that Hollywood has grown accustomed to.

Read on ...


My personal experience with the institution of marriage has been terrific, but I would no more make judgments about other peoples' marriages based upon that than I would judge their taste in desserts. Everybody's different. But these "values" conservatives never hesitate to inject themselves into the relationships of those to whom they feel superior and oddly enough, they tend to the same conclusion: the woman failed to keep her man happy.

Marcotte, however, answers the main question I had about Brooks when I read this thing this morning:

Why is he in such a crisis of anxious masculinity that the unique, self-contained Hollywood world is bothering him? I’m afraid that we have to assume he’s upset because Nancy Pelosi took his balls. When forced to consider the subject of Nancy Pelosi’s massive success as Speaker of the House---success many people like Brooks would not think a woman capable of---he said this, after Mark Shields suggested Pelosi is the most powerful female political figure in our history:

JIM LEHRER: Do you buy that, David?

DAVID BROOKS: I’m trying to think of alternatives.

Some people say Edith Wilson was very powerful when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke.

Already we’re deep into wanker territory. But it gets worse! Because Brooks simply cannot accept that a woman might acquire power the way a man can, by working hard and winning elections and getting good at her job.

DAVID BROOKS: But, certainly, this is a great accomplishment. And sort of it’s an interesting picture of what it takes to succeed in a job like this.

She is not a great speaker—I mean a spokesperson, a communicator. I personally don’t think she’s great on policy. But she has the skills to know how to control this body, which is a fractious body, even when you have a majority. And, so, those skills are maybe in her blood from her father and her brother, but also skills that she really possesses. And there’s no denying she is a very effective legislator.

Nice of him to admit that she "really possesses" some skills, but it would seem that most of them are passed down from the men in her family, so it's hard to know if they "count." But I think that passage illuminates a lot more about Brooks than Pelosi, don't you?

Mean Country

by digby

I think there's a sense among many Americans that all this political sturm and drang that there's a bit of kabuki involved --- that it's part of the bit Political Show, a reality TV show (which bores most of them to death.)

But there are real life ramifications to the spectacle of average Americans behaving like thugs. I think this may be one of them:

Nine Massachusetts teenagers have been charged with involvement in a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of a 15-year-old girl, a prosecutor said Monday.

Phoebe Prince's body was found hanging in the stairway leading to her family's second-floor apartment in South Hadley, Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel told reporters in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton.

"It appears that Phoebe's death on January 14 followed a torturous day for her when she was subjected to verbal harassment and physical abuse," she said.

Earlier in the day, Prince had been harassed as she studied in the library at South Hadley High School, apparently in the presence of a faculty member and several students, none of whom reported it until after the death, Scheibel said.

Prince, who had recently moved to the area with her family from Ireland, was also harassed as she walked through the halls of the school that day and as she walked on the street toward her home, Scheibel said.

The harassment that day, by one male and two females, "appears to have been motivated by the group's displeasure with Phoebe's brief dating relationship with a male student that had ended six weeks earlier," she said.

But that day's events were not isolated; they "were the culmination of a nearly three-month campaign of verbally abusive, assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm toward Phoebe on school grounds by several South Hadley students," Scheibel added.

It appears this little girl was mentally tortured to death.

I'm sure this behavior isn't unprecedented. Lord of the Flies was an allegory, but it was also a fairly realistic depiction of human behavior. But I can't help but feel that the violent, apocalyptic rhetoric of the right over the past few years has torn off much of the civilizing bonds we'd built up over the years. Certainly our recent cavalier attitude toward torture ("when they deserve it") hasn't gone unnoticed.

Keep in mind that most of the people who are screaming in red faced rage in news stories every day aren't young people. It's older people --- the faces of authority --- who are doing it. These parental (and grandparental) role models acting out of control with anger gives tacit permission to some kids to act like animals too.

Turning The Tables

by digby

Overture to Catholics:

I have no authority whatsoever to speak for my Church, nor would I presume to do so. But as an Episcopal priest, I call on my ecclesiastical superiors to make a special overture to Roman Catholics who are disgruntled by the pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church; scandals that increasingly point to the complicity of the man in charge of the Vatican, Benedict XVI.

My reference here, of course, is to the declaration last fall by the very same Benedict seeking to lure conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians to the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican sensed an opening, especially with those Episcopalians (and former Episcopalians) who were still fuming over the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire, the refusal of the Episcopal Church to foreswear same-sex marriages, and the ordination of gays and lesbians and even (still!) the ordination of women.

On October 20, 2009, the Vatican announced a special “Apostolic Constitution” that would welcome these restive Episcopalians and Anglicans into the Catholic Church, allowing them to bring with them some of the glorious liturgies and music of the Anglican tradition.

While I’ve seen no evidence of Anglicans and Episcopalians “swimming the Tiber” en masse (pardon the pun) to Rome, the Vatican’s overture struck me at the time as opportunistic, even cynical. Ignoring decades of ecumenical conversations—not to mention catching the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, off guard—Benedict thought he could harvest disaffected Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church by offering concessions on liturgy and music together with ironclad proscriptions against such “evils” as homosexuality and women priests.

Now, just five months later, the tables have turned. Every new edition of the New York Times, it seems, carries fresh disclosures about priestly pedophilia in Ireland, Germany, and (most appallingly) at a Catholic school for the deaf in Wisconsin. Sadly enough, priestly pedophilia is old news by now. What’s new, in the opening of court documents that the Vatican sought desperately to suppress, is that the Catholic hierarchy stubbornly refused to deal with these cases in a way that would protect children against further abuse by predatory priests. There’s plenty of blame to go around, it seems—mild slaps on the wrist and reassignment to other venues where the abuse continued. But the finger of blame and complicity points unmistakably to Benedict in his pre-papal responsibilities as Joseph Ratzinger while archbishop of Munich and, later, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

So what do we learn from these developments over the past five months? Consider the evidence. I gather that the lesson from the Vatican is that homosexuality, even on the part of those in loving, committed relationships, is sin, must be exposed to the light of day for its shamefulness and must never be countenanced. It’s okay, however, to turn a blind eye to pedophile priests, to reassign them quietly to do harm elsewhere or simply to ignore the problem.

I’ll take my Episcopal Church, warts and all, any day.

Very understandable.

I'm sorry, but the Catholic Church hierarchy deserves this. They have behaved in an appalling manner, both in their arrogant assumption of moral superiority and their indifference for years to the suffering of the children in their priest's care.

Meanwhile, Wild Bill Donohue loses his marbles for good:
Seldom have I seen such delirium over an innocent man, namely Pope Benedict XVI. Christopher Hitchens, the rabid atheist, wants to know why the European Union is allowing the pope to travel freely. Perhaps he wants the pope handcuffed at the Vatican and brought to the guillotine. Margery Eagan of the Boston Herald, another big fan of the Catholic Church, says, "The Pope should resign." One looks in vain for a single sentence that implicates his guilt in anything. Then we have the Washington Post indicting priests by painting all of them as child abusers in a cartoon. There are many other examples of this kind of hysteria.

As indicated in our New York Times op-ed page ad today, the pope is innocent. Indeed, he is being framed. No one has any evidence that he even knew of the case of Father Lawrence Murphy. Indeed, his office didn't find out until 1996 and then it did the right thing by summoning an investigation (it could have simply dropped an inquiry given that the statute of limitations had run out). No matter, the pope's harshest critics are blaming him for not defrocking a man whom he may never have heard of, and in any event was entitled to a presumption of innocence. Or was he? There are not just a few who would deny civil liberties protections to priests.

It is a sad day when al-Qaeda suspects are afforded more rights than priests. That this kind of intellectual thuggery should emanate from those who fancy themselves tolerant and fair-minded makes the sham all the more despicable.

Lest you think that Old Bill is just protecting the Pope, get a load of this press release following revelation of the Irish abuse scandal:

Reuters is reporting that “Irish Priests Beat, Raped Children,” yet the report does not justify this wild and irresponsible claim. Four types of abuse are noted: physical, sexual, neglect and emotional. Physical abuse includes “being kicked”; neglect includes “inadequate heating”; and emotional abuse includes “lack of attachment and affection.” Not nice, to be sure, but hardly draconian, especially given the time line: fully 82 percent of the incidents took place before 1970. As the New York Times noted, “many of them [are] now more than 70 years old.” And quite frankly, corporal punishment was not exactly unknown in many homes during these times, and this is doubly true when dealing with miscreants.

Regarding sexual abuse, “kissing,” and “non-contact including voyeurism” (e.g., what it labels as “inappropriate sexual talk”) make the grade as constituting sexual abuse. Moreover, one-third of the cases involved “inappropriate fondling and contact.” None of this is defensible, but none of it qualifies as rape. Rape, on the other hand, constituted 12 percent of the cases. As for the charge that “Irish Priests” were responsible, some of the abuse was carried out by lay persons, much of it was done by Brothers, and about 12 percent of the abusers were priests (most of whom were not rapists).

The Irish report suffers from conflating minor instances of abuse with serious ones, thus demeaning the latter. When most people hear of the term abuse, they do not think about being slapped, being chilly, being ignored or, for that matter, having someone stare at you in the shower. They think about rape.

I guess those priests were just blowing off a little steam. Getting a little "emotional release."

For a real treat, listen to this interview with Donohue on the subject.

I don't know what you can say about people like this, but defending violence and sadism does seem to be part of the pattern, doesn't it?

Here's Dononue's ad(pdf) in the NY Times today.

Where Do They get Their Ideas ?

by digby

"Those crazies in Montana who say "we're going to kill ATF agents because the UN's going to take over --- well, they're beginning to have a case."

Atlas Cried

by digby

Beck has a new book coming out. A novel. A Big Novel:

An early hint may come in June, when Beck publishes his book The Overton Window, which he described as “a story of America in a time much like today where the people are confused,” with a government in crisis and the rise of a citizens’ group called the Founders Keepers, which “leads to a battle and a civil war, and life is upside-down planetwide.

Dave Weigel comments:

On first blush it sounds like “Atlas Shrugged” with a bit more violence, and with 9-12 Tea Partiers taking the place of underground intellectuals.

Sounds like it. I'd add in a dash of Battlefield Earth and Left Behind as well. Let's all just pray he didn't put in any sex scenes.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Useful Stupak

by digby

That will be the term that's used instead of "useful idiot" from now on.

Nick Baumann at Mother Jones takes a look at the top lobbyist for the Catholic Bishops (they have lobbyists?) who advised Stupak on his bizarre quest to hold out for the Stupak Amendment over the Nelson Amendment for no apparent reason. It's a fascinating story.

And now it seems there is serious trouble in paradise:

Perhaps the biggest question hanging over the bishops' strategy is why they were prepared to see health care reform fail unless the Stupak amendment's abortion provisions were adopted. After all, there was virtually no difference between the Stupak amendment in the House bill—which Doerflinger insisted was the only acceptable option—and the Nelson language in the Senate bill, which the bishops warned would "require people to pay for other people’s abortions."


In the days since Stupak voted for the bill, relations between his bloc and the bishops have soured. "The church does have some work to do in dealing with frayed nerves and divisions on policy questions," Doerflinger told Catholic News Service. Last week, Stupak attacked the bishops and other anti-abortion groups for "great hypocrisy" in opposing Obama's executive order after having supported former President George W. Bush's executive order banning stem cell research in 2007. He told the Daily Caller he believed the bishops and the groups they were allied with were "just using the life issue to try to bring down health-care reform." In other words, he suspected he was wrong to trust that his former allies were acting in good faith.

Yah think?

Yes, it was difficult to understand why Catholic bishops who purport to care for the poor would do such a thing. Certainly the non-wingnut laity wondered. In fact, they were aghast. So were the nuns. So were the Catholic hospitals. Stupak and his bloc were apparently just fools.

It was always obvious that these Catholic Bishops were simply trying to tank health care reform for political purposes. They are aligned with the Republican Party. And they have shown that they are, shall we say, somewhat morally indifferent. Powerful leaders who will cover up for pedophiles aren't likely to give a damn about the plight of the uninsured.

The Good The Bad And The Ugly

by digby

The Guttmacher institute has done a thorough analysis of the new health care bill's impact on reproductive rights:

For the nation’s consumers and providers of reproductive health care, and for advocates of reproductive health and rights, the health care reform legislation just enacted is something of a mixed bag. The bill’s onerous abortion restrictions have been rightly denounced by reproductive rights supporters. New funding for evidence-based sex education was regrettably paired with the retention of a failed and discredited abstinence-only program. But, taken together, a number of other provisions in this sweeping measure constitute a clear and significant step forward for the reproductive health of America’s women and men.

Abortion: Insurance Coverage Now an Endangered Species

The bill’s restrictive abortion provision is putatively designed to uphold the status quo on the question of federal funding. Accordingly, federal funds—in this case, subsidy dollars for individuals purchasing insurance plans on the new health care “exchanges” that are slated to become operational in 2014—may not be used to pay for abortion coverage (except in extreme cases), but individuals, at least in theory, may purchase a plan that includes abortion coverage so long as the abortion coverage itself is paid for with their own money. (This mirrors the Hyde Amendment, under which federal Medicaid dollars may not be used to pay for most abortions, but states may cover the procedure for their Medicaid recipients using their own funds.)

In practice, however, the complex, politicized arrangements the legislation necessitates militate heavily against the likelihood that many such plans will be purchased—or even offered. Consumers purchasing exchange plans that include abortion coverage would have to make two separate premium payments—one to cover abortion services and one to cover everything else. Insurance companies would have to jump through numerous, unprecedented hoops to estimate the cost of abortion coverage and ensure that the abortion payments never mix with other funds; they also are likely to face extensive public scrutiny and protest around their action. All told, according to an analysis by George Washington University’s Sara Rosenbaum, “the more logical response” for private insurers marketing plans within the exchanges—and eventually in the broader market as well—“would be not to sell products that cover abortion services.”
Sex Education: One Step Forward, One Step Back

The legislation provides $75 million per year over five years for a new “personal responsibility education program,” most of it in grants to states for programs that educate adolescents about both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Similar to the $114.5 million teen pregnancy prevention initiative signed into law by President Obama in December 2009, this new funding stream will focus on programs that are evidence-based, age-appropriate and medically accurate.

At the same time, the recently lapsed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage education program was resuscitated for five years, making $50 million annually available to the states for programs that have nonmarital abstinence promotion as their “exclusive purpose” and accordingly are prohibited from discussing the benefits of contraception or any safer sex behaviors. Going forward, this means that a total of about $190 million in federal funding will be granted to states and community-based organizations for evidence-based programs, while $50 million will be offered to states for rigid abstinence-only programs (although, notably, roughly half the states have rejected their grant offers in the past).
Medicaid: A Huge Advance for Lower-Income Americans’ Reproductive Health

According to the Congressional Budget Office, a provision expanding eligibility to all Americans with a family income below 133% of the federal poverty level will allow 16 million more Americans to join Medicaid by 2019 than would otherwise be the case. All Medicaid recipients receive the program’s guarantee of family planning services without cost sharing, along with coverage for its comprehensive package of reproductive health services beyond family planning. (The major exception, of course, is abortion; however, this provision effectively would expand abortion coverage in the 17 states that fund abortions for their Medicaid recipients with state dollars.) The legislation, moreover, goes one step further: It allows states to expand Medicaid coverage solely for family planning services to the same income eligibility levels they use for pregnancy-related care, typically around 200% of poverty.
Private Insurance: Real Improvements on the Horizon

Under the legislation, currently uninsured individuals with incomes above 133% of poverty will be able to purchase private insurance coverage through the new health care exchanges, almost all of them with the help of a federal subsidy. Most of the plans offered on the exchanges will be required to offer a similar package of core services. The deliberately sketchy package described in the legislation specifies maternity care, closing a major coverage gap in the individual and small group market, but the final package is expected to also include coverage of a broad package of reproductive health services, including contraceptive services and supplies, as is typically the case in private-sector plans today. Insurance plans participating in the exchanges also will be required to contract with essential community providers, defined to include family planning centers, community health centers, public hospitals and HIV/AIDS clinics.

Meanwhile, all private insurance plans, both inside and outside the exchanges, will be required to cover, without cost sharing, a package of preventive and screening services for women. The exact package will be defined by the federal government, following a study to be conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Similarly, all private plans that provide dependent coverage will be required to make it available for unmarried adult children younger than age 26. This provision, which goes into effect later this year, represents another important avenue for young adults to receive reproductive health care coverage.
Public Health: New Money for Struggling Safety-Net Providers

Finally, although strengthening the health care provider network was rarely mentioned as a core goal of the health care reform legislation, the law includes a vast array of new grants and programs to that end. It includes $1.5 billion over five years to support maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting programs, with a focus on high-risk families. It provides a significant increase in the rebates pharmaceutical manufacturers must offer to state Medicaid programs for both brand-name and generic drugs and in the discounts offered to safety-net providers, including Title X–supported family planning centers, under the 340B Drug Discount Program. It includes many billions of dollars in new funding for community health centers, which provide family planning services and other basic reproductive health care to their clients, and establishes a dedicated $50 million yearly funding stream for school-based health centers, many of which provide contraceptive care to students in need. The legislation also includes several dozen programs designed to bolster the health care workforce through loan forgiveness and provider training programs, some of which are relevant for family planning providers.

Women's rights aren't a zero sum game and giving up insurance coverage for abortion shouldn't have to be the price for passing these other vitally important programs.

The pro-choice movement needs to study the methods of the NRA. They never let their advocates use them as a bargaining chip for anything. And anyway, at this point, the pro-choice advocates have very little left to bargain with.

These other advances are great news and explain why the pro-choice liberals were caught between a rock and a hard place and ultimately voted as they did. But they should never allow themselves to be blackmailed like that again. If they do, it's all over.

The Real Frat Boys Of Orange County

by digby

An Orange County Republican blog reports that the RNC booze and bondage party at Voyeurs was actually a big event to lure youthful donors:
The O.C. connection? As the Daily Caller story in that second link shows, DMI President and Gen Next member, Erik Brown, was who picked up that tab and ended up expensing it to the RNC.

According to sources who were in attendance that night, the "official" part of the evening started with 50+ person dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel, then carried on throughout the evening, eventually ending up at Voyeur. While RNC employees, who were in town to recruit members to its "RNC Young Eagles" program, did participate throughout the entire evening and did find their way to the bondage-themed club, Michael Steele himself was "not in attendance" for any portion of the evening. Brown, by the way, is reportedly a "Young Eagle" himself, a fundraising sub-group of the RNC which targets larger donors based on age group.

Presumably, the Daily Caller (which broke this whole story on its website earlier today) is continuing to pour through RNC disclosure documents. If so, it will likely find significant sums spent by the RNC on services rendered by DMI; not only do local politicos report that Brown liked to brag about his ties to this and other state-wide and national organizations and campaigns, but it would seem consistent with someone who would think he could get away with running through such a large expense.

He did get away with it. The party paid the expense, after all. It was only the press looking into it that exposed it.

It's fairly crude for the party of family values to do this at any time, but it's particularly distasteful spend this kind of money on strippers when the state of California is suffering from 12 and half percent unemployment and the whole state infrastructure is coming down around our ears. Not that they care, of course. But they usually pretend.

I suppose they can always say they were "stimulating the economy" --- but "trickle down" doesn't look so good in this particular context.

Village Blowback

by digby

The Michigan Militia may be throwing the Christian Soldiers under the bus, but the mainstream conservatives are defending them. That's interesting. More interesting is the fact that the spokesman for the Michigan Militia, appearing on Dylan Ratigan, says the Hutaree Militia members are more of an armed religious cult, which in his view is unconstitutional because the constitution requires no religious test. Ok. But that certainly has never been a key point to the Patriot Movement before. Indeed, they turned the Waco seige into a constitutional martyrdom operation and "honor" the Waco dead every April 19th (culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing on the same day.) If Koresh and the gang weren't an "armed cult" I don't know what is.

What's fascinates me most about the resurgent rightwing fringe is the fact that it's so confused. And I think that actually works for it. Their only true organizing rationale is a common sense of outrage that anyone would think their philosophy/ideology is not a majority position. And when you think about it, that's not entirely irrational.

After all, this doesn't just come from the FOX ghetto --- the mainstream media have also been saying for years that this is a conservative country and that these salt-o-the-earth Red State Republicans are the Real Americans etc. If that's what you've been told all your life, the idea that a liberal (ish) black president and a party of women and non-whites could legitimately win an election wouldn't seem possible.

Blame the fatuous gasbags. They're the ones who have sold these people that bill of goods all these years. They believe that their cramped, conservative intolerance was shared by the majority because that's what the villagers believed --- and told them so for the past several decades.

Update: Amanda makes a good point that relates to the above I think:

Any fool could see from the outset that the teabaggers are a bunch of Fox News-addled right wing nuts that are sore losers whose anger is exacerbated by racist resentments. But the mainstream media insists on covering it like it’s an exciting, fresh shift in the political landscape. I don’t think they’re carrying Republican water on this issue, though. I think the eagerness to run with this “teabaggers are fed-up independents” narrative is stoked by a desire for novelty above all other things. But it defies common sense. You can look with your own eyes and see that the teabaggers aren’t really a collection of spring chickens.
But according to the mainstream narrative it's these elder chickens who are the heart and soul of the Real America, you see. So when they speak, they speak for The People and are therefore extremely newsworthy.

These folks, not so much:

Fighting Words

by digby

As regards the fellow who threatened Eric Cantor, according to TPM he has a problem with lots of people:

According to the federal complaint against him, Norman Leboon of Philadelphia has admitted making some 2,000 videos that contained threats. A sampling of his "work" reveals rambling incoherent videos that mix pseudo-religious incantations with random warnings and threats. In one video he addresses President Obama, Vice President Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid by name and says, "Your punishment is coming, the swine, it will be severe, and you will beg for mercy to your god, it will be severe, you will know god's swine, god has warned you." (Some conservatives are already chortling over the fact that Leboon contributed to Obama's 2008 campaign, though it's not clear what that's supposed to signify.)
It wouldn't make any difference if he had given money to Sarah Palin. The right wingers were able to sell the idea that the Islamic fanatics who shoot women like dogs, hang gay people and want to take the world back to the 11th century are big allies of the feminazi, gay marrying liberals. This does not require any intellectual coherence. All they need to know is that this particular nutcase threatened a Republican lawmaker to prove that it's the liberals who are threatening violence and the conservatives who are the victims. And this naturally leads to the conclusion that the conservatives must "fight fire with fire," arm up and defend themselves.

It's not an original rationale, god knows. It's been used to justify wars since time began --- even as recently as 2003. But considering that Newt Gingrich is going around saying that Obama is "the greatest threat to the American way of life since the 1850s," it's something worth thinking about.

Queen Bee Decree

by digby

David Shuster had Sally Quinn on his show to discuss the Vatican scandal. She says that it's the Catholic Church's Watergate and that the Cardinals will be marching up to the papal residence any day now to tell the Pope that it's time for him to go. She said it with such assurance that you'd think she has informants on the inside which I think we all know that's highly unlikely.

Her expertise on Catholicism is a tad overstated, as she has previously demonstrated. Melinda Henneberger wrote about it at the time:

For years, Catholics have been arguing about who is and is not supposed to receive Communion. Until now, these were family fights, always over abortion, and nearly always involving elected officials. After pro-choice presidential candidate John Kerry received the Eucharist at my parish in 2004, for instance, the priest was so excited, he announced the big news at a subsequent Mass, and got a standing ovation. (I know, right? Oy.) While at the other end of the spectrum, some cowboy in vestments recently refused to serve the conservative pro-life jurist Doug Kmiec, for the supposed sin of having smiled at Barack Obama. (OK, he endorsed him, in Slate.)

But then non-Catholic Sally Quinn took Communion at Tim Russert's funeral—and blogged about the body and blood in the Washington Post-Newsweek religion site "On Faith."

Last Wednesday at Tim's funeral mass at [Holy]Trinity Church in Georgetown (Jack Kennedy's church), communion was offered. I had only taken communion once in my life, at an evangelical church. It was soon after I had started "On Faith" and I wanted to see what it was like. Oddly I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Last Wednesday I was determined to take it for Tim, transubstantiation notwithstanding. I'm so glad I did. It made me feel closer to him. And it was worth it just to imagine how he would have loved it. After I began "On Faith," Tim started calling me "Sister Sal" instead of "Miss Sal."

This reads a little too much like a restaurant review for my comfort; Christ Almighty: Tangy Yet Nauseating? And good as he was, we don't really take Communion to feel closer to Tim Russert.

Knowledge of the church's rituals be damned, if the Queen Bee says the Pope is going to resign, then everyone has to take notice.

As for what should happen to the pope, well, I'd say he probably needs to be arrested. But I'm not making any predictions. Unlike Quinn, I don't have access to the Village tarot deck so I'm hesitant to say exactly what's going to happen. Let's just say I'm doubtful that they operate like American politicians. They don't put a lot of stock in popular opinion.

Under The Veneer

by digby

Following up on my post last night about the militia raids in Michigan, I see that Dave Niewert, a certified expert in militia culture, has weighed in. He compares the "mainstream" Michigan Militia (which threw these "Christian" militia men under the bus yesterday) to the Washington State militia that he covered:
The WSM was a lot like the Michigan Militia in that it liked to sell itself as a civic-minded group whose main purpose was to defend citizens from government oppression and to perform various civic function. I'll never forget John Pitner, the WSM's "commander," telling reporters outside a meeting hall in Mount Vernon in January 1996 that he and his members had been heavily involved in sandbagging efforts to combat the floods that had hit local rivers the week before.

That was how they behaved when out in public, trying to recruit mainstream conservatives to their cause. Then we discovered that what they were saying in private was quite a different thing altogether.

Pitner and six of his comrades were arrested in July 1996 and hit with a variety of charges, most notably for making pipe bombs. At the trial, it emerged that the FBI had videotaped many of the militiamen's meetings, and so both the trial audience and the jury got to hear Pitner and his cohorts planning various acts of violence, including bombing a local reporter's home and a nearby train tunnel.

That's why that poster I featured of their little family picnic with the kids and the guns is so creepy. If they listen to Fox and Rush, as most of these wingnuts do, they probably even believe that they are mainstream. In fact, they are violent radicals, but that seems to be all the "rage" these days in certain quarters.

Somehow this doesn't make me feel safer:

Upside Down

by digby

After a hilarious recap of the slow-at-first-then-all-at-once destruction of McCain's reputation at his own hand, Charles Pierce becomes the only person (that I've read anyway) to note the most amazing moment of the McCain-Palin teabag extravaganza this week-end:

John McCain has flown in Sarah Palin to be the featured speaker at a rally that he hopes will push him to victory over a guy whom even all the other congressional dumbasses thought was a box of rocks. She's endorsing him but, at the rally, HE'S introducing her ...

He created this monster and now he's subservient to it. There's some poetic justice in that.

h/t to bb
Hot Steele

by digby

Evidently Michael Steele likes to travel in style. According to this, he likes it so much he considered having the RNC buy its own plane. (He's settled for chartering jets instead.) But what the party boss really likes to do isparty hearty:

Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

Far be it for me to deny a guy the chance to blow off some steam, but you'd think the Republicans would at least require him to confine himself to some good old fashioned hetero bondage. That lesbian imitation stuff makes it seem like he's immoral or something.

Update: Evidently it was an RNC staffer hanging out at the bondage club, not Steele himself. Steele himself just spends lavishly on travel and accomodations. Well ok then.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Was Gekko Railroaded?

by digby

Daniel at Crooked Timber goes back in time and looks at the case against Gordon Gekko. Turns out he probably didn't actually break any laws. Greed really is good. Or at least it isn't illegal.

Patriot vs Patriot

by digby

Add this one to the tally of wingnut groups out there. Seven arrested in FBI raids linked to Christian militia group:

At least seven people, including some from Michigan, have been arrested in raids by a FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana as part of an investigation into an Adrian-based Christian militia group, a person familiar with the matter said...

Sources have said the FBI was in the second day of raids around the southeastern Michigan city of Adrian that are connected to a militia group, known as the Hutaree, an Adrian-based group whose members describe themselves as Christian soldiers preparing for the arrival and battle with the anti-Christ.


Mike Lackomar, of Michiganmilitia.com, said both The Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and the Michiganmilitia.com were not a part of the raid.

Lackomar said he heard from other militia members that the FBI targeted the Hutaree after its members made threats of violence against Islamic organizations.

"Last night and into today the FBI conducted a raid against homes belonging to the Hutaree. They are a religious cult. They are not part of our militia community," he said.

I guess they're on their own ...

One of the Hutaree members called a Michigan militia leader for assistance Saturday after federal agents had already began their raid, Lackomar said, but the militia member -- who is of Islamic decent and had heard about the threats -- declined to offer help. That Michigan militia leader is now working with federal officials to provide information on the Hutaree member for the investigation, Lackomar said Sunday.

"They are more of survivalist group and in an emergency they withdraw and stand their ground. They are actively training to be alongside Jesus," he said.

What's wrong with that? Why aren't these patriots going to defend their brethren's constitutional right to bear arms in the war on Satan (Islam?) Don't the same principles apply? Apparently, this group was a bridge too far even for them.

According to the SPLC, the Michigan Militias are always in some kind of catfight, so perhaps this is just par for the course. They have other things on their minds anyway:

It's just a big old family picnic. With ammunition. And there are lots of these groups:

The number of extremist groups in the United States exploded in 2009 as militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream, according to a report issued today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Antigovernment "Patriot" groups - militias and other extremist organizations that see the federal government as their enemy - came roaring back to life over the past year after more than a decade out of the limelight.

The SPLC documented a 244 percent increase in the number of active Patriot groups in 2009. Their numbers grew from 149 groups in 2008 to 512 groups in 2009, an astonishing addition of 363 new groups in a single year. Militias - the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement - were a major part of the increase, growing from 42 militias in 2008 to 127 in 2009.

He's A Big Boy Now

by digby

If you want to see a shining example of a right wing moral cripple, meet CNN's newest gasbag, Eric Ericksson. He appeared on Howard Kurtz's show today and C&L caught the exchange

KURTZ: Erick Erickson made his debut this week as a CNN contributor. He is a Georgia lawyer, a church deacon, and managing editor of the conservative Web site RedState.com. Erickson's hiring generated a great deal of publicity, most of the decidedly negative variety.

I spoke with him earlier from Atlanta.


KURTZ: Erick Erickson, welcome.

ERICKSON: Thanks for having me.

KURTZ: You have been getting hammered by liberal commentators since CNN decided to bring you on as a contributor to John King's program, and it all revolves around the things that you have written. So let's just go through some of them.


KURTZ: On the administration's health care spokeswoman, you wrote, "Linda Douglass is really the Joseph Goebbels of the health care shop."

You're comparing her to a notorious Nazi?

ERICKSON: Yes, to propaganda. I probably shouldn't have said that. And to be honest with you, I got her confused with one of the congressman who, the same day she came out and was urging people to begin e-mailing in to the White House the -- forwarding on the e-mails from friends who were "misrepresenting" the president's health care plan, a congressman came out and referred to people as "brownshirts." And I got my wires crossed that day and thought, you know, if they're going to go down that road, I will too.

I probably shouldn't have, but I did.

KURTZ: Yes. And She never said that, and she assures me that she never said that.

The first lady, you wrote the following -- the headline was, "Is Obama shagging hookers behind the media's back?" And you write, "I assume not. I assume that Obama's Marxist harpy wife would go Lorena Bobbit on him should he even think about it."

Why would you describe Michelle Obama in those terms?

ERICKSON: Well, you know, back during the campaign trail in 2008, a lifetime ago, frankly, in blogging, I was very passionate, very aggressive in defending my side. And at the time that I wrote that, the Eliot Spitzer story was breaking, and the point was -- distracted by the language, obviously -- that Barack Obama was as much a creature of the media as Eliot Spitzer was. Neither have been investigated. And, you know, since that time, I've really learned, headed into, frankly, the David Souter comment, that I don't have to get personal in blogging to make my point. I've definitely evolved over time.

KURTZ: Well, let's deal with the David Souter comment. When Justice Souter announced his retirement, you said, you wrote, "The nation loses the only goat (EXPLETIVE) child molester ever to serve on the Supreme Court."

Do you regret writing that?

ERICKSON: Yes, absolutely. It was about the dumbest thing I've done.

You know, counterintuitively, I guess, some good came out of it. It was the very first time I realized, Howard, how what I do for a living affects my family as well. Having my 3-year-old heckled and booed in the front yard by a neighbor, having my wife be berated at her office, you know, being a blogger, up until that moment I always considered I was just a guy chatting with friends, even on Twitter. And I realized that I actually reached a point where people listen to what I say and care about what I say, and frankly it was a wake-up call to me that I had to grow up in how I write

Ericksson has been writing a blog for many years. And apparently he never considered that his writing affected people until May 9th of last year. That's right, Ericksson finally decided he needed to stop tweeting that Justice Souter was a goat fucking child molester less than a year ago. And it only occurred to him that it might not be a good idea to call Souter a goat fucking child molester in public because his wife and child had to put up with some criticism. No word on whether or not calling people goat fucking child molesters is wrong on the merits.

As utterly revealing as his little mea culpa was, I think this is actually more revealing --- and unintentionally hilarious:

KURTZ: Well, ,you know, at a time when there's this great debate about threats against Democratic -- mostly Democratic and some Republican lawmakers in the health care debate, I stumbled upon something you wrote about a Washington State controversy in which you said, "At what point do people march down to their state legislator's house, pull them aside and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?"

Now, I assume you were being metaphorical, but some people might react differently to that.

ERICKSON: You know, the left tried to blow that one up, and I've written subsequently about that with a legislator in New York who wants to ban salt in restaurants. And I think the point is valid. The left may not like it.

I'm a local legislator myself, and I am afraid and have been since that time that we're reaching a point where reasonable people are just going to get kind of crazy with government intrusion in their lives. The particular case in that situation was Washington State banning phosphates from dishwasher detergent.

There's nothing that will drive a good man or woman over the bend like banning phosphates from dishwasher detergent! Can you blame anyone for going down to their legislator's office a beating him to pulp when they are intruding on your life to such a degree that you can't buy phosphate-filled detergent? Where oh where will it end? When the jack booted thugs can take away your phosphate detergent, you're just one small step away from the gulag.

Let's face it, these people are ridiculous. At least the 60s revolutionaries were trying to stop the government from fighting a war, fergawdsake. These people are trying to stop the government from helping people buy health insurance. Have you ever heard anything so absurd?

Actually, now that I think about it, yes I have. Even more absurd is the fact that CNN has hired this fatuous fool thinking that his point of view is even remotely indicative of anything other than a massive temper tantrum by a bunch of sore losermen who simply refuse to acknowledge that they are in the minority.

They Wouldn't Listen

by digby

Howie has a blockbuster post up about the child molesting cult leader of the legionnaires of Christ, Father Maciel. It's even worse than I knew. If you are following this Catholic sex scandal, this bizarre sub-plot is amazing.

Meanwhile,here's more on the horror of the deaf boys who couldn't get anyone to listen to them:

What Good Were They?

by digby

One of the dumber moves the Democrats made in recent times was allowing ACORN to go undefended because those silly costumed miscreants doctored some tapes to portray the ACORN workers as idiots and criminals. Its destruction may end up being the most important conservative movement action of the era because of what it did to Democratic infrastructure:

A Summary of Recent Accomplishments (pdf)

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is one of the nation’s largest and most successful community organization of lower income families. Since 1970 ACORN has been building solidly rooted and powerful community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and have taken action and won victories on thousands of issues of concern to our members. Our priorities include living wages for low income workers; an end to predatory financial practices and foreclosures; decent and affordable housing, for first time homebuyers and tenants; public schools that work for all students; voting rights, and full participation in our electoral system; a path to citizenship for new immigrants to this country; and an equitable response to natural disasters such as Katrina. ACORN achieves these goals by building community organizations that have the power to win changes – through direct action, negotiation, legislation, and voter participation.

The following report describes some of ACORN’s major accomplishments in these areas over the past decade. In addition, every day local ACORN chapters are taking action and winning on issues as diverse as getting traffic lights at dangerous intersections, increasing police protection in their neighborhoods, and forcing landlords to make necessary repairs. These activities are the building blocks that help the organization recruit new members, teach the skills of public engagement, and build the power that allows ACORN to take action and win on the critical issues that face our constituency:

The first few listed are all laudable community organizing activities. But it's the final one that made them a long standing GOP target:
More Income for Poor Americans
Taking on the Predatory Lenders
Passing Laws to Stop Foreclosures
Preserving and Creating Affordable Housing
Rebuilding After Katrina
Improving Schools in our Communities
Stopping RAL Rip-offs and Providing Free Tax Prep

Bringing New Voters Into Elections

ACORN’s non-partisan voter registration drives have successfully helped build an American electorate that is beginning to look more like America — with more African Americans, Latinos and young people voting in 2008 than ever before. ACORN has collected and submitted nearly 3 million voter registration applications since 2003: 1.152 million in 2003-4, 540,000 in 2006, and close to 1.3 million in 2007-8. Based on our knowledge of voter registration drives, we estimate that 70%—more than 2 million—of these applications resulted in a successfully registered new voter or a necessary address change to keep a voter on the rolls. Our best estimates indicate that ACORN’s 2008 voter registration and GOTV work, combined with the continuing impact of ACORN’s registration drives from 2003 through 2006, helped bring approximately one million voters to the polls last year.

In 2008, ACORN’s Get Out the Vote and voter education programs made more than 470,000 contacts with voters, mostly African American and Latino infrequent voters, with strong programs in states including NC, OH, NM, and MN. ACORN also ran a successful Get Out the Vote program as part of the We Are America Alliance, targeting immigrant voters in CO, AZ, NM, FL, and WA. In 2004 ACORN’s Get Out the Vote program made an estimated 2.3 million face to face contacts in low income and minority communities, and in 2006 made and well over a million voter contacts, speaking to a universe of 580,000 people one to three times.

Finally, ACORN’s voter mobilization methodology has been scientifically tested – and it works! Yale Professor Donald Green and team conducted a controlled experiment to evaluate ACORN’s person-to-person voter mobilization program and concluded: “ACORN’s campaign ranks as the most successful voter mobilization experiment involving more than 1,000 voters. Among Latinos in the targeted precincts, voter turnout more than doubled when voters were mobilized by ACORN canvassers. This campaign illustrates the powerful effects of an intensive, personal approach to voter mobilization.”

Promoting and Protecting the Right to Vote: ACORN has worked to improve enforcement of the NVRA’s public agency voter registration requirements throughout the country. The greatest success to date has come in Missouri, where, after research by ACORN and Project Vote indicated that the state was failing to implement the NVRA, ACORN successfully sued Missouri to force the Department of Social Services (DSS) to live up to its obligation to help register low-income residents. As a direct result of that suit, more than 100,000 Missourians will register to vote at the DSS by the fall or winter of 2009.

Throughout the 2008 election season ACORN played a leading role in protecting voting rights: In New Mexico, ACORN joined the ACLU and other partners and filed suit to stop partisan operatives from intimidating minority voters in direct violation of the Voting Rights Act. In Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg ruled in favor of ACORN, denying the GOP’s attempt to stop ACORN’s voter mobilization in the state. And ACORN played a part in other 2008 voting rights victories in AZ, FL, GA. MD, MO, and OH, which blocked voter caging schemes or otherwise protected the right of all citizens to register and vote.

A Note on Collaboration: In many of these campaigns, ACORN worked closely with critical allies, including other community organizations, research and public policy groups, labor unions, churches, and elected officials. Credit for these victories should be shared with our partners: social change is a joint venture, dependent on a dense infrastructure of progressive organizations. What makes ACORN unique, however, and a critical actor in these important campaigns, is the organization’s base of low and moderate income members in cities throughout the country, and its ability to mobilize that base in a coordinated, strategic set of activities. ACORN often provided the “juice” that helped convince policymakers to enact these reforms.

Maybe the Democrats didn't think all that matters, but the Republicans certainly did. They worked for years to take out ACORN and that little jackass finally got it done. Believe me, it wasn't because they were worried about "voting integrity." They were worried that in the new white minority world, too many people of color would vote. We know what that means. (They tend not to vote for the racist party.)

The Democrats showed no instinct for self-preservation on this one, which isn't surprising.