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Friday, April 30, 2010

May Day Marches

by digby

People will be marching all over the country on Saturday to NO to Arizona and YES to federal immigration reform with a strong legalization program for the undocumented. (There's also a demand to stop these awful ICE deportations, a policy which is an unadulterated mess.) If you are moved to get into the streets, you can find out where the marches are gathering at this website.

America's Voice will be tweeting the DC march here. This one may be lively. They expect to be joined by Members of Congress and others who will be risking arrest.

It will be interesting to see if the media bother to cover it. I hear Jay Leno's coming to town so they may be busy.

Update: And the hits just keep on coming, Mojo Reports:

Brewer felt she had to sign last week's immigration bill, because she felt Arpaio's breath on her neck. She had to appear as tough on brown people as Arpaio does, lest he decide to challenge her in the GOP primary.

So she signed it. And guess what? Arpaio's still going to run against her. Sources in the sheriff's department, which will likely double as his campaign staff (no new thing there), say his paperwork's filed. And on his Twitter account - where you can read about his Washington Post interview today, or his "crime suppression/illegal immigration" operations briefings, or his anger about "out of town critics" - he recently tweeted that his wife wants him to run. And he's already the frontrunner in Arizona Republicans' minds.

So why not run? What does he have to fear? Latino turnout in the Phoenix metro area? Problem solved!

If you don't know the story on Arpaio, click the link.

Update II: Wow.

Two Out Of Four Ain't Bad

by digby

I'm beginning to think the mentally ill might be better off being shot with a gun to subdue them. Their survival rate might be higher:

A 32-year-old Fairfax County man who was in apparent psychiatric distress, died early Friday after being jolted with a Taser charge by an Arlington County officer trying to subdue him inside an apartment where the man was visiting relatives, police said.

It was the second death in a police Taser incident in Arlington this year, coming after a January case in which a District man died shortly after a Taser was used on him at the Pentagon City Metro platform. A final medical examiner's report is pending in the earlier death police said.

Police and medics called to the 5500 block of Columbia Pike at 12:41 a.m. found Adil Jouamai naked and uncooperative, according to police who said Jouamai was combative and ignored commands by officers. An officer deployed a Taser to bring him under control and shortly after, Jouamai did not appear to be breathing, said Lt. William Griffith, a an Arlington police spokesman.

Medics began trying to resuscitate Jouamai and took him to Virgina Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead.


The incident was the fourth time this year that Arlington police have deployed Tasers, which administer an electric jolt and are designed to be safer than firearms. Two of those confrontations did not involve death or injury, Griffith said.

But on Jan. 17, a 36-year-old District man died after being Tasered during a confrontation with police on the Pentagon City Metro platform.

William R. Bumbrey III allegedly became aggressive when an officer approached him on the Metro platform to question him about a recent theft from a nearby pharmacy, police said. After the officer used his Taser, Bumbrey continued to struggle, police said at the time, but eventually was restrained and handcuffed.

Soon after, officers saw that Bumbrey was in medical distress. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

Hey, tasers only killed people 50% of the time in this department. There's no reason to think there's a problem.

Negative Impact

by digby

I've been wondering what the Baseball players union was going to say about Arizona and they finally came out with a statement:

New York, NY, Friday, April 30, 2010 … The following statement was issued today by Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner regarding the immigration law recently passed by the state of Arizona.

“The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States. These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association. Their contributions to our sport have been invaluable, and their exploits have been witnessed, enjoyed and applauded by millions of Americans. All of them, as well as the Clubs for whom they play, have gone to great lengths to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law.

“The impact of the bill signed into law in Arizona last Friday is not limited to the players on one team. The international players on the Diamondbacks work and, with their families, reside in Arizona from April through September or October. In addition, during the season, hundreds of international players on opposing Major League teams travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks. And, the spring training homes of half of the 30 Major League teams are now in Arizona. All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal. Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status. This law also may affect players who are U.S. citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent.

“The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written. We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly. If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.

“My statement reflects the institutional position of the Union. It was arrived at after consultation with our members and after consideration of their various views on this controversial subject.”

Amato is all over the baseball angle over at Crooks and Liars and he's getting some traction. Arizona has a history with sports and wingnut politics colliding and they know it. The Diamondbacks are whining like crazy. And then there's this:

Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) has even suggested that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, scheduled to take place in Phoenix in 2011, should be moved to another location.


by digby

The immigration atrocity in Arizona reminded me of that NRA "graphic novel" (pdf) that came out a couple of years ago. Click on the image to read :

Yes, it's all about crime. Or jobs. Or public services. It has nothing to do with race or ethnicity:
Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Arizona Department of Education “recently began telling school districts that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes for students still learning English”:

State education officials say the move is intended to ensure that students with limited English have teachers who speak the language flawlessly. But some school principals and administrators say the department is imposing arbitrary fluency standards that could undermine students by thinning the ranks of experienced educators. [...]

This is just one more indication of the incredible anti-immigrant sentiment in the state,” said Bruce Merrill, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University who conducts public-opinion research.

But many schools in the state still have a significant number of teachers who are native Spanish speakers. At one school, state auditors complained that teachers pronounced “words such as violet as ‘biolet,’ think as ‘tink’ and swallow the ending sounds of words, as they sometimes do in Spanish.” The principal at that school acknowledged that teachers “should speak grammatically correct English” but said they shouldn’t be punished for having an accent.

And the Arizona legislature passed a bill yesterday outlawing ethnic studies programs.

The frenzy is accelerating and it shouldn't come as a huge surprise. This kind of nativism is part and parcel of right wing populism and when there's economic strain it rises to the surface. I think it's actually a testament to progress that it took this long.

But it's very much complicated by the fact that there are so many Americans of Hispanic descent who know very well what's going on. And they can vote.

"How's That Wishin' Prayin' Thing Workin' Out For Ya?"

by digby

Ok. That's the last time I'll use that. But I just couldn't help it after reading this:

Notice her wording: All industry efforts must be employed.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the industry efforts have all been employed since the beginning --- to stop regulations that might have prevented this:
The Wall Street Journal reports that the well lacked a remote-control shut-off switch that is required by Brazil and Norway, two other major oil-producing nations. The switch, a back-up measure to shut off oil flow, would allow a crew to remotely shut off the well even if a rig was damaged or sunken. BP said it couldn't explain why its primary shut-off measures did not work.

U.S. regulators considered requiring the mechanism several years ago. They decided against the measure when drilling companies protested, saying the cost was too high, the device was only questionably effective, and that primary shut-off measures were enough to control an oil spill. A 2001 industry report argued against the shut-off device:

"Significant doubts remain in regard to the ability of this type of system to provide a reliable emergency back-up control system during an actual well flowing incident."

However, a spokeswoman for Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority said the switches have "been seen as the most successful and effective option" in North Sea usage. Several oil producers, including Royal Dutch Shell, sometimes use the switch even when it is not required by country regulations.

Experts have said that the remote-control switch may have been able to shut off the Deepwater Horizon well, and critics of have said the lack of the remote control is a sign U.S. authorities have been too lax with the industry. A spokesman for Democratic Florida Senator Bill Nelson argued:

"What we see, going back two decades, is an oil industry that has had way too much sway with federal regulations. We are seeing our worst nightmare coming true."

Finally, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that BP argued against stricter safety regulations for the oil industry in letters to the Minerals Management Service last year. BP joined with several other oil producers to say that current voluntary safety rules are sufficient.

Yeah, that worked out well.
The Li'lest Overlords

by digby

Evidently, this email is being passed around all over Wall Street. I think the writer believes it's supposed to scare people instead of reminding us of a Wilfred Brimley pep talk in a made-for-TV movie:

“We are Wall Street. It’s our job to make money. Whether it’s a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn’t matter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable. I didn’t hear America complaining when the market was roaring to 14,000 and everyone’s 401k doubled every 3 years. Just like gambling, its not a problem until you lose. I’ve never heard of anyone going to Gamblers Anonymous because they won too much in Vegas.

Well now the market crapped out, & even though it has come back somewhat, the government and the average Joes are still looking for a scapegoat. God knows there has to be one for everything. Well, here we are.

Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We’re used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don’t take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don’t demand a union. We don’t retire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we’ll eat that.

For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? We’re going to take your cushy jobs with tenure and 4 months off a year and whine just like you that we are so-o-o-o underpaid for building the youth of America. Say goodbye to your overtime and double time and a half. I’ll be hitting grounders to the high school baseball team for $5k extra a summer, thank you very much.

So now that we’re going to be making $85k a year without upside, Joe Mainstreet is going to have his revenge, right? Wrong! Guess what: we’re going to stop buying the new 80k car, we aren’t going to leave the 35 percent tip at our business dinners anymore. No more free rides on our backs. We’re going to landscape our own back yards, wash our cars with a garden hose in our driveways. Our money was your money. You spent it. When our money dries up, so does yours.

The difference is, you lived off of it, we rejoiced in it. The Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee might get their way and knock us off the top of the pyramid, but it’s really going to hurt like hell for them when our fat a**es land directly on the middle class of America and knock them to the bottom.

We aren’t dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vicious than that, and we are going to survive. The question is, now that Obama & his administration are making Joe Mainstreet our food supply…will he? and will they?”

Yeah, the economy's going to crumble if a couple thousand loud mouthed frat rats stop buying BMWs and start mowing their own lawns. Just like the equally deluded teabaggers, he seems to be laboring under the misconception that he represents anything more than he and his little drinking buddies.

I think it's sort of cute actually. It reminds of when Bush pouted "I'm the decider."

There's an argument to be made about the economic consequences of vilifying Wall Street, but the threat of all those out of work traders stealing our jobs is hardly the most convincing. But I'm sure all those boys at the trading desks got woodies reading it, so I suppose it's served its purpose.


by tristero

From Civil Eats comes a descriptions of what modern day industrial farming looks like to the farmer. It will come as no suprise that the people who are screwing farmers the most are the huge corporations who are dictating exactly what farmers can and can't do:
[Carole Morison, former chicken farmer, now a consultant]: Agriculture has changed so much. Contracts are really at the forefront, not just with poultry, but with most all [industrial] farming. It’s a dictated policy as to how your farm is run, what you do, how you feed your chickens. For instance going out to buy feed from a source other than the company you contract with — that’s cause for violation of the contract. You have to take what they give you. It’s the same with everything. It’s like the coal mine and the company store, totally controlled. It really has nothing to do with the farmer’s performance anymore. It’s more or less the performance of the company’s inputs (the poults, or day-old chicks, the feed, medicine, etc). There are new proposed guidelines that the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supposed to release. The hope is that this will level the playing field for contract farming. We’re currently working off the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.

[Twilight Greenaway]: So why would anyone enter the poultry business at this point?

CM: There’s this idea that if you get just bigger, it’ll get better. If you ever manage to pay off that debt — but you don’t pay it off because they don’t want you to. In our case, they kept demanding we make upgrades...

TG: What are your thoughts on the recent effort to position people who are proponents of sustainable food as “anti-farmer” because they oppose the methods of conventional farming?

CM: I’ve definitely noticed that and I’d say that’s probably the number one battle plan of industrial agriculture. It has been their way for a long time. Within the poultry industry they also pit farmer against worker; it’s divide and conquer. The fact is these big companies took the farmer out of the equation a long time ago. Now the farmer is trying to take back what was rightfully theirs to begin with. But I do understand the pride folks have, when they’ve put their whole life into this work. Nobody wants to admit that they’re wrong. But I don’t see [the sustainable food movement] as disrespect for the farmer. I view it more along the lines of people finally recognizing what the farmer is stuck in.
This is nothing new, of course. This is how the cotton plantations treated black farmers in the 20's/30's (if not earlier and later). The farmers are their own bosses in name only. Or rather, the farmers own the risk, the large corporations own everything else, including the profits. Especially the profits.


Bad Roll Of The Dice

by digby

I wish I could be more sympathetic to the administration for being on the hot seat over this oil spill after announcing just a month ago that they were going to "drill,baby,drill", but I can't be. This is the reason why people don't want offshore drilling. It's not ideological and it's not aesthetic. We don't want to look at oil rigs on the horizon, but that's hardly the main objection. It's a concern for the environment.

Obama tried to help out his pal Huckleberry get some non-existent votes lined up for the energy bill and begin his inevitable turn to the right for 2012. And it didn't work out. When a policy is this bad, it rarely does.

And the politics are very, very bad. This is what the Village is saying today:
Andrea Mitchell: David you have a big interview, that you did just a few minutes earlier with Hillary Clinton the Secretary of State. And you asked about the oil spill and climate change which is a concern of national security. It is a big issue for the State department as well.

David Gregory: Well it is and I'll just tee off the clip that I believe you got, which is, again, looking at this in a broader context which is again the president talking about drilling off shore for oil is part of an effort to form a political consensus here in the US to move forward on climate change legislation, which has been described by proponents in national security terms, so the secretary of state has an interest in that and knows now that there is something of a setback with this oil spill because there are real questions now about safety before any kind of domestic drilling can go forward.

This is a portion of our interview earlier today:

Clinton: Well I think the president has ordered the departments to deal with this homeland Security, Interior, Environmental protection defense to all immediately not only to everything possible to mitigate the effects of this spill, but to try to come up with recommendations going forward. This is to try to get this spill under control which, as you know, has been very difficult and to try to prevent further damage to the coastline along Louisiana to the fishing waters to the wildlife.

I think it does raise questions which the president has said have to be answered. He preferred a very comprehensive approach that included the potential of drilling off of our own shore. That is a national security concern because we have to do better to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. But it has to be done safely. It can be done at the risk of having to spend billions of dollars cleaning up these spills.

So there's so much in these difficult areas that's going to require a balancing act.

Gregory: Andrea, as you've seen before, there are events that happen in the course of presidencies that are unplanned but that can really set the tempo and can become a front burner issue for an administration. This has the potential of being an environmental disaster of a scale that will require the administration to act more precipitously on this issue.

Mitchell: I was going to say David, that the president moved in with this mixed approach to his energy policy and was trying to incorporate offshore drilling, which is sensitive with his political base. He was trying to incorporate that to show that he can have a balanced approach, bringing Lindsay Graham and others into the mix and it did succeed. That of course, was derailed by other emergencies on immigration. And now he's got a real problem.

Isn't he going to face similar problems with George W Bush on Katrina? Not quite as obvious, but where was the administration in the first couple of days of this? Why didn't they anticipate this? Why aren't there requirements, more regulations than we have already?

The president trusted BP to handle things because they are "experts" and there aren't more requirement and regulations because they can't upset Little Lindsay and the rest of the planetary destruction caucus.

Democrats need to stop trying to be clever. They aren't good at it. The split the baby approach on offshore drilling has resulted in the Obama Administration owning this environmental disaster, and it was for nothing. They were never going to get Republicans to vote for any kind of climate change legislation this year, not even Lindsay, who I would bet a hundred dollars would have ended up "having" to vote against it because somebody "betrayed" him if it did manage to get to the floor. It's a fools game to try to finesse these right wingers.

Now, it's certainly possible that the administration actually believed that off shore drilling is a good thing to do on the merits. If so, they've just learned a valuable lesson about listening to oil men who say that what they do is perfectly safe and not to worry our pretty little heads about it. Not that it should take a huge disaster like this to do that --- we had one about twenty years ago which nearly destroyed the pristine Alaskan coastline. It shouldn't have to happen ever couple of decades to remind people of what the risks to the environment are.

But in this case, I honestly doubt they even thought much about it beyond a craven political deal with Huckleberry that has now blown up in their faces. And as I said, it's really hard to defend them. They sold out their principled position for nothing in return. That's a risky thing to do and the risk has not paid off.


by digby

Now here's an awesome idea:

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

That ought to be good for six months worth of Beckian paranoia.

Is it possible that they thought it was smart to throw that in as a bargaining chip? If so it shows once again that Democrats should never, ever play poker.


Thursday, April 29, 2010


by digby

Evidently it is now considered "risky" for Obama to appoint someone to the Supreme Court who is pro-choice:

Of the three names most talked about as possible replacements for retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens — Solicitor General Elena Kagan, D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland and Seventh Circuit Diane Wood — Judge Wood is often viewed as being the riskiest choice.

By all accounts, Judge Wood is supremely qualified, writes Nathan Koppel in Thursday’s WSJ. She even garners some hedged support from conservatives. “Her opinions are all very scholarly” said American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Greve. “She is not a bleeding heart.”

The reason she’s viewed by many as a riskier pick than the others: she’s been relatively outspoken in her support of abortion rights.

Koppel writes that Judge Wood has expressed approval for the philosophy behind the Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman’s right to abortion, which was written by her former boss, Justice Harry Blackmun.

In 1993, Judge Wood praised Justice Blackmun, for whom she had clerked in the mid-1970s. “Justice Blackmun articulated in Roe …the important insight that a core set of individual rights exists that neither the states nor the federal government may trample,” she wrote in the Dickinson Law Review...

Supporters say Judge Wood’s record shows she would be a strong voice for women’s rights—something President Obama said last week he wants.

But it’s a position that’s unlikely to sit too well with many conservative senators.

“There is no appellate judge in the U.S. who has a more extreme record on abortion than Diane Wood,” said the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Ed Whelan.

So Roe Vs Wade is now an extreme position. Not that I'm surprised. States are requiring forced vaginal ultrasound probes so that the human vessels which pretend to be corporations and exert rights as persons can be shamed into fulfilling their bodily imperative --- Roe is rather extreme by those lights. Allowing walking gestation chambers to have any say at all is tantamount to murder.

I'm guessing the administration will anoint someone who has no record on anything so that these conservative senators might have a blank canvas on which to project the liberal menace. That way Lindsay Graham gets to insult and degrade this person to his or her face and then reluctantly vote to confirm in the end. It's the way it's done these days.

The Dolphins Make The Difference

by digby

John Cole makes an interesting observation:

For some perspective on how fucking crazy Republicans have come, ten years ago this month, Republicans were pitching an absolute fit about allowing Elian Gonzalez to go back to Cuba, demanding he be made an American citizen because… his mother almost walked across the border. Ten years later, they want to kick out Hispanic citizens because… their mothers walked across the border.

Well, that was different, of course. First of all God had sent dolphins to make him a Young Republican. And just as important, he came from a terrible communist country where people aren't free to pursue their dreams which is completely different than coming from a country where everyone is free to starve.

I think this calls for a reprise of one of the most notorious Peggy Noonan columns of all time:

From the beginning it was a story marked by the miraculous. It was a miracle a six-year-old boy survived the storm at sea and floated safely in an inner tube for two days and nights toward shore; a miracle that when he tired and began to slip, the dolphins who surrounded him like a contingent of angels pushed him upward; a miracle that a fisherman saw him bobbing in the shark-infested waters and scooped him aboard on the morning of Nov. 25, 1999, the day celebrated in America, the country his mother died bringing him to, as Thanksgiving.

And of course this Saturday, in the darkness, came the nightmare: the battering ram, the gas, the masks, the guns, the threats, the shattered glass and smashed statue of the Blessed Mother, the blanket thrown over the sobbing child's head as they tore him from the house like a hostage. And the last one in the house to hold him, trying desperately to protect him, was the fisherman who'd saved him from the sea--which seemed fitting as it was Eastertide, the time that marks the sacrifice and resurrection of the Big Fisherman.

It is interesting that this White House, which feared moving on Iraq during Ramadan, had no fear of moving on Americans during the holiest time of the Christian calendar. The mayor of Miami, Joe Carollo, blurted in shock, "They are atheists. They don't believe in God." Well, they certainly don't believe the fact that it was Easter was prohibitive of the use of force; they thought it a practical time to move. The quaint Catholics of Little Havana would be lulled into a feeling of safety; most of the country would be distracted by family get-togethers and feasts. It was, to the Clinton administration, a sensible time to break down doors.

Which really, once again, tells you a lot about who they are. But then their actions always have a saving obviousness: From Waco to the FBI files to the bombing of a pharmaceutical factory during impeachment to taking money from Chinese agents, through every scandal and corruption, they always tell you who they are by what they do. It's almost honest.

All weekend you could hear the calls to radio stations, to television, from commentators, from the 40% who are wounded, grieving and alive to the implications of what this act tells us about what is allowed in our country now. "This couldn't happen in America," they say, and "This isn't the America we know."

This is the America of Bill Clinton's cynicism and cowardice, and Janet Reno's desperate confusion about right and wrong, as she continues in her great schmaltzy dither to prove how sensitive she is, how concerned for the best interests of the child, as she sends in armed troops who point guns at the child sobbing in the closet. So removed from reality is she that she claims the famous picture of the agent pointing the gun at the fisherman and the child did not in fact show that.

The great unanswered question of course is: What was driving Mr. Clinton? What made him do such a thing? What accounts for his commitment in this case? Concern for the father? But such concern is wholly out of character for this president; he showed no such concern for parents at Waco or when he freed the Puerto Rican terrorists. Concern for his vision of the rule of law? But Mr. Clinton views the law as a thing to suit his purposes or a thing to get around.

Why did he do this thing? He will no doubt never say, a pliant press will never push him on it, and in any case if they did who would expect him to speak with candor and honesty? Absent the knowledge of what happened in this great public policy question, the mind inevitably wonders.

Was it fear of Fidel Castro--fear that the dictator will unleash another flood of refugees, like the Mariel boatlift of 1980? Mr. Clinton would take that seriously, because he lost his gubernatorial election that year after he agreed to house some of the Cubans. In Bill Clinton's universe anything that ever hurt Bill Clinton is bad, and must not be repeated. But such a threat, if it was made, is not a child-custody matter but a national-security matter, and should be dealt with in national-security terms.

Was it another threat from Havana? Was it normalization with Cuba--Mr. Clinton's lust for a legacy, and Mr. Castro's insistence that the gift come at a price? If the price was a child, well, that's a price Mr. Clinton would likely pay. What is a mere child compared with this president's need to be considered important by history?

Was Mr. Clinton being blackmailed? The Starr report tells us of what the president said to Monica Lewinsky about their telephone sex: that there was reason to believe that they were monitored by a foreign intelligence service. Naturally the service would have taped the calls, to use in the blackmail of the president. Maybe it was Mr. Castro's intelligence service, or that of a Castro friend.

Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to. A great and searing tragedy has occurred, and none of us knows what drove it, or why the president did what he did. Maybe Congress will investigate. Maybe a few years from now we'll find out what really happened.

For now we're left with the famous photo, the picture of the agent pointing his gun at the sobbing child and fisherman, the one that is already as famous as the picture taken 30 Easters ago, during another tragedy, as a student cried over the prone body of a dead fellow student at Kent State. It is an inconvenient photo for the administration. One wonders if it will be reproduced, or forced down the memory hole.

We are left with Elian's courageous cousin, Marisleysis, who Easter morning told truth to power, an American citizen speaking to the nation about the actions of the American government. We are left with the hoarse-voiced fisherman, who continues trying to save the child. We are left wondering if there was a single federal law-enforcement official who, ordered to go in and put guns at the heads of children, said no. Was there a single agent or policeman who said, "I can't be part of this"? Are they all just following orders?

We are left wondering if Mr. Clinton will, once again, get what he seems to want. Having failed to become FDR over health care, or anything else for that matter, he will now "be" JFK, finishing the business of 1961 and the missile crisis. Maybe he will make a speech in Havana. One can imagine Strobe Talbot taking Walter Isaacson aside, and Time magazine reporting the words of a high State Department source: "In an odd way Elian helped us--the intensity of the experience, the talks and negotiations, were the most intense byplay our two countries have had since JFK. The trauma brought us together."

And some of us, in our sadness, wonder what Ronald Reagan, our last great president, would have done. I think I know. The burden of proof would have been on the communists, not the Americans; he would have sent someone he trusted to the family and found out the facts; seeing the boy had bonded with the cousin he would have negotiated with Mr. Castro to get the father here, and given him whatever he could that would not harm our country. Mr. Reagan would not have dismissed the story of the dolphins as Christian kitsch, but seen it as possible evidence of the reasonable assumption that God's creatures had been commanded to protect one of God's children. And most important, the idea that he would fear Mr. Castro, that he would be afraid of a tired old tyrant in faded fatigues, would actually have made him laugh. Mr. Reagan would fear only what kind of country we would be if we took the little boy and threw him over the side, into the rough sea of history.

He would have made a statement laying out the facts and ended it, "The boy stays, the dream endures, the American story continues. And if Mr. Castro doesn't like it, well, I'm afraid that's really too bad."

But then he was a man.

Oooh, baby.

The one group of Hispanics for whom the right wing has always wanted to leave the door completely open are Cubans. The fact that they have also been a very loyal Republican voting bloc is completely coincidental. As we all know, Republicans don't believe in pandering or playing partisan politics.

Update: Here's another fairly typical right wing rant of the period. Does it sound familiar at all?

Michael On Larry

by digby

Michael Moore was on Larry King last night and announced the winner of his twitter contest to explain where in the health care bill it says that insurance companies will only be required to pay 100 dollars a day if they are caught denying someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition. The smart gentleman who got it right blog post about it is here and it's quite interesting. And Michael will indeed be washing his car this week-end. (Thank God it's a Ford.)

It's good to see Michael using the blogosphere and twitter to get the word out as only he can. He's not quite as important as world leaders Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck, but he does have something of a following ...

Michael also said something typically brilliant on the show about the Arizona immigration bill that really should enter the lexicon:

"... any illegal immigrant they catch in Arizona, they should let him keep doing his job because he's adding to the economy. For every one they catch, they should send one Goldman Sachs guy to Mexico."

The guy just has a way of crystallizing things.

Dear God

by digby

Time Magazine has compiled the list of the top 25 leaders in the world.

I just don't know what to say:

Sarah Palin "wrote" the story on Beck:

Who'd have thought a history buff with a quirky sense of humor and a chalkboard could make for such riveting television? Glenn's like the high school government teacher so many wish they'd had, charting and connecting ideas with chalk-dusted fingers — kicking it old school — instead of becoming just another talking-heads show host. Self-taught, he's become America's professor of common sense, sharing earnestly sought knowledge with an audience hungry for truth. Glenn, 46, tackles topics other news shows would regard as arcane. Consider his desire to teach Americans about the history of the progressive movement: he's doing to progressive what Ronald Reagan did to liberal — explaining that it's a damaged brand.

His love of the Founding Fathers inspires others to learn and respect our nation's history. Best of all, Glenn delights in driving the self-proclaimed powers-that-be crazy. (The whole country awaits the red phone ringing!) Even his critics (whom he annihilates in ratings) have to admire his amazing ability to galvanize everyday Americans to better themselves and peacefully engage their government. Though he sometimes dismisses himself as an aw-shucks guy or just a "rodeo clown," he's really an inspiring patriot who was once at the bottom but now makes a much needed difference from the very, very top.

Yeah, he's very educational all right. If you are seeking to educate yourself about psychiatric disorders. But then putting Palin, Beck, an obscure teabagger and Scott Brown as four of the top 25 leaders in the world is nothing short of insanity, so it's actually rather fitting.


by digby

I can hardly believe this is happening, but apparently, it is:

Since the U.S. recession began in December 2007, Congress has extended the length of unemployment benefits for the jobless three times. Now, the lawmakers may have reached their limit.

They are quietly drawing the line at 99 weeks of aid, a mark that hundreds of thousands of Americans have already reached. In coming months, the number of those who will receive their final government check is projected to top 1 million.

It’s a deadline that has rarely been mentioned in recent debates over jobless benefits, in which Republicans have delayed aid because of cost concerns. The deadline hasn’t been lost on Teauna Stephney, a 39-year-old single mother from Bothell, Washington, who said she could become homeless once her $407 weekly checks stop in June.

“What are people like me supposed to do?” said Stephney, who said almost two years of benefits haven’t proved long enough for her to find work after she lost her last job in August 2008. Referring to lawmakers, she said, “I would like them to come and talk to me and spend a day in my shoes.”

Democrats who have pushed through the past extensions agree there’s insufficient backing to go beyond 99 weeks, largely because of mounting concern over the federal deficit, projected to reach $1.5 trillion this year.

“You can’t go on forever,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, of Montana, whose panel oversees the benefits program. “I think 99 weeks is sufficient,” he said.

“There’s just been no discussion to go beyond that,” said Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat.

Right, the deficit projections are so dire that we need to throw people into the streets today. Because the "atmospherics" are problematic:

Baucus said extension legislation would fail in the Senate because of both the deficit and the negative “atmospherics” of lengthening the weeks of aid into triple digits.

“The best thing to do is get this economy turned around” to create jobs, said Baucus.

Ya think?

I seriously cannot believe that they are going to do this when the country is still hovering at 10% unemployment. Just what are these people supposed to do? Become prostitutes and thieves? Break down and take that job that Goldman Sachs has been offering? (Same thing, actually ...)

Stuart Rothman blithely describes the politics of this as "damned if you do, damned if you don't" because voters are “sensitive these days to spending and deficit issues and yet there are going to be people who need help, and if the administration ignores them, they’ll look rather callous.” Well, they'll "look rather callous" because they are callous. Unless people believe that most of these people really would rather stay home and collect 200 dollars a week than work at a real job with benefits and that there a millions of unfilled jobs out there that they could be doing, this is a cruel and unnecessary capitulation to the deficit fetishists.

The ruling class has determined that Americans need to suffer for their sins. After all, they themselves have all suffered terribly and it's only right to share the pain:
You’ve now asked the current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. to repay these earnings. As you can imagine, there has been a tremendous amount of serious thought and heated discussion about how we should respond to this breach of trust.

As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.

On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes...

The long term unemployed have been coasting for too long while the poor overclass has been subject to all manner of indignity. It's their turn to do their part.

Wall Street Rally Today

by digby

... but not the kind they like. If you're in New York and you can get away from work this after noon, this is worth doing:

National People’s Action issues a Call to Action for everyday people--small business owners and union members, homeowners and tenants, faith leaders, the employed and the unemployed--to join together in recognition of our shared fate and our commitment to democracy.

Today at 3:30pm ET, thousands will converge on Wall Street to reclaim America with one simple message: Americans deserve an economy that works for all of us, not just Wall Street!

Wall Street and big banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo crashed our economy leaving millions without housing, work, and critical services.

WHEN: 3:30pm: Assemble • 4pm: March and rally
WHERE: Next to City Hall Park, NYC (Enter at Broadway and Chambers St.)

For the rest of us, the AFL-CIO has kindly offered a livestream of the event, so click here at 4pm to see the goings on.

I hope this keeps up even after the financial reform bill is (probably) passed. It doesn't end with that piece of legislation --- people have to be educated about the fact that if the government is the problem in this case, it's because they didn't do enough, not that they did too much. Until people understand that, we will go from bubble to bubble, the upper classes gaining each time at the expense of everyone else.

Sounding American

by digby

Media Matters:

Beck asks: "What has [Obama] said that sounds like American?"

He has a point. I haven't heard Obama use the words nigger, kike, spic, gook or raghead even once.

Other than that notable omission, every word he says sounds American.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Unpack The Fainting Couch

by digby

The Republicans are feeling a faint coming on:

In the wake of the superheated debate over health care reform, Reid and his confidants have used fierce rhetoric to portray the Republicans as tools of Wall Street who spread lies about the financial regulatory reform bill as a way to protect well-heeled donors. Meanwhile, Reid has been forcing the Republicans to vote again and again on the regulatory reform bill, hoping to jam at least one GOP senator into flipping to the Democratic side for fear of coming off as entirely obstructionist.

The tactic seems to be working; Republicans on Wednesday allowed debate to proceed on the bill. But hard feelings persist.

“People become irritated after a while,” Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar said.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said that part of the Republican senators’ Tuesday lunch session “was focused on Reid” because “there’s a huge feeling of frustration over this.”

Privately, Republicans are even more critical of the majority leader, blaming him for the stalemate over financial services reform and other high-profile issues. They argue that Reid is being driven by internal Democratic polling data showing the majority party has to recapture the “reform” mantle rather than compromise — or risk huge losses in November.

In order to do that, Republicans say and Democrats privately acknowledge, Reid will have to play the “populist card” and paint the GOP as the defender of special interests while the majority leader and his Democratic colleagues are protecting average Americans.

And, Republicans say, he’s using tough talk along the way to fire up the Democratic base ahead of the November midterms — including the tough election Reid will face in Nevada.

“I think everyone thinks he is just gaming this thing politically and is a lot more interested in having issues right now rather than having solutions,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in the Senate GOP leadership, told POLITICO. “There’s a lot of speculation about his own political prospects, as well as that of his party. Right now, party politics is trumping what’s right on some of these issues.”

"Or Whatever"

by digby

There's a lot of talk about appointing a Supreme Court justice who has some real world experience and this certainly does indicate that it's something that's sorely lacking, at least by the Chief Justice. This is from an article about the oral arguments yesterday regarding whether or not prospective employees are being "coerced" if they are expected to sign arbitration agreements.

It should be noted that these fanciful hypotheticals discussed at today’s oral argument do not cover the most frequent, real world “gun-to-the-head” scenario faced by job applicants, in which their only “choice,” if they want the job, is to agree to arbitrate, on the employer’s terms, any and all future disputes —a “choice” characterized by Chief Justice Roberts as “economic inequality or whatever.”

Whatever ...

But this shouldn't surprise us. Chief Justice Roberts isn't exactly a man of the people:

...here's John Roberts when he worked in the White House counsel's office in 1984:

I hate to sound like one of Mr. Jackson’s records, constantly repeating the same refrain, but I recommend that we not approve this letter. Sometimes people need to be reminded of the obvious: whatever its status as a cultural phenomenon, the Jackson concert tour is a massive commercial undertaking. The tour will do quite well financially by coming to Washington, and there is no need for the President to applaud such enlightened self-interest. Frankly, I find the obsequious attitude of some members of the White House staff toward Mr. Jackson’s attendants, and the fawning posture they would have the President of the United States adopt, more than a little embarrassing.

It is also important to consider the precedent that would be set by such a letter. In today’s Post there were already reports that some youngsters were turning away from Mr. Jackson in favor of a newcomer who goes by the name “Prince,” and is apparently planning a Washington concert. Will he receive a Presidential letter? How will we decide which performers do and which do not?
Auntie Roberts was 29 when he wrote that. He was a real man of his time. The 1890s.

And the idea of someone criticizing fawning over show business figures in the Reagan White House is just funny.


Sacrificial Scams

by digby

Dean Baker attended the Pete Peterson Social Security Destruction summit earlier today and made this important observation at the revolting sight of Peterson and Robert Rubin patting each other on the backs and demanding that everyone buckle down and sacrifice for the greater good:

Peter Peterson and Robert Rubin are both enormously wealthy men. (They joked about dividing their lunch tab based on their net worth.) They are lecturing the country on the need to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits for retirees who have a tiny fraction of their wealth. Many of the victims of the cuts that they would push are people who are already struggling.

This is so common among the ruling elite that people don't even recognize it anymore.

Here's my favorite example from Mrs Alan Greenspan way back in January of 2009:

MSNBC commentator: ... The subtext of all of this [call to service] is "hey Americans, you're gonna have to do your part too. There may be some sacrifices involved for you too." Do you think he's going to use his political capital to make those arguments and will it go beyond rhetoric?

Andrea Mitchell: It does go beyond rhetoric. He needs to engage the American people in this joint venture. That's part of the call. That's part of what he needs to accomplish in his speech and in the days following the speech. He needs to make people feel that this is their venture as well and that people are going to need to be more patient and have to contribute and that there will have to be some sacrifice.

And certainly, if he is serious about what he told the Washington Post last week, that he wants to take on entitlement reform, there will be greater sacrifice required from a nation already suffering from economic crisis --- to ask people to take a look at their health care and their other entitlements and realize that for the long term health and vitality of the country we're going to have to give up something that we already enjoy.

As I noted at the time:

Right. Old and sick people are going to have to give up something they "enjoy." That's assuming they "enjoy" being able to eat and go to a doctor. Of course, Andrea Mitchell won't have to give up what she "enjoys." She's a multi-millionaire.

And her husband, Uncle Alan Greenspan, works for John Paulson. That's right. That John Paulson.

This is the where the Village metaphor really hits home. Mrs Greenspan and the rest of the beltway insiders have all convinced themselves that their little village represents Real America. So when someone suggests that "entitlements" have to be cut for the common good, that seems like something that nobody should really squeal too much about since they don't know a single soul who will be even slightly inconvenienced by such a thing. SS is chump change to these people, not even really worth collecting (but just try to take it from them.)

Now, repealing their tax breaks --- that's the kind of sacrifice no self respecting Real American should ever stand for. Here's Baker again:

...there are ways to get the long-term deficit down to size that don't involve nailing middle income and/or poor people. However, it would be hard to find two people who have benefited more from taxpayer handouts than these two individuals.

Peter Peterson has been the recipient of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars through the fund manager's tax break. This tax break, which is also known as the "carried interest tax deduction" allows managers of hedge and equity funds to pay tax on their earnings at the 15 percent capital gains tax rate, instead of having it taxed as normal income. As a result, Peterson paid a lower tax rate on much of his earnings than tens of millions of people working as school teachers, fire fighters, and other middle income jobs.

Peterson not only collected the money himself, he came to Washington in 2007 to lobby Congress when it debated ending the tax break. He apparently wanted to make sure that his friends would still be able to benefit from this tax break even after he had retired.

After setting the country on a course for the current crisis with the policies he pushed as Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin went to work as a top executive at Citigroup. In this capacity, he earned $110 million before leaving the company in the middle of its 2008 meltdown. As we know, Citigroup was one of the major actors in the housing boom. It produced hundreds of billions of dollars worth of mortgage backed securities.

We all know what happened with Citi.

These rich bastards are telling people who work hard their whole lives that they have to "sacrifice" their meager public pension to refill the treasury that these same rich bastards have looted --- and which they continue to refuse to help replenish, despite the fact they are still swallowing firehoses full of money. This, after the middle class in this country just suffered the biggest loss of wealth since the Great Depression as a result of these riverboat gamblers playing with the economy like it was their favorite Baccarat table in Monte Carlo. Chutzpah doesn't even begin to describe it. Sociopathy is more like it.

If they can't do the right thing, the least they could do is slither off in to the the darkness to count their winnings. Instead, these arrogant jerks are out there lecturing everyone about "sacrifice" while they buy off every government official in town to make sure they aren't among those who have to heed that call.

It's sick.

Toying With Huck

by digby

You can always count on Gloria Borger to keep you up to speed on the Village conventional wisdom. For instance, here's the headline of her piece today:

Why Democrats shouldn't toy with Lindsey Graham

Why? Cuz he's a mavericky maverick. Sure, they probably don't have the votes for either the climate bill or the immigration bill, with or without Huckleberry, but still, they should kiss his ring at every opportunity because he's well ... him.

She does point out that they don't have the votes for either bill, which puts Graham's hissy fit into a rather different light (and naturally there's no mention of the odd coincidence that Graham was being outed by anti-immigration teabaggers back in South Carolina -- since the rumor is an open secret in DC, they figure that everyone in South Carolina knows it and doesn't care, which isn't true at all.) But then Gloria is deep into the Village, which continues to believe things like this:

I've spoken with a number of Democratic strategists who shake their heads at Reid's move.

"What Democrats need to do is spend the rest of the year voting on issues where Democrats are on the same side as the public," says one Democratic strategist. "It's all going to crowd out the message of jobs, economic reform and health care reform."

Right. The "public" (aka Real Americans) don't care about immigration reform. Or as Gloria puts it:

...with a 10 percent unemployment rate, voters may well be less hospitable to a measure that ensures that there will be more people competing for jobs

Certainly, no self respecting Democratic strategist should care about such silly things as this:

Arizona immigrant law animates Hispanics, Democrats

If that keeps up, the Democrats might even have a chance of getting out the vote in November. Who wants that?

It Spreads

by digby

They're loving it:

Last week, Wonk Room reported on the involvement of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) — the legal arm of a designated nativist-extremist hate group — in drafting Arizona’s controversial immigration law. IRLI lawyer Michael Hethmon boasting about being “approached by lawmakers from four other states who have asked for advice on how they can do the same thing.”

Guess what?

Utah Require immigrants to carry proof of status, require law enforcement officers to question anyone they believe is in the country illegally, and target employers who hire or transport undocumented immigrants. Legislation still has to be drafted, but Rep. Stephen Sandstorm (R) claims he “has the support to do it.”
Georgia Nathan Deal (R), who is running for Governor, wants to propose legislation that mirrors Arizona’s. Tentatively pending Deal’s election.
Colorado Today, Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis (R) said that if he were governor, he would seek to pass something “very similar” to what Arizona enacted. Tentatively pending McInnis’ election.
Maryland State Delegate Pat McDonough (R) “plans to start sending a survey to every candidate for the General Assembly — along with the candidates for governor — asking them whether they agree with Arizona’s approach.” McDounough’s survey will start being circulated this week as he hopes to “know who is in favor of the Arizona bill and who is not” by this summer.
Ohio Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones and Ohio Rep. Courtney Combs (R) sent a letter to Gov. Ted Strickland asking him “to employ” his “leadership role” “to assure legislation is passed that will mirror” Arizona’s. Strickland’s press person says he “hasn’t had an opportunity to review Arizona law” and is concerned it might be unconstitutional.
North Carolina Local anti-immigrant groups claim that lawmakers have told them that “the chances similar legislation will be filed here is over 95%.” The same groups also concede that such legislation wouldn’t “get far” in their state.
Texas Republican state Rep. Debbie Riddle of Tomball says she plans to push for a law similar to Arizona’s. Riddle says she will introduce the measure in the January legislative session.
Texas Farmers Branch, a Dallas suburb of 30,000 people, passed an ordinance written by IRLI lawyer Kris Kobach which would prevent landlords from renting houses or apartments to undocumented immigrants. Last month, a U.S. District judge ruled the ordinance unconstitutional. IRLI is helping Farmers Branch repeal the District judge decision.
Missouri The state legislature is considering a law, likely written by Kobach, that would make it unlawful for any person to conceal, harbor, transport, or shelter “illegal aliens” and would also make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to transport themselves. The bill has been referred to the Missouri House International Trade and Immigration Committee.
Oklahoma Restrict the ability of undocumented immigrants to obtain IDs or public assistance, give police authority to check the status of anyone arrested, and make it a felony to knowingly provide shelter, transportation or employment to the undocumented. After IRLI filed an amicus brief in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of HB 1804, the court refused to reconsider its decision that prohibits Oklahoma from enforcing two of the main parts of HB 1804.
Nebraska Residents in Fremont Nebraska likely will vote in July on a proposed ordinance to ban the “harboring,” hiring and renting to undocumented immigrants. Last Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that there was no authority to stop an election on the ordinance following a petition filed by Kobach.

It looks as though a lot of people are very excited about moving ahead with this. Even lected Republicans are very open about their feelings:

LAURA INGRAHAM: This boycott is intended to do, what? I would imagine to intimidate people from supporting this law which, as far as I can tell, is wildly popular, but to intimidate because they're using dollars. Is there anything wrong with that?

REP. STEVE KING: Well, it looks like the case is that, that he's trying to scare the businesses out of Arizona, or he's trying to get the businesses to change their position and press the legislature to reverse the law that was just signed by the governor the other day. I'm wondering if we look at the map of Congressman Grijalva's congressional district if we haven't already ceded that component of Arizona to Mexico judging by the voice that comes out of him, he's advocating for Mexico rather than the United States and against the rule of law, which is one of the central pillars of American exceptionalism.

Yes, American exceptionalism is so exceptional that right wingers are allowed to carve out exceptions to any part of the constitution they don't like. Strangely, the parts they don't like most often seem to be the ones that enumerate rights for people who don't look like them.

How's That Oily Drilly Thing Working Out For Ya?*

by digby

Charlie Christ has pulled his support for drilling. I'm guessing this might have something to do with it:

Crews struggling to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will light some of the petroleum on fire at 11 a.m. Central time in an attempt to burn it off before it reaches shore.

A Coast Guard spokesman said on Wednesday that crews would begin with an initial burn in a confined area of the spill to determine the density of the oil.

According to a statement released by the group of industry and government officials supervising the burn, the oil will be consolidated “into a fire resistant boom approximately 500 feet long; this oil will then be towed to a more remote area, where it will be ignited and burned in a controlled manner.”[...]

Officials turned to the burning option when the slick of oil, released when a drilling rig caught fire 50 miles offshore and sank last week, drifted to within 23 miles of the ecologically fragile Louisiana coastline on Tuesday.


A joint government and industry task force had been unable to stop crude oil from streaming out of a broken pipe attached to a well that the rig had been drilling nearly a mile below sea level. The leaks in the pipe, which were found on Saturday, are releasing about 42,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico southeast of Venice, La.

Officials said on Tuesday that wind projections indicated that the oil would not reach land in the next three days, and it was unclear exactly where along the Gulf Coast it might arrive first.

“If some of the weather conditions continue, the Delta area is at risk,” said Charlie Henry, scientific support coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry noted that the coastal area near the spill contains some 40 percent of the nation’s wetlands and is the spawning ground for countless fish and birds.

I hope all Virginians are looking forward to similar despoiling. At least it's a jobs creator --- lots of work cleaning off the beaches and washing down the oil covered wildlife that's lucky enough to live through it. It kind of destroys the eco-system and tourism but that "drill, baby, drill" thing is just so much fun to chant at tea parties. I suppose they can change it to "spill,baby, spill" and have just as much fun.

Update: Fox is reporting that Crist is going to run as an Independent.

*h/t to Clammy C at Dkos for that one ...
The Cure

by digby

If any of you happen to find yourself or anyone you know infected by the propaganda at the Peterson Deficit Summit today, Campaign For America's Future's Virtual Summit is the antidote. There is a ton of useful information about deficits and rebuttals to the nonsense that's spewing forth from nearly every villager in the land.

Yesterday, they held a conference call, which is summed up here. (You can hear the audio at the link.):

[Yesterday] morning, the White House debt commission convened and largely presented a skewed picture of America's finances, with much scapegoating of Social Security and Medicare. [Yesterday] afternoon, Campaign for America's Future convened top economic experts to offer journalists facts and views that the commission has yet to pursue.

Campaign for America's Future Roger Hickey expressed deep concern that Pete Peterson deficit hysteria propaganda is taking hold on the commission, noting that a new key staff member was hired from a Peterson-funded organization, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Hickey also pointed out while Social Security and Medicare were repeatedly flogged, there was little mention of the Bush-era tax cuts that actually vaporized the surplus.

The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner offered an entirely different approach to deficit reduction, one based on strong economic growth with "more social investment in the short-run." He mentioned you certainly can cut the deficit with an "austerity approach" but "if you put the cart before the horse, it's the more painful way to get to budget balance."

Institute for Women's Policy Research President Heidi Hartmann emphasizes the pain that will be inflicted on elderly women if Social Security is needlessly slashed, and the attacks on "greedy geeezers" have nothing to do "the typical retiree in America today." She raised an eyebrow at Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comment that we should go after Social Security because "that's where the money is." As Dr. Hartmann recalled, the quote was originally about "bank robberies."

And Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director hammered the commission for pushing the false assertion that "everyone agrees" on the basic issue, saying that's "not an honest way to proceed." Baker rejected the commission's arbitrary goal of major budget cuts by 2015, which is before anyone expects unemployment to come down to a reasonable level.

There are many motives for flogging the deficit right now, not the least of which is political. Republicans use this as a weapon whenever Democrats get into office Case in point:

Clinton's experience shows what such pressure can do to a president's agenda. Promises of spending on education, public works and a middle-class tax cut fell by the wayside as advisers led by Robert Rubin, who later became Treasury secretary, convinced the new president the best thing he could do for the economy was to show investors his resolve on fiscal discipline
``You mean to tell me that the success of the economic program and my re-election hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of fucking bond traders?'' Clinton raged at aides, according to journalist Bob Woodward's book, ``The Agenda.''

Obama got health care, which is hardly an "entitlement" so I'm guessing the Grand Bargain is in full effect: agree to be deficit hawks going forward. Those are the terms set forth by the Big Money Boyz. (You didn't think they were going to allow the peons in congress to insult them to their faces and get nothing in return, do you?)

Here's a handy primer which explodes the myths about the Social Security. Everyone needs to bone up on this subject --- it's going to be with us for a while. Pete Peterson has a billion dollars devoted to this cause and he's going to use it.

And sadly, our president seems to have a burning desire to be the Democrat who "fixed" Social Security. I suppose he thinks it will make all those important people respect him in the end. But it won't. Bill Clinton left a surplus and Pete Peterson and instead of devoting it to social security, all his buddies took that money for themselves and ran. There is no margin in pandering to the millionaires. They think these presidents are chumps either way.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Getting In On The Action

by digby

I think this tells you everything you want to know about where the Confederate rump is heading:

And he's the "moderate" in the race. This is the guy he's running against:

He's a big proponent of the allegedly non-social conservative tea party too.

President Huckleberry Lays Down The Law

by digby

He is the change we've been waiting for:

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided that he would bump climate-and-energy legislation behind immigration reform as his next priority, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was apoplectic. Graham, along with Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), had spent months drafting a climate/energy bill, and was prepared to introduce it Monday, when, enraged by Reid's plan, he backed out.

Earlier today, Reid appeared to reverse course, saying climate/energy would be the next logical issue to address, followed only afterward by immigration reform. So everything's groovy, right?

Far from it. Tonight, Graham told me that he will filibuster his own climate change bill, unless Reid drops all plans to turn to immigration this Congress

There you have it. Or, to paraphrase James Baker, "fuck the Latinos. They don't vote for us anyway."

And I will bet you that he'll vote against the climate change bill in the end.

Watering Pots

by digby

Here's a shocking development ...

Senate Republicans offered counter-proposals on financial regulation reform on Tuesday that seek to water down portions of a massive Democratic bill that has been under development for months.

The Democrats should stand tough and walk away from this one if they have to. I'll be very interested to see if they have the nerve.

There is precedent for letting the Republicans roll around in their own manure while the Democrats come out smelling like roses. They ought to give it a try.

Update: I'm hearing that smart people think forcing the Republicans to continuously vote no on financial reform and refusing to accept their "shitty deal" makes the Democrats look weak.

If this is true then the Democrats should just abdicate their 59 seat majority and let the Republicans write all the legislation from the beginning. This is all just a supreme waste of time.

The good news is that both parties would be able to say they voted for a Republican financial reform bill, so that's good. We wouldn't want the Democrats to have any advantage in what may be shaping up to be a mid-term slaughter. That wouldn't be fair.

Shitty Deal

by digby

Shorter Goldman hearings:

Courtesy Huffington Post

Empty Vessels

by digby

Women are just slightly dumb animals who need to be drawn a picture and lectured to like a four year old before they can understand what they are doing. That goes without saying. But giving doctors immunity from liability for failing to tell their patients about fetal birth defects? That seems just a tad much to me. Sure the dumb bitches can't be allowed to make their own decisions about taking on a lifetime of care or consider implications for their own health and well being. What the silly little twits don't know won't hurt them, right? But you'd think that the important members of society like insurance companies and employers would have a stake in something like this.
The Oklahoma Legislature voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override vetoes of two highly restrictive abortion measures, one making it a law that women undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before having an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures forcing women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, requiring a doctor or technician to set up the monitor where the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

The second measure passed into law Tuesday protects doctors from malpractice suits if they decide not to inform the parents of a unborn baby that the fetus has birth defects. The intent of the bill is to prevent parents from later suing doctors who withhold information to try to influence them against having an abortion.

Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, vetoed both bills last week. The ultrasound law, he said, was flawed because it did not exempt rape and incest victims and was an unconstitutional intrusion into a woman’s privacy. He painted the other measure as immoral.

“It is unconscionable to grant a physician legal protection to mislead or misinform pregnant women in an effort to impose his or her personal beliefs on a patient,” Mr. Henry said.

The Republican majorities in both houses, however, saw things differently. On Monday, the House voted overwhelmingly to override the vetoes, and the Senate followed suit at 10:42 a.m. Tuesday, making the two measures law.


Two other antiabortion bills are still working their way through the legislature. One would force women to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about their reasons for seeking an abortion and then post statistics online based on the answers. The other restricts insurance coverage for the procedure.

I'm sure there's lots more "abortion reduction" common ground like this we can find if we look hard enough.

Predisposed To Intolerance

by digby

Perhaps I missed it, but I don't think there's been much attention paid to these survey results from the University of Washington about the tea partiers' attitudes toward race, equality and liberty. It's not surprising in the least, but it is interesting to see it spelled out this clearly:

Led by Prof. Christopher Parker, the 2010 Multi-state Survey of Race & Politics examines what Americans think about the issues of race, public policy, national politics, and President Obama, one year after the inauguration of the first African American president.

The survey is drawn from a probability sample of 1006 cases, stratified by state. The Multi-State Survey of Race and Politics included seven states, six of which were battleground states in 2008. It includes Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio as the battleground states. For its diversity and its status as an uncontested state, California was also included for comparative purposes. The study, conducted by the Center for Survey Research at the University of Washington, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent and was in the field February 8 - March 15, 2010.

Tea Party views on Equality, Liberty and Obama [ New Results posted here ]

Is America Now A Post-Racial Society? [ Full Table of Results here ]

Many believed that the election of Barack Obama brought to a close the long, painful, and ugly history of race and racism in the United States. But as the incident with Henry Louis Gates last summer, and the more recent outbursts of the Tea Party activists suggest, racial divisions remain. Which is closer to the truth? A recent survey directed by University of Washington political scientist Christopher Parker, finds that America is definitely not beyond race. For instance, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement committed to reining in what they perceive as big government, and fiscal irresponsibility, also appear predisposed to intolerance. Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.

Analysis of the data

In what follows, we explore the ways in which support for the tea party movement affects Americans’ attitudes toward groups and views on important issues. Towards that end, we begin with how support for the tea party informs their view of marginalized groups in American society. Next, we assess how support for the tea party movement informs citizens’ views on liberty, equality, and perceptions of the president. To facilitate comparisons across a range of support for the tea party movement, we divide support for the tea party into four discrete groups. Respondents were required to answer a question that asked whether or not they “strongly approved” or “somewhat approved” of the tea party, or whether or not one “somewhat approved” or “strongly disapproved” the tea party. True believers, for us, were those who strongly approved the movement (N = 117). True skeptics are those who strongly disapprove the party (N = 66). Middle of the roaders are those that either somewhat disapprove or somewhat approve (N = 171). We also include the group who claim to have never heard of the tea party movement, and so had no opinion the movement (N = 157). The last two columns include the overall average for whites, and the difference between strong supporters of the tea party who we call “true believers” and those who are in the middle, those whose answer included a “somewhat” of some kind. We believe this a reasonable benchmark group.

We begin with an assessment of how support for the tea party affects views of marginalized groups in America. As the results indicate, supporting the tea party (or refusal to do so) appears to color how people see blacks, immigrants, and gay rights (table of results: click here). In each case, across the range of support for the tea party movement, including those who had never heard of it, the true believers register relatively intolerant views. Of the nine (9) questions examined, there were only two instances in which the distance separating true believers from middle-of-the-roaders fell below 10 percentage points. On whether or not “…blacks have gotten les than they deserve,” the difference was 9 points, where true believers were more likely to disagree, and on whether “…you favor…laws to protect homosexuals against job discrimination,” where 4 points separated true believers from middle-of-the-roaders. The greatest differences emerge with questions tapping blacks, like other racial minorities, should work their way up “without any special favors,” and whether or not “gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to legally adopt.” In the first instance, true believers outpace those in the middle by 21 percentage points. In the second instance, support for gay rights, the gap separating the middle from true believers is 20 points, where the middle was more sympathetic. Overall, the average distance separating respective levels of tea party support, across various marginalized groups, after rounding, is 17% for blacks, 12% for immigrants, and 13% for gay rights, respectively.

Rather large differences also emerge upon consideration of liberty, equality, and perceptions of president Obama’s character traits. On questions that tap issues of liberty, the gap between true believers and those in the middle is greatest on the question of whether or not the “government can detain people as long as they wish without trial,” where true believers support the proposition by 25 points over those in the middle. The difference narrows to 8 points when people were asked to consider whether or not people with political beliefs at variance with the much of the country are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. Overall, for this set of questions, the mean difference is 19 points, where “true believers’” preferences appear to run counter to liberty, at least relative to those in the middle (table of results: click here)

Similar results obtain for egalitarianism, where strong supporters of the movement appear less inclined toward equality. Consider the proposition where the distance between groups is greatest. When asked to opine on whether or not “we’d have many fewer problems in this country” if people more treated more equally, only 31% of true believers agreed, versus 55% of those in the middle, reflecting a 24 percentage-point difference. The smallest difference, a 17 points, emerges when respondents were asked whether or not “our society should do whatever is necessary to ensure equal opportunity in this country,” where 81% of those in the middle agree, versus 64% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference is approximately 22 points.

Finally, at least for this round of analysis, we turn to the way in which support for the tea party informs how people perceive the president. At its most narrow, 21 points separate true believers from those who dwell in the middle, where 65% of the latter see the president as a strong leader versus 44% of the former group. The gap reaches its widest point on the issue of whether or not the president is moral: 64% of those in the middle agree that he is moral versus only 32% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference between the groups, in the way in which both perceive the president, is approximately 26 points

My beliefs about the tea party's intolerance has come in part from intuition, so it's good to see some data supporting my personal observations. I spent a good part of my life around racists and I know it when I see it. They have changed over all those years, of course. When I was a kid it was completely normal for people to use the word nigger in casual conversation. It was also completely normal to smoke cigarettes around babies. Things have changed. But that doesn't mean there is no racism and nobody smokes anymore. One of the main things that's changed is that we don't stand by silently if someone blows smoke in a baby's face --- and neither do we stand by silently when racism rears its ugly head in our politics.

I think it was delusional to believe that the election of the first black president wasn't going to result in a primal scream from the racist rump of the American polity. We can pretend that this is about something less noxious and be compassionate because they are poor deluded people who don't know any better. But the fact is that these are all well-fed, decently educated, privileged white Americans who have no respectable reason to redirect their resentments about a changing world onto racial minorities, immigrants, gays and women who behave in ways they don't approve of. I actually have enough respect for them to take them seriously and treat them as adults not small children or innocent animals. They have agency. There's no good reason not to hold them responsible for their words and actions.
For instance, here's a news story about the North South Carolina Republican primary debates:

[I]t was when the candidates were asked about a recently approved Arizona law to crack down on illegal immigration that they plowed new ground.

There was agreement that greater enforcement of state and federal laws would help solve the problem, but Bauer also blamed welfare. Workers, he suggested, are content to sit at home rather than fill jobs taken by illegal immigrants, typically in agriculture, construction or service.

"The real problem is the work force," Bauer said, speaking of a state with 12.2 percent unemployment, the sixth-highest jobless rate in the country. "The problem is we have a give-away system that is so strong that people would rather sit home and do nothing than do these jobs. Laziness is not a disability. There are a lot of people that are flat-out lazy and they are using up the goods and services in this state.

Compare that with those tea party survey results and see if you can figure out what he's talking about.