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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year Everybody

by digby

What are the most memorable movie New Year's Eve parties?

This one for the movie buffs?

Or this one for the romantics?

Either way, these are the only New Years Eve parties I go to these days. Especially since it sounds like a really fun time if you are trying to get through traffic in LA:
The upcoming New Year’s crackdown on drunken driving will include a new test for many people who are pulled over — an oral swab that checks for marijuana, cocaine and other drugs.

The voluntary swabbing has been used just 50 times this year. But Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer is pushing to use it at more checkpoints and jails as officials try to limit the number of drivers impaired by substances other than alcohol.

“Traditionally, our office has focused on drunken driving cases,” Feuer said at a news conference Friday. “We’re expanding drug collection and aggressively enforcing all impaired-driving laws.”

Individuals arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs must submit to a blood test. But prosecutors said the eight-minute, portable oral fluids test could eventually become a more effective use of resources in drugged-driving cases.

The test screens for cocaine, benzodiazepine (Xanax), methamphetamine, amphetamines, narcotic analgesics, methadone and THC representative of marijuana usage within the past few hours. City prosecutors have yet to use results from the test as evidence in a case.

The city attorney's office filed 598 DUI cases in the last year that involved drugs, compared with 577 drunken driving cases during last year’s winter holiday period alone.
This year, about 1,520 people across Los Angeles County were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the two weeks leading up to Christmas, local law enforcement agencies announced earlier this week.

The stepped-up enforcement will continue through New Year’s Day.

What could go wrong?

Be careful out there...

Best columnist of the year

by digby

In my book this "award" goes to Margaret Sullivan, the NYT ombudsman. She understands journalism's role in a democracy and the specific role of the New York Times in the global media ecosystem than any who have come before her. I hope they listen to her. The readers certainly do.

This last column of the year in which she surveys the issues that were important to the Times audience is a case in point. There are lots of excellent observations but I thought this was especially on point:
6. The surveillance state. Despite what Time magazine decided, the person of the year clearly was the whistleblower Edward J. Snowden, and the story of the year was the far-reaching, secretive, everyday surveillance of Americans and many others by the United States government. (Not every news organization shares my view; ABC News’s Monday night look-back at 2013 managed to feature Batkid, at some length, but Snowden not at all.) The continued persecution of leakers and the press is a related issue of great importance, and the federal government’s misguided insistence on pursuing Times reporter James Risen is just one part of that, an affront to the First Amendment.

Mr. Snowden’s initial massive leak of classified information went to Barton Gellman at the Washington Post, the filmmaker Laura Poitras, and to Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who wrote for the Guardian U.S. and who now is forming a new media company. As a result, The Times found itself last spring and summer playing an unwelcome game of catch-up. It responded by breaking some good stories, and – through a strong alliance with ProPublica and the Guardian – The Times managed to get a piece of the action.

Perhaps the challenge most important to the democracy in 2014 is to push back harder, to put the weight of The Times behind that push through every means possible: the legal battles as they arise or continue, the bully pulpit of editorials, the revealing light of aggressive news reporting.

That's a real journalist folks, and the very best of institutional journalism. May more mainstream papers and networks pay close attention to Sullivan in the next year and follow her advice.

But our rich people are exceptional!

by David Atkins

As Digby posted earlier, wingnut CEO of Home Depot and incredible narcissist Ken Langone is very concerned that Pope Francis just doesn't understand how exceptional are the American rich. As Digby says, there's something pathological in his reaction.

I think I can explain what's going on. It cuts to the heart of American conservatism.

Langone's reaction is part of a growing response among American Catholics to Pope Francis' economic statements: that Pope Francis just doesn't understand true capitalism in a moral nation, because all he knows about rich people he learned from the corrupt kleptocrats in Argentina. This explanation is very prevalent among devout Catholics on conservative blogs and forums who need to square their conservatism with the Pope's infallibility. Our rich people don't behave like that. Theirs do. We're exceptional, doncha know. Pope Francis is talking about their rich people.

I've written before that while they may not seem to be connected, a belief in libertarianism requires racism to be sustainable because the effects of inadequate economic regulation are too obvious in developing countries. To believe that small government libertarianism can work in the United States is to believe that Americans are made of finer and more moral stuff than the inferior folk who just couldn't make it work:

The negative effects of the lack of a central government are so obvious in developing countries that wherever the social order fails as in Somalia, it must have been due to bad religion, or the defect of having been born to an inferior race.

Ron Paul fans must reassure themselves that such things would never happen to white, Christian folk. They're immune from the Somali problem by virtue being of different stock and different values, you see.
There's a unifying principle behind libertarianism, American exceptionalism and racism: that white Americans through God's grace and inspiration can create a holy libertarian city on a hill without government, one that has never existed and could not exist elsewhere. Everything liberal and progressive helps to corrupt that purity and destroy God's promise for America and for freedom.

There is nothing you can do with people like that except defeat them politically and destroy their ideas in the public square. You cannot compromise or reason with them.

The US is good place for women ... but not as good as Burundi

by digby

... but if she wants economic equality and political representation, not so much:

In the 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report, which measures women’s economic, political, educational, and health equality, the United States ranks at number 23 out of 136 countries around the world. The country falls behind many Nordic countries as well as Nicaragua, Cuba, and Burundi, among others.

The country also falls at number 17 out of the 49 high-income countries measured. Its ranking has dropped over the years, down from number 22 in 2012 and 17 in 2011, although not all countries are counted each year. While its overall scored improved over last year, its ranking dropped thanks to faster improvements in other countries.

The U.S. ranks at number six for “economic participation and opportunity” and ties for the top slot with many other countries for educational attainment, but it falls at 33 for “health and survival” and 60 for political empowerment. The country made a slight gain in women’s representation in Congress this year and there were also small gains in women’s labor force participation rate and the gender wage gap. The report notes, “The United States has fully closed its gender gap in education and health.”

Where it doesn’t take top rankings is on the economic and political front, both of which go to the Nordic countries. Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden hold the top spots. The report notes, “Although no country has yet achieved gender equality, all of the Nordic countries, with the exception of Denmark, have closed over 80% of the gender gap and thus serve as models… [T]hese countries emerge as top performers and true leaders on gender equality.”

No wonder. The place is full of socialist feminazis. (And, unlike the macho US, a bunch of girly-man Vikings, apparently, which seems odd ...)

Seriously, this is just ridiculous. We are, at this point, a socially backward, global military giant that is no longer really a first world country. "We're number one!" is sounding sillier and sillier.

Prediction 'O the Day: Joe Lieberman

by digby

Via Crooks and Liars we've got none other than Holy Joe, sounding as if he's really looking forward to the Rapture:

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I want to talk about the legislation introduced in the Senate now sponsored by almost 50 members, which would impose tougher new sanctions on Iran if these negotiations fail.

President Obama has threatened to veto over it; the Iranians say if it passes, they'll walk away from the table. I believe bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress will adopt these tougher sanctions on Iran. The president will not veto it and Iran will not walk away from the table. That's the good news.

The bad news is I think that the tougher sanctions will not convince Iran to find a diplomatic way to end their nuclear weapons project and I think there is a better than even chance that before the end of 204 the U.S. and/or Israel will take military action to disable Iran's nuclear program.

Uhm, Happy New Year?

Nice little church you have here. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

by digby

Hey, Holy Father. I gotcher compassion for ya, rightchea:
In an interview on CNBC on Monday, Home Depot founder and devout Catholic Ken Langone said that the Pope’s statements about capitalism have left many potential “capitalist benefactors” wary of donating to the Church or its fundraising projects.

According to Langone, an anonymous, “potential seven-figure donor” for the Church’s restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is concerned that the Pope’s criticism of capitalism are “exclusionary,” especially his statements about the “culture of prosperity” leading to the wealthy being “incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.”
“I’ve told the Cardinal,” Langone said, “‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country.’”

Cardinal Dolan told CNBC that he had, in fact, spoken to Langone, and had told him that “that would be a misunderstanding of the Holy Father’s message. The pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people.”

He then thanked Langone for bringing this anonymous donor’s concerns to him, and insisted that “[w]e’ve got to correct — to make sure this gentleman understands the Holy Father’s message properly.”

Langone further said that, in the future, he hopes Pope Francis will “celebrate a positive point of view rather than focusing on the negative.” He does worry, though, because of “the vast difference between the Pope’s experience in Argentina and how we are in America. There is no nation on earth that is so forthcoming, so giving.”

Think about it: the allegedly devout Catholic who owns Home Depot presumes to threaten the Pope! Clearly, he feels he's an equal. Actually, the poor Pope isn't quite up to his level, is he? And yet at the same time he's bruised by the Pope's cruel comments about the culture of greed leading to lack of empathy.

This is a perfect illustration of a psychiatric condition known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
Symptoms of this disorder, as defined by the DSM-IV-TR include:

Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments

Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others

Envies others and believes others envy him/her

Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence

Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others

Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior

Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic

Other symptoms in addition to the ones defined by DSM-IV-TR include: Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends, has trouble keeping healthy relationships with others, easily hurt or rejected, appears unemotional, and exaggerating special achievements and talents, setting unrealistic goals for himself/herself.

Narcissists have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others, when in reality they have a fragile self-esteem, cannot handle criticism, and often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth. Comments and criticisms about others are vicious from sufferers of NPD, in an attempt to boost their own poor self-esteem.

Another narcissist symptom is a lack of empathy. They are unable to relate, understand, and rationalize the feelings of others. Instead of behaving in a way that shows how they are feeling in the moment, they behave in the way that they feel they are expected to behave or what gives them the most attention.

There is simply no way to explain the endless whining of the greedheads in our culture any other way. They are suffering from a serious medical problem and need help.

Pants wetting redux

by digby

On terrorism in Russia:

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) decried the attacks, saying that with the Olympics in the offing "we must not let the terrorists incite fear ..."
Sounds good. The whole point of terrorism is to make your enemies panic.

Unfortunately it's working. Grimm continued:
"We cannot sweep these threats under the rug, like we did with Benghazi or the warnings from Russia on the Tsarnaev brothers behind the Boston Marathon bombing. Each time we fail to recognize these threats, we not only risk the lives of innocent Americans, but appear weaker and vulnerable in the eyes of the enemy."
The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Run fer yer lives!

Or else we'll look weak and vulnerable ...

Update: Grimm has at least one politician he can look up to for his leadership and uncompromising terrorism policy:
"I am certain that we will fiercely and consistently continue the fight against terrorists until their complete annihilation", Putin said, according to Russian news agencies.

Cool heads prevailing all around.

Pathetic "fines" won't cut it

by David Atkins

As anyone who is paying attention knows by now, the slap-on-wrist "fines" being levied against criminal corporations aren't doing much to curtail illegal behavior:

Five years after all those bailouts for big banks, major financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America agreed to pay many billions of dollars in fines this year to settle claims involving a range of wrongdoing, from questionable mortgage practices to trading fiascos.

Others corporate titans have paid out, too. Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $2.2 billion to settle claims that the company marketed a drug for unproved uses and paid kickbacks to doctors. Another big drug company, Glaxo SmithKline, agreed to pay $3 billion and pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it illegally marketed drugs.

The list goes on. But amid all the headlines — and there have been many in recent years — the question remains: Do big fines actually prompt corporations to mend their ways? Many ordinary people certainly want companies to be held accountable. But for corporations, fines sometimes seem like the cost of doing business. That is because the costs often pale next to the profits that companies stand to make by doing the things that get them into trouble in the first place

What’s more, the penalties often come years after the supposed infractions came to light.

“You’d really like to see the fine in an immediate way such that it is really very observable,” says David F. Larcker, a law professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “but even if it’s years later — once you go in there and do the analysis — you might find out the same practices are still going.”
Unless the federal government actually threatens the executives of criminal corporations with jail time, nothing is going to change. Fear is the only thing that keeps a sociopath in line.


Monday, December 30, 2013

The GOP admits Benghazi!™ is all about Clinton

by digby

I knew that Benghazi!™ was all about getting the Clinton scandal machine up and running and now the Republicans are openly admitting it:
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) on Monday joined the growing chorus of Republicans claiming that an in-depth New York Times report on Benghazi, Libya, was published to protect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of a possible presidential run.
And that's because the New York Times has always been so very friendly to the Clintons ...
...[A]t the expense of shocking you, dear reader, it all began with the New York Times--specifically with a series of much-praised articles by investigative reporter Jeff Gerth: groundbreaking, exhaustively researched, but not particularly fair or balanced stories that combine a prosecutorial bias and the art of tactical omission to insinuate all manner of sin and skulduggery. Accompanied by a series of indignant editorials, Gerth's work helped create a full-scale media clamor last December for a special prosecutor. 
Testimony in recent Senate hearings showed that the Resolution Trust Corporation's Whitewater investigation began in direct response to the Times coverage; the hearings themselves resulted in large part from the Clinton Administration's panicky reaction to reporters' queries about the RTC probe, Gerth's among them. Absent the near-talismanic role of the New York Times in American journalism, the whole complex of allegations and suspicions subsumed under the word "Whitewater" might never have made it to the front page, much less come to dominate the national political dialogue for months at a time. It is all the more disturbing, then, that most of the insinuations in Gerth's reporting are either highly implausible or demonstrably false.

Let us return briefly to those thrilling days of yesteryear--specifically the 1992 primary season. On March 8, 1992, Jeff Gerth's initial story about Whitewater appeared on the Times front page under the headline CLINTONS JOINED S.& L. OPERATOR IN AN OZARK REAL-ESTATE VENTURE

Funny, I don't recall the wingnuts railing against the liberal New York Times during the decade it was being led around by the nose by Arkansas operators and Republican operatives. (Or when it was speculating about the bedroom habits of the couple in 2007, for that matter.) I guess it's rediscovered its partisan liberal heart.

DC needs to butt out of California-31

by digby

One of my biggest gripes against the Democratic Party is its insistence on getting involved in primary races when it has no reason to do it other than some personal preference on the part of a DC dignitary. There is no better example of this than the race in California's 31st congressional district.

The seat is currently held by a right wing Republican so you might think it makes sense for the Party to intervene if they think they have a chance to take it back but only with a candidate who "can win."  But this is not the case. This is a Democratic seat (Obama beat Romney 57-41%) that is only in the hands of a Republican because of California's inane jungle primary system and mismanagement by the DCCC. Let me have Howie explain what happened as only he can:
Gary Miller, a multimillionaire, crooked Confederate Civil War reenactor from Arkansas was always an odd pick for the new Inland Empire district carved 2 years ago out of the districts of retiring congressmen David Dreier and Jerry Lewis and defeated Blue Dog, Joe Baca. The only reason Miller won is because DCCC Chairman Steve Israel insisted on backing a pathetic empty suit, the appointed mayor of Redlands, Peter Aguilar. Aguilar was rejected by Democratic voters and lost to two Republicans. He even came in third in Redlands! 
Steve Israel almost looks like he wants to keep Miller in the seat; he forced the DCCC into the awkward position of endorsing the wealthy but socially conservative Aguilar again, despite the obvious progressive choice, Eloise Gomez Reyes.

CA-31 is the single bluest district in the country– by far– with a Republican incumbent…
This is a hard core Democratic district that fell into Republican hands because the Democrat who ran last time was so weak he lost to two Republicans.  And the DCCC is backing the same loser again! There is no practical reason to do this. One of the Democrats running will definitely make it into the General this time and he or she will win it. 

Look at this:

Democrats in Washington have no business deciding in advance who that Democrat opponent should be.

Reyes is more authentically progressive than Aguilar, although he's wearing the label like he's Barbara Lee's long lost son (which says that the party knows the district wants that.) His record shows that he's pretty much ... nothing. He seems to simply be driven by ambition for higher office without any sense of what he cares about or wants to accomplish. But DC wants him badly and one can only assume its because they know he's more amenable to the direction of the power brokers. There is literally no other rationale for their interference or the help they're giving him in raising money.

Eloise Gomez Reyes can take out Gary Miller just as easily as Pete Aguilar and if she wins she will be a much more independent progressive than he will ever be. I imagine that's the problem. And progressives should be pissed off about that. There are lots of races that need the DCCC's help right now. This isn't one of them. They should butt out.

The subtext of pajama boy

by David Atkins

Jay Michaelson has an interesting and incisive take on the right-wing freakout over "pajama boy." Before we get into Michaelson, let's take a look at some of the conservative propaganda out there:

From Pajamas Media:

From the Cornyn v. Stockman primary:

Flyover culture:

Get it? Now, to Michaelson:

The Right went apoplectic, calling Pajama Boy “a metrosexual in a plaid onesie,” “an insufferable man-child,” and various other vaguely sexist and homophobic epithets. Apparently, real men don’t wear pajamas.

Or glasses. What’s interesting about the Right’s freakout about men who don’t measure up to the standards of the 1950s is how Pajama Boy’s obvious Jewishness has been subsumed by these other characteristics.

Yes, Virginia, Pajama Boy is a member of the tribe. Look at him. Pale Ashkenazic skin, Jew-fro’d black curls, Woody Allen specs. Even the smart-ass expression on his face screams of the Wise Son from the Passover Seder.

Parenthetically, the model himself is one Ethan Krupp, an Organizing for America staffer who is, in fact, Jewish. But whether Krupp himself is circumcised or not, Pajama Boy is semiotically Jewish, even stereotypically so.

In fact, Pajama Boy stands at a centuries-old nexus of anti-Semitism and misogyny. As scholars including Sander Gilman and Daniel Boyarin have shown, Jewish men have been accused of being unmanly for hundreds of years – including by other Jews, such as the early Zionists, whose muscular Judaism was a direct response to diaspora Jewish emasculation. This is an old, old motif.

The Jew is the Other is the Effeminate is the Liberal. He is the urbanite, the parasite, the usurer, the lawyer. His effeminacy corrupts the Volk or the Heartland or the real American values. He wouldn’t know how to drive a pick-up truck if it was on cruise control. And he definitely votes for Obama.

Really, what’s “metrosexual” about Pajama Boy, anyway? The fact that he’s wearing pajamas? Drinking a hot beverage? No – it’s the way in which he so perfectly fits the Right’s image of the liberal Jewish girly-man. There’s a real “masculinity,” and then there’s whatever it is that Pajama Boy is embodying. (For the record, I have no idea whether Krupp is gay or straight. Neither do his haters.)

Needless to say, in this brave new world of Eric Cantor and the Republican Jewish Coalition (whose executive director makes over half a mil – must be a real man), the Jewishness of Pajama Boy is conspicuously absent from the vitriol. But as soon as you see it, you can’t un-see it. Which makes you wonder what the Review’s Charles Cooke – in another line conspicuously omitted by the discussions of this issue – meant when he said “the advertising machine behind the Obama administration seems not to really know what normal human beings are like.”

Normal human beings are gentiles. They spit or smoke tobacco, they speak plainly, and they are manly men who don’t wear pajamas, don’t raise their eyebrows, don’t support affordable healthcare, and definitely don’t flay their arms around like Woody Allen. Or Shylock. Real men. Not Jews.

Whether or not the Pajama-Boy bashers are unconsciously anti-Semitic or not, I don’t know. Consciously, they are against everything “Judaism” stands for, at least as construed by its enemies: outsiderness, cosmopolitanism, liberalism, a progressive rather than nativist agenda, an opposition to the notion that there is one kind of “normal” person, a sympathy for the underdog and the immigrant as opposed to the successful and the privileged, and, yes, a rejection of a certain gendered, masculinist understanding of justice wherein the strong survive and the weak are trampled underfoot like the untermenschen they are.

That fascistic outlook has long been a part of far-right conservatism – whether in revisionist Zionism, contemporary French/Hungarian/Greek nationalism, American Republicanism, or German fascism. Real men are strong, and the weak don’t deserve our pity. Let them get sick for lack of healthcare; they probably deserve it. And as for women, and the parasitic “Jewish” men who resemble them? They are to be suppressed and domesticated, not empowered. Patriarchy is good. Sexism is natural. Get out of your onesies, America. And put on your jackboots.

Conservative activist Ali Akbar groused on twitter yesterday that people really don't like conservatives, and are "taught to hate them." Given the politics and tactics of the American Right that statement is a little rich. But insofar as it has a kernel of truth, it's this: starting in the late 1940s the world realized that setting up a culture war between Christian nativist conservative gun-loving Anglo-Saxon child-bride-marrying testosterone factories on one side, and minorities, independent women, and cosmopolitan, liberal secular "outsiders" on the other might not be such a good idea. We've seen that movie before, and our reaction was to say "never again."

But with conservatives, the old saying is apt: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

It ain't over folks

by digby

The far right is multiplying:
If Ted Cruz seems like a one-of-a-kind, give it time. A slew of young, hard-charging, Tea Party-endorsed Senate wannabes is looking to knock off the Republican establishment again in 2014. Some have better chances than others, but all have the unmistakable Cruzian commitment to refusing to toe the Republican Party line and make headlines while doing it. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will.
Read on. They don't sound like real threats but you just never know. This is an off year election in the second term of the president which usually results in losses for his party. And the right wingers are always more energized in these elections. A couple of them could sneak in.

I'm afraid that what some liberals persist in thinking of as a necessary exercise in "heightening the contradictions" is actually just  normalizing crazy. At this point all it will take for any of these loons to be accepted as "mainstream" by the political establishment will be if they don't grow horns or literally spit blood on the Senate floor. Look at Paul Ryan.

More women means more money

by digby


Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of women board directors

That's via Wonkblog's graph 'o the year series.

I'm not sure what it is that women bring to the table. I'm quite sure it's not higher morality or better character. I'm going to guess it's that they aren't part of the old boys club and as a result aren't subject to the same groupthink. If you're on the board of directors you are likely to have the confidence to challenge the guys.

Whatever it is, it argues for the Randroids to stop thinking of smart women as their sexy Dagny Taggert's worshiping them for their manly swashbuckling and start treating them as equals. (Or at least for normal corporate boards to see there might be a financial advantage to having more women directors.)

In case you were wondering:
Women held only 16.9% of corporate board seats in 2013, indicating no significant year-over-year uptick for the 8th straight year. And only 14.6% of Executive Officer positions were held by women—the 4th consecutive year of no year-over-year growth.

Women of color continued to fare particularly poorly, holding just 3.2% of all board seats.

10% of companies had no women serving on their boards; more than 2/3 of companies had no women of color directors. 
Women held only 8.1% of top earner slots—again no change from prior year.

Checkpoint freedom

by digby

I wrote about this incident when it happened because of the malicious use of tasers, but this article discusses it in the context of "internal security checkpoints" and the growing civil disobedience against it:

During a routine trip from San Diego to Phoenix in 2009, Pastor Steven Anderson was stopped at an internal immigration checkpoint about 70 miles from the Mexican border. A stern-looking Border Patrol agent asked Anderson to provide proof of citizenship and requested permission to search his car.

The persistent pastor declined both, citing his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He then asked to be allowed to go on his way. The request was denied.

After a period of dithering, agents announced that a police dog had alerted to potential contraband in the vehicle. They instructed Anderson to pull over into a secondary inspection area. The pastor repeatedly refused, at which point a Border Patrol agent and a state police officer simultaneously broke both windows of his car and shot the pastor with Tasers from each side, delivering lengthy and repeated shocks while Anderson repeatedly screamed in agony.

The brutality was captured on video. Anderson's hand-held camera recorded events until moments after he was shocked, and CCTV footage captured much of what came afterward. In recorded testimony the following day, Anderson described how one of the agents involved with the incident shoved the pastor's head into the shards of broken window glass while dragging him from the car, and forced him to the ground. Other agents joined the action, with one repeatedly beating Anderson with a baton.

Lying helplessly on the ground, the pastor was again shocked with Tasers. After several minutes, the agents finally pulled up his bloodied body and took the broken man into custody.

Anderson is a hero to the members of a growing national cause. A decentralized movement of refuseniks is increasingly fighting back against the Border Patrol's shocking internal checkpoint system. Through civil disobedience, legal challenges, and generous helpings of YouTube, these ID scofflaws may be getting bloody, but they are actively challenging the constitutionality of a system most Americans don't realize exists.

I realize this is yet another of those "who cares, if you have nothing to hide why not cooperate" things for a lot of people. And I admit that I would be reluctant to put my big bloggy mouth where my money is and personally challenge cops carrying tasers, batons and guns myself. But it is another example of how the post 9/11 police state has expanded what used to be a pretty sleepy little program that featured a couple of somnambulant cops out in the middle of nowhere looking for trucks full of immigrants into full-fledged quasi military checkpoints.

Just consider for a moment the picture of federal officers repeatedly beating and tasering a person on the basis of his assertion of his 4th and 5th amendment rights. That just can't be right.

Withdrawing to our corners

by digby

Today, three-quarters of the states are controlled by either Republicans or Democrats, more than at any time in recent memory. Elected officials in these states are moving unencumbered to enact their party’s agenda.
Interesting, no? Dan Balz reports:
Political polarization has ushered in a new era in state government, where single-party control of the levers of power has produced competing Americas. One is grounded in principles of lean and limited government and on traditional values; the other is built on a belief in the essential role of government and on tenets of cultural liberalism.

These opposing visions have been a staple of national elections, and in a divided Washington, this polarization has resulted in gridlock and dysfunction. But today, three-quarters of the states — more than at any time in recent memory — are controlled by either Republicans or Democrats. Elected officials in these states are moving unencumbered to enact their party’s agenda.

Republican states have pursued economic and fiscal strategies built around lower taxes, deeper spending cuts and less regulation. They have declined to set up state health-insurance exchanges to implement President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They have clashed with labor unions. On social issues, they have moved to restrict abortion rights or to enact voter-identification laws, in the name of ballot integrity, that critics say hamper access to voting for the poor and minorities.

Blue states have also been forced to cut spending, given the budgetary pressures caused by the recession. But rather than cutting more deeply, a number of them also have raised taxes to pay for education or infrastructure. They have backed the president on the main elements of his health-care law. The social-issue agenda in blue states includes legalizing same-sex marriages, providing easier access to voting and, in a handful of cases, imposing more restrictions on guns.

The values that underpin these governing strategies reflect contrasting political visions, and the differences can be seen in stark terms in the states. In a red state such as Texas, government exists mostly to get out of the way of the private sector while holding to traditional social values. In blue states such as California and Maryland, government takes more from taxpayers, particularly the wealthy, to spend on domestic priorities while advancing a cultural agenda that reflects the country’s growing diversity.

This is America folks, especially now that people aren't moving around as much as they used to. This fight defines us. It has always defined us. It's just that sometimes bigger concerns push it under the surface.

One thing to remember, though: over time we always end up making progress despite the conservatives. But it's never easy.

A modest proposal for hurricane names

by David Atkins

I somehow missed this bit of brilliance from August until Digby pointed me toward it by way of Upworthy:

All joking aside, climate and other progressive issues activists need to do this sort of thing more often: name names and shame specific individuals. If the other side is going to offer the easy corruption of big money, then let them at least fear the mockery and scorn of history. Some won't care even then>, but it's worth a try.


Sunday, December 29, 2013


by digby

I know that just about everyone on the planet has already seen this, but frankly, I can't get enough:

Oh no, here's more:

Seriously, is there anything that will lift your spirits better than that?

Well, there is this:


by digby

ICYMI, CBS News was named Misinformer of the year by Media Matters mostly (but not exclusively) for Lara Logan's 60 Minutes Benghazi hoax:
Even now, nearly two months after it aired, almost nothing about CBS News' "exclusive" (and infamous) 60 Minutes report on Benghazi makes sense. From conception, to execution, to the network's stubborn claims that the report met its high standards even as it publicly dissolved, the story on the Benghazi terror attack of 2012 quickly became a case study in how not to practice journalism on the national stage. And in how dangerous it is to lose sight of fair play and common sense when wielding the power and prestige of the country's most-watched news program.

The 60 Minutes Benghazi hoax had it all: a flimsy political premise featuring previously debunked myths, a correspondent with an established agenda, a blinding corporate conflict of interest, and an untrustworthy "witness" who apparently fabricated his story and had once reportedly asked a journalist to pay him for his information.
It's quite a cock-up, but the most surprising thing about it is that it came from CBS instead of what we used to think of as one of the Right Wing Noise Machine flagship organizations. Benghazi!™ is a story the right wing has flogged endlessly as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's 9/11 despite the fact that it made no sense whatsoever.

And how galling it must be to have this contradictory, epic investigative report on Benghazi hit the front page of the NY Times today:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

A fuller accounting of the attacks suggests lessons for the United States that go well beyond Libya. It shows the risks of expecting American aid in a time of desperation to buy durable loyalty, and the difficulty of discerning friends from allies of convenience in a culture shaped by decades of anti-Western sentiment. Both are challenges now hanging over the American involvement in Syria’s civil conflict.

The attack also suggests that, as the threats from local militants around the region have multiplied, an intensive focus on combating Al Qaeda may distract from safeguarding American interests.
Once again it's revealed that the US military isn't a super-hero who can sweep in and save the day simply because we are a powerful nation with good intentions. The people who benefit often don't thank us for our trouble. In fact, for all out vaunted high tech intelligence we often get it all wrong and do more harm than good when we wage war or empower others to do it.  In fact, wars of choice are a blunt instrument that almost always makes things worse. Imagine that.

Update: If you thought the RWNM would accept the NYT's account lying down, think again. Nothing can shake their faith in Benghazi!™

Keep in mind that the author of this piece, Stephen Hayes, also wrote a book called The Connection: How Al Qaeda's Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America and was repeatedly cited by Dick Cheney as reliable.


by digby

Bill McKibbon:
"We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine."
This has been one of the most surprising elements of the Obama administration to me. He's such a cool customer that when he was first running I couldn't really grasp what he really cared about. I recall asking his supporters what they thought and to a person, this was the issue they assumed was his passion. I guess not so much.

Read the article at the link for info on how we are really cranking up the global warming machine. Yikes.


Conspiracies R Us

by digby

Oh Lord:

Meanwhile, the official report on the shootings was recently released. It's a very sad tale of a mentally disturbed young man. A mentally disturbed young man with a lot of guns.

Real American Male

by digby

That Phil Robertson is a real card, isn't he?

He's very "traditional," that's for sure.

Am I the only one who is startled every time I see pictures like this?

This is immediately what comes to mind.  It's a very famous image, after all.

*Standard disclaimer: I know that Robertson only murders animals, not people. He is a law abiding TV celebrity who pays his taxes and everything. But you have to admit that some of his social views aren't that much different than the Evil One there. And there's no doubt that their militant patriarchal images are disturbingly similar...


Making an example of them

by digby

This is from a few months ago but it came to mind as I was drinking my coffee this morning thinking about some people's insistence that national security whistleblowers should throw themselves on the mercy of the US courts:
A former New York lawyer convicted of helping a jailed Egyptian militant cleric smuggle messages out of prison lost her bid on Friday to be released from prison because she is suffering from terminal cancer.

Lynne Stewart, 73, is three years into a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted of aiding her client, blind cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to attack the United Nations and other New York City landmarks.

Stewart, known for her advocacy of left-wing causes, is suffering from stage IV breast cancer and asked that her sentence be vacated or modified to time-served.

U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl denied Stewart’s request, noting that the Federal Bureau of Prisons recently denied her application for compassionate release.

The Bureau of Prisons must agree before a court can reduce a sentence based on compassionate release, he said in court documents.

However, the judge left open the possibility that she might still have a chance at freedom, saying that in the time since the Bureau turned her down, her doctor said she has less than 18 months to live.

Stewart’s attorneys have resubmitted her application with the Bureau, and it is pending, Koeltl said.

He said the court was “prepared to give prompt and sympathetic consideration” to a motion by the bureau seeking compassionate release.

A federal jury in New York convicted Stewart in 2005 of helping Abdel-Rahman smuggle messages to Egypt’s Islamic Group, which in the 1990s waged a bloody campaign against security forces with the aim of creating an Islamic state but later renounced violence.

Stewart was sentenced to 28 months in prison, a sentence that an appeals court later deemed insufficient. In 2010, she was re-sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Stewart was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, and it returned last year, according to court documents. The cancer has spread into her lungs and lymph nodes, and she needs help bathing and suffers from the side effects of chemotherapy treatments, the documents said.
The case was anything but a clear cut story of "aiding terrorism."
Perhaps more than any other, this case illustrates how out of hand things have gotten in the "war on terrorism." To inflate its successes in ferreting out terrorism, the Justice Department turned an administrative infraction into a terrorism conviction that, unless reversed, will likely send Stewart to prison for the rest of her life. To make sure the charges would stick, the prosecution tried the case in the most inflammatory and prejudicial way possible, introducing as "background" reams of evidence of terrorism that had nothing to do with Stewart's actions.

The case against Stewart was fairly straightforward. She represented Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, now serving multiple life sentences for conspiring to blow up several Manhattan bridges and tunnels. Rahman is barred from any contact with the outside world beyond his immediate family and attorneys. As his lawyer, Stewart signed an agreement not to transmit messages from him to unauthorized people. In June 2000 she violated that agreement. After meeting with the sheik, Stewart called Reuters to say that he had withdrawn his personal support for a cease-fire then in place in Egypt. Two days later she issued a clarification explaining that the sheik "did not cancel the cease-fire," but "left the matter to my brothers to examine it and study it because they are the ones who live there and they know the circumstances better than I."

Stewart should not have issued the release. Doing so violated the administrative agreement. But it is not a crime to violate such an agreement. In an ordinary case, the lawyer might receive a warning. In an unusual case, the lawyer might be barred from continuing to visit her client (as indeed Stewart was at the time, until she agreed to a new set of conditions). In an extraordinary case, the lawyer might be brought up on disciplinary charges before the bar.

But after September 11, the Justice Department was not content with any of those measures; it charged Stewart with terrorism. Since violating the agreement was not itself a crime, the indictment charged her with fraudulently entering into the agreement in the first place. And it alleged that by passing on the sheik's message, she'd offered "material support" in aid of terrorist activity.

Both charges were a stretch. Showing that Stewart violated the agreement would be easy, but proving that she intended to violate it when she initially signed it was much more challenging. And the terrorism charge would require showing that Stewart's statement to the press was intended to support a particular terrorist act, when in fact the release did not call for or prompt any such act.

So how did the prosecution meet its burden? With classic McCarthy-era tactics: fearmongering and guilt by association.
Read on for the full story of what seems to be obvious prosecutorial abuse, keeping in mind that both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments pursued this woman with Javert-like zeal.

She did have a history of supporting left wing causes which was, apparently, a good reason to suspect her of also wanting to advance Islamic terrorism. After all, while leftists may be gay-loving, pot smoking, "let it all hang out" hedonists they also clearly support the goals of fundamentalist religious fanatics who seeks to enforce traditional roles and dominate every aspect of people's personal lives.

She was a lawyer who made an error that would ordinarily result in, at worst, discipline by the bar association. She is going to die in prison.

The good news is that in America we have no political prisoners.

Fox News is a joke

by David Atkins

This is a screenshot taken directly from my Google News feed:

Note the Fox News headline with "intelligence" claim saying the direct opposite of the report.

That "intelligence" claim is just some speculative garbage from Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan, the same guy who said that isn't worth helping the "few" uninsured, and that European nations should be grateful for the NSA's spying operations.

Fox News keeps its readers and viewers in a vacuum devoid of actual information. That helps them secure votes, but the problem is that the disconnect is getting worse, and there just aren't enough people brainwashed by the conservative movement left to win national elections. The more Fox News delivers a version of the world utterly at odds with reality, the harder it will be for the GOP to reorient itself as a serious and viable national party.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies

Slanted views in sticky shoes: Top 10 films of 2013

By Dennis Hartley

‘Tis the season to offer up my picks for the best films that opened in 2013. I should qualify that. These are my picks for the “top ten” movies out of the 60+ first run features I was able to cover here at Hullabaloo since January. Since I am (literally) a “weekend movie critic”, I don’t have the time to screen every new release (it’s that pesky 9-5 gig that keeps getting in the way). I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who generously chips in year round to support Digby's blog. She continues to be an important voice in the progressive blogosphere, not only via her exemplary writing, but through activism; she puts her money where her mouth is. As a long time friend, I can't help but be proud of what she has accomplished, and continue to be humbled that she permits me to intrude into this otherwise respectable bit of cyberspace Saturday nights with my silly scribbling about movies and such. Happy New Year! So, back to the list…alphabetically:

The Act of Killing- Joshua Oppenheimer's portrait of Anwar Congo, a self-described "gangster" who claims to have personally killed 1,000 people during the state-sanctioned liquidation of an estimated 1,000,000 "communists" that followed in the wake of the 1965 overthrow of the Indonesian government, is truly stranger than fiction. Congo and "co-star" Herman Koto, who would be considered war criminals anywhere else, are feted like rock stars by politicians and paramilitary youth groups. Congo and Koto were not only amenable to skipping down memory lane revisiting scenes of their awful crimes, but generously offered to reenact their exploits by portraying themselves in a Hollywood-style gangster epic. This counter-intuitive mash-up of investigative journalism and ebullient  participation from the filmmaker's intended targets could cause some viewers' heads to explode, but makes for the most compelling political doc of 2013. Full review

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me- Founded in 1971 by singer-guitarist Chris Bell and ex-Box Tops lead singer/guitarist Alex Chilton, the jangly, Beatle-esque Big Star was a musical anomaly in their hometown of Memphis, which was only the first of many hurdles this talented band was to face during their brief, tumultuous career. Now considered one of the seminal influences on the 'power pop' genre, the band was largely ignored by record buyers during their heyday (despite critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone). Then, beginning in the mid-1980s, the long-defunct outfit gained a cult following after college radio darlings like R.E.M., the Dbs and the Replacements lauded them as an inspiration. Director Drew DeNicola also tracks the lives of the members long beyond the 1974 breakup, which is the most riveting (and heart wrenching) part of the tale. This is an outstanding rockumentary; pure nirvana for power pop fans. Full review

Computer Chess- The most original sci-fi film of 2013 is also this year's most low-tech genre entry; proving you don't need a $300 million budget and 3-D technology to blow people's minds. For his retro 80s-style mockumentary, Andrew Bujalski finds verisimilitude via a vintage B&W video camera (which makes it seem as if you're watching events unfold on a slightly fuzzy closed-circuit TV), and "documents" a weekend-long tournament where nerdy computer chess programmers from all over North America assemble once a year to match algorithmic prowess. Not unlike a Christopher Guest satire, Bujalski throws idiosyncratic characters into a jar, and then steps back to see what happens. Just when you think you’ve got the film sussed as a gentle satirical jab at computer geek culture, things get weird...then weirder. Dig that final shot!  Full review

56 Up- In this age of reality TV and smart phone attention spans, the idea of a film series chronicling the lives of 14 people since age 7, where the audience has to wait seven years between 'episodes' may seem downright anachronistic. Nonetheless, in this latest installment of  the acclaimed British film series that began in 1964 with Paul Almond's 7 Up, there’s a genuine sense of poignancy, especially since director Michael Apted (at the helm since the second installment in 1970) has a sizable archive of clips for each interviewee, from all periods of their lives. The lives depicted here may not be glamorous or exciting, but most people’s lives aren’t, are they? And as cliché as this sounds, it all seems to boil down to that most basic of human needs: to love or be loved. Full review

The Hunt- There's an old parlor game called "telephone" in which one person whispers a message to another, moving on down the line until it reaches the last player, who then repeats it loud enough for all to hear. More often than not, the original context gets lost in translation once it runs through the inevitable gauntlet of misinterpretations, preconceptions and assumptions that generally fall under the umbrella of "human nature". This shattering drama from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (co-written by Tobias Lindholm)  vividly demonstrates the singularly destructive power of "assumption". Mads Mikkelsen's performance as a man struggling to keep his head above water whilst being inexorably pulled into a maelstrom of Kafkaesque travails is nothing short of astonishing. The film is a fascinating glimpse into the psychology of mob mentality. Full review

Mud- There's a lot of mystery in writer-director Jeff Nichols' modern-day Tom and Huck adventure-cum-swamp noir, a tale chuck-full of characters with Dark Secrets murkier than the black waters of the Mississippi that burble and roil throughout it. Matthew McConaughey continues his recent streak of knockout performances as the eponymous character, an enigmatic fugitive who befriends a pair of 14 year-old pals (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland), with life-changing results for them all. While the director’s reach may exceed his grasp at times (due in part to his busy mishmash of character study, family melodrama, coming-of-age tale, love story, mythic folk tale and suspense thriller), the strong sense of place (Adam Stone’s cinematography artfully captures the sultry atmosphere of a torpid backwater), compelling music score (by David Wingo) and excellent performances by all add up to a perfect Sunday matinee movie. Full review

The Rocket- Aussie writer-director Kim Mordaunt tells the story of Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe, in a remarkable performance), a 10-year old Laotian boy who can’t catch a break. In rapid succession, a member of his family dies in a freak accident and then the surviving members are forced to relocate after their village gets earmarked for razing to make way for a hydroelectric project. Ahlo’s dour grandma labels him as a “bad luck charm”. Determined to redeem his standing, Ahlo sets out to win an annual Rocket Competition. Mourdaunt has a Terrence Malick-like penchant for gorgeous “magic hour” composition; capturing the dichotomy of UXBs and battle-scarred ruins as they contrast with Laos’ lush, rugged natural beauty. This was the best drama I saw at the Seattle International Film Festival this year; I hope it finds wider distribution soon.   Full review

The Silence- Generally speaking, a field of wheat is a field of wheat; nothing more, nothing less. However, in the realm of crime thrillers, such benign rural locales can harbor ominous underpinnings (think Memories of Murder or The Onion Field). So it is in this genre entry from Germany. In the hands of Swiss-born writer-director Baran bo Odar, a wheat field emerges as the principal character; an unlikely venue for acts running the gamut from the sacred to profane, as unfathomably mysterious and complex as the humans who commit them within its enveloping, wind-swept folds. Putting the “mystery” on the backburner allows Odar to focus on the aftermath of tragedy. Consequently this haunting film is not so much about interrogations and evidence bags as it is about grief, loss, guilt, redemption…and an unfathomably mysterious field of wheat.  Full review

The Sweeney- OK, so there's subtle, haunting, arty crime thrillers (see above)...and then there's this one, subtle as a flying mallet. Inspired by a 1970s British TV series, this gritty crime flick from UK writer-director Nick Love centers on “The Flying Squad”, a modern-day team of London coppers led by a growly fireplug (Brit-noir veteran Ray Winstone). He’s DI Jack Regan, who swears by the adage: “To catch a criminal-you have to think like one”. And you also apparently have to act like one; Regan and his clannish unit bend the rules (and violate 57 civil liberties) on a daily basis. But they always get their man, sealing every takedown with the catchphrase “We’re the Sweeney…and you’ve been nicked!" Winstone's character reminded me of "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection; while perhaps lacking in social skills, on the job he's a working-class hero, relentless in his pursuit of the bad guys. Great ensemble acting, memorable dialog, and the most exciting urban cops 'n' robbers shootout since Heat.  Full review

Upstream Color- Not that my initial assessment was negative (it leaned more toward ambivalent), but apparently this is one of those films that grows on you; the more time I've had to ponder it, the more I have come to appreciate it (most films I see nowadays are forgotten by the time I get back to my car). To say it's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma is understatement. To say that it redefines the meaning of “Huh?!” may be more apt. A woman (Amy Seimitz) is abducted and forced to ingest a creepy-crawly whatsit (in its larval stage) that puts her into a docile and suggestible state. Her kidnapper however turns out to be not so much Buffalo Bill, but more Terence McKenna. Long story short, the next thing she knows, she’s back behind the wheel of her car, parked near a cornfield (natch), and spends the rest of the movie slowly retrieving memories of her bizarre experience in bits and pieces. As do we. You have been warned. Full review