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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Amateurs Played For Suckers

by tristero

The joke in the music industry is that if you want to go be creative, you go into accounting. And like many such jokes, it's no joke at all:
Fender’s chief executive, Larry Thomas, used to be the chief of Guitar Center. He sold the company to Bain at the top of the market in 2007 for $2.1 billion, including debt.
Guitar Center has been losing money since. Moody’s issued a junk rating of B2 on Guitar Center’s debt in October 2007, and has since downgraded the company two more times, most recently in November 2010, to Caa1.

When it comes to money, you really shouldn't fuck with the music industry unless you know exactly what you're doing.

(As the proud owner of two Fender guitars - neither bought from Guitar Center, btw - here's a personal digression:

(I've actually had my hands a few times on vintage Strats from the 50's and despite being awed by the experience of playing a legendary instrument, I can't say I noticed any particularly magical difference in the sound, so I concluded the obsession with vintage Strats was probably hype. Hell, modern Strats are built to quality standards no one practiced in the 50's. These people are guitar obsessives. Fender really does makes great, great guitars.

(Then again, I was never a very good guitar player. And musicians I do respect strongly believe those 50's and early 60's Strats are doubleplus better than anything since.  Therefore, I've concluded that the most likely reason why older Strats might sound better is because of the wear and tear on the instruments. They've been broken in, the pieces have settled in a way that makes for a grateful experience, especially the woods. And that takes time.

(And that means that in 50 years, my 2004 Strat is gonna sound awesome!)

Creepy video of the day

by digby

It looks like something out of a dystopian sci-fi movie, but it isn't. It's the police trying to round up activists in Spain:

More loons on the way

by digby

Move over Steve King and Michele Bachmann, and make room on the crazy couch for Chris Stewart:

Glenn Beck likes to say that he never endorses candidates—he just tells his followers how he feels about them. In Chris Stewart, the Republican nominee in Utah's 2nd Congressional District, Beck has found someone he feels pretty damn good about. "If he wasn't running, I'd be trying to convince him to work for me, to help me stay the course, strategize, and save the country," he said last winter , as Stewart's campaign was just getting off the ground. "I've actually tried to talk him out of running, because it's a lion's den in Washington."

But, Beck added, "I believe he's a Daniel."

Beck's a great fiction writer himself so he knows a genius when he sees one:

The villain of the Great and Terrible series—other than Satan, that is—is Drexel Danbert, a cigar-smoking, white-haired, ultra-rich European émigré. Danbert controls politicians across the globe like a puppeteer and, as one would expect from an agent of Satan, has the power to control the media too.

In one scene, Danbert and a Saudi crown prince (also an agent of Satan) plot a strategy to undermine the US government by planting a fake story in the media about a massacre by American troops. "Those who hate the United States will believe it, no matter what evidence is eventually revealed. The New York Times will front page the story for five weeks, at least," the crown prince says. The pair ultimately succeed in creating global chaos by setting off an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that destroys America's electrical infrastructure and forces a small group of heroes to band together to survive and defeat the forces of evil.

Stewart scoffs at the notion that his books, like the Left Behind­ series to which they're often compared, are religious tracts. "They're not theological books; they're not history books or predictions," he says. "They're not nonfiction. They're just novels. And we would never read anything more into them than that. They're just a way of telling a story." He adds, "The only thing that we think is meaningful in the book in terms of, 'Listen people, we should be aware of this,' again is the threat of electromagnetic pulse."

Of course we should. Plus Satan.

I really love this:

It's near certain that Stewart, running in a deep-red district in a deep-red state, will get his chance at fixing Washington next January. But his campaign has raised eyebrows in Utah, where Stewart has left a trail of furious Republicans calling for an investigation into electoral dirty tricks and old hands in both parties predicting the second coming of Michele Bachmann. "From time to time, we get a certified nutcase," one former Utah Republican politician told me. "And Chris Stewart truly is a certified nutcase."

More than "time to time" I'm afraid. He's going to have lots of company.


The unpoppable bubble

by digby

Chris Hayes's story of the week on the conservative bubble is a must see:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The only thing I would add to that is to just warn everyone that while it's true the conservative bubble has them all believing the polls are wrong and that they will win on election day, it is also preparing them to believe that their "analysis" was right and the election was stolen when they come up short. The bubble has an answer for everything. Also watch this on the Supreme Court. It will make your hair stand on end:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In fact, watch all the segments on the court on today's show if you didn't see it. We're in for a bumpy ride.

They've been saying it for years

by digby

It looks like there are some people out there who think Romney hit the nail on the head:

Retired Air Force Major Joseph Smith said Romney's "47 percent" remark held a kernel of truth, and the truth was that President Obama "wants to buy" poor people. And Smith should know, since he says he used to run an unemployment office:

Romney was simply saying that there are a good number of people in the country on the one hand that don't pay taxes. They really don't. But they get most of the welfare and those types of handouts. Most of them would rather actually be working. And the current administration wants to buy them so they can make them dependent on the government rather than working on their own. Which is totally the antithesis of anything that this country stands for…I used to work in unemployment, run an unemployment office, I saw it everyday. I used to run the office in Virginia for almost 30 years.
Smith added off-camera that he was currently a government contractor.

Uh oh. That sounds like someone who spent his entire life as a blood-sucking gummint worker to me. But never mind. He's one of the "good ones" and I think you know what I mean.

This woman almost let it slip:

He was applauded by another woman, a Vietnam-era Air Force vet who identified herself as Jo Watts, president of the Barbara Bush Republican Women's Club. Romney's 47 percent video, Watts said, was misrepresented:

He doesn't feel that way except for…I take that back. He probably does feel that way. But he told the truth, and people don't want to hear the truth…People on the dole. It's like, how do people go off unemployment and go on disability? Where is that coming from? How did that happen? You're not disabled just because you don't have a job. We should be out there finding people jobs instead of scooting people from one dole to the other.

This does not surprise me. These views have been common among a certain group of Americans since ... well, forever. It defines their worldview. But it is highly unusual for a presidential candidate to espouse them, or at least it has been for a century or so. And it's taken its toll.

Nate Silver and other pollsters and poli-sci wonks are quite skeptical that campaign comments in general mean all that much in American politics. (Indeed, it would seem that their models indicate that voters and citizens don't have much effect on anything and that our entire system is mostly based on factors external to the democratic process.) So, when the Romney video came out Silver said he doubted that it would have much effect, because gaffes rarely do.

He wrote this on Friday:

By Sept. 17, the date when the video of Mr. Romney’s remarks was released and received widespread attention, the momentum from Mr. Obama’s convention appeared to have stalled (although not necessarily reversed itself). Mr. Obama led in the popular vote by 4.1 percentage points on that date, according to the “now-cast.”

Since then, however, Mr. Obama has gained further ground in the polls. As of Thursday, he led in the popular vote by 5.7 percentage points in the “now-cast,” a gain of 1.6 percentage points since Mr. Romney’s remarks became known to the public.

It’s hard to tell whether this recent gain for Mr. Obama reflects the effect of the “47 percent” comments specifically. But the most typical pattern after a party convention is that a candidate who gains ground in the polls cedes at least some of it back.

Instead, the more pertinent question seems not whether Mr. Obama is losing ground, but whether he is still gaining it.

The gaffe question is interesting, but I think you have to make a distinction between the usual manufactured gaffes and gotchas that make up the modern campaign narrative. They aren't real. They are opportunities for journalists to tell a story they want to tell and for the campaigns to try to spin them. But people instinctively know the difference between that and a gaffe that truly reveals the candidate saying something that is considered socially unacceptable to a majority of the country. This was one of those times.

But that is not to say that millions of people don't agree with him. He felt very comfortable saying that in front of his rich friends, of course, but there are a whole lot of Americans like those quoted above. They are sure that a huge number of their fellow Americans are lazy bums who are living off the government and by extension, them.

Head over to Mother Jones to see the videos.

Update: of course, he does have other problems.
Yet another taser casualty

by digby

They re reported every day. I noticed this one in particular because it's yet another in a long line of tasers killing epileptics:

An electrical discharge from a Vermont state trooper’s Taser weapon caused the death of a Thetford man three months ago outside his home, the New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office advised Vermont State Police Friday.

Macadam Mason, 39, suffered “sudden cardiac death due to conducted electrical weapon discharge,” Vermont State Police reported late Friday afternoon in a statement relaying the conclusions from Mason’s autopsy in New Hampshire.

Mason died June 20 outside his Thetford home after Senior Trooper David Shaffer fired his Taser at Mason’s chest.

The finding on the cause of death spurred more calls for change in how Vermont law-enforcement officers are trained on and use Tasers.

The man was an epileptic.  People on the scene told the police he was an epileptic and was having a mental break following a seizure.  They begged them not to use the taser.  They did anyway.

And the following will make it far less likely that there will be sanctions against the police:
State Police said the New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office also reported Mason had other “significant conditions” — including heart disease and Excited Delirium Syndrome.
Right. If you have a heart disease and a cop tasers you (for whatever reason) it's your fault for dying from the electrical charge that stops your heart. And I don't need to reiterate the absolute pile of stinking garbage that is Taser International's favorite "syndrome" called "excited delirium." All this means is that if you are stressed when a policeman kills you with a taser, it's your fault for dying.

I've been writing about this for a long time. But it's getting more and more common for medical examiners to cite this "cause of death" when police electrocute citizens with tasers. Unfortunately, this has been lost in all the controversy:
In "Taser firms picked up coroner's lecture tab" the Globe reports that Taser International has paid hotel and travel expenses for prominent Canadian coronor Dr. James Cairns, Ontario's deputy chief coronor, who has given seminars "on the phenomenon of "excited delirium," a medically unrecognized term that the company often cites as a reason people die after being tasered". The article indicates that Dr. Cairns does not see any conflict of interest on his part. [The Globe & Mail also reports that Dr. Cairns admitted in testimony yesterday at an Ontario inquiry that he had helped shield disgraced pathologist Charles Smith.] 

In "Symposium aims to define 'excited delirium' DEATHS IN CUSTODY: TASER HELPS FUND RESEARCH" the Globe and Mail reports on the second annual Sudden Death, Excited Delirium and In-Custody Death Conference underway in Las Vegas. Many of the nearly 20 talks touch on the role of Tasers. "The key issue is "excited delirium", a collection of symptoms that is quickly becoming the leading explanation offered when a person dies in police custody or after a taser is used." Two researchers who presented disclosed that Taser International funds their research. As reported by the Globe & Mail, the Taser subsidized research presenters "conducted research on the negative effects of taser use on the human body; they found very few".
Taser International conducted junkets to "educate" medical examiners on "excited delirium." The result is that while it's not accepted as a professional diagnosis according to the medical manuals, it's now accepted as an excuse for the authorities to hold police harmless when they kill someone with a taser.

As the spokesman for Taser explained:
Tuttle defended the safety of the Taser, noting the National Institute of Justice “concluded that there is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term Taser exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons.”
See? If you get stopped by the police and you are sure you are healthy, normal, non-stressed and nonintoxicated (which is still legal, by the way) you have nothing to worry about. So just make sure you don't have any unknown heart conditions or physical abnormalities --- or suffer from anxiety when confronted by police --- because they have the right to kill you on the spot. Just a little word to the wise.


"Revenue neutral" deficit hawk

by digby

Anyone who still thinks Paul Ryan is a serious person is not a serious person:

WALLACE: You are the master of the budget, so briefly, let's go through the plan. The Obama camp says independent groups say if you cut those tax rates for everybody, 20%, it costs $5 trillion over ten years. True?

RYAN: Not in least the bit true. Look, this just goes to show if you torture statistics enough they’ll confess to what you want them to confess to. That study has been so thoroughly discredited. It wasn't even a measurement of Mitt Romney, his policy. Here's what we’re saying --

WALLACE: But how much would it cost?

RYAN: It’s revenue neutral. It doesn’t cost $5 trillion.

WALLACE: I'm just talking about the -- we'll get to the deductions. But the cut in tax rates.

RYAN: The cut in tax rates is lower all Americans tax rates by 20%.

WALLACE: Right. How much does that cost?

RYAN: It is revenue neutral.

WALLACE: It's not revenue neutral unless you take away the deductions.

RYAN: That’s where I’m going.

WALLACE: We're going to get to that in a second. The first half, lowering the tax rates. How much -- does that cost $5 trillion?

RYAN: No. No. Look, I won’t get into a baseline argument with you because that’s what a lot of this is about. We're saying, limited deductions, so you can lower tax rates for everybody and start with people at the higher end. Here's the way it works. I have been on the Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. Both parties, Republicans and Democrats have junked up the tax code with so many giveaways and special interest tax breaks. What we're saying is you keep your money in your pocketbook and your business and your family in the first place. The way it works today is, you send more of your money to Washington, and then if you do what Washington approves of you can have some of it back. We’re saying keep it in the first place. And every time we have done this, whether it was Ronald Reagan working with Tip O'Neill, or the ideas coming from the Bowles-Simpson commission on how to do this -- there has been a traditional Democrat and Republican consensus, lowering the tax rates, by broadening the tax base works and you can –

WALLACE: But I have to point out, you haven’t given me the math.

RYAN: No, but, well… I don't have the time… it would take me too long to go through all the math, but let me say it this way: You can lower tax rates by 20% across the board, by closing loopholes and still have preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions, for home purchases, for health care. So what we are saying is, people are going to get lower tax rates and, therefore, they will not send as much money to Washington, and they’ll keep it and decide for themselves. When we’ve done this, we’ve created economic growth.

WALLACE: If, just suppose, that the doubters are right, President Romney takes office and the math doesn’t add up --

RYAN: First of all, we’ve run the numbers. I've run them in Congress and they do. We’ve got about five other studies that show you can do it this way.

WALLACE: But let's assume it doesn't. The question is what is most important to Romney? Would he scale back on the 20% tax cut for the wealthy? Would he scale back and say, okay, we’re going to have to raise taxes for the middle class? I guess the question is, what is most important to him, in his tax reform plan if the numbers don’t…

RYAN: Keeping tax rates down. By lowering tax rates, people keep more of the next dollar that they earn. That matters. That is incentives. That’s pro-growth policy. That creates 7 million jobs and what should go first --

WALLACE: So that is more important than…

RYAN: That’s more important than anything and more importantly, it is not what deductions are in the tax code but it’s who gets them. And, don't forget, that the higher income people have a disproportionate amount of the loopholes that they use. So when you close a tax write off or a tax shelter for a higher income person, more of their income is subject to taxation so you can lower tax rates.

It would have been really revealing if Wallace had had the gumption to ask him how he was going to do the very necessary God's work, when his tax policies were all "revenue neutral"?

Oh, and if you believe that the wealthy won't be able to game that system with lobbying money and campaign donations, I have some million dollar condos in Vegas to sell you.

Tax reform is the biggest scam going, which the magical thinking and gobbldygook in that very softball interview makes obvious. The bigger problem is that Democrats are selling the same snake oil.


Santorum just can't quit you

by David Atkins

This should be fun:

Rick Santorum is positioning himself for a possible White House run in 2016.

The former Pennsylvania senator has thrown his support behind Mitt Romney, but it is clear he is mulling another White House bid down the road...

Santorum, 54, has previously indicated that he might run in 2016 should Romney lose.

In an April interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News, Santorum said, “I feel like a young man, and hopefully I feel like a young man four years from now.”
As I said yesterday, should Barack Obama win reelection next month and should he and the Democrats in Congress succeed in their suicidal plan to replay 1937 by cutting key programs like Social Security and Medicare, a Republican win in 2016 will be almost inevitable.

The only thing that would save the nation at that point would be a hard push by the social conservatives to declare that the nomination of a supposed social moderate is what cost Republicans in 2012, leading to the successful GOP nomination of a nut like Rick Santorum.

So Godspeed, Rick. Throw yourself in front of the Chris Christie train. More power to you.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies

You’re gonna have to serve somebody: The Master

By Dennis Hartley

Starring Montgomery Clift and Charles Laughton?

The characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarities to actual persons, living or dead are purely coincidental (Standard end of film disclaimer)

“Comparisons are not invariably odious, but they are often misleading,” Orson Welles once wrote, in reference to the long-running debate over whether or not the many parallels in his film Citizen Kane to the real life story of William Randolph Hearst and the rise of his powerful publishing empire were purely coincidental. It is quite possible that current and future generations of critics and audiences will engage in similar debate regarding the parallels in writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, The Master to the real life story of L. Ron Hubbard and the founding of his Church of Scientology. As of this writing, neither the church nor Anderson have officially confirmed or denied. I just wanted to get that out of the way first (of course, I can’t stop you from reading this).

Despite the number of erm, “coincidences”, the answer to the most obvious question is, “no”. This is neither a hagiography nor a smack down of any specific doyen or belief system (thinly disguised or otherwise). Anyone who would pigeonhole the film with such a shallow reading likely has not seen it (or is perhaps unfamiliar with certain prevalent themes running through all of PTA’s previous films). What he has crafted is a thought-provoking and startlingly original examination of why human beings in general are so prone to kowtow to a burning bush, or an emperor with no clothes.  Is it a spiritual need? Is it an emotional need? Or…is it purely a lizard brain response, embedded in our DNA?

As Inspector Clouseau once ruminated, “Well you know, there are leaders…and there are followers.” At its most rudimentary level, The Master is a two-character study about a leader and a follower (and metaphorically, all leaders and followers). It’s also a story about a complex surrogate father-son relationship (one of those aforementioned recurring themes in Anderson’s oeuvre; more on that in a moment). Anderson frames his narrative using the zeitgeist of America’s existential post-war malaise, in the person of ex-sailor Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix). Socially withdrawn, prone to dipsomania, odd sexual compulsions and unpredictable fits of rage, Freddie’s transition back to civilian life has not been a smooth one. His character embodies many traits of the quintessential “disillusioned vet” protagonist that fueled post-war noirs like Act of Violence, Thieves’ Highway, The Blue Dahlia, Ride the Pink Horse and High Wall (in fact, The Master vibes overall with the verisimilitude of a great lost genre film of the late 40s or early 50s).

Freddie’s laundry list of personality disorders has not endeared him to the 5 o’clock world; he drifts from job to job. He hits rock bottom after his indirect responsibility for a tragic mishap has him literally fleeing for his life from a work site. Desperate to get out of Dodge and headed for a meltdown, Freddy skulks in the shadows of a San Francisco marina, where he crashes a shipboard wedding party, hoping to blend in with the revelers and then surreptitiously stow away. It turns out that the ship, a converted cattle trawler rechristened the Aletheia, is captained by the father of the bride, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd is a self-described writer/doctor/nuclear physicist/ philosopher and “…a hopelessly inquisitive man.” (if he were to take up guitar and form a rock band comprised of fellow scientists, he’d be Buckaroo Banzai). He is also a burgeoning cult leader; the boat is chock-a-block with devotees in thrall with Dodd and his philosophy, referred to as “The Cause” (the tenets have been laid out in Dodd’s eponymous book).

Initially, the paranoid Dodd admonishes his uninvited guest (suspecting him to be some manner of government spook assigned to infiltrate and/or sabotage his organization); but instead of giving him the heave-ho, “something” compels him to do a sudden 180 and invite the twitchy and troubled Freddie along for an imminent (Homeric?) ocean voyage   with his family and followers to New York (some shades of The Stuntman). And so begins the life-altering relationship between the two men, which vacillates tenuously between master/servant, mentor/apprentice, and father/son (the latter recalling Philip Baker Hall and John C. Reilly in Hard Eight, Burt Reynolds and Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights, Tom Cruise and Jason Robards in Magnolia, and Daniel Day-Lewis and Dillon Freasier/Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood). It’s also the catalyst for two of the most fearless, intense and extraordinary performances that I have seen so far this year.

Not to denigrate Hoffman, who is mesmerizing as always (he continues to astound with every role he tackles); nor fine supporting performances from the likes of Amy Adams (as Dodd’s subtly controlling wife, who plays a sort of shrewd Livia to his mercurial Augustus), Laura Dern, or Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons (as Dodd’s son), but Phoenix in particular has really hit one out of the park, achieving an Oscar-worthy transformation. I don’t know if this was by accident or by design, but I swear he is channeling Montgomery Clift, not only replicating his acting tics and vocal inflection, but his physicality (right down to the hunched shoulders and sunken chest-it is downright eerie).

The film is beautifully shot in 65mm by DP Mihai Malainare, Jr. (try to catch it in a 70mm presentation if you can), and nicely scored by Jonny Greenwood. Those with short attention spans are warned: This film demands your full attention (and begs repeated viewings). It’s exhilarating, audacious, and while at times a bit baffling, it is never dull.

Previous posts with related themes:

There Will Be Blood

Saturday Night at the Movies review archives


Is torturing "material witnesses" constitutional?

by digby

I always get a sick feeling when I see DAs on cop shows blithely say they can hold a suspect as a material witness until they find the evidence to charge him. (They always "need" to because the suspect is "one of the really bad ones.") It's such a perversion of our constitution that it always brings home to me the fact that many of those who object strenuously to the idea of a "living" constitution are the ones who are the most willing to corrupt the Bill Of Rights whenever they get the chance.

After 9/11 this particular practice reached a peak, with horrors like this happening all over the country:

Abdullah al Kidd was on his way to Saudi Arabia to work on his doctorate in Islamic studies in March 2003 when he was arrested as a material witness in a terrorism investigation. An F.B.I. agent marched him across Dulles Airport in Washington in handcuffs.

"It was the most horrible, disgraceful, degrading moment in my life," said Mr. Kidd, an American citizen who was known as Lavoni T. Kidd when he led his college football team, the Vandals of the University of Idaho, in rushing in 1995.

The two weeks that followed his arrest, he said, were a terrifying and humiliating ordeal.

"I was made to sit in a small cell for hours and hours and hours buck naked," he said. "I was treated worse than murderers."

After that, a federal judge ordered him to move in with his in-laws in Las Vegas, where his wife was planning to stay until she joined him in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Kidd, who described himself as "anti-bin Laden, anti-Taliban, anti-suicide bombing, anti-terrorism," was never charged with a crime and never asked to testify as a witness. In June, 16 months after his arrest, the court said he was free to resume his life.

He was tortured. They strip searched him repeatedly and made him stay naked in his cell. No charges were ever brought. He wasn't the only one:

Osama Awadallah, a college student in San Diego, says he was badly mistreated while held as a material witness in New York. He has since been charged with perjury, which he denies.

In court papers, Mr. Awadallah described handcuffs so tight that his hands bled, a cell so cold his body turned blue, a series of humiliating strip searches and extreme hunger for lack of food that his faith allowed him to eat. He was, his lawsuit says, beaten by guards at the New York Metropolitan Correctional Center.

"He was so scared his chains were rattling," Mr. Hamud said of meeting his client in court. "He had bruises on his upper arms, torso, upper biceps. I saw them myself."

That is from a 2004 article. It was explained this way:

Mary Jo White, who supervised several major terrorism investigations as the United States attorney in Manhattan until she resigned in 2002, said the frequent and aggressive use of the material witness law in terrorism investigations was a recent development.

"It was really my idea to use the material witness warrant statute in appropriate cases to detain for reasonable periods of time people who might not appear for a grand jury with information related to the 9/11 attacks," she said. The law is, she said, an important tool, but one that must be used judiciously.

"Some of the criticism that has been leveled at it is not wholly unjustified," said Ms. White, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. "Was enough done to clear the status of the person? Did you hold the person longer than you needed to? Does it really sort out to being in one sense preventive detention? Yes, it does, but with safeguards."

No word at the time on whether it was "justified" to torture the "material witness" but I doubt anyone cares. Very few people care about any of the torture that routinely goes on in the American prison system.

The good news is that after all these years, al Kidd will finally get a chance to legally protest what was done to him:

A federal judge in Idaho has ruled that the United States, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, wrongly imprisoned an American under a law designed to keep trial witnesses from fleeing and that since there was evidence that the government may have willfully misused the law against him, his case should go to trial.

Judge Edward J. Lodge, who was appointed by President George Bush, issued his rulings late on Thursday in the longstanding case of Abdullah al-Kidd, an American who was seized at an airport in 2003, imprisoned for 16 days, repeatedly strip-searched and left naked in his cell. The Justice Department had sought to have his trial request summarily dismissed and denied having misused the law in detaining him.

Mr. Kidd’s lawyer, Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, welcomed the ruling, saying, “It will finally put the government on trial for its post-Sept. 11 practices.”

America owes a debt of gratitude to al Kidd and his lwayers for doggedly sticking with this. It's extremely important that we at least try to determine if our Bill of Rights has any legal meaning anymore. It very well might be over for all but the 2nd Amendment, but I think it's better to know it than live in denial.


QOTD: Chuck Grassley

by digby

And no, I have absolutely no idea what it means.

h/t @chrislhayes

St Paul really was kind of a Republican

by digby

We knew that Glenn Beck's favorite historian, the right wing fabulist David Barton, was completely dishonest about American history. (Even his super conservative publisher was forced to withdraw his latest book under a barrage of criticism from other Christian historians.)

Here he is lying about Obama lifting the work requirement for welfare and using the Bible as justification for his anger at this non-existent act:

[I]t was on a biblical principle; the Bible says if you don't work, you don't eat and he removed the work requirement. He says "well, you can eat without working."

See, that's another area where I could say he is biblically hostile because the Bible says if you don't work, you don't eat and he says "well, not in this country, we're not going to do that." So not only is it anti-Constitutional, it's anti-biblical and that's a real problem.

He's right. The Bible does say that in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13:

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

We talked about that in Sunday school once. The teacher really pounded it in that if you didn't have a job, you would starve and I always remembered it. My Dad was between jobs at the time. I stopped going to Sunday school not long after.

But the Bible is full of contradictions and complications and nothing if not subject to interpretation. I think most people are more familiar with this:

Acts 20:35

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

But then Jesus was that kind of guy.

But all of this misses the point. Even if the Bible said "Thou shalt not lift the work requirement in the welfare reform bill of 1996" if wouldn't mean thing. We are a secular democracy and it doesn't matter even one little bit what the Bible says about anything.


GOP vote suppression: the fringe and the establishment sittin' in a tree

by digby

This little tid-bit should be of interest to mainstream reporters who are following the "Voter Fraud" stories but I suspect it's going to fall under the radar:

Conservative activist James O'Keefe plotted a potential voter fraud sting of the Service Employees International Union in 2010 in Massachusetts — a sting that, had it been carried out, could have been funded by Rick Santorum patron Foster Friess.

The plot is elaborated on and eventually ruled out in an email chain started by conservative writer John Fund, who emailed Republican National Lawyers Association executive director Michael Thielen that the union was "contracting for buses on election day."

"If you're black or brown they'll rope you in and take you to the polls, registration can be worked out," Fund wrote, per his "Boston source." His email was forwarded on to others, forming the basis for the plans.

The email exchange, parts of which may be missing, is below. Read from the bottom. The last email is from James O'Keefe to associates Stan Dai and Nadia Naffe, who later filed harassment charges against O'Keefe.

Others on the thread include Heather Higgins, the founder of the conservative Independent Women's Voice and the late Andrew Breitbart.

Naffe told BuzzFeed she flew to Boston to investigate, but that they never uncovered anything of interest and the project fizzled.

This is a perfect illustration of the conservative establishmentand the lunatic fringe working hand in glove. O'Keefe and Breitbart proved beyond a doubt that they were both unstable and dishonest. Fund is a longtime Villager, undoubtedly considered quite a decent fellow by the likes of Dana Milbank since he's "been around town" for years. The Republican National Lawyers association has been engaged in Vote Suppression since the 1980s, when they were engaged by the GOP to game the system in the wake of the Jesse Jackson campaign which registered many new voters. Foster Friess is just one of the dumb as dirt zillionaires they tap for whatever hare-brained scheme they come up with.

There are always the Floyd Browns and the David Bossies and the Andrew Breitbarts out there doing the dirty work. And they are always financed and directed by establishment characters like Wall Street Journal editors, wealthy ideologues and conservative institutions. Toss in Fox News and you've got a very efficient propaganda machine that works constantly to infect the public with lies. And it often works. A good many people in this country believe that African Americans and illegal aliens are stealing elections and that half the country is on welfare. That's quite an achievement.

Recall that this conservative Vote Suppression effort has been underway a long time. Since the 1960s. And in the 80s they went national. But it was after 2000 that they realized they were going to need it if they planned compete. I wrote about Karl Rove speaking to the Republican National Lawyers Association back in 2007:

QUESTION: The question I have: The Democrats seem to want to make this year an election about integrity, and we know that their party rests on the base of election fraud. And we know that, in some states, some of our folks are pushing for election measures like voter ID.

But have you thought about using the bully pulpit of the White House to talk about election reform and an election integrity agenda that would put the Democrats back on the defensive?

ROVE: Yes, it's an interesting idea. We've got a few more things to do before the political silly season gets going, really hot and heavy. But yes, this is a real problem. What is it -- five wards in the city of Milwaukee have more voters than adults?

With all due respect to the City of Brotherly Love, Norcross Roanblank's (ph) home turf, I do not believe that 100 percent of the living adults in this city of Philadelphia are registered, which is what election statistics would lead you to believe.

I mean, there are parts of Texas where we haven't been able to pull that thing off.


And we've been after it for a great many years.

So I mean, this is a growing problem.

The spectacle in Washington state; the attempts, in the aftermath of the 2000 election to disqualify military voters in Florida, or to, in one instance, disqualify every absentee voter in Seminole county -- I mean, these are pretty extraordinary measures that should give us all pause.

The efforts in St. Louis to keep the polls opened -- open in selected precincts -- I mean, I would love to have that happen as long, as I could pick the precincts.

This is a real problem. And it is not going away.

I mean, Bernalillo County, New Mexico will have a problem after the next election, just like it has had after the last two elections.

I mean, I remember election night, 2000, when they said, oops, we just made a little mistake; we failed to count 55,000 ballots in Bernalillo; we'll be back to you tomorrow.


That is a problem. And I don't care whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, a vegetarian or a beef-eater, this is an issue that ought to concern you because, at the heart of it, our democracy depends upon the integrity of the ballot place. And if you cannot...


I have to admit, too -- look, I'm not a lawyer. So all I've got to rely on is common sense. But what is the matter? I go to the grocery store and I want to cash a check to pay for my groceries, I've got to show a little bit of ID.

Why should it not be reasonable and responsible to say that when people show up at the voting place, they ought to be able to prove who they are by showing some form of ID?

We can make arrangements for those who don't have driver's licenses. We can have provisional ballots, so that if there is a question that arises, we have a way to check that ballot. But it is fundamentally fair and appropriate to say, if you're going to show up and claim to be somebody, you better be able to prove it, when it comes to the most sacred thing we have been a democracy, which is our right of expression at the ballot.

And if not, let's just not kid ourselves, that elections will not be about the true expression of the people in electing their government, it will be a question of who can stuff it the best and most. And that is not healthy.

QUESTION: I've been reading some articles about different states, notably in the west, going to mail-in ballots and maybe even toying with the idea of online ballots. Are you concerned about this, in the sense of a mass potential, obviously, for voter fraud that this might have in the West?

ROVE: Yes. And I'm really worried about online voting, because we do not know all the ways that one can jimmy the system. All we know is that there are many ways to jimmy the system.

I'm also concerned about the increasing problems with mail-in ballots. Having last night cast my mail-in ballot for the April 11 run-off in Texas, in which there was one race left in Kerr County to settle -- but I am worried about it because the mail-in ballots, particularly in the Northwest, strike me as problematic.

I remember in 2000, that we had reports of people -- you know, the practice in Oregon is everybody gets their ballot mailed to them and then you fill it out.

And one of the practices is that people will go to political rallies and turn in their ballots. And we received reports in the 2000 election -- which, remember we lost Oregon by 5000 votes -- we got reports of people showing up at Republican rallies and passing around the holder to get your ballot, and then people not being able to recognize who those people were and not certain that all those ballots got turned in.

On Election Day, I remember, in the city of Portland, Multnomah County -- I'm going to mispronounce the name -- but there were four of voting places in the city, for those of you who don't get the ballots, well, we had to put out 100 lawyers that day in Portland, because we had people showing up with library cards, voting at multiple places.

I mean, why was it that those young people showed up at all four places, showing their library card from one library in the Portland area? I mean, there's a problem with this.

And I know we need to make arrangements for those people who don't live in the community in which they are registered to vote or for people who are going to be away for Election Day or who are ill or for whom it's a real difficulty to get to the polls. But we need to have procedures in place that allow us to monitor it.

And in the city of Portland, we could not monitor. If somebody showed up at one of those four voting locations, we couldn't monitor whether they had already cast their mail-in ballot or not. And we lost the state by 5,000 votes.

I mean, come on. What kind of confidence can you have in that system? So yes, we've got to do more about it.

You'll recall that most of the US Attorneys involved in the firing scandal were fired for refusing to use the power of their office to interfere in these very same states' electoral systems. And when that blew up in their faces, they just switched gears and took it to the individual states. Like sharks, they never stop moving.

Words I never thought I'd read

by digby

The NY Times on the debate prep:

Mr. Obama is not particularly fluid in sound bites, so his team is aiming for a workmanlike performance like his speech at the Democratic convention.

Four years of hell will do that, I suppose.

But I have to say, this promises to be wildly entertaining:

Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August.

I think we can all agree that the one personality trait that defines Mitt Romney is his sense of humor. Like that time he held down the kid and cut his hair.

I'm sure the far right would love it if he did that to Obama, but I have a sneaking suspicion his verbal skills aren't quite sharp enough. He's more of a "get the crowd together to gang up on the weak kid" kind of guy. I don't think that's going to work one-on-one.

The Village Fix in in on Cutting Medicare

by David Atkins

Careful watchers of Hardball yesterday should have picked up on something remarkable and terrifying from Howard Fineman. Listen closely starting at the 2-minute mark:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

FINEMAN: "And if we're going to be cutting Medicare at some point, which I think most voters understand, I thin kright now looking at these alternatives they'd rather have a Democrat they know than a Republican who never supported the program to begin with."
Do most voters really "understand" that we're going to be cutting Medicare? Or has the Village decided that we're going to cut Medicare, and that it's going to happen no matter what the American people actually want?

Let's be clear on two things: first, from a policy stand there is no need for any cuts to Medicare. What is needed is universal insurance so that the wasteful profit motive is removed from the healthcare system. But granted the political impossibility of accomplishing that, if Medicare does become insolvent then the gradual cuts will take place automatically--no need to frontload them in advance with austerity measures. If one does want to be proactive as one should, then the program can be made solvent by slightly raising the maximum cap on which Medicare taxes are assessed. If all else fails, an alternate funding stream could be developed. There are numerous possibilities that do not involve cutting Medicare. To continue funding corporate welfare, wasteful wars and tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy while telling voters that Grandma should eat cat food is insane and immoral.

But second, Fineman is disastrously wrong on the politics. For a Democrat to cut Medicare would be politically disastrous.

If the Congress and the President take up Simpson-Bowles during the lame duck session or the new year and enact minor tip money tax increases for the wealthy in exchange for cuts to the most vulnerable, a majority of Republicans will oppose the deal. Democrats will be left holding the bag, insisting on being the "bipartisan adults in the room."

Voters will hate the deal. Republicans will run successfully against Democrats for the next twenty years, accusing us of cutting Medicare and raising taxes. And when Republicans easily win that argument and gain Executive and Legislative power, President Christie and Speaker Ryan will voucherize Medicare, restore the funding for current seniors, and act as the cavalry riding to America's and Medicare's rescue.

The Village Consensus is awful, immoral policy. It's also suicidal politics. And Howard Fineman and friends appear to be walking into it with open eyes and open arms.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Innocent Life

by digby

This will be said to be a sign that the system worked. But it's not:

A man who has been on death row for 15 years for the rape and murder of his 14-year-old step cousin was exonerated with the help of DNA evidence on Friday, according to the Innocence Project. He is the 300th person to be released due to this type of evidence.

He was convicted on the basis of a false confession. And it took years of volunteer effort on the part of top flight forensic scientists to prove he didn't. It also took a DA who was willing to look at the evidence and act, which is not always the case.

We don't know how many innocent people have been executed or how many more will be. But every exoneration like this proves that we are employing a barbaric form of punishment that quite easily ensnares the innocent as well as the guilty. It's a moral travesty.

"The wealthy are people too"

by digby

I've been chronicling the psychological breakdown among the sad, put-upon 1% since the beginning of the financial crisis and I'm thrilled to see that it's become obvious to everyone else. I think we owe Mitt Romney a big thank you for that:


Todd Akin, irrational cult leader

by digby

Back in the glory days of impeachment and penis talk, Kelly Ann Conway was a constant presence on TV and a big wheel in GOP circles. She was up there with Victoria Toensing, Barbara Olsen and Ann Coulter on the prosecutorial blond wingnut circuit. Look what she's been reduced to:

Perkins: The distance between them is narrowing, Todd Akin has bounced back up, and the evidence of that is pretty clear because now you see other Republicans who abandoned him are now taking a second look at the race and realizing just how important this seat is.

Conway: They are and they’re following your lead Tony. You saw former speaker Gingrich there on Todd’s behalf at a fundraiser on Monday, saying it’s just “conventional idiocy” that’s preventing people from backing Todd, and he predicts that come mid-October everyone will be following yours and his lead back to Missouri, with their money. Of course, former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Senator Jim DeMint came out just yesterday to support Todd.

I believe that the establishment will have to look at this race and they will have to hold their nose because the first days—and I've expressed this to Todd as my client for a while now, I’ve expressed it to him directly—the first day or two where it was like the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams and the helicopters and the bad Nancy Sinatra records. Then here comes day two and you realize the guy’s not coming out of the bunker. Listen, Todd has shown his principle to the voters.

I suppose in wingnutland comparing your Senate candidate to David Koresh is good politics. But doesn't she remember what happened in the end? Not a good metaphor I'm afraid.

Coming Together. Not.

by tristero

My cynicism about Republicans runs so deep that it really borders on paranoia, my friends said when I claimed, several weeks after the 9/11 attacks, that if Gore had been in the White House, he would have been impeached and forced to resign.

"No!" My friends said, "that's crazy talk." Of course the country would have come together around whomever was president in the face of an attack on our shores. Republicans, too, would have rallied around Gore for sure.

Yeah, right.

Adding: As I've mentioned before, I was astounded then, and remain astounded, that Bush wasn't forced to resign within hours of 9/11. So it makes sense to talk about the level of responsibility Obama and his administration should take for this recent incident. But I'll be goddammed if I'll do so as long as Michael Huckabee's greasy, corrupt, opportunistic thumb is a'tippin' the scales.

There but for the grace of ...

by digby

Jonathan Cohn:

Like all good public intellectuals, Harold is a policy omnivore—as comfortable discussing the latest thinking on anti-poverty efforts as he is talking about the intricacies of Medicare. But Harold offers some truly unique insights, because he knows the social welfare state as a user, as well as a scholar.

Several years ago, he and his wife became custodians for his adult brother-in-law, who is intellectually disabled and has various medical problems. Harold has written about this experience before, movingly—and what it’s taught him about the value of programs like Medicaid. Now he’s decided to put his thoughts on a video.

It's quite a contrast to this, isn't it? Both ideas are as American as apple pie, but one is decent and one isn't.

Read this piece by Pollack too, about a young 18 year old mother who was suddenly homeless and trying to figure her way through the system to get some emergency help. It's terrifying.

(Oh, and by the way, imagine illegal immigrants traversing that byzantine system. It just doesn't happen.)

Punitive austerity

by digby

Krugman today:
So much for complacency. Just a few days ago, the conventional wisdom was that Europe finally had things under control. The European Central Bank, by promising to buy the bonds of troubled governments if necessary, had soothed markets. All that debtor nations had to do, the story went, was agree to more and deeper austerity — the condition for central bank loans — and all would be well.

But the purveyors of conventional wisdom forgot that people were involved. Suddenly, Spain and Greece are being racked by strikes and huge demonstrations. The public in these countries is, in effect, saying that it has reached its limit: With unemployment at Great Depression levels and with erstwhile middle-class workers reduced to picking through garbage in search of food, austerity has already gone too far. And this means that there may not be a deal after all.

Much commentary suggests that the citizens of Spain and Greece are just delaying the inevitable, protesting against sacrifices that must, in fact, be made. But the truth is that the protesters are right. More austerity serves no useful purpose; the truly irrational players here are the allegedly serious politicians and officials demanding ever more pain.
He goes on to explain. once again, that Spain had no budget deficit until the crash and that while there is no way to escape a period of hard times without leaving the Euro (which hes says nobody wants) the cruel austerity measures the bankers and European officials are insisting upon are purely punitive --- and unnecessary. In fact, because they are putting such stress on the populace, which is understandably agitated, the country is having trouble borrowing to pay its bills --- because bankers are worried about the political instability they are causing.

It's a mess.

Why, then, are there demands for ever more pain?

Part of the explanation is that in Europe, as in America, far too many Very Serious People have been taken in by the cult of austerity, by the belief that budget deficits, not mass unemployment, are the clear and present danger, and that deficit reduction will somehow solve a problem brought on by private sector excess.

It sounds as though if you were to compare the US to Europe in this matter (always a very dicey proposition) you would call the Germans the Villagers:

Beyond that, a significant part of public opinion in Europe’s core — above all, in Germany — is deeply committed to a false view of the situation. Talk to German officials and they will portray the euro crisis as a morality play, a tale of countries that lived high and now face the inevitable reckoning. Never mind the fact that this isn’t at all what happened — and the equally inconvenient fact that German banks played a large role in inflating Spain’s housing bubble. Sin and its consequences is their story, and they’re sticking to it.

Worse yet, this is also what many German voters believe, largely because it’s what politicians have told them. And fear of a backlash from voters who believe, wrongly, that they’re being put on the hook for the consequences of southern European irresponsibility leaves German politicians unwilling to approve essential emergency lending to Spain and other troubled nations unless the borrowers are punished first.

Of course, that’s not the way these demands are portrayed. But that’s what it really comes down to. And it’s long past time to put an end to this cruel nonsense.

All of our political and financial elite believe this garbage too. And they are selling this 47% trope as a way to divide this country in similar ways. Keep in mind that the Grand Bargain is predicated these days on "avoiding Europe." You know, we'll avoid it by doing it.

And if we aren't lucky enough to avoid another recession, they'll do the same thing that the Europeans are doing to Spain. This is a global illness and we've got it too.

But it'll all turn out ok in the long run, so no worries. The wealthy will maintain their fortunes, which is the most important thing. And as Andrew Mellon told Herbert Hoover:

"liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people."

See? It's all good.


50 shades of wrong

by David Atkins

Remember back when the weak August jobs report was supposed to be the death knell of the Obama campaign? It turns out that, as many intelligent people noted at the time but were drowned out by many on both the right and the left, those numbers had yet to be revised. And it turns out that those figured underestimated actual job growth by about 400,000 jobs.

Here what John Boehner had said at the time, wrongly attempting to capitalize on incomplete data:

We need a president and a Senate with the courage to let go of the failed ‘stimulus’-style policies of the past and work with Republicans on proven pro-growth measures to tackle our debt, address high prices, and create a better environment for jobs.
A beautifully performed, poll-tested pile of meaningless gobbledygook. Also, wrong.

And Mitt Romney, arguing that the Fed could no longer do anything to help the economy:

“What we really need is to have policies coming from Washington that are fiscally sound and that get America back on track to having the kind of financial stability and foundation of economic growth that puts people to work.”
Is there a universe in which a statement like this can be taken seriously by reasonable people?

There isn't a single economist or politician who can make a persuasive case for why that statement makes any sense. Yet such things are continually said by economists and conservative politicians as an almost religious mantra.

The national debt isn't hurting the American economy at all. Unemployment and low economic demand is. If corporations aren't investing in American jobs, it's because there is no reason for them to. If there's an uncertainty problem, it has much more to do with the stupidly imposed "fiscal cliff" than anything having to do with U.S. debt.

That's not to say that debt can't become a problem. It can become a problem if debt drives up borrowing costs. But it hasn't done that by a long shot. Treasury bonds are still incredibly cheap. Debt can become a problem if paying down the interest on the debt starts to squeeze out spending on needed programs. But we aren't there yet, either. And that itself is only a problem if there is danger of printing more currency leading to an inflation crisis--which as Paul Krugman incessantly notes is a baseless worry at this time. Besides, if the debt is a real concern, by far the easiest and best way to reduce the deficit is to put Americans back to work while leveling the tax playing field, as the People's Budget does. Ending needless overseas wars and Pentagon spending would help as well.

Destroying the safety net and enacting austerity policies, on the other hand, will do nothing but increase economic pain, while shrinking the economy and increasing the debt--for whatever that's worth.

So there were Mitt Romney and John Boehner, sitting there in early August shortly after the Democratic National Convention, spewing wrong nonsense about jobs numbers that had yet to be revised, arguing for bizarrely wrong economic policies based on bizarrely wrong economic assumptions.

The press has actually done a good job this year of calling out the Romney campaign and its allies for their lies and its ineptitude. But it would be nice if the press, especially the oh-so-serious economic and financial press, would also point out just how many prismatic variations on wrong they are as well. Of course, it would also help if the President and the neoliberals didn't buy into so many of those wrongheaded assumptions on their own account.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just don't call it an endorsement

by digby

And pay no attention to the parasite thing:

In a column and video posted by the official newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and obtained by Right Wing Watch on Wednesday, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki called out the Democratic Party for temporarily removing God from their platform, supporting abortion and recognizing that “gay rights are human rights.”

“There are many positive and beneficial planks in the Democratic Party Platform, but I am pointing out those that explicitly endorse intrinsic evils,” the bishop explained. “My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote. But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues. I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding ‘political’ and didn’t say anything about the morality of these issues. People of faith object to these platform positions that promote serious sins.”

“So what about the Republicans? I have read the Republican Party Platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin,” Paprocki added. “One might argue for different methods in the platform to address the needs of the poor, to feed the hungry and to solve the challenges of immigration, but these are prudential judgments about the most effective means of achieving morally desirable ends, not intrinsic evils.”

“Again, I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against,” he concluded, “but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

This man is either stupid or evil if he doesn't understand the human suffering that the Republican Party Platform will cause. He doesn't sound stupid.

Let his people go

by digby

I was wondering when someone on the right was going to pipe up about this:

Limbaugh Advises Romney Campaign To Say "We Do Have Victims In This Country, And They Are Victims Of Barack Obama"

If there's one thing the right wing will.not.have is anyone claiming more victimhood they have. Conservatives are the most oppressed people in history.

Let my people vote

by digby

A lot of celebrities get in involved in politics, but none do it with Sarah Silverman's panache:

Proud to be an American

by David Atkins

America gets a lot of things wrong when it comes to public policy. But at least we can be grateful for our free speech laws which prevent things like this from happening:

France's Catholic Church has won a court injunction to ban a clothing advertisement based on Leonardo da Vinci's Christ's Last Supper.

The display was ruled "a gratuitous and aggressive act of intrusion on people's innermost beliefs", by a judge.

The church objected to the female version of the fresco, which includes a female Christ, used by clothing designers Marithe et Francois Girbaud.

The authorities in the Italian city of Milan banned the poster last month.

The French judge in the case ordered that all posters on display should be taken down within three days.

The association which represented the church was also awarded costs.

The designers are said to be planning an appeal, saying they did not intend to offend anyone with the campaign.

This is the image in question:

If that's "illegal", there's a big problem.

Harvesting defeat

by digby

Everybody's talking about Romney saying that Bain "harvested" profits from companies it took over, which is a very evocative image. He said:

Bain Capital is an investment partnership which was formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit…

But David Corn makes what I think is the bigger point at the end of his article about it:

In this clip, Romney mentioned that it would routinely take up to eight years to turn around a firm—though he now slams the president for failing to revive the entire US economy in half that time.

I suppose they could try to make the argument hat "fixing" a company is more complicates than turning around the economy of the richest country in the world.

This isn't to say that the administration did everything it could to get that job done. But I think we can all agree that it was a very big job. Maybe even bigger than getting Staples in shape for profit harvesting. In fact, it is so much bigger that I would guess Mitt's "experience" in turning around Staples is completely irrelevant to the qualifications for president. In fact, at this point, I'm willing to say that anyone who's run a Vulture Capital firm might automatically be disqualified.



by digby

The libertarian vote:

Among likely libertarian voters, the presidential horserace currently stands:

Romney 77%
Obama 20%
Other 3%

Romney’s share of the libertarian vote represents a high water mark for Republican presidential candidates in recent elections.

I'm not going to argue that on civil liberties, drugs and military adventurism that Obama isn't something less than a libertarian hero. But if those issues were your priority, you certainly wouldn't vote for Romney, who is advised by some of the most repressive, warmongering nutballs America has produced in the last hundred years.

Nutballs who would reinstitute torture:

Mr. Romney’s advisers have privately urged him to “rescind and replace President Obama’s executive order” and permit secret “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives,” according to an internal Romney campaign memorandum...

“We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,” he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December.

Whatever. Romney wants to slash taxes for rich people and cut off help for the half of America that are parasites, moochers and looters. That's what makes him so darned attractive to these highly principled folks.

It's harder to work when you're poor

by digby

I flagged a piece by Ezra the other day talking about how much effort it takes to get through life when you're poor (and how clueless he rich are when they assume otherwise.) Here's a politician who decided to see for himself, at least with respect to what it's like to live on very little money for food:
When local activist groups challenged Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton to live on a food stamp budget for a week to mark Hunger Awareness Month, he took them up on the offer and found out just how hard it was. Stanton kept a diary on the challenge, which allotted him roughly $29 a week, the same amount 1.1 million Arizonans receive from the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) each week.

By day four, Stanton noted that he was “tired” and “it’s hard to focus” after leaving the house for work without time to scramble eggs or eat a decent breakfast:
OK- ran out the door today with no time to scramble eggs or even make a sandwich. So I’m surviving on an apple and handful of peanuts, and the coffee I took to the office until dinner. I’m tired, and it’s hard to focus. I can’t go buy a sandwich because that would be cheating- even the dollar menu at Taco Bell is cheating. You can’t use SNAP benefits at any restaurants, fast food or otherwise. I’m facing a long, hungry day and an even longer night getting dinner on the table, which requires making EVERYTHING from scratch on this budget. It’s only for a week, so I’ve got a decent attitude. If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant.
Oh suck it up whiner. 29 dollars a week should be plenty. Just ask multi-millionaire Sean Hannity:
I don't believe people are going to bed hungry. Do you know how much, do you ever go shopping? I go sometimes but I hate it. Do you ever go? ... you can get, for instance I have friends of mine who eat rice and beans all the time. Beans protein, rice. Inexpensive. You can make a big pot of this for a week for negligible amounts of money and you can feed your whole family.

Look, you should have vegetables and fruit in there as well, but if you need to survive you can survive off it. It's not ideal but you could get some cheap meat and throw in there as well for protein. There are ways to live really, really cheaply.
See? 29 bucks will certainly buy you a big pot of beans and rice. You can throw in a couple of onions and some canned corn and couple of chicken feet or something and then just eat a bowl a day. Why you might even be able to afford an apple and a banana if you're really frugal. What are these people complaining about?

And hey, if you happen to be a parasite who's lolling about on dialysis all day, I'm afraid that's not our problem either. There must be something you can do to insure you're paying your fair share of taxes right along with the decent hard-working people. There's just no excuse for all this dependency.


by digby

Just .... Florida:

When I knocked on Justin Lamar Sternad’s door Wednesday, I noticed a sign warning, “Trespassers leave -- or get wet.” I didn’t leave and got wet.

When a woman in her 30’s, presumably Mrs. Sternad, opened the door, she splashed a pitcher of water on me and then slammed the door shut.

I went to the home hoping to get some answers from Justin Lamar Sternad, who ran for the Democratic nomination to Congress last August in the 26th District. That’s where Republican David Rivera is the incumbent.

But Democratic candidate Joe Garcia, who won the primary, suspected early on that Sternad was a straw candidate put into the race by Rivera.

Sternad, a political neophyte with little money, sent out at least a dozen sophisticated campaign mailers to voters in the congressional district. The printer and mail facility that handled the mailers have been used in the past by Rivera and at least one owner says Rivera was involved in Sternad’s campaign. Rivera has consistently denied ever knowing Sternad or helping in his campaign.

The apparent go-between was political consultant Ana Sol Alliegro, who has had both a personal and professional relationship with Rivera, including posting pictures of the two on her Facebook page. She managed Sternad’s campaign.

Alliegro was scheduled to speak with FBI agents investigating the Sternad campaign and its alleged link to Rivera, but she has disappeared. The FBI began a probe into Sternad's campaign funding last month.

Howie's been on this Rivera story (and others) for years. He is, among other things, very close to Marco Rubio.

Doesn't every teenager drive a BMW convertible?

by David Atkins

Larissa Faw, Forbes Contributor, and the latest exhibit of elite wealth bubble cluelessness, attacks the Millennial generation for having too high expectations of motor vehicles. After all, she and her friends wouldn't touch anything less than a BMW and a convertible for their 16th birthday.

Today's teens and Millennials are often called the entitled generation for a reason. They expect to drive their very own fully-loaded luxury vehicle with retractable roof and multi-speaker audio system. If they can’t have their specific dream car, then they don’t want anything and won’t waste time getting a driver’s license. Past generations of young drivers, by comparison, were satisfied with any piece of metal that moved.

My brother and I, like many other Millennials, weren’t willing to downgrade, compromise, or to be forced to drive a parent’s vehicle. I received my license at age seventeen only after I had my red convertible sitting in the driveway. My brother refused to even look at the driver’s manual until he received his BMW at age eighteen. It is this sense of entitlement that is reshaping how automakers market and develop vehicles to appeal to Millennials. “It’s an entire soup-to-nuts makeover. The old recipe isn’t going to work,” says Hubert.
Cluess, spoiled rich kid has entitlement complex. Therefore everyone in her whole generation must have one. Sharp deduction skills there, and all too typical of the wealth bubble in the country. Still, it's hard to believe that she believes 16-year-olds driving convertibles and BMWs amounts to a generational problem. That goes beyond a bubble mentality to cluelessness on an epic scale.

But beyond that, Faw then goes on to blame Millennials for expecting too much of the cars on the market, insisting that we still care a great deal about cars. Needless to say, that too is wrong.

As someone who has actually done interviews and focus groups with Millennials about cars (unlike Ms. Faw), I can attest that what's actually going on with Millennials and cars is pretty simple: most of us can barely afford one, and especially among urban young adults, many of us would prefer not to have to drive one most of the time if we can afford not to. Having a car available is a good thing and necessary for freedom, but we don't invest ourselves and our identities in our cars. On a personal level, I want a self-driving car yesterday so that I don't have to waste productive time playing the world's most boring and potentially deadly videogame. I'd rather be getting work done on my Droid.

But if we are going to drive a car, we expect it to be as streamlined, efficient and technologically savvy as our electronic devices. We expect it to have the same decent set of "apps" that we have in our pockets every day. We expect it to perform the task of driving down the road decently well. And we expect it not to cost an arm and a leg. What we don't need? Unnecessary size and performance. We expect a car to do its job and not have to think about it so that we can go about living lives more of meaning than of pointless acquisition.

Larissa Faw, spoiled princess at Forbes magazine, takes her own warped, consumerist upbringing and uses it to accuse Millennials of being unrealistic consumers. The reality is that for us, owning a car is less an opportunity than an unfortunate necessity. When we must have one (and we usually must), we want it to work as well as our smartphones.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy for those like Ms. Faw who have grown up insulated from the realities of the rest of us is that they are missing out on the real cultural transformation that is occurring as this generation reacts and adapts to the reality of a future that will create less consumer wealth for them than existed for their parents.

That cultural transformation is a positive one, being among other things a move away from vulgar consumerism and the taking of self-identity from one's material possessions or employment. It's the sort of thing that a convertible-driving writer for Forbes will never fully understand.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What, no references to pimps and and Colt 45?

by digby

Here's Newtie totally not being a racist piece of work:

“[Obama] really is like the substitute [National Football League] referees in the sense that he’s not a real president,” Gingrich told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Tuesday night. “He doesn’t do anything that presidents do, he doesn’t worry about any of the things the presidents do, but he has the White House, he has enormous power, and he’ll go down in history as the president, and I suspect that he’s pretty contemptuous of the rest of us.

This is a man who in an age of false celebrity-hood is sort of the perfect president, because he’s a false president,” he said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t do the president’s job.”

You have to wonder what he’s doing. I’m assuming that there’s some rhythm to Barack Obama that the rest of us don’t understand. Whether he needs large amounts of rest, whether he needs to go play basketball for a while or watch ESPN, I mean, I don’t quite know what his rhythm is, but this is a guy that is a brilliant performer as an orator, who may very well get reelected at the present date, and who, frankly, he happens to be a partial, part-time president.”

I hear he's a good dancer too.

Unsurprising coming from the guy who coined the phrase "food stamp president" I suppose. But I honestly haven't heard anyone of national stature talk this way since Jesse Helms shuffled off his mortal coil.