Saturday, April 25, 2009

Daily KOS' Swine Flu update

As always, Demfrom CT at Daily Kos is right on top of flu topics.

So, go to Daily Kos and read What Does The Swine Flu Outbreak Mean?

Really. Go read it.

Saturday Morning: "a fearful man" Edition

QOTD, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson
: "Cheney is a man who frightens easily. ... He's a man who lives on fear, and he's a fearful man."

In Veep Trouble April 24: Former Vice President Dick Cheney suddenly wants to declassify two documents in an attempt to show that "enhanced interrogation techniques" can't be considered torture if it works. Rachel Maddow is joined by retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.

I notice a new willingness of Dems and some in the media to call bullshit on stoopid repuglican tricks. Good. For example ....

from sgw: Waxman Comes Off The Top Turnbuckle
First rule of fight club is use credible sources. When Newt Gingrich cites the Weekly Standard to start off you know this is about to go left. From the video you can tell that Henry Waxman was pretty much hoping that Newt brought the weaksauce today and he wasn't dissappointed. I bet Newt won't be running his ass to the Hill to testify again anytime soon.

Do people at the Times laugh when they write drivel like this, or are they clueless? "even if it means a partisan fight?" Are you kidding me?

Obama Tactic Shields Health Care Bill From a Filibuster

The president’s new stance suggests he may be much less willing to compromise on health care, his top legislative priority, even if it means a partisan fight.

Josh Marshall: Self-Preservation Right-wing extremist congresswoman denounces attacks on right-wing extremists.

Gore To Blackburn: If You Think It's About Greed, "You Don't Know Me"

DemfromCT's (Daily Kos): Your Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

Weekend punditry!

WaPo on swine flu:

"It's alarming and very concerning," said Sari Setiogi, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization in Geneva, which began an investigation of the cause and scope of the outbreak.

President Obama has been briefed about the illness, spokesman Reid Cherlin said, adding: "The White House is taking the situation seriously and monitoring for any new developments.

We'll have an update later today. This public service announcement was brought to you by Daily Kos.


Terence Samuel:

The modern-day Republican Party is not so much a political party as it is a cautionary tale. Now we know exactly what a party looks like when it is out of gas, out of ideas, and flailing desperately for survival. At the same time, the current state of the GOP is an undiluted example of how quickly things can change in politics.

Bill Schneider:

Do Americans think that congressional Republicans have a clear plan for solving the nation's economic problems? Nearly three-quarters of respondents in the CNN poll said no.

Obama is resisting pressure to toss spending on health care, education, and energy out of his budget to make it cheaper and easier to pass. Some of the pressure is coming from his own advisers. The president says that pressure is for "instant gratification," encouraged by shorter news cycles and shorter attention spans.

The president is defying that culture. He wants long-term thinking -- something radically different from the norm in American politics.

Charlie Cook:

Right now, many voters are saying, "Spend what it takes to get us out of this horrible recession."

But will they remember that when the recession is over and the bills have to be paid -- or deferred? Could the needed medicine have so many unpleasant side effects that the recovering patient fires the doctor?

All of this is purely hypothetical, of course, because no bottom has yet been reached, no recovery begun, and no blame yet shifted.

Such uncertainty should not drive what Obama and his party are trying to do to get the country out of the recession. But it may explain why the president, in his speech at Georgetown University, gave such a painstaking explanation about what his administration is doing and why.

Jeffrey Simpson:

Deficits are dangerous for liberals, but especially hard for conservatives, to talk about sensibly. A mantra of conservative parties is that deficits are bad, but the way they govern invariably produces deficits, or at least weakens the fiscal position of the government.


Twenty years of Republican administrations under three presidents followed this formula: a political campaign based on lower taxes and an attack on "wasteful" spending, followed by lower taxes but higher spending, with resulting chronic deficits.

Sudbay: Bethesda's Walt Whitman High School students far outnumber and way outclass the Phelps whackos from Westboro
The Phelps clan was in Bethesda today to protest Walt Whitman High School -- because it's named Walt Whitman High School. Not kidding. But, the students at Walt Whitman High were having none of it. And, when school let out, the kids lined up to form a counter-protest. There were seven Phelps compared to over 500 students. It actually sounds like the Phelps clan did a good job of uniting Whitman:
At the 2:10 p.m. dismissal, 500 students issued forth from the campus and lined up, several students deep, along the police tape, across Whittier Boulevard from the congregants. They alternately chanted the school name and "Go home!" -- drowning out voices from across the street.

Whitman, a 19th-century poet with major influence on American literature, is generally regarded as having been gay or bisexual, but his sexual identity remains enigmatic.

The Westboro Baptist Church has gained national notoriety for its anti-homosexuality demonstrations, staged provocatively outside military funerals and at schools that are putting on the musical "Rent." Before heading to Whitman, they showed up at the funeral of the Middletown, Md., family killed in a murder-suicide last week, claiming that those deaths, like the military casualties, were God's wrath toward a godless people. Police asked them to leave.

But at Whitman, the protesters arrived to palpable excitement. Faculty had spun the event into an interdisciplinary lesson. English teachers spent the day on Whitman's verse. Social studies teachers led a unit on tolerance. Math teachers fanned through the crowd, attempting a head count.

It was the first taste of protest for many Whitman students, and perhaps the first time they had paid much mind to their namesake.
The Phelps clan can't compete with students. Today, it was the high school kids at Walt Whitman High. Last month, it was college students at the University of Chicago.

Thank to my friend, Craig, who tipped me off about the possibility of these protests a couple weeks ago. He was very proud that his niece and nephew, who are students at Whitman, were on the front lines today.

It's the job of the parties' campaign committees to put as positive a spin on election results as possible. But now that the results are final in the special election in New York's 20th, I think the NRCC will have to do better than this.

Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that although Tedisco came up short that his message of fiscal discipline provided GOPers a blueprint on which to run next year.

"Since Election Day, we continue to hear the growing chorus of frustrated and concerned citizens who demand more from their government than profligate spending and mountains of debt that will be paid for in higher taxes by our children and grandchildren," said Sessions. "Although Jim was unsuccessful in his hope to change Washington, he has shed light on our Party's efforts to win back the majority in the House."

Frankly, if I worked for the NRCC, I'm not sure what I would have come up with, but suggesting a failed strategy in a Republican district can be duplicated for success elsewhere seems rather foolish.

Tedisco started out with a big lead in the polls, a huge advantage in name recognition, and a built-in benefit thanks to the Republicans' sizable registration advantage in the district. He embraced the national party's economic message and lost.

It doesn't sound like much of a "blueprint."

The day before the election, the Weekly Standard had a piece noting, "[I]f Republicans can't make it in New York's 20th, they can't make it anywhere." No wonder Pete Sessions is at a loss.

Life of the party? April 24: The Republican Party fights to find meaning in the political minority, but it might be a losing battle. Rachel Maddow is joined by Daily Beast Contributor Ana Marie Cox.

hilzoy: Make It So

From the LATimes:

"The Obama administration is preparing to admit into the United States as many as seven Chinese Muslims who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in the first release of any of the detainees into this country, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Their release is seen as a crucial step to plans, announced by President Obama during his first week in office, to close the prison and relocate the detainees. Administration officials also believe that settling some of them in American communities will set an example, helping to persuade other nations to accept Guantanamo detainees too.

But the decision to release the Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, is not final and faces challenges from within the government, as well as likely public opposition. Among government agencies, the Homeland Security Department has registered concerns about the plan.

The move would also incense Chinese officials, who consider the Uighurs domestic terrorists and want those held at Guantanamo handed over for investigation. U.S. officials no longer consider the Chinese Muslims to be enemy combatants and fear they would be mistreated in China."

Dear Obama administration: as a member of the public, let me assure you that you need fear no opposition from me. On the contrary: by being willing to step up and do right by some of the people we have imprisoned, you would earn even more of my respect than you have already.

Even the Bush administration tribunals found that the Uighurs were not enemy combatants. They have been imprisoned for seven and a half years. It is long past time to set them free.

Sully: Quote For The Day

"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," - an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency in July 2002.

So the military knew it was torture and said it was torture. Because it was torture. And the United States has statutory and treaty obligations to investigate all charges of torture and to prosecute the guilty. Or are we to withdraw from the treaty that Ronald Reagan signed and championed?

Sully: Yes, The Democrats Are Guilty Too


Punishing politically powerful criminals is about vindicating the rule of law. Partisan and political considerations should play no role in it. It is opponents of investigations and prosecutions who are being driven by partisan allegiances and a desire to advance their political interests. By contrast, proponents of investigations are seeking to vindicate the most apolitical yet crucial principle of our system of government: that we are a nation of laws that cannot allow extremely serious crimes to be swept under the rug for political reasons. That's true no matter what is best for Obama's political goals and no matter how many Democrats end up being implicated -- ethically, politically or even legally -- by the crimes that were committed.
For me, this has absolutely nothing to do with party. I'd be as insistent with any president who authorized torture of whatever party. And there is very good reason to believe that Pelosi knew a lot more than she has said. She should be investigated as well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Matthews Commits Journalism

via Sully, this is a very very fine interview. And the rethuglican is as slimy as anyone I've ever seen.
Did torture help stop terrorist attacks?

April 23: European Operations Chief for the CIA Tyler Drumheller and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, join the torture debate arguing over whether it worked like some top Republican officials claim it did.

Wingnut Evolution

Interesting to watch things evolve. For example, a week ago I noted that since the distinction between wingnuts and repuglicans had vanished, that I would use the two words interchangeably. As of today, I'm adding "torture enabler" to the list. Because, clearly, they have made a general decision to align themselves with torturers.

Isn't evolution grand? One thing we learn from evolution is that animals and plants that become to specialized are especially prone to extinction.


digby: Go Al
When a flat earth Republican moron tried to refute Gore's assertion today that the scientific consensus supports global warming by pointing to the handful of scientific oddballs the Republicans dredged up to testify that it doesn't exist, Al blandly replied:
"There are people who still believe that the moon landing was staged on a movie lot in Arizona.”
One of the greatest achievements in modern politics is the PoMo "he said/she said" competing narratives perfected by the right, particularly when it comes to science. It comes from their big business owners after the consumer revolution, which learned early on to use this method in litigation. Now it's metastasized throughout the body politic.

Good for Gore for dismissing this nonsense.
Here Al takes Texas' fool Barton apart. (h/t sgw)

Josh: I'm So Proud It seems that the Republicans have brought forth Newt Gringrich as their counter-expert to Al Gore in today's committee hearing. He's now explaining how people don't really understand what's happening with the polar ice cap. Proud moment for America.

Sully: From The Cocoon

James Taranto who fully backed a president who claimed the right to suspend the First and Fourth Amendments, habeas corpus, the Geneva Conventions and domestic law against torture, and who seized an American citizen without charges on American soil and tortured him, now offers his view as to the small possibility of prosecuting the perpetrators of war crimes. Drum roll, please:

What Obama is offhandedly contemplating, then, amounts to a step toward authoritarian government.

No, you couldn't make this up.

Sully: Malkin Award Nominee
"For those most committed to the ridiculous crusade for terrorist rights, ‘enhanced interrogation’ is not only immoral and illegal, it’s ineffective. That argument, like Khalid Sheik Mohamed, doesn’t hold water,” - Michael Goldfarb, Weekly Standard.
Anonymous Liberal: Maybe It's Time to Reread Orwell
Over at The Corner, Cliff May offers another bureaucratic defense of the Bush administration's torture program:
Under a strict set of rules, every pour of water had to be counted — and the number of pours was limited.

Also: Waterboarding interrogation sessions were permitted on no more than five days within any 30-day period.

No more than two sessions were permitted in any 24-hour period.

A session could last no longer than two hours.

There could be at most six pours of water lasting ten seconds or longer — and never longer than 40 seconds — during any individual session.

Water could be poured on a subject for a combined total of no more than 12 minutes during any 24 hour period.

You do the math.
Actually, I think I'll let Marcy do the math. May then concludes:
I [don't] see how — except in an Orwellian universe — lawyers from the current administration can prosecute lawyers from the previous administration because they disagree with their legal opinions.
Yeah, that's the Orwellian universe. Not the place where lawyers draft "legal opinions" dictating exactly how many hours per day we can subject prisoners to simulated drowning or what kind of insects we can lock them in a tiny box with. Has May ever actually read Orwell? It might be time to reread 1984.

Is it possible to be less self-aware? What's the matter with these people?

Walking And Chewing Gum

John Judis doesn't have time to enforce the rule of law:

I have a nagging worry that the eagerness of some Democrats in Congress and some activist organizations to press for what would be months and even years of inquiries and investigations into Bush-era war crimes is due in part to an eagerness to divert themselves, and us, from the seemingly insoluble problems we face in the present, which require every minute of attention from the White House and Congress. The past can wait.

The rule of law is never a past issue. It is always present. But I see no reason why a mature democracy cannot both investigate its own failures while addressing its current problems.

As part of their "Banana Republic" attacks, Republicans have argued that it's wrong to investigate a presidential administration after it's over. John McCain said, "In Banana Republics they prosecute people for actions they didn't agree with under previous administrations." Kit Bond said, "This whole thing about punishing people in past administrations reminds me more of a Banana Republic than the United States of America. We don't criminally prosecute people we disagree with when we change office."

And Karl Rove, of course, said it would be "very dangerous" to see one administration "threaten prosecutions against the previous administration, based on policy differences."

As we've talked about this week, this is ridiculous for any number of reasons, but Sam Stein notes the hypocrisy -- by pointing to February 2001.

In the early months of 2001, as the Bush administration was publicly urging people to "look forward," Republicans in Congress were consumed by two decidedly backward-looking investigations. The most prominent of these was the controversial pardon of [Marc] Rich, the fugitive financier whose ex-wife had donated heavily to Democratic causes.

This is "outrageous," said then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who called for a congressional investigation. "We should at least take a look at what happened and ask ourselves, should we take some action to try to prevent abuses that do occur?"

"Congress has an obligation to find out if this was appropriate," said House Government Reform Committee Chair Dan Burton (R-IN) on January 26. "[My] panel will obtain 'subpoenas if necessary'"

"It needs to be investigated," said then New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. "I think it is worthy of investigation. The facts cry out for an answer to be given for why is it that this man was pardoned. Because the pardon process is an important thing. ... Until we get the answers to this question, that whole process is put in some jeopardy of being misunderstood by the public."

"While the president alone possesses the power to pardon," said Sen. Mitch McConnell. "it's important to remember that he is not personally exempt from federal laws that prohibit the corrupt actions of all government officials."

And that was just the Marc Rich issue. In 2001, Congress also demanded and received a lengthy investigation into White House "vandalism" caused by Clinton staffers, which ended up lasting nearly nine months.

Now, I suspect the response to this from Republicans is that this was different. The Rich pardon and alleged "vandalism" might have involved high-ranking White House officials engaging in illegal acts. Under those circumstances, GOP lawmakers in 2001 had no choice but to investigate and uphold the law.

Do you suppose it would matter to these same Republican lawmakers that torture is illegal? And systematic abuse is at least as serious a controversial presidential pardon?

  • Kurtz (TPM) Past as Predicate

    More on torture, from TPM Reader PB:

    I think something else tends to get lost in the current arguments about torture. The whole issue has been framed as "moving forward" and looking to the future (good) versus doling out "retribution" and dwelling on the past (bad). This is not merely the Republican framing of the issue, as Obama and many Democrats seem to have accepted this framework.

    But this framing is entirely wrong. A better way to look at is that we can either choose to do something about the fact people were tortured by the United States government, or we can choose to ignore it. Either outcome will have a profound effect on what happens in this country "moving forward."

    Choosing to ignore profound and systematic violations of international law creates a bad precedent that can (and no doubt will) be followed by future administrations. The current administration might be inclined to have a "no torture" policy, but the next one might think more like the Bush Administration. What expectation would members of future administrations have of being prosecuted for violating the law if we don't hold the past one accountable?

    In many ways the decision to "move forward" and pardon Nixon set the stage for Iran-Contra and the Bush administration's myriad law breaking. What future horrors will ignoring the fact that the Bush administration codified torture as a "legal" interrogation technique set the stage for? This is not a can that can be kicked down the road because we have other problems we have to deal with. But no matter what we do now, this is about what might happen in the future as much as it is about what did happen in the past.

Proving that not all wingers are raving lunatics, John Cole offers: Choking On the Ashes of Her Enemy

A perceptive piece by Daniel Larison (via his blog):

Critics have been belittling President Obama’s recent visit with Latin American leaders as a “contrition” and “apology” tour. But a more accurate tag would be “accountability” tour, and it’s long overdue.

What is interesting about Obama’s non-confrontational approach to both leaders is that it suggests Obama has learned not to feed the proverbial trolls. On the one hand, Obama has shown a willingness to engage hostile or critical foreign leaders in discussion. But he has also shown no desire to participate in international polemics, perhaps because he has come to see that the U.S. gains nothing from such confrontations. Better still, by largely ignoring the rantings of anti-American zealots, Obama may be able to split persuadable critics of America from those who are reflexively and genuinely anti-American. In an amusing irony, Obama, who is often accused of being an insubstantial rhetorician, has refrained from the long-winded, idealistic bluster on the international stage that his predecessor frequently indulged in. And it may already be paying dividends.

Well worth a read.

Kos: Questions to that half of Texas' Republicans

So we now know that half of Texas' Republicans want to secede from the United States. So I have some questions for that crowd:

  • Are you flying an American flag? Because you don't get to do that when you cry and take your ball home.
  • Do you have a bumper sticker that says, "These colors don't run"? Because it sure looks like you're running.
  • Do you still pretend that your party is the "Party of Lincoln"? If so, what part of Lincoln exactly, would that be?
  • Since you've spent the last eight years saying "America, love it or leave it", is that an admission that you don't love America? Because we liberals? We loved it and stayed, even when your idiot of a president was trashing the place.
  • Was your patriotism (My country, right or wrong) so skin-deep, that it depended 100 percent on the guy in the White House?
  • That $200 billion Texas got in defense contracts between 2000 and 2007? No more of that. No more Ft. Hood. No more NASA. No more federal largesse. You okay with that?
  • You do realize that the Cowboys will no longer be "America's Team", right? Though they'd dominate the two-team Texas Football League (TFL).
Think Progress: Bachmann: CO2 ‘is a natural byproduct of nature.’

On the House floor on Earth Day, April 22, 2009, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) argued that threat of manmade global warming doesn't make any sense because "carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of nature":

Carbon dioxide, Mister Speaker, is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can't even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that's on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that -- that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental lifecycle of Earth.

Watch it:

Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), later in the evening, demolished Bachmann for "making things up on the floor of the House."

Lunchtime Reading: legs for short skirts Edition

Bill Maher: The GOP: divorced from reality (h/t sgw)
If conservatives don't want to be seen as bitter people who cling to their guns and religion and anti-immigrant sentiments, they should stop being bitter and clinging to their guns, religion and anti-immigrant sentiments.

It's been a week now, and I still don't know what those "tea bag" protests were about. I saw signs protesting abortion, illegal immigrants, the bank bailout and that gay guy who's going to win "American Idol." But it wasn't tax day that made them crazy; it was election day. Because that's when Republicans became what they fear most: a minority.

The conservative base is absolutely apoplectic because, because ... well, nobody knows. They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. Even though they're not quite sure what "it" is. But they know they're fed up with "it," and that "it" has got to stop.

Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law.

And here's the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a teleprompter too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.

Do these sound like the concerns of a healthy, vibrant political party?

It's sad what's happened to the Republicans. They used to be the party of the big tent; now they're the party of the sideshow attraction, a socially awkward group of mostly white people who speak a language only they understand. Like Trekkies, but paranoid.

The GOP base is convinced that Obama is going to raise their taxes, which he just lowered. But, you say, "Bill, that's just the fringe of the Republican Party." No, it's not. The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is not afraid to say publicly that thinking out loud about Texas seceding from the Union is appropriate considering that ... Obama wants to raise taxes 3% on 5% of the people? I'm not sure exactly what Perry's independent nation would look like, but I'm pretty sure it would be free of taxes and Planned Parenthood. And I would have to totally rethink my position on a border fence.

Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.


And if today's conservatives are insulted by this, because they feel they're better than the people who have the microphone in their party, then I say to them what I would say to moderate Muslims: Denounce your radicals. To paraphrase George W. Bush, either you're with them or you're embarrassed by them.

The thing that you people out of power have to remember is that the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public.

During the 90s and the whole Lewinsky saga I just thought the Villagers were a bunch of shallow childish gossips. Now I understand that they're much more malicious than that, a corrupt class of moral monsters dedicated to the preservation of their status and privilege.

At least it's easier to point that out, now.
Attaturk: Today Joe Barton will outwit the Surgeon General by asking "Where do babies come from?"

Atrios has a Deep Thought The United States doesn't torture, but anyone who opposes torture is un-American.

DemfromCT (Daily Kos):USA Today/Gallup: Obama Earns "Political Capital"

Crisis management 101 from USA Today/Gallup:

President Obama's opening months in the Oval Office have fortified his standing with the American public, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, giving him political capital for battles ahead.

As his 100th day as president approaches next Wednesday, the survey shows Obama has not only maintained robust approval ratings but also bolstered the sense that he is a strong and decisive leader who can manage the government effectively during a time of economic crisis.

This is where the political capital gets underlined:

By more than 2-1, those surveyed credit Obama with keeping the promises he made during the campaign and making a sincere effort to work with congressional Republicans. In contrast, by 56%-38% they say congressional Republicans haven't made a sincere effort to work with him.

Oh, and everyone loves Michelle (79% approval.)

This, coupled with the in-depth data from Pew and AP in anticipation of the artificial 100 Days story, puts Obama in good position to get what he wants from Congress, Republican obstruction notwithstanding.

GOP's legal blockage
April 23: The Republicans continue to try to block Obama's pick for Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Dawn Johnsen. Rachel Maddow is joined by Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at

Sargent: Key Dem Senator Likely To Vote Against Top Obama Legal Nominee

Uh oh. This could signal real trouble for a key Obama nominee under assault by the right: Office of Legal Counsel chief Dawn Johnsen, a fierce Bush critic who would be at the center of the war over whether Obama will meaningfully reverse a host of Bush-era legal policies.

Conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson is all but certain to vote against Johnsen, Nelson spokesperson Clay Westrope tells me. Westrope confirms that while Nelson will take into account any further information that emerges, the Senator cannot now envision a scenario under which he’d support her — potentially making it an uphill climb to get her confirmed.

Johnsen is an important nomination: The OLC is the office where the torture memos were produced, and Obama’s pick of Johnsen cheered many liberals because it signaled a desire for his lawyers to aggressively articulate what the law allows. Johnsen has written that OLC lawyers should be “prepared to resign” if the White House ignores their opinions.

Johnsen has been under relentless attack by Republicans who claim her harsh legal criticism of Bush’s war on terror proves she’s weak on national security and cite her previous pro-choice statements as proof she’s an ideological hard-liner. But now a Democrat is echoing the latter criticism. Westrope emails:

“Senator Nelson is very concerned about the nomination of Dawn Johnson, based on her previous position as Counsel for NARAL. He believes that the Office of Legal Counsel is a position in which personal views can have an impact and is concerned about her outspoken pro-choice views on abortion.”

GOP Senators may filibuster the Johnsen nomination, meaning it will require 60 Senate votes to get through. So the loss of a Dem like Nelson could be a big deal.

Yglesias: Epidemic of Hippie-ism Spreading Through the Ranks of Former Generals

Warren Strobel reports on the radical left’s continued march through the ranks of distinguished military officers:

The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who’s now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.

“After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” Taguba wrote. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Taguba, whose 2004 investigation documented chilling abuses at Abu Ghraib, is thought to be the most senior official to have accused the administration of war crimes. “The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture,” he wrote.

With respect, I actually disagree that the “only” question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account. The more important question is whether we can get prominent political figures who play an important role in the anti-tax or anti-abortion movements to accept a commonsense definition of torture and to say that torture is wrong and we shouldn’t do it. We could be living in a world in which Republican-friendly executives were calling up the politicians to whom they make campaign contributions and saying “I hate unions and environmentalists as much as the next greedy bastard, but you guys should really stop defending torture—I’m not comfortable with the idea of bloodthirsty madmen running the country.” Instead, such people seem mostly inclined to keep writing checks and hope that the politicians they support can use the torture issue to win elections and start delivering on the anti-union, anti-environmentalist agenda.

An angry O'Donnell speaks with perfect clarity in this clip. It also includes an implicit criticism of the media for allowing people to lie without correction.
Lawrence O'Donnell, Jonathan Capehart take on Liz Cheney's torture myths

Taliban troubles April 23: Rachel Maddow is joined by NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent, Richard Engel to talk about the latest on the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Yglesias: If You Want Health Reform, Reconciliation Must Be On the Table

The debate over the use of the “budget reconciliation” process has taken on a weirdly circular quality. On the one hand, folks say that going through reconciliation will wreck the chances of Republican cooperation. On the other hand, reconciliation proponents maintain that if Republicans would do more cooperating there’d be no need for talk of reconciliation. Meanwhile, the key moderate Democrats who hold the balance of power in the Senate have shown a tendency to twist in the wind on this.

But with the Senate GOP acting yesterday to block a vote on Kathleen Sebelius’ confirmation on the grounds that she’s pro-choice, it’s time for a little Real Talk. There’s no indication that Republicans have any serious desire to cooperate on a serious health care reform bill. Instead, they seem to be interested in using the carrot of cooperation as a way to get Democrats to unilaterally abjure procedural methods and revenue sources that would make reform possible.

Igor Volsky surveys the record:

Of course, if you don’t give, you’re not gonna get and Republicans have shown only limited willingness to cooperate with Democrats on health care reform. Key Republicans voted against the popular SCHIP legislation, eight Republican senators (including health care heavy weights Grassely and Hatch) voted against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Service, Republicans misrepresented the intent of health information technology and comparative effectiveness research in the stimulus, encouraged smear groups to lie about CER and health IT, invited Easter special Sally Pipes to testify about health care reform, and have already taken the public option off the table.

Bipartisan outreach is, at times, a necessity. When the same party controls concurrent majorities in both houses of congress and the White House and is discussing an issue that’s eligible for reconciliation treatment, it is not a necessity. It’s a tactical option. But it’s just that—a tactical option, not a first-order concern of substantive policy.

What I worry is that there are a certain number of Democrats who, deep down, just join their Republican colleagues in not wanting to see health care reformed. But they don’t want to say that. So they may first block efforts to prevent the GOP from blocking reform, and then let the GOP block reform, all the while posing as reformers. Keep your eyes open.

Rothenberg: April Madness: Can GOP Win Back the House in 2010?

Cheerleading has its place, including on a high school or college basketball court. But not when it comes to political analysis.

Over the past couple of weeks, at least three Republicans - House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and campaign consultant Tony Marsh - have raised the possibility of the GOP winning back the House of Representatives next year.

That idea is lunacy and ought to be put to rest immediately.

None of the three actually predicted that Republicans would gain the 40 seats that they need for a majority, but all three held out hope that that's possible. It isn't.

"I don't remove the prospect that we could take the majority back in 2010," Cantor said at a breakfast with reporters early this month.

Gingrich recently told Roll Call contributing writer Nathan Gonzales that Democratic support for the budget and the stimulus bill could help the GOP "beat enough Democrats to get Republicans back into the majority."

Tony Marsh, a consultant to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, went further in a piece. He argued that Republicans can win back the House next year by expanding the playing field, running smarter campaigns and offering a "contrasting and visionary message to America."

Yes, Republicans have plenty of opportunities in good districts following their loss of 53 House seats over the past two cycles. And yes, there are signs that the Republican hemorrhage has stopped and even possibly that the party's fortunes have begun to reverse course.

But there are no signs of a dramatic rebound for the party, and the chance of Republicans winning control of either chamber in the 2010 midterm elections is zero. Not "close to zero." Not "slight" or "small." Zero.

Big changes in the House require a political wave. You can cherry-pick your way to a five- or eight-seat gain, but to win dozens of seats, a party needs a wave.

Recruiting better candidates and running better campaigns won't produce anything like what took place in 1980, 1994, 2006 and 2008, when waves resulted in huge gains for one party. The current political environment actually minimizes the chance of a near-term wave developing.

The problem for Republicans is that they aren't yet in the position - and won't be in one by November of next year - to run on a pure message of change, or on pent-up demand for change.


The uptick in mood, combined with the public's still-vivid memory of the disappointing Bush years, makes it almost impossible for Republicans to deliver a change argument successfully. GOP candidates and strategists will have to wait for at least another election cycle before they can hope that a change message will resonate with voters.

Of course, there are millions of Americans who are unhappy with Obama's agenda and with the direction of the country. But those people have never liked Obama, and more importantly, they don't come close to constituting a majority of Americans.

Most Americans - even many of those who are still worried and pessimistic - are willing to give Obama more time and to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The benefit of the doubt is exactly what voters gave President Franklin Roosevelt and his party in the 1934 midterms, when Democrats gained seats after two disastrous elections for the GOP during which the party lost a total of 150 seats in the House. Democrats gained seats for a third successive election in 1934 (nine seats) and for a fourth cycle in a row in 1936 (11 seats).

It's not yet clear which party will gain seats in next year's midterms or how large the swing will be. The GOP could well gain back some ground, given how far its House numbers have fallen.

But a small gain is not the standard of success that Marsh and company have set. They've talked about the country making a 180-degree turn after two years and following a Democratic wave for change with a Republican wave for change.

Since there is no sign of that happening, we are left with the obvious conclusion: Cantor, Gingrich and Marsh are merely cheerleading, trying to make their supporters more energetic about next year's elections.

But cheerleading to keep enthusiasm high has a downside. It creates unreasonable expectations. Managing expectations, not creating impossible ones, is also part of the game.

Given their unbridled early cheerleading, Marsh, Cantor and Gingrich better have the legs for short skirts.


To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, Republicans keep using this phrase, but I don't think it means what they think it means.

On Tuesday, Karl Rove argued on Fox News that accountability for Bush administration officials who broke the law would make United States "the moral equivalent of a Latin American country run by colonels in mirrored sunglasses."

Almost immediately, the right embraced the argument as their new favorite. In just the past few days, in addition to Rove, the notion of the United States becoming a "Banana Republic" has been touted by radio host Bill Cunningham, Sean Hannity, Mark Steyn, and Glenn Beck, among others.

Yesterday, this blisteringly stupid argument reached the level of the United States Senate. Sens. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) actually repeated the Rove-inspired nonsense in public:

McCain: "In Banana Republics they prosecute people for actions they didn't agree with under previous administrations."

Bond: "This whole thing about punishing people in past administrations reminds me more of a Banana Republic than the United States of America. We don't criminally prosecute people we disagree with when we change office. There are lots of questions that could have been asked of the Clinton administration failing to recognize the war on terror. They did not. The Bush administration went forward, and that's the way our country should. The President said he was going to be forward looking and now he has opened up the stab in the back."

It would take too long to go through this foolishness word by word, so let's just address the broader point: these Republican lawmakers and officials are also using the same coordinated phrase, but they don't seem to know what a "Banana Republic" is.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a "Banana Republic" is an accountable chief executive who ignores the rule of law when it suits his/her purposes. The ruling junta in a "Banana Republic" eschews accountability, commits heinous acts in secret, tolerates widespread corruption, and generally embraces a totalitarian attitude in which the leader can break laws whenever he/she feels it's justified to protect the state.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Rove, McCain, Bond, Hannity, Beck, et al are so caught up in their partisan rage, they've failed to realize they have the story backwards. They're so far gone, they're so blinded by their rigid ideology, they have no idea that they're projecting. It's genuinely pathetic.

If our goal is to avoid looking like a "Banana Republic," then we would investigate those responsible for torture, which is, not incidentally, illegal. The accused would enjoy the presumption of innocence and due process rights. The process would be transparent, and those who act (and have acted) in our name would be held accountable.

It's the hallmark of a great and stable democracy: we honor the rule of law, even when it's inconvenient, and even when it meets the cries of small men with sad ideas.

To do otherwise, to retreat because a right-wing minority whines incessantly, would do more to make us look like a "Banana Republic" than anything else.


The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has been hard at work this week, exploring global warming and ways to combat climate change in considerable detail. The efforts culminate today with committee testimony from Al Gore.

House Republicans were able to invite their own witnesses to give testimony, and last night, they announced that they're calling on one of their own big guns.

Newt Gingrich has just been added to the witness list for tomorrow's House hearing on energy and global warming legislation.

Gingrich will appear before a subcommittee hearing immediately follow the testimony of Al Gore and former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who are expected to make a bipartisan push for the comprehensive energy legislation introduced by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.). That legislation includes cap-and-trade provisions.

"Some on the majority side believed for the longest time that the former speaker knows a lot about health policy but not so much about energy or the environment," said Lisa Miller, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the committee. "When reminded that he was a former professor of environmental studies and wrote two books, 'Contract with the Earth' and 'Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less', they decided to permit him to testify before a subcommittee. It wasn't a bad outcome, even if it took awhile."

A few quick points. First, for GOP officials to keep relying on Newt Gingrich to be a party leader is a dream come true for Democrats. Second, on a related note, that Republicans can't think of anyone better than Gingrich to be a high-profile voice on energy issues points to just how serious the party's mess really is.

And third, there's the inconvenient fact that when it comes to energy and environmental policy, Newt Gingrich doesn't have the foggiest idea what he's talking about.

Should be an interesting day on the Hill.

Atrios on Servicers
The banksters don't want to be responsible for anything it seems.
With tens of thousands of homes across Florida left abandoned and overgrown by the foreclosure crisis, governments from Miami to Winter Garden have responded by sending crews out to mow lawns, clean pools and do other basic work -- leaving behind bills for the banks to pay once they take possession of the property.

The state's banking industry wants to put a stop to the practice.

Banking lobbyists have quietly crafted a measure in the Florida Legislature that would prevent cities and counties from forcing the banks that hold mortgages on properties in foreclosure to maintain those properties until they have actually acquired the title to the land -- a process that can take six months or more to complete. The language, written by the Florida Bankers Association, would also prevent cities from establishing registries to keep track of all the foreclosed homes in their area.
I'm sure some beancounters think this is a good idea, but I'm pretty sure this is really really stupid. Failure to maintain these properties is going to leave the banks with title to squatter-filled gutted shells with a mosquito farm in the pool.

Our media

Atrios: Versailles During the 90s and the whole Lewinsky saga I just thought the Villagers were a bunch of shallow childish gossips. Now I understand that they're much more malicious than that, a corrupt class of moral monsters dedicated to the preservation of their status and privilege. At least it's easier to point that out, now.

Terrific post by Glenn. You should go read the whole thing.
Glenn Greenwald: Three key rules of media behavior shape their discussions of "the 'torture' debate"

(2) Nobody is more opposed to transparency and disclosure of government secrets than establishment "journalists." Richard Cohen wrote of the Lewis Libby prosecution: "it is often best to keep the lights off." ABC News' Peggy Noonan said this week of torture investigations: "Some things in life need to be mysterious. Sometimes you need to just keep walking." The Washington Post's David Ignatius, condemning Obama for releasing the OLC memos, warned: "the country is fighting a war, and it needs to take care that the sunlight of exposure doesn't blind its shadow warriors." And the favorite mantra of media stars and Beltway mavens everywhere -- Look Forward, Not Backwards -- is nothing but a plea that extreme government crimes remain concealed and unexamined.

This remains the single most notable and revealing fact of American political life: that (with some very important exceptions) those most devoted to maintaining and advocating government secrecy is our journalist class, of all people. It would be as if the leading proponents of cigarette smoking were physicians, or those most vocally touting the virtues of illiteracy were school teachers. Nothing proves the true function of these media stars as government spokespeople more than their eagerness to shield government actions from examination and demand that government criminality not be punished.


Sully: What David Boren Saw

It's hard to think of a more establishment figure - particularly close to the Bush family, for example. He is also well-versed in intelligence and policy. He was chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 1987 to 1993. And when he was sent to be briefed at Langley in February on the torture program set up by Dick Cheney, he said that:

[A]ttending the briefings was "one of the most deeply disturbing experiences I have had" and that "I wanted to take a bath when I heard it. I was ashamed of it." He said he concluded that "fear was used to justify the use of techniques that violate our values and weaken our intelligence" and that the agency did not prove those methods "are particularly effective at getting the truth."

Is this debate still going to be refracted through the prism of right and left in the lazy MSM? Or are they even capable of telling right from wrong?

Friday Morning: They did win the election Edition

100 days and confused April 23: In the face of America's apparent optimism about the Obama presidency, the Republican Party flounders in search of things to criticize. Rachel Maddow is joined by Gov. Ed Rendell, D-PA.

Josh Marshall: Quite a Thing to Say

The words may not be that surprising. But the speaker is. This is McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt on the Obama campaign ...

If you read history about Bobby Kennedy's unfinished race in '68, this was, in my view, the unfinished Bobby Kennedy campaign - the idealism, the passion, the inspiration he gave to people, it was organic and it was real and it wasn't manufactured at a tactical level in the campaign. It was a function of the president's unique skill set and presence, and it was really taken advantage of by a campaign that for the first time using the social networking technology....
Think Progress: Rep. Ryan: Democrats have a ‘right’ to use budget reconciliaton.
Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration have floated using "budget reconciliation" to pass health care reform -- where only 51 votes would be required for approval of a bill -- to bypass the increasing number of Republican filibuster threats. In response, Senate Republicans have said they would "grind the Senate to a virtual halt"; Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) explained that reconciliation would be "the nuclear war." Today, GOP up-and-comer Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), however, said it is Democrats' "right" to use budget reconciliation:

“It's their right. They did win the election,” said Ryan, R-Wis. “That’s what I tell all my constituents who are worried about this. They won the election. They did run on these ideas. They did run on nationalizing health care. So, you're right about that. They have the votes with reconciliation. They nailed down the process so that they can make sure they have the votes and that they can get this thing through really fast. It is their right. It is what they can do.”

Notably, much of President Bush's agenda was passed in Republican-controlled Congresses using budget reconciliation. At the Wonk Room, Igor Volsky writes that reconciliation is the key to achieving health care reform.

Krugman: Reclaiming America’s Soul

“Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” So declared President Obama, after his commendable decision to release the legal memos that his predecessor used to justify torture. Some people in the political and media establishments have echoed his position. We need to look forward, not backward, they say. No prosecutions, please; no investigations; we’re just too busy.

And there are indeed immense challenges out there: an economic crisis, a health care crisis, an environmental crisis. Isn’t revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can’t afford?

No, it isn’t, because America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. “This government does not torture people,” declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.

And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.

What about the argument that investigating the Bush administration’s abuses will impede efforts to deal with the crises of today? ...


Still, you might argue — and many do — that revisiting the abuses of the Bush years would undermine the political consensus the president needs to pursue his agenda.

But the answer to that is, what political consensus? There are still, alas, a significant number of people in our political life who stand on the side of the torturers. But these are the same people who have been relentless in their efforts to block President Obama’s attempt to deal with our economic crisis and will be equally relentless in their opposition when he endeavors to deal with health care and climate change. The president cannot lose their good will, because they never offered any.


Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.

We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.

Yglesias: Cheney Says Techniques Taught In Torture-Resistance Classes Can’t Be Torture

Matt Corley has Liz Cheney explaining that waterboarding’s not torture because we subject soldiers to waterboarding when they undergo SERE training.

Matt observes that what goes on when we torture a captive is actually pretty different from a training exercise. That said, the larger issue here is that SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. And by “resistance” they mean resistance to torture. What we do when we train soldiers isn’t torture, because it’s training. But it’s training in torture resistance. When we look through the torture-resistance manual to find ways to do interrogations, we’re looking through the torture-resistance manual to find ways of torturing people.

It’s important to recall that the SERE people asked to provide information to interrogators about how to do torture specifically warned the would-be torturers that their techniques would be illegal to apply and unlikely to produce reliable information.

This whole argument is an insult to people’s intelligence. It’s like saying that shooting someone in the head isn’t really murder because police officers do target practice.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wingnuts: Profound Weakness Edition

Josh has deep thoughts:
Josh: Okay, He Probably Won't Be Apologizing. Long-shot PA Senate candidate Larry Murphy (R) on Rush: "Rush Limbaugh is a racist, he's a cancer to the Republican Party and he should be excised."

Drum: Chart of the Day - 4.23.2009

Just kill me now. Via The Monkey Cage.

Because the very popular Governor of Kansas is, without doubt, a radical ...
Think Progress: Senate Republicans block vote on Sebelius nomination.
The Senate was expected to confirm President Obama's choice for Health and Human Services Secretary today, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), but Senate Republicans refused to allow the vote, calling her a "fairly contentious" candidate:

At the start of the session today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proposed taking a vote after five hours of debate. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, arguing that lawmakers needed more time to consider her "fairly contentious" selection.

A handful of Republicans have complained about Sebelius' support for abortion rights and her failure to report the full extent of campaign contributions she received from a physician who performs abortions.

The Wichita Eagle editorial department blog writes of the GOP obstruction: "Many of the Kansans of both parties who elected Sebelius to statewide office four times may have trouble recognizing thier cautious, middle-of-the-road governor in the portrait painted nationally of an abortion- and socialism-loving tax cheat."

UpdateOther key Obama nominees the GOP are currently blocking from assuming their positions include Ashton Carter, nominated for Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics; Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel; and Harold Koh as the State Department's top legal adviser.

Kleefeld (TPM): Poll: Texas Republicans Approve Of Rick Perry's Secession Remarks

A new Research 2000 poll finds that Rick Perry's suggestion at the Tea Party last week, that Texas might have to secede from the Union, actually has significant support from his home state's Republican voters.

One question: "Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America?" The top-line number is United States 61%, independent nation 35%. Among Republicans, it's a dead-even tie at 48%-48%.

And then there's this one: "Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Rick Perry's suggestion that Texas may need to leave the United States?" The top-line is only 37% approval to 58% disapproval -- but among Texas Republicans, it's 51% approval to 44% disapproval.

President Chuck Norris (of the Texas Republic), here we come!

digby: Blowing Off Steam
The Conservative Id puts it all in perspective:
LIMBAUGH: We have allowed — we have allowed these guys, Obama and his buddies over at the CIA and in Congress, to water down the definition of torture to mean anything that makes a person uncomfortable. You know what this reminds me of? Remember when the NOW gang and all these other social interest groups started asking women if they’d ever been a victim of domestic violence? They didn’t like the numbers they got initially. The numbers weren’t high enough for the NOW gang. So they expanded the definition to include a man shouting at them. A man shouting at them equaled domestic violence. It didn’t matter if the women shouted first. But let’s not get sidetracked. The important thing to understand is that these appeasers have painted themselves into a corner. Dick Cheney has now called their bluff. The stark truth is that despite what the political left and the Hollywood elite say, extreme measures, enhanced measures, so-called torture — whatever you want to call it — it works. And he’s seen the memos. And he wants them released.
Yeah, it "works." Just like it "works" when a man threatens to punch a woman in the face if she doesn't tell him she loves him. She tells him she loves him.

This is the way the right thinks. Limbaugh even famously believes that US soldiers should be allowed to torture prisoners to relieve their stress. And he's still invited into the homes of seemingly decent people. They defend him on the pages of their magazines.

Here's the thing: these people are puerile, schoolyard thinkers who believe in any means to an end. If they could have done what they truly wanted to do after 9/11, they would have opened concentration camps or started a nuclear war. They believe that you have to use everything you have at your disposal or the wogs (everyone but us) will think you are weak. That's the full extent of their understanding of the way the world works.

That using torture and endless imprisonment of innocent people are immoral and disgusting taboos that put the perpetrator in the same company as history's most evil villains is entirely unpersuasive to these people --- they think that's a good thing. But even on a practical level that even a very average 9th grader should be able to understand, you would hope they could see that these people hurt the nation in ways that we'll be dealing with for decades --- we showed that America loses its head when attacked, overreacts, spends and then botches the whole thing so badly we don't know whether we are coming or going. We've shown that we are pants wetting, panic artists who will harm ourselves when frightened. And that is a weakness no powerful nation should ever allow the world to see.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade probably didn't realize why his comments this morning about torture were so painful, so let's try to help him out.

Kilmeade, speaking over a chyron that read, "Out for revenge?" told viewers this morning, "Ralph Peters postulates, and maybe you do too, 'If you really cared about torture, maybe you should look into Iran, what's happening in the Gaza strip, what happens daily in Cuba and what's happening in Cuba's prisons, as well as Syria.' This, according to Ralph Peters and others, is about revenge."

It's hard not to appreciate watching a Fox News personality quote a New York Post personality. Murdoch must be pleased.

Nevertheless, given that President Obama has expressed absolutely no interest in pursuing investigations against Bush administration officials, it's kind of silly to characterize this as "revenge." More important, though, is the fact that torture is scandalously common in countries with dictators and/or totalitarian regimes. "Maybe we should look into" this? We have looked into this, and are disgusted by what these lawless regimes do to their prisoners.

Note to Kilmeade: that's the point. So many Americans are incensed by the Bush administration's torture policies precisely because it throws the United States in with countries like Iran, Cuba, and Syria. We're supposed to be the leader of the free world, a beacon of hope for free people everywhere, and now people are equating our treatment of prisoners with the politicies of dictatorships.

Indeed, Fox News and the New York Post are encouraging the comparisons, as part of a defense of torture.

Does any of this occur to people like Kilmeade and Peters? Even a little?

Arrogance is almost always unseemly, but I think there's an important distinction to be made between conceit and misplaced arrogance. The prior is merely unseemly; the latter is humiliating.

Yesterday, at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Exxon), the committee's ranking member and former chairman, asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu how Alaska got oil and gas. Presumably, he meant geologically. Chu paused briefly, laughed, and tried to explain the science to the confused lawmaker.

Shortly thereafter, Barton tweeted, "I seem to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question - Where does oil come from?" Indeed, when Barton's office posted the clip to YouTube, they included a message at the start of the video: "Where does oil come from? Question leaves Energy Secretary puzzled."

This is what I meant by "misplaced arrogance." Barton seems awfully pleased with himself for having asked a foolish question and not understanding the answer. Chu paused before answering the question, not because the Nobel Prize winning scientist was "baffled" and "puzzled" by the Republican's inquiry, but because Chu quickly realized he was responding to a lawmaker with the sophistication of a junior high-school student.

This isn't something Barton should be proud of; it's something he should be embarrassed by. Barton's confusion is predictable. It's his smug pride, driven entirely by ignorance, that's annoying.

  • wvng: Frankly, to me the fascinating thing about this, and the other numerous examples of astonishing repuglican stoopidity is that, within their echo chamber, Barton will be congratulated for his wisdom and for slamming that pointy headed liberal. And since they won't venture outside of their bubble, they will have no exposure to anyone who mentions how stupid he appeared.

    They are, quite literally, creating their own reality. And they are doing it about as effectively as the Bush admin did. Their reality isn't real to anyone but themselves.


House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared pretty ridiculous a few days ago, arguing on national television that it's "comical" to think carbon emissions contribute to global warming.

As humiliating as it was to see that the leading House Republican still doesn't understand the basics of the policy debate, it was a reminder of the more systemic ignorance.

The Republican Party still isn't sure global warming is man-made, one of the top Republican lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming said this Earth Day.

"I don't know that there is a party position on this issue," Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday during an appearance on the Fox Business Network. "I think that there is some debate on whether global warming is in fact being caused by man-made greenhouse gases."

Shadegg is the second-ranking Republican lawmaker on the special House committee, which was established to help curb carbon emissions and global warming.

Shadegg added that "sun spots" might be a possible explanation for rising global temperatures.

His comments came the same day Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) described a cap-and-trade policy as "the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I've ever experienced." This is the same Shimkus who recently said we can't limit carbon emissions, because we'd be "taking away plant food from the atmosphere." He added, "The Earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over."

And those comments came around the same time Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) argued that we need not worry about global warming, because in a pinch, humanity can simply pursue an "utterly natural reflex response to nature," by finding "shade."

In addition to the obvious head-shaking stupidity here, it's a reminder of why bipartisan solutions to pressing crises probably aren't a legitimate option right now. Republican policymakers seem to have created their own reality, one in which global warming isn't a problem, recessions end through spending freezes, our health care system is the best in the world, increasing military spending is "cutting" defense, and handshakes are a sign of weakness.

Between sanity and craziness, there is no common ground.

John Cole: The Wanking Will Continue Until Morale Improves

This is an excellent idea:

A conservative faction of the Republican National Committee is urging the GOP to take a harder line against both Democrats and wayward Republicans, drafting a resolution to rename the opposition the “Democrat Socialist Party” and moving to rebuke the three Republican senators who supported the stimulus package.

In an e-mail sent Wednesday to the 168 voting members of the committee, RNC member James Bopp, Jr. accused President Obama of wanting “to restructure American society along socialist ideals.”

“The proposed resolution acknowledges that and calls upon the Democrats to be truthful and honest with the American people by renaming themselves the Democrat Socialist Party,” wrote Bopp, the Republican committeeman from Indiana. “Just as President Reagan’s identification of the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire’ galvanized opposition to communism, we hope that the accurate depiction of the Democrats as a Socialist Party will galvanize opposition to their march to socialism.”

Can’t these guys grow up enough to at least have the decency to call it the “DemocratIC Socialist Party.” Sheesh. At any rate, their efforts to date have been a smashing success (via):

Keep it up, guys. Keep it up.