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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Night At The Movies

Whoa, Lopakhin!

By Dennis Hartley

Keanu really digs the theatre: Henry’s Crime

Keanu Reeves does Chekhov? No, I’m not pitching an idea for an SNL sketch. After all, he has done Shakespeare (he co-starred in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing , Gus van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho and played the lead in a stage version of Hamlet)-so is it such a stretch to see him sporting a goatee and a 19th-century waistcoat in The Cherry Orchard? OK, it’s not what you think. It’s just that, you see, in the quirky indie heist caper Henry’s Crime, he plays a guy who takes a role in a Chekhov play, even though his character is not an actor. I hear you-“Typecasting?” I know that Reeves has his share of detractors, perennially chagrined by his unique ability to remain completely motionless and expressionless for two hours at a stretch. But I have a theory-although his characters appear wooden, they still enjoy a rich” inner life” (you know…like Pinocchio).

One assumes that Henry (Reeves) has some kind of inner life. He seems to be a likable, easy-going fellow; it’s just that he’s a bit…inscrutable. Maybe it’s his job. Working the graveyard shift night after night at a N.Y. Thruway tollbooth would put anybody in semi-comatose state. Nothing fazes the agreeable yet impassive Henry, one way or the other-although he does display a slight twitch when, one morning at breakfast, his wife (Judy Greer) broaches the subject of the couple having a child. Suddenly, we get the impression that Henry would prefer to be anywhere else but there, at that moment, having that particular conversation. What’s going on? Is this a troubled marriage? Does he love his wife? Is this cipher of a man internally harboring primal doubts about life itself? Or…is he suffering in silence from a sudden attack of gas? There’s really no way of discerning.

We never get a chance to find out exactly what Henry is contemplating, because that is precisely the moment that Fate intervenes. An old high school chum named Eddie Vibes (Fisher Stevens) unexpectedly shows up on his doorstep, with a drunken cohort in tow. Both men are dubiously outfitted for a game of baseball. Eddie wants to know if Henry can give them a ride to their “game”. Nothing about this questionable early-morning scenario seems to raise any red flags for the ever-malleable Henry. Even Eddie’s request to stop at the bank “on the way”-and to park the car out front and wait while his passengers go inside-fails to elicit the tiniest raised eyebrow from Henry. Needless to say, the heist goes awry, Henry’s car stalls, his “friends” flee…and guess who ends up in stir?

Although he owes them squat, Henry doesn’t rat out the real culprits and takes the fall, while his demeanor remains unchanged. At this point, one might surmise that Henry is either some kind of transcendent Zen master…or a clueless moron (not unlike the protagonist of Forrest Gump or Chance the gardener in Being There . Ah, but our little wooden boy is about to meet his Geppetto. Max (James Caan) is a veteran con man. He’s one of those oddball convicts who actually “likes” prison-which is why he has been sabotaging his own parole hearings and enabling himself to continue living on the state’s dime. He becomes a mentor/father figure to Henry, who takes it to heart when Max advises him that he needs to find a Dream, and then pursue it. So what is Henry’s resultant epiphany? Since he’s already done the time, he might as well now do the crime.

Henry gets out of the pen, discovers that his wife has remarried to one of the creeps who set him up (he almost seems secretly relieved-in his own inimitable fashion) and proceeds to foment a plan to rob the bank that he originally had no intention of robbing in the first place. While casing the scene, he is hit by a car driven by a harried stage actress (Vera Farmiga) who is running late for a rehearsal at a nearby theater (it’s a Meet Cute). Soon afterwards, he discovers an old newspaper clipping about a long-forgotten bootlegger’s tunnel that runs under the alley that separates the theater from the bank next door. He encourages a reluctant Max to make nice to his parole board at his next hearing, so he can assist him with the heist. It doesn’t take the seasoned con man too long to figure out that the key to gaining access to the bank is for the heist team to finagle themselves into the theater production in the building next door. Hence, we get to the part where Keanu does Chekhov. One slight complication: he falls in love with his leading lady (who wouldn’t?).

There’s a little déjà vu running through this film (the second effort from 44 Inch Chest director Malcolm Venville). Sacha Gervasi and David White’s script may have been “inspired” by some vintage heist flicks; specifically, Alexander Mackendrick’s 1955 comedy The Ladykillers, and Lloyd Bacon’s Larceny, Inc.from 1942 (essentially remade by Woody Allen as Small Time Crooks. I thought that James Caan was recycling his “Mr. Henry” persona from Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket a wee bit. While the film has classic screwball tropes, it lacks the kinetic pace of Lubitsch or Sturges. That being said, I still found Venville’s film to be quite engaging and entertaining-within its own unique universe (yes, even the somnambulant Keanu). I was reminded of Vincent Gallo’s criminally underappreciated Buffalo '66; in addition the fact that it also was filmed in and around the Buffalo area, it’s another one of those low-key comedies with oddly endearing characters that “sneaks up” on you, especially once you realize how genuinely touching and sweet it really is at its core. And there’s no crime in that, is there?

by digby

Offered without comment: Dana Milbank on the White House Correspondent's Dinner

I don’t fault any one host for throwing a party or any journalist for attending. Many of them are friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with savoring Johnnie Walker Blue with the politicians we cover.

But the cumulative effect is icky. With the proliferation of A-list parties and the infusion of corporate and lobbyist cash, Washington journalists give Americans the impression we have shed our professional detachment and are aspiring to be like the celebrities and power players we cover.

Oh dear.

Holocaust denial

by digby

Remember this?

Republicans got an apology of sorts from Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson Wednesday – it just wasn’t the one they wanted.

Instead of saying he was sorry about accusing Republicans of wanting people to “die quickly,” he gave an apology “to the dead.”

“I would like to apologize,” he said. “I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.”

His sarcasm, delivered on the House floor, drew a swift rebuke from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which hopes to see Grayson defeated in an Orlando-based swing district next year.

“This is an unstable man who has come unhinged,” NRCC spokesman Andy Sere said. “The depths to which Alan Grayson will sink to defend his indefensible comments know no bounds.”

Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia drafted, but did not offer, a resolution that would have expressed the House’s disapproval of Grayson’s remarks.

And this?

Rep. Alan Grayson has sent a letter of apology to the Anti-Defamation League after describing the health care situation as a “holocaust in America” on the House floor Wednesday.

Grayson, who is Jewish, first called Thursday to apologize to the ADL – a sort of national arbiter of anti-Semitism – and followed up with a letter Friday, which is the beginning of the Jewish festival of Sukkot.

Grayson spokesman Todd Jurkowski confirmed the contents of the letter, which were first reported by FOX News.

“In no way did I mean to minimize the Holocaust,” wrote Grayson. “I regret the choice of words, and I will not repeat it.”

But Grayson is making no apology to Republicans, who said they were offended when he said on the House floor Tuesday that the GOP’s health care plan amounts to “die quickly.” It was during a mocking apology to Republicans for that remark – when he used the term holocaust — that Grayson raised the ire of some of his fellow Jews.

CNN contributor Erick Erickson wrote this at the time:

The holocaust was real with a real meaning. Roping it into the health care debate cheapens what it was all about.

And what is truly ironic is Grayson champions a system that actually would compel people into terminating their elderly relatives’ lives as the elderly suffer at the back of a rationed health care line withering and dying.

(I know ....)

Now keep in mind that Grayson wasn't directly comparing the American health care system to the Jewish Holocaust. He used the word holocaust in its broad definition:"destruction or slaughter on a mass scale." But everyone from Maddow to Erickson agreed that any use of the word was an oblique reference to the Jewish Holocaust and, therefore, any use of the word is an insult to their suffering. Grayson, a Jew himself, apologized and agreed never to use the word again.

So what do you suppose is going to happen with this?

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann on Saturday described the loss of "economic liberty" that young Americans face today as a "flash point of history" in which the younger generation will ask what their elders did to stop it.

In a speech to New Hampshire Republicans, Bachmann recounted learning about a horrific time in history as a child — the Holocaust — and wondering if her mother did anything to stop it. She said she was shocked to hear that many Americans weren't aware that millions of Jews had died until after World War II ended.

Bachmann said the next generation will ask similar questions about what their elders did to prevent them from facing a huge tax burden.

"I tell you this story because I think in our day and time, there is no analogy to that horrific action," she said, referring to the Holocaust. "But only to say, we are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to."

Granted, the fact that she makes Palin sound like Winston Churchill by comparison may confuse people enough that they don't understand what she said. But once everyone takes an aspirin to get rid of their migraines, they should be able to see that Bachman has just compared taxation to the Jewish Holocaust. Directly.

I suspect it's ok if you are a Republican. It usually is.

Out of the mouths of Tea Partiers

by digby

These wingnuts are funny. An email header in my inbox today:

Trump in Vegas: "Our Leaders are Stupid"

Vote Donald Trump 2012!

It's kind of cute really. In a baby shark sort of way. (But this is really funny.)

In case you missed Trump's profane tirade, it's here. I think he might be on drugs.

Their Own Worst Enemy

by digby

I've been watching the conservative movement for a long time now and I think I understand tham about as well as anyone. But they continue to surprise me in ways I shouldn't be surprised. For instance, I didn't think they'd be dumb enough to drop this Ryan plan in a presidential election cycle after they'd just demagogued the death panels and pulling the plug on grandma stuff. I keep forgetting that hubris is their greatest weakness.

And this one is epically hubristic.

The Republican plan to privatize Medicare wouldn’t touch his benefits, but Walter Dotson still doesn’t like the idea. He worries about the consequences long after he’s gone, for the grandson he is raising.

"I’d certainly hate to see him without the benefits that I’ve got," said Dotson, 72, steering a high school sophomore toward adulthood.

The loudest objections to the GOP Medicare plan are coming from seniors, who swung to Republicans in last year’s congressional elections, and many have been complaining at town-hall meetings with their representatives during the current congressional recess. Some experts say GOP policymakers may have overlooked a defining trait among older people: concern for the welfare of the next generations.

"I remember the days when we had poor farms and elderly people on welfare, before we had Social Security and Medicare for seniors, and I’m afraid it will lead right back to that situation," added Dotson, from the village of Cleveland in rural southwest Virginia.

Another nagging worry for seniors may have more to do with self-interest: If Congress can make such a major change to Medicare for future retirees, what’s to stop lawmakers from coming back and applying it to everyone currently on the program?

Nothing actually. They are wise to question this, especially since the two-tiered system they are proposing for the under 55s is likely to create a lot of friction when half the elderly are getting traditional single payer medicare and the other half are forced to shop online for the cheapest prices on electrocardiograms.

Hailed as bold and visionary by some in Washington, the proposal is stirring opposition around the country, polls show. No group has been more negative than seniors, although GOP lawmakers carefully exempted anyone now 55 or older.


It’s already changed the political dynamic, said Robert Blendon, a Harvard professor who tracks public opinion on health care. Last year, nearly three out of five people 60 and older voted Republican, reflecting concern over Medicare cuts to finance Obama’s health care overhaul. Now Republicans are on the defensive. "It’s a way of Democrats taking the health care issue back to their side," Blendon said.

Seniors’ skepticism cuts across party lines, a problem for Republicans.

An AP-GfK poll late last year, before House Republicans officially embraced Ryan’s approach, found 80 percent of seniors who are Democrats opposed Medicare privatization. Among Republicans age 65 and up, 71 percent were opposed. The poll asked about the idea generally, without linking it to Republicans.

Dotson, who owned a machine shop before he retired, says he’s a lifelong Democrat. But Sharon Bergeson, 68, a Republican, is also uncomfortable with privatization.

"What worries me is if something not as good as what I have was to come along for my children or grandchildren," said Bergeson, from Idaho Springs, a small town in the mountains west of Denver.

Medicare has its flaws, she said, but on the whole it has worked well for her. Bergeson said she’d have to know a lot more about how privatization would work for future generations, including how much they’d have to pay and how secure it would be. Her children and grandchildren deserve the same she has, or better.

"I don’t want to put the future generation into a situation changing their program when it’s something that’s working for me at this time," she explained.

You can certainly see why the powers that be fought so hard against single payer health care for everyone. Once people get it, they like it and don't want to give it up. Ryan and his fellows may think that human beings only care about themselves so all they have to do is exempt the current elderly and they'll be fine with it, but most people aren'tquite as selfish as your average Randian acolyte and have some care for their fellow man --- particularly their own offspring.

"I’ve never seen a group of seniors, once you tell them that this isn’t going to affect them personally, say it’s OK, we’re fine with that," said John Rother. "They kind of see themselves as guardians of the programs for their children."

John Boehner seems to realize that he made a mistake, but it won't help him now. All but four House Republicans voted for it.And Harry Reid's going to put the Republicans in the Senate on the hot seat and make them vote on this thing as well. As I said, when the GOP officially dropped this Ryan plan and then voted for it en masse, even I, cynic that I am, was taken aback.

From this moment on, the Democrats have the opportunity to reclaim their position as the party trusted by senior citizens. Over the next 15 years a gigantic number of them are going into the system --- and they vote. If the Republicans don't have them, they have nothing. (You know how badly they fare among younger people and racial and ethnic minorities.)

There should be a price to be paid for the kind of heartless abstraction we are seeing from the wealthy mandarins and starry-eyed Randians who are running things these days. The seniors are the ones who can make them pay it.

In this day and age the only ones who can beat the Republicans are themselves. Lucky for the Democrats they do it fairly frequently.

The Rich have Already Suffered Enough

by digby

Erin Burnett has been hired for her own show on CNN. It should be very illuminating for all of us. Here's Cenk Uyger taking Burnett to task for her brilliant analysis of the financial crisis in early 2009:

Here she was around the same time talking to Norah O'Donnell about the stimulus package:

Norah O'Donnell: There is some good news out there about the housing market.

Burnett: Yes there was, and this is funny, I guess it's the world we're in right now Norah. This is going to sound horrible but it's actually better news than expected. Home prices were down 15% from a year ago, but existing home sales overall were up, and what really sticks out here was inventory, how much of the stuff we've got to work through before we are to get back to a healthy market. We saw a big drop there, we have 9.3 months of inventory which means at the current selling rate it would take 9.3 months to actually work through everything but that is a big improvement from where we were just a month ago.

So there are a few signs of improvement, raising the question of how big and how quick this stimulus actually needs to be to stimulate. The economy's trying to turn itself around.

She's awfully good. I can see why the best political team on television wants her.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Handy Primer For Politics in the 21st century

by digby


h/t to Mother Jones

Royal pains

by digby

I must admit that I would rather watch this Royal Wedding on a loop for the next three days than spend even one minute watching the political press drool all over reality TV stars and B-list rockers at this pathetic "Nerd Prom" this week-end. Unless Colbert is officiating it is just depressing:

This weekend is the biggest socio-political event of the year in DC. Socializing and politics always go hand in hand here, but this weekend is different. The White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner Saturday night has morphed into a creature all its own, an amalgam of DC, NY and Hollywood elites that has come to dominate the calendar of the Federal City (as distinguished from the non-governmental and more down-to-earth Washington). I'm not sure there's anything else that captures so completely the way the modern DC operates and conceives of itself as this weekend does. A glimpse of WHCA dinners past

Seriously, at least the Brits have the excuse of centuries of history and a long tradition of such pomp and circumstance. And the royals are merely expensive celebrities, they don't have any real power, unlike some of the celebrity reporters and pundits who celebrate themselves at this rather sad yearly event.

Pick your poison:

Shutting Them Down

by digby

Oh my goodness. These baby Tea party legislators haven't been well prepared for this sort of thing. I'm not sure they even knew that people disagreed with them before:

CONSTITUENT 1: [The GOP budget ] is a significant tax cut for the wealthy.

CRAWFORD: A 10 percent tax cut?

CONSTITUENT 2: Wouldn’t that be class warfare against the poor people?

CRAWFORD: Well, you’re asking me if I want to continue taxing at a higher rate the people that are creating jobs and no –

CONSTITUENT 2: They’re not creating jobs, though! They haven’t created any more jobs! … They’re taking them all overseas!

CONSTITUENT 3: Are you taking any more questions?

CRAWFORD: No, we’re done.

CONSTITUENT 3: We’re done?

CRAWFORD: We’re done.

CONSTITUENT 4: During the Bush administration, and the tax cuts, how many jobs were created?

CRAWFORD: I don’t have those numbers.

CONSTITUENT 4: Three million. During the Clinton administration, where he raised taxes on the highest bracket to 39.5, how many jobs were created? 22 million. You’re going to tell me that tax cuts create jobs?!

That's an Arkansas congressman. I'd imagine bringing up Clinton in that crowd has special significance.

I think Democratic candidates could learn something from their constituents about how to debate a Republican.

Update: This is good too:

One attendee asked when the country was going to start trying to “trickle up” instead of following failed “trickle down” policies. Later, a frustrated constituent stood up and told Huizenga that his party has been completely captured by the richest Americans, to applause from the audience:

CONSTITUENT: You [by endorsing the Ryan plan] have done something that I have been unable to do trying to explain to my friends, and all my neighbors, and my relatives, that your party has become of the rich by the rich and for the rich! (applause)

Call him out

by digby

I just got this from Color of Change and I think it's worth doing. Breitbart is slowly being mainstreamed despite his history of racism, cons and hoaxes. He is one of the most malignant figures in politics today and Maher needs to be schooled about that.:

We just learned that tonight, Andrew Breitbart — the man behind the take-down of Shirley Sherrod — will appear on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher." Turns out this will be the second time that Maher has had Breitbart on since Breitbart was exposed as a fraud in the Sherrod incident. In the first show, despite Breitbart having recently been shown to be a con-artist, Maher referred to him kindly as a "publisher and journalist" and engaged him as a credible commentator.1

Bill Maher needs to hear from us — if Breitbart is going to appear on his show at all, Maher needs to tell his audience that Breitbart is neither a journalist nor a commentator — that in fact he's a liar, a race-baiter, and a con-artist. Maher needs to know that it's irresponsible for him to give Breitbart a stage without making Breitbart's history and penchant for deception clear.

Can you make a quick phone call to Maher's show? The script below makes it easy (or you can come up with your own).

(323) 575-7702 - Real Time with Bill Maher

I figure you can come up with your own, so I'm not including the script. Maher is a usually a good fellow and his show is often the only place where anyone's truly challenging these wingnuts. But Brietbart is beyond the pale and in his first foray Maher did not seem to know it. (He also features Brietbart's Lieutenant Dana Loesch, who is equally unacceptable, but got usefully challenged in her last appearance.)

If you have the time to register a polite complaint, it might do some good.


Hoping For Future Change

by digby

Boy does this ever say it all:

Many of the groups that Obama needs to turn out most enthusiastically in 2012—particularly young people, African-Americans, and Latinos—are still suffering the most as the economy crawls back from the Great Recession. That dynamic looms like a crack in the foundation for Obama’s reelection, which relies on those groups surging to the polls in 2012 after their participation sagged even more than usual in the 2010 midterms.

The continued strain on the groups at the core of Obama’s coalition underscores the political stakes in his recent turn toward deficit reduction. Obama’s pledge to reduce the deficit by about $4 trillion over the next 12 years has allowed him to shift the debate from whether to reduce the deficit to how. That’s much stronger terrain for Obama and Democrats—as demonstrated by the sharp backlash many congressional Republicans faced in town halls this week over the GOP’s proposal to convert Medicare into a voucher (or premium support) system.

But many liberal strategists fear that Obama could win this battle and lose the war in 2012. These critics argue that the tactical benefits of embracing greater deficit reduction come at a high cost: By agreeing that Washington must tighten its belt, the president has essentially precluded additional large-scale government efforts to stimulate growth and create jobs. “You are really conceding whatever the growth we have is the growth you are going to run with—and maybe even a little less, because you are going to start cutting spending,” says veteran liberal activist Robert Borosage, codirector of the Campaign for America’s Future.

It turns out that the base Obama needs to mobilize is composed of the very people who are hurting the most in this economy, particularly in light of the probably defection of some of the blue-collar whites who may have voted for him in 2008.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, recently analyzed the trends in greater detail. Its findings should chill the White House. Unemployment among workers younger than 25 with only a high school diploma averaged almost 23 percent in 2010—nearly double the level in 2007. Even among workers that age with a college degree, unemployment has averaged nearly 10 percent over the past year. There are enough Latinos in 15 states for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track their job status; in 12 of them (including such battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida, and Nevada), the Latino unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent last year. In all 23 states in which there are enough African Americans to reliably measure unemployment, the average rate last year exceeded 10 percent; in 17 of them, it exceeded 15 percent.

The pain in these communities extends beyond unemployment to a historic liquidation of wealth. Census figures, for instance, show that homeownership rates have declined significantly faster among both African-Americans and Latinos than whites.

So, how are they going to deal with the fallout? Brownstein points out that African Americans are unwavering in their support, so he can count on that. But Latinos and young people are less enthusiastic. Their support is dropping rather precipitously and they are unreliable voters generally. But apparently they have figured out that they are gettable with the right message even if their own lives are grim:

Against those warning signs, the White House is betting that these young and minority voters will mostly look forward, not back, as they choose in 2012.

Oh boy. Apparently, polling shows that these groups tend to be more optimistic about the future than other groups and they think this indicates a residual faith in Obama. But I think that may be wishful thinking. Most young people assume they are going to be successful and many Latinos have a recent immigrant experience to draw upon and feel they have nowhere to go but up. I'm not sure they think Obama has anything to do with it, but maybe they do.

Perhaps more tellingly, they are counting on drawing a contrast between the administration and the other side showing that the Republicans want to close the borders and end Pell Grants. (In other words, they have nowhere else to go.) That may work, but in the face of a lousy economy and lots of cutting by the Democrats, I'm not sure there isn't just a much chance that these people will decide that politics isn't particularly relevant to their lives and that nobody is adequately representing their interests.

Brownstein concludes:

[S]econd-term presidential elections almost always unfold less as a choice than as a referendum on the incumbent. And that means Obama has placed a huge wager by embracing a fiscal strategy that denies him many tools to directly address the continuing struggles of African-Americans, Latinos, and young people. They may be at the margin of the economy, but they’re at the center of his electoral coalition.

Not to mention that it's just plain wrong.

I would guess that he's going to win regardless of any of this, not because he's persuaded struggling citizens that he's "winning the future" but because the Republicans are likely to run someone who will dampen mainstream GOP enthusiasm. Their best hopes are Romney, Pawlenty and Daniels and there are huge problems with all of them, not the least of which is a charisma gap the size of the Grand Canyon. And it's not impossible that the Tea Party has captured enough of the nominating apparatus that they'll nominate someone who's shockingly extreme. I suspect that will get him through.

But, they are playing with fire assuming that they can rekindle the last campaign without tangible results to prove it. People are hurting and as Brownstein says, re-elections are a referendum on the current president. He can talk about the future all he wants, but people are going to judge him on the present.

The Money Chase

by digby

I guess this was inevitabl but it still makes me queasy:

Democrats with ties to the Obama White House on Friday are launching a two-pronged fundraising effort aimed at countering deep-pocketed GOP groups in 2012 — and adopting some of the same policies on unlimited, secret donations that President Barack Obama himself has long opposed, the organizers tell POLITICO.

The two groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, aim to raise $100 million to defend Obama’s reelection bid from an expected onslaught of attack ads from similar Republican outside money organizations activated in the 2010 midterms, organizers say.
The Priorities companion committees will have one that discloses donors — and one that doesn’t, a practice Obama hammered during last year’s election cycle as undermining the democratic process.

The Priorities group also is jettisoning an Obama rule aimed at limiting the influence of special interests by welcoming unlimited contributions from lobbyists, labor unions, corporations and political action committees — sources that are still banned from giving to the president’s reelection campaign, organizers said.

“While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman and co-founder of the organization.

“We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of a double standard are over,” he added.

Great. I don't have an answer for this. The Republicans are marginally worse than the Democrats what with all the lunatic racism, sexism, homophobia and theocracy, so you have to be practical and not want them to gain power, particularly when they are intent upon totally dismantling our entire social contract as quickly as possible. But God help us, this is mutually assured destruction and this money race is going to make it all so much worse.

The time to have changed this trajectory was when the Democrats held the power to deny the wingnuts their preferred Supreme Court plutocrats and to ram through some serious campaign finance laws. You can be sure that if the Republicans were in their position they would have done that. But this is about money --- and both sides are slavering to get their hands on it. Corruption knows no Party. In any case, the Party which represents labor, consumers and those who are dependent upon government services is never going to be the preferred Party of the Big Money Boyz, although they'll spread enough money around to keep them trying. Democrats playing this just raises the ante. Until somebody figures out how to stop it our democracy is going to continue to be more of a pageant than a reality. Perhaps our money would be better spent on a monarchy, after all. At least they have gilt carriages and pretty palaces to show for it.

Dred Scott And The Birthers

by tristero

As a sort of aside in a recent post, I noted that the "filth of the Dred Scott decision" is behind the questioning of Barack Obama’s birth and therefore his eligibility to be president. I don’t want to make this a history lesson, because Dred Scott was not only a despicable but a multi-layered case. If you are interested in all the particulars, Wikipedia’s articles are a pretty good place to start. But it is the following specific portion of Roger Taney’s infamous decision I had in mind:
The Court first had to decide whether it had jurisdiction. Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that "the judicial Power shall extend... to Controversies... between Citizens of different States...." The Court held that Scott was not a "citizen of a state" within the meaning of the United States Constitution, as that term was understood at the time the Constitution was adopted, and therefore not able to bring suit in federal court. Furthermore, whether a person is a citizen of a state, for Article III purposes, was a question to be decided by the federal courts irrespective of any state's definition of "citizen" under its own law.

Thus, whether Missouri recognized Scott as a citizen was irrelevant. Taney summed up,
Consequently, no State, since the adoption of the Constitution, can by naturalizing an alien invest him with the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government, although, so far as the State alone was concerned, he would undoubtedly be entitled to the rights of a citizen, and clothed with all the rights and immunities which the Constitution and laws of the State attached to that character.
This meant that
no State can, by any act or law of its own, passed since the adoption of the Constitution, introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States.
The only relevant question, therefore, was whether, at the time the Constitution was ratified, Scott could have been considered a citizen of any state within the meaning of Article III. According to the Court, the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as
beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
The Court also presented a parade of horribles argument as to the feared results of granting Mr. Scott's petition:
It would give to persons of the negro race, ...the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, ...the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
In other words, the Dred Scott decision said, in part, that because blacks would never have been considered citizens of any state at the time that the Constitution was ratified, it was not possible ever to consider them citizens, even if individual states decided to make them citizens and accord them the rights of citizens. Note: Taney was talking about all blacks, not just slaves.

In the real world, of course, the court and the Congress reversed this shameful decision (although the Dred Scott decision was, technically, never overruled). Still, the general lesson of Dred Scott endures in the modern right wing: a very effective way to eliminate those you hate is to delegitimize them, deny them any justification to the claim of being a genuine American citizen and a voice in the public political discussion. The birther movement is simply one of the wedges used by racists, ethnocentrists, religious bigots, and homophobes to force the country to engage in an evil discourse: whether citizenship, including but not limited to the right to be president, should be culturally, if not legally, withheld from anyone they deem not sufficiently American. And in the case of Obama, the Supreme Court - via originalist arguments as specious as anything Scalia advances now - asserted it was simply impossible for blacks to become citizens and therefore it is impossible for Obama to be a legitimate president.

Birtherism may fail, but so what? The evil discourse remains: Who is truly American and who is truly not? That is the argument the right demands we address every time a Democrat is elected president. With Obama, the right has an ancient Supreme Court ruling on their side. It may be discredited legally, but culturally, the notion that any black man could ever be a legitimate president is simply unthinkable - especially a black who has thrown his hat in with the socialists of the Democrat party.

The path out of this evil discourse is simple: label it first as the disgraceful and malicious expression of racism it is. Refuse to engage the "substantive" arguments they advance. Crowd out the evil discourse with truly important discussions that the country simply needs to have.

Simple, yes, to conceptualize. Much harder to to do.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


by digby

Kevin Drum says that the left has been broadcasting that it needs to protest the Ryan plan at Townhalls so nobody takes it seriously when people do it:

Ever since the Ryan plan has come out, I've been reading endless tweets and blog posts about how liberals need to create a ruckus at congressional town halls. Or, alternatively, complaining that liberals aren't doing a good enough job of creating a ruckus at congressional town halls. Or wondering when liberals are going to rise up in wrath. Or something.

As a result, even I haven't really taken any of these various ruckuses very seriously. They're just too obviously contrived to be our equivalent of the tea party protests. And my guess is that the press is yawning for the same reason. You can't make protest plans in public for a couple of weeks and then turn around and try to convince reporters that this is all a grass roots effort.

The left has always been pretty good at organizing large-scale marches and protests. But fake grass roots uprisings? Not so good. The right has us beat hollow on that kind of thing.

I guess I could buy that except for the fact that the Tea Party protests were as openly contrived as can possibly be. There was this, the instruction manual. There were the big astroturf internet organizing groups, Grassfire and Resistnet along with Freedomworks and others. There was the funding by the various big money groups. There was the drumbeat of talk radio and the full blown sponsorship by Fox News. None of that was secret. It's just that nobody thought to cover it as "contrived" ---or thought it was important.

Kevin is certainly right that people pretend that the Tea Party was solely a grassroots event, but that's only because the mainstream media ignored the obvious. I suspect that's because they were all middle aged and senior citizen white people who don't look like the stereotypical protester. (Or it was because the novelty of a right wing protest made it a sexier story.) But none of that was due to the superior fakery of the right wing. The info was all out there. Nobody cared.

In any case, I'm not sure that because something is organized that means it's manufactured. Those people who came out to protest health care reform really believed what they were saying and were entirely sincere in their outrage, even if the whole thing was contrived by a bunch of GOP scam artists, plutocrats and paid political operatives. And I think the protesters in Wisconsin and Ohio and at these current Townhalls are entirely sincere as well, even if bloggers, unions and Move-On are encouraging them to go out and make their voices heard. (And these protests sure aren't being promoted with hours and hours of talk radio and Fox 24/7 every day, so in that respect it's actually much more grassroots than the Tea Party protests.)

This looks real to me:

Tiger Blood --- or is it tiger teeth?

by digby

This is getting pathetic. The only thing surprising about this performance is that she didn't pump her fist and say "winning!"

(Just a reminder: the Republican Party of the United States nominated this person to run as Vice President on a ticket with the oldest man to ever be nominated for the office. Why do they hate America so much?)

He's just an old country aristocrat

by digby

David Swanson has posted a blockbuster piece about a panel he attended featuring Alan Simpson, David Walker, Larry Sabato and Dean Baker on the subject of the debt and the economy. He notes Sabato's fuzzy-wuzzy affection toward Simpson, a common occurrence among Villagers --- they love to portray his countrified aristocratic misanthropy as Real American folk wisdom and pretend that means that even the plebes agree that class warfare only runs one way:
There were more questions from the audience, but Simpson addressed himself to me when he explained what was wrong with taxing wealthy people. We have to get away from talking about the rich versus the poor, he said. For one thing, when you talk about who's responsible for something, the commission you're working on can't come to any agreement. The Iraq Study Group, for example, had to set aside who was to blame in order to propose what should be done. (Of course, most of us don't spend our lives serving on bipartisan commissions, and taxing the rich is as forward looking a concept as any other; blaming the rich was a straw man Simpson created.)

See, we can't get anything done if wealthy and powerful people are held accountable for their crimes (unless it involves unsanctioned fellatio, of course.) He's just being pragmatic. It's just a plain fact that Very Important People will be Very Seriously Upset if they and theirs are forced to pay and that means they won't let our allegedly democratic government do its job. Surely you can understand the problem.

Swanson got footage of the event and I highly recommend that you take a look at it when you get a chance. Apparently, Baker was there to give the others a break from their mutual snogging since nobody seemed to pay any attention to the fact that he vehemently disagreed with everything they were saying. (Village consensus means never having to listen to anyone who doesn't validate your biases.) Everything he says is true and important.

Be sure to also click over to the link to read Swanson's full account and see some classic footage of Simpson being an ass. He's all for cutting defense --- and by that he means cutting funding for the Veterans Administration. Seriously.

Conspiracy Clerics

by digby

In case you thought that the lying documentary hoax was invented by James O'Keefe, here's a reminder that it has been a thriving wingnut industry for years.(Remember The Clinton Chronicles?) Here's a new one coming from the infamous Coral Ridge Ministries featuring a couple of alleged ex-employees from Planned Parenthood who say the clinics routinely give out defective condoms and weak birth control pills to girls so they can meet their abortion quota and become millionaires. Apparently, it's something like selling Mary Kay or Tupperware.


Ex-Planned Parenthood Clinic Director and Former Abortion Clinic Owner Expose Business of Abortion on Cross Examine TV

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (April 27, 2011) – Two former abortion industry insiders talk candidly about the business of abortion this week on Cross Examine, a nationally aired television program featuring Dr. Del Tackett.

“If you want to keep the doors open, you better sell a lot of abortions,” says Abby Johnson, who left her post as executive director of a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic in 2009. “I was probably the best in my clinic. I sold abortions to girls as young as twelve.”

To view “The Business of Abortion” online now, please visit www.crossexamine.com. (After April 29, log in for free as a “Cross Examine Insider” to watch the show.)

Carol Everett, an owner of two abortion clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the 1980s, wanted to become a millionaire. “And the way for me to be a millionaire was to sell 40,000 abortions a year.”

It was easy money. When she opened a new clinic, “In the first month that clinic would pay for itself, and the second month it would be a cash cow.”

Johnson charges on the program that Planned Parenthood, a $1 billion corporation which took in $363 million from government sources in 2008-2009, sets abortion targets for each clinic.

“Planned Parenthood absolutely has quotas that each center has to meet,” Johnson says about her former employer which performed 324,008 abortions in 2008.

“They have an abortion budget and they have a certain number of patients that you have to perform abortions on every month, and there’s a dollar amount attached to each woman.”

Everett’s business plan included outreach in schools with talks given to break down children’s natural modesty and promote Everett and her clinic associates as trusted authorities for all things sexual.

Everett wanted students to “come to us with their sexual questions so we could put them on a low dose birth control pill we knew they’d get pregnant on. Of course we passed out condoms but we never passed out high quality condoms; we always used seconds or defective condoms. Our goal was to get the kids pregnant.”

The target, Everett says, was “three to five abortions between the ages of 13 and 18 from every girl we could find.”

Cross Examine co-host Dr. Del Tackett said it is “shocking to realize that this industry actually attempts to increase the number of abortions, rather than a desire to make them rare as we are led to believe.”

Fox News is Walter Cronkite compared to these people. But they are all playing in the same fetid pool of conservative lies and propaganda.

After-birthers running through the fever swamps

by digby

I'm so sick of this birther BS that I can hardly stand it. But since the right wingers seem to be ratcheting up the crazy on this, I guess it's necessary to at least bring attention to the aggressively stupid nonsense that's out there. Here's Media Matters:

A lot of attention is being paid to last night's Follow The Money on Fox Business Network, during which host Eric Bolling and crew had themselves an extended wallow in the birther swamp, in spite of the release of Obama's birth certificate, and in spite of Fox News' Shep Smith exhorting the media to "just freaking stop it."

Monica Crowley was on Bolling's panel and she eschewed the spittle-flecked lunacy of co-panelist Pamela Geller, instead going for a more high-brow justification of birtherism, bringing up the question of whether Obama qualifies as a "natural-born citizen".

Gateway pundit Jim Hoft is full-on on the kerning watch, with charts and graphs and Youtubes like this "proving" that the birth certificate is a fake:

And this "expert" opinion:

And he also flogs Monica Crowley's nitwit garbage about Obama not being a "natural born citizen":

Finally, also wanted to make the point that regardless of where Obama is born, he’s still not a Natural Born Citizen since both parents were not born on U.S. soil but I won’t hold my breath waiting for the media to educate the public on this fact.

This has been floating around the fever swamp since 2007, when the morons suddenly caught up with the fact that McCain was born in Panama, so he "must be born on American soil" part of their argument got dicey. So, they came up with a few other back-up theories to prove that Obama couldn't possibly be legitimately elected to the White House.

The first was the "natural born parents" theory, which is obviously just made up fantasy since seven former presidents had parents of foreign birth, including one of the founders:
And needless to say, unless the 14th Amendment has been repealed when I wasn't looking, this whole argument is utter nonsense since Obama was born in America.

US v. WONG KIM ARK (1898)- the 14th Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all persons born in the United States, regardless of their ethnic heritage

The foregoing considerations and authorities irresistibly lead us to these conclusions: The fourteenth amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens, with the exceptions or qualifications (as old as the rule itself) of children of foreign sovereigns or their ministers, or born on foreign public ships, or of enemies within and during a hostile occupation of part of our territory, and with the single additional exception of children of members of the Indian tribes owing direct allegiance to their several tribes. The amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born within the territory of the United States of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States. Every citizen or subject of another country, while domiciled here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction, of the United States. His allegiance to the United States is direct and immediate, and, although but local and temporary, continuing only so long as he remains within our territory, is yet, in the words of Lord Coke in Calvin’s Case, 7 Coke, 6a, ‘strong enough to make a natural subject, for, if he hath issue here, that issue is a natural-born subject’; and his child, as said by Mr. Binney in his essay before quoted, ‘If born in the country, is as much a citizen as the natural-born child of a citizen, and by operation of the same principle.’


To hold that the fourteenth amendment of the constitution excludes from citizenship the children born in the United States of citizens or subjects of other countries, would be to deny citizenship to thousands of persons of English, Scotch, Irish, German, or other European parentage, who have always been considered and treated as citizens of the United States.

Another stupid right wing trope is that Obama couldn't possibly be an American because his mother was only 18 and therefore hadn't fulfilled the citizenship requirements that would allow her to confer citizenship on her son if his father was another nationality. (Look it up --- it's too dumb to even try to explain.)

I'm sure there are other theories about the "usurpation" I haven't run across. But the fact that there are so many proves that these people are determined to find a way to defend their primitive belief that this man is not a legally elected president. And that belief lies in their fundamental, bedrock definition of what constitutes a Real American -- a white, Christian conservative. There's no way they will ever be able to reconcile the idea that a black Democrat could legitimately represent a majority the American people. Clearly, they will rewrite history and the constitution if they have to in order to make that case.


by digby

Gee, I can hardly wait for the austerity program to really kick in:
The advance estimate for Q1 GDP came in at 1.8% - a sharp decline from last quarter's 3.1% but close to Briefing.com consensus of 1.7. The number was, however, well below the WSJ survey estimate average of 2.7. Here is an excerpt from the BEA announcement:

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter) according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 3.1%.

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, exports, and non-residential fixed investment that were partly offset by negative contributions from federal government spending and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The deceleration in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected a sharp upturn in imports, a deceleration in PCE, a larger decrease in federal government spending, and decelerations in non-residential fixed investment and in exports that were partly offset by a sharp upturn in private inventory investment. (More here).

I sure hope it's temporary. But with the states rapidly contracting their spending and the Feds about to do the same, you can't help but worry that unless personal consumption really picks up steam in a hurry this doesn't look great.

This is an interesting experiment in disaster capitalism. Can you push through austerity measures in the face of what feels like a long, protracted crisis rather than an acute jolt? I think we're about to see.

Dean Baker's analysis here.

How Quickly We Forget

by tristero

While this is a pretty good editorial, this paragraph:
It is inconceivable that this campaign to portray Mr. Obama as the insidious “other” would have been conducted against a white president.
is sloppy and misleading. Portraying Democratic presidents as the invidious "other" is what the extreme right always does. And it's not only quote mainstream unquote Republican leaders who go along with it.

Some of us well remember this, for example:
"[Bill Clinton] came in here and he trashed the place," says Washington Post columnist David Broder, "and it's not his place."
I think that's as fairly stark portrayal of a president as the insidious "other" as one can get.

And, oh yes, that wasn't said by some bottom-feeding far right asshole but by the so-called dean of the Washington Press Corps. As far as Clinton goes, in fact, calling him white trash who didn't know his place was pretty mild, almost a compliment. Rightwing Republican operatives slimed him as a sleazy land speculator, a drug dealer, a drug addict, and even a murderer. His wife, of course, was a... lesbian (which to them is something to be ashamed of, as per Cheney's behavior when Kerry noted Mary Cheney's sexual orientation during a debate with Bush).

True, questioning the American bona fides of an African-American president is unquestionably a deeply racist stunt: the filth of the Dred Scott decision sticks to it. But let's not forget that there is a long, long history of the far right demonizing - not "portraying," but demonizing- Democrats as Not Real Americans. And they do so by playing not only the race card, but the class card, the gender card, the foreigner card ("He looks French!"), the gay card, the elitist card, and every other card they can think of playing. Nothing - absolutely nothing - is off limits.

And the press goes right along. Merrily along.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Man Called Petraeus Enters the Netherword

by digby

Obviously, I have no idea why the administration is moving the great military hero Petraeus out of the chain of command and into the CIA. For all I know, he's got a great feel for Intelligence work and has dreamed of being a spook since he was a boy. But I can speculate on the politics side and I can't think of a better place to put the only possible person who could present a real threat to his election if he were prevailed upon to run. He will be invisible. And, presumably, occupied running the various secret CIA wars which he won't be able to take public credit for.

Say what you will about Obama but he's one savvy pol when it comes to sidelining his most potent rivals. Maybe he should appoint the whole GOP field to his cabinet and run unopposed.

Constituent Service

by digby

I don't recall that Tea Partiers were arrested at the health care townhalls in 2009, but maybe they were. We know for a fact that they were disruptive --- and that they were instructed to be so.

It definitely happened in Florida yesterday when liberal talk radio host Nicole Sandler confronted her congressman, war criminal Alan "liberal women are neutering American men" West at his townhall:

It figures, my blog is the last place you’ll read about my arrest and subsequent incarceration after attending Allen West’s so-called Town Hall Meeting last night.

Since I spent last night in jail and, thanks to the sickeningly awful people at the Broward County Jail was subjected to three hours in solitary confinement in a 7×10 room, and then maced. Nice, huh?

Anyway, I’ll have more on how it all unfolded on the show tomorrow, and then in a lengthier written piece after I get some rest, food and a shower.

But I do want to clear something up. The video that’s floating around portraying me as a heckler doesn’t show the Medicare question that Mr. West was asked, the way he answered it, and my FOLLOW-UP question.

So, here’s how it actually happened:

Being arrested for speaking your mind at a political event is not unprecedented. I would guess that it's happened to a few of you. (It's not common to maced while in custody --- but I can't say I'm surprised that it happened to a female liberal talk show host. That's just how the authoritarians roll.)

Alan West is the worst of the worst, a sick piece of work who tortured Iraqis and narrowly escaped a court martial. He's also, apparently, a coward.

Fiddlers and clowns

by digby

As I wrote earlier, I really liked the way Obama addressed the Trumped up birther nonsense today, especially the part where he wrote that we don't have time to listen to carnival barkers.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of them in politics these days. Get a load of this, from Sarah Posner

Alabama Republican Robert Aderholt and West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall have introduced a Congressional Resolution, timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, designed to express the body's "gratitude" for the "influence" the KJV has had on "countless families, individuals, and institutions in the United States."

The bipartisan co-sponsors were lobbied by the small non-profit Bible Nation Society, based in Corunna, Michigan, said Jason Georges, the group's executive director. Georges said that other members of Congress, particularly the Congressional Prayer Caucus, were also interested in the KJV resolution.

The Bible Nation Society, affiliated with Immanuel Baptist Church in Corunna, was founded by Immanuel's pastor, Douglas Levesque. At the Bible Nation Society's 2010 Bible in Culture Conference, Levesque preached on the "Antichrist Quotient," in which he laid out wide-ranging conspiracy theories that President Obama might be the Antichrist.

The Bible Nation Society, which is also sponsoring an Expo on the National Mall next week to celebrate the KJV 400th anniversary, came to Capitol Hill to lobby for the resolution at the height of the budget battle, said Georges. That made the effort more challenging, he said, but he saw it as an opportunity "to pause and think about the principles of money -- the debtor is servant to the lender, ideas of usury, Joseph's idea of saving, storage, national saving for hard times, that's in the Book of Genesis. . . there is a principle there that people can glean some wisdom from."

Georges insists, "we're not promoting a theocratic state" -- just that policymakers should find answers to the nation's pressing questions in the King James Bible. The KJV, he added, "speaks to issues today if we would all pause for a minute, it would give us answers."

This is our country being serious and sober about the pressing problems of the day.

Bring on the kerning experts

by digby

This is just funny. From Smoking Gun:

This morning’s White House release of President Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate will, of course, do little to derail the “birther” movement, which will now analyze the document with the kind of verve previously directed toward those Texas Air National Guard memos faxed to CBS from that Kinko’s in Abilene.

So here’s a few nutty points about the birth certificate sure to be seized upon by the nonbelievers:

• If the original document was in a bound volume (as reflected by the curvature of the left hand side of the certificate), how can the green patterned background of the document's safety paper be so seamless?

• Why, if Obama was born on August 4, 1961, was the “Date Accepted by Local Reg.” four days later on August 8, 1961?

• What is the significance of the smudges in the box containing the name of the reported attendant?

• David A. Sinclair, the M.D. who purportedly signed the document, died nearly eight years ago at age 81. So he is conveniently unavailable to answer questions about Obama’s reported birth.

• In the “This Birth” box there are two mysterious Xs above “Twin” and “Triplet.” Is there a sibling or two unaccounted for?

• What is the significance of the mysterious numbers, seen vertically, on the document’s right side?

• Finally, the “Signature of Local Registrar” in box 21 may be a desperate attempt at establishing the document’s Hawaiian authenticity. Note to forgers: It is spelled “Ukulele.”

Here are the first of the comments:

Submitted by WhoHasMoreFunTh... on Wed, 2011-04-27 14:22.
The certificate does look like it was doctored...lots of marks, smudges & that typewriter! Anyone can forge anything. What a scam!

Submitted by Ohiowordguy on Wed, 2011-04-27 14:22.
I noticed the possible "layers" in this document almost immediately. When I had the .pdf file of the BC open in my browser then used Command + Tab (on an Apple computer), to switch to another app, I noticed that the majority of the text disappeared. I recreated the effect numerous times. As others have suggested, when you open the BC in Acrobat (full version) and strip out the "Metadata" and "Deleted or cropped content" this SAME EXACT TEXT disappears leaving only a few bits of type, date stamps and all or part of three signatures: his mother, the attendant and the local registrar. Also, some of the digits used in the Aug. 8, 1961 date stamp disappear. The full background and the April 25, 2011 stamp remain. I am making no "birther" claims, but CLEARLY this document has been altered. If it had been photographed or scanned, the pixels containing all the information (the document background, the type, the signatures, date stamps and the check marks) would be part of ONE pixelated image. As someone who uses Photoshop/Adobe Creative Suite daily, it is my belief that had the BC been scanned or photographed, the layering would not happen. Again, I am making NO "birther" claims or conclusions. But I believe this document has been altered.

Submitted by sammy5858 on Wed, 2011-04-27 14:22.
Are there any Adobe experts out there? Are there any cases where scanning a document like this could EVER break up and create these layer groups? Even if it could, would any software break it up this precisely? I pulled the PDF into Illustrator and was really shocked to see 10 different groups.

Submitted by 34packardphaeton on Wed, 2011-04-27 14:21.
This purported 'full' certificate is clearly a FAKE . . . which most any second-rate forgerer could replicate or create. There's a lot of discrepancies . . . and evidence of a "layering" technique in part to create this FORGERY. The thing about D. Trump that I really appreciate is his courage to actually pursue the truth. It seems like the politicians that SHOULD pursue this lie are utterly intimidated by the "P C Crowd" and the TV media. A plague upon all of those collaborators! (a descriptive word that became "fighting words" in the early 1940s).

Submitted by jerryblay on Wed, 2011-04-27 14:20.
I would nice to compare this Birth Certificate to others issued around the same time, maybe signed by the same doctor (e.g., 61 10640, 61 10642). I assume several are issued each week at the hospital. It would seem that the typist would use tabs to line up names, etc. (e.g., father's and mother's name; race and kind of business).

Submitted by JackPayne on Wed, 2011-04-27 14:19.
Hey people, come on, first of all, HE was not born ( or named at birth Barack Husein Obama, ) was he not Barry Soetoro first? Then Barack later in life, use your head, this is not right.

I don't think they get the joke ...

Reportedly, the Freepers are all over this. This is their beat.

I wonder if Trump will join this circus --- and if the media will follow him into the clown show once again. After all, there's no earthly reason they needed to feature him every five minutes on TV flogging this silly story in the first place. There was no basis for suspicion. And even if there had been, Obama's mother was an American and her son would have also been an American even if he had been born in Kenya. Therefore, the conspiracy is so byzantine that they are supposed to have faked his birthplace because they planned for him to become president someday -- the only job in America that requires someone be born on American soil. That the media have allowed this idiocy to fester for this long means they have no reason not to continue if someone can come up with another patently absurd reason to do it.

BTW: You have to love Obama's comments. He was almost rolling his eyes and groaning at the stupidity of this whole thing. And who can blame him? It must take everything he has not to just blurt out that these people are the biggest idiots on the planet.

Boomer vs Boomer

by digby

As this week's ongoing uprising at the townhalls shows, Republicans are playing with fire with this Ryan plan. Current seniors are concerned about their own kids and grandkids. After all, they are living in "medical world" where Medicare is at the very center of their lives and they know what's at stake. And I would guess that the next group in line --- people my age --- are also concerned, dealing as they are with their own elderly parents and facing their own impending old age illnesses before too long.

However, as Merrill Goozner explains in this post, it is much worse than they know and the political ramifications will be huge. If the Democrats are smart they will mobilize this constituency around this right now --- it's the baby boom and getting their support will cripple the Republicans for a generation:
[L]et’s take a closer look at what will actually happen after 2023, and think through what it means for the generation between 45 and 65, most of whom will still be alive by 2033 when Ryan’s privatization scheme will be fully in effect. Every new senior entering Medicare after 2023 will receive a voucher to buy insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that will pay for less and less of their coverage. By the time 2033 rolls around, their vouchers will cover about one-third of the cost of care.

But what will the overall Medicare-eligible population look like in 2033, when the entire 77-million strong baby boom generation will be in its golden years? According to the CMS actuary’s office, there will be 85.4 million Medicare-eligible seniors that year, up from 48.6 million today. Their projection for 2023 is about 69 million. That means roughly 16 million newly retired, active, more politically engaged seniors will be receiving sharply lower benefits and making sharply higher co-pays (call it higher taxes) to pay for health care, while about 53 million will be on the old plan that pays about 80 percent of costs. Every year after 2033, the ranks of seniors in the costly plan will grow, while there will be a declining number of seniors under the old, more financially attractive plan. Moreover, those in the old plan will be the most expensive people to take care of because they are the oldest in the cohort, thus consuming the vast majority of Medicare’s funds.

So what we will have is two groups of seniors: one younger, healthier, more politically active and making significantly higher payments for health care insurance out of pocket; and the other older, sicker, poorer and being coddled with the financially “bankrupt” older plan. This is precisely the situation that people in line for state and local government pensions face. Taxpaying private sector workers, whose employers took away their pensions years ago, resent paying higher taxes for pension benefits earned by their neighbors who went to work for government and never had their pensions taken away.

I can tell you that people in their 50s are thinking about retirement and medicare --- a lot. It's a part of our lives through our parents and it's something we know that it works. This hideous scenario can and should be avoided if people know what's in store.

As Goozner points out, there will undoubtedly be Alan Simpsons in 2033 (maybe even him, the way he's going!) trashing the greedy geezers and demanding that they give up what they were promised. He notes:

The politics of resentment has a long history in America. One is reminded of the retort by Guilded Age tycoon Jay Gould, who in 1896 faced a strike among his railway workers at a time of high unemployment. “I can can hire half the working class to kill the other half,” he shrugged.

I'm fairly sure that the Randian extremist Paul Ryan is in accord with that thinking. (Replace "working class" with "parasites" and you'll see it.) In his view thecoming war between the boomers is a feature not a bug.

Blue America Chat: Ilya Sheyman

by digby

Howie sez:
The first time I mentioned Ilya Sheyman, the progressive Democrat running for the northern Chicago suburban seat held by GOP freshman Robert Dold, it was in a long and rambling post lashing out against conventional wisdom. When I finally got to Ilya, former Field Director for Democracy for America and, more recently, National Mobilization Director at MoveOn, who Blue America was urging to run against Dold, he quoted Paul Wellstone to me:
“Politics is not just about power and money games, politics can be about the improvement of peoples lives, about lessening human suffering in our world and bringing about more peace and more justice.”

Candidates with this kind of mindset are candidates Blue America is looking for to help solve the country's problems. That's why we're enthusiastic about endorsing him today and why we'd like to invite you to meet him at a live blog session at Crooks and Liars at 1pm (Central Time), 11am on the West Coast.

Until his vote to phase out Medicare and replace it with a pathetic voucher system so that the wealthiest Americans get more tax breaks, not many people had heard of Dold outside the 10th CD between Arlington Heights and Waukegan in Chicagoland. But that triggered an angry reaction at Dold's town hall meeting in Buffalo Grove last week and now Dold has become another right-wing poster boy for Paul Ryan's dystopian vision of a mean, dark, reactionary America.
Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) cut a presentation on the federal deficit short at a town hall meeting he held last week, after audience members began firing questions at him about the Ryan budget and its changes to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Social Security, according to the Chicago newspaper the Daily Herald.

Senior citizens in the audience expressed their discontent with turning Medicare into a voucher program, calling the change a “shell game” that would bog senior citizens down with uncertainty in dealing with private healthcare companies.

And senior citizens are getting to know Dold better now that he's been in Congress for 4 months. He may be trying to hide his support for dismembering Medicare but he's surprisingly open about his contempt for Social Security and what he insists is the need to trim it back. Dold has been the perfect little rubber stamp for the radical House leadership, buying into all their harebrained schemes. "Rep. Dold and the right wing of the Republican Party," Ilya confirmed "are hell-bent on dismantling Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and eliminating the foundations of the American Dream that have made millions of middle-class lives possible-- and we can't let them get away with it... The fact that he continues to advocate for cuts in Social Security benefits shows just how out of touch he is with the voters of the 10th District [and] his vote for the radical Republican budget that ends Medicare in order to give tax breaks to giant corporations and the wealthiest 2% of Americans should put to rest any notion that he actually cares about the deficit."

Read on to hear more about Sheyman and then join Howie, John and I at 11AM over at C&L to chat with him about all these issues and more:

Please help us welcome Ilya to the Blue America family and, if you can, please contribute to his campaign through our ActBlue page
. An active admirer of Raul Grijalva's and Keith Ellison's Put America Back To Work Act, Ilya will be working inside the Progressive Caucus helping to advance real solutions for working families. It's what he'; campaigning on and it's what has drawn him into politics. And it's why Blue America has endorsed him.

The brought them around

by digby

It took some relentless demagoguery and propaganda, but it finally worked.

Greg Sargent:

The Beltway deficit feedback loop: For the longest time, polls indicated that the deficit ranked low on the list of voter concerns, showing public opinion to be strikingly out of sync with official Washington’s prioritizing of the deficit over job creation.

But this morning brings a new poll from the Washington Post and Pew Research that finds a whopping 81 percent now think the deficit is a major problem that should be dealt with now, rather than when the economy improves. Tellingly, that number has jumped even among Democrats.

When you have leading officials in both parties — starting with all Republicans and a handful of moderate Dems — acting as if reining in the deficit is so urgent that it requires more attention than creating jobs, people start to tell pollsters they agree. This helps create a climate in which Dems lose any incentive to make the case for more government spending to prime the recovery, which begins to vanish from the conversation.

Meanwhile, the other side continues to hammer away at reining in spending as the way to resuscitate the economy. Dems, anxious that Republicans will be seen as the only ones proposing solutions, nod in agreement and pick a fight over how much we should cut. The public hears an ever growing chorus of bipartisan agreement that the deficits and spending are our number one problem. The case that government can create jobs continues to fade. And so on...and so on...

Looks like we're going to get us some austerity folks! And now that the entire village has convinced everyone that the deficit is going to kill us all in our beds, when it fails to correct the economic malaise, people will lose faith in government even more! It's a twofer!

How long will it take to unwind this one? I'm not sure. But it could take a very long time. And the damage it's going to create is immeasurable.