Saturday, May 9, 2009

Wingnut Saturday: center-right nation Edition

DougJ: It’s a gentleman’s sport, you know

CBS golf analyst David Feherty (via Glenn Thrush):

From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this, though: despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, there’s a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death.
  • Atrios adds: I'm sure there are plenty in the military who hate Democrats. I bet plenty don't! I don't really know how it breaks down and it doesn't really matter. I'm not going to play mindreader, but if I were in the military I wouldn't be too thrilled if someone assumed that we were all just waiting for an opportunity to assassinate leading politicians.
  • VoteVets had an item: "Evidently, Feherty believes that we are mindless machines of death, who would without hesitation accept a loaded weapon from a stranger in civilian society, and then use that weapon to assassinate political leaders of the country we have sworn to defend.... Feherty, who to my knowledge has never served his country or ours in uniform, makes the assumption that he knows Soldiers and Veterans, and that 'any U.S. soldier' has such hatred for (again) the political leaders of the country we have sworn to defend, that we could not be professional enough to help ourselves from committing murder on the spot. What Mr. Feherty might not understand is that there are few Americans who have been as loyal to Veterans and Soldiers as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. If I found myself in that proverbial elevator, the first thing I would do is thank them both profusely."
Richard Clarke:

"This video and the recent Republican attacks on Guantanamo are more desperate attempts from a demoralized party to politicize national security and the safety of the American people. But what is more disturbing is their brazen use of imagery and the memory of 9/11 to score political points. Thousands of Americans tragically died that day, and for the GOP to think it can win elections by denigrating their memory is disgraceful.

"The difference between these Republican videos and the very terrorist propaganda that seeks to damage our society is negligible. Each attempt to stoke the embers of fear in order to disrupt American life. Just as al Qaeda videos should be viewed as misguided rants from a small group of marginalized radicals, so too should these Republican videos be equally dismissed. As opposed to what the GOP thinks, the American people are not that naive."

The Empire strikes back May 8: Former Vice President Dick Cheney continues to grant interviews in which he criticizes the Obama administration and defends waterboarding. Is it right for Cheney to keep speaking out? Rachel Maddow is joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind,

Josh Marshall: Some Things Never Fail to Surprise

Can it really be true that the list of Americans who will appear on the Sunday shows this weekend is David Petraeus, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and John McCain?

I guess it really is a center-right nation.

Sully: Saving The GOP

Jon Henke makes a start:

The Republican brand does not merely need a little tinkering. The Republican brand is not the victim of Democratic rhetoric and framing. The Republican brand is so bad because people accurately perceive the state of the Republican Party. Rhetorical contrition and promises are insufficient. Fixing that problem requires actual, painful, reform.
Right turn only May 8: Rachel Maddow talks to former DNC chairman Howard Dean about what's been going on with the Republican Party lately.


What kind of a man eats his hamburger without ketchup? That was the big question yesterday on talk radio, after President Obama visited an Arlington, Virginia, hamburger place on Tuesday and ordered his burger with spicy mustard.

First answer: Texans.

Texans traditionally eat hamburgers with mustard or with mayonnaise (or with both), but without ketchup. This is simply called a “hamburger” in Texas, but is sometimes called a “Cowboy Burger” or a “Texas Burger” outside of Texas.

A hamburger with ketchup is sometimes called a “Yankee Burger.” A hamburger with mayonnaise is sometimes called a “Sissy Burger.”

Dirty Martin’s (in Austin since 1926) serves hamburgers with mustard, pickles, onions, and tomatoes, but it is not known when this combination began. The popular Texas “Whataburger” hamburger chain has served hamburgers with mustard from its founding (1950). The hamburger-with-mustard combination in Texas is attested at least from the 1950s, but the pre-1950s hamburger condiments cannot be firmly established.

Second answer: Republicans. A 2000 survey of members of Congress by the National Hot Dog Council found that 73% of Republican lawmakers preferred mustard to ketchup, as opposed to 47% of Democratic lawmakers.

Final answer: traditionalists. Louis' Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, the restaurant widely believed to have served the first hamburgers ever made in the United States, absolutely forbids ketchup.

Next question?


These "sovereignty" resolutions in "red" states are generating a little too much support for our modern democracy. Hendrik Hertzberg takes a closer look at a stark-raving mad resolution out of Georgia.

[Georgia] has passed a resolution that mixes three parts inanity and one part prospective treason into a Kompletely Krazy Kocktail of militia-minded moonshine and wacko white lightning -- a resolution that not only endorses defiance of federal law but also threatens anarchy and revolution.

Really, you can't make this stuff up. You have to read it in full to believe it. Even then you can't believe it. You thought that "nullification" had been rendered inoperative by the Civil War? Well, think again. You considered secession a pre-Appomattox kind of thing? Well, reconsider. You assumed that John C. Calhoun was a dead parrot? Well, turns out he was only resting.

The resolution is written in a mock eighteenth-century style, ornate and pompous.... But the substance is even nuttier than the style.

The substance, if you want to call it that, delves into "nullification" theory (Georgia can nullify federal laws it doesn't like), and suggests federal gun-control laws can lead to the disbandment of the United States.

The measure passed the Georgia state Senate 43 to 1. Similar measures have been embraced by lawmakers in other states, primarily in the South, and all of this comes after the governor of Texas spoke publicly about secession. Other governors, including South Carolina's Mark Sanford, are reportedly warming up to Civil War-era ideas.

Ed Kilgore explained:

As someone just old enough to remember the last time when politicians in my home southern region made speeches rejecting the Supremacy Clause and the 14th amendment, I may take this sort of activity more seriously than some. But any way you slice it, Republicans are playing with some crazy fire. For all the efforts of its sponsors to sell the "sovereignty resolution" idea as a grassroots development flowing out of the so-called Tea Party Movement, its most avid supporters appear to be the John Birch Society and the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor to the White Citizens Councils of ill-fame. And given the incredibly unsavory provenance of this "idea," it's no surprise that these extremist groups are viewing the "movement" as an enormous vindication of their twisted points of view.

If John C. Calhoun offered the definitive articulation of the nullification theory, his nemesis, President Andrew Jackson, offered the definitive response, which holds true today. He said the doctrine was "incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed."

For Vitter or worse May 8: Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, is blocking President Obama's nominee to head FEMA. Why does he keep delaying this nomination when there's only one month until hurricane season starts? Rachel Maddow is joined by Louisiana Weekly reporter Christopher Tidmore.

sgw: Like A Hot Knife Through Butter

Lawrence O'Donnell guest hosted "The Ed Show" tonight and this guy was choke slamming right wing idjuts left and right. In the first clip he peeled the skin off of both Frank Gaffney's and David Rivkin's hide on the issue of torture. They will be licking those wounds for some time.

And then he took aim at Scott Wheeler over his planned opposition to Judge Sonia Sotomayor should she be President Obama's Supreme Court nominee and blew his ass right out of the water. They may just have to find a place for Larry in the line-up over there at MSNBC.

  • "I Don't Believe I've Ever Met A Homosexual"

    James Kirchick writes:

    "I oppose using a person's sexual orientation as a job qualification for the same reasons that I oppose the privileging of a candidate based upon their race or sex: It boils individuals down to their immutable traits. The only aspect that Obama should consider as he weighs his options over the next few days is the candidates' jurisprudence."

    Matt Yglesias responds:

    "The nature of the Supreme Court is that a great many of its most important cases concern the rights of women and various kinds of minority groups. It's absurd to think that a forum of nine white, male, heterosexual Christians could possibly compose the best possible forum for deciding these kinds of issues. The reality is that a nine-person group can't possibly fully represent the diversity -- in terms of religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, etc. -- that exists in the country at large. But one can do better or worse on this regard and it makes perfect sense to aspire to do better. That's not an alternative to caring about the quality of the jurisprudence, it's part of trying to get good jurisprudence."

    This is absolutely right, and I think it's why Obama was right to say that he wanted to nominate a justice who is not just "dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role", but who has the "quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles". This is not opposed to caring about getting the law right; it's about understanding what is at stake in various cases well enough to see how the law, as it is written, actually applies.

    To see why this matters, consider an anecdote about Justice Powell's deliberations in Bowers v. Hardwick.

    Bowers was a case in which Matthew Hardwick, who had been arrested for engaging in consensual homosexual sex in his own home, challenged the Georgia sodomy statute under which he had been charged. One of the crucial questions on which the case turned was: are sexual activities between consenting adults, carried out in their own homes, protected under either the ninth or the fourteenth amendments?

    Given previous cases involving the right to privacy, it was crucial to decide whether such acts involved what Justice Blackmun, in his dissent, called "the fundamental interest all individuals have in controlling the nature of their intimate associations with others", or just a right to engage in homosexual sodomy, as the majority claimed. Is the right to decide which consenting adult to have sex with, and how, one of those fundamental interests that we take the ninth and fourteenth amendments to protect, or is it not?

    In their arguments (1, 2, 3), the majority discussed only gay sex, even though the Georgia statute also criminalized heterosexual sodomy. They also described their findings in terms of their application to homosexuals, saying things like: "The Constitution does not confer a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy."

    One might therefore ask: did the various Justices have any clear conception of the importance, to gay men and lesbians, of being able to have sex with the people they love? One might think that anyone would understand that, but that is only true if one accepts the idea that gay men and lesbians are people, rather than members of some strange alien species. So: how did the Justices think about gay men and lesbians?

    Here's some evidence from Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine, pp. 218-219 (note that Justice Powell was the swing vote in this case, and came down in favor of upholding Georgia's sodomy statute):

    "One Saturday in the spring of 1986, Justice Lewis Powell struck up a conversation with one of his law clerks, Cabell Chinnis Jr., about Bowers v. Hardwick. As Chinnis recounted the exchange to Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price, authors of a history of gay rights at the Supreme Court, Powell asked about the prevalence of homosexuality, which one friend-of-the-court brief estimated at 10%. Chinnis said that sounded right to him. "I don't believe I've ever met a homosexual", Powell replied. Chinnis said that seemed unlikely. Later the same day, Powell came back to Chinnis and asked, "Why don't homosexuals have sex with women?" "Justice Powell," he replied, "a gay man cannot have an erection to perform intercourse with a woman." The conversation was especially bizarre not just because of its explicit nature but because Chinnis himself was gay (as were several of Powell's previous law clerks.)"

    You have to feel for the poor clerk: there he is, a closeted gay man, being quizzed by his boss about why homosexuals don't have sex with women. (Apparently, Justice Powell wasn't thinking of lesbians at all.) I think that a good working definition of empathy would be: that quality that allows a straight man or woman to know the answer to that question without having to ask his or her law clerks. And I would think that the fact that Justice Powell had to ask that question might explain why he believed, falsely, that he had never met a homosexual: if you were gay, would you tell him?

    Justice Powell was, as I said, the swing vote in a case that upheld criminalizing consensual gay sex carried out in the privacy of one's own home. It seems pretty clear that he had no conception of what it was like to be gay, and was therefore in no position to decide on the importance of the rights that he was deciding on. That is not a good way to interpret the law when, as in this case, the importance of a right is central to the question whether or not it is protected.

    Consider how different things might have been had there been an openly gay man or woman on the Supreme Court, one who might have explained his or her take on this to Justice Powell.

    I do not believe that we ought to try to represent every group in existence on the Supreme Court. Most importantly, representation obviously matters less than things like wisdom, devotion to the law and to its faithful interpretation, depth of understanding, and so forth. For another, there are only nine justices, and many more groups whom it would, other things equal, be good to represent. (This is one reason why empathy matters: it's obviously impossible to represent everyone, so there's no substitute for Justices being able to understand the impact of their decisions on people unlike themselves.) And the groups people normally think of are not all the relevant ones: in terms of understanding the importance of laws to those they affect, I think that Sonia Sotomayer's having grown up in the projects is as important as the fact that Kathleen Sullivan and Pam Karlan are openly gay.

    (Side note: some conservatives seem to think that empathy necessarily favors criminals. I don't think this is true at all. Growing up in the projects might give someone a particularly clear understanding of just how much damage crime does to inner city communities. I think that it's the understanding that matters, not which side it turns out to favor in a given case.)

    But Kirchick is not objecting to the idea that we should care only about getting representatives of various groups on the Court, which I agree is absurd. He says that sexual orientation should not be "a job qualification", which I take to mean that it should not be a consideration at all, even when one is choosing between several highly qualified candidates. For the reasons given above, I think this is wrong. And it's not wrong because representing groups matters more than good jurisprudence, but because, as Bowers v. Hardwick makes clear, ignorance can lead to bad law.


We saw Star Trek last night. Surprisingly good.

The Vulcan Factor


David Itzkoff sits down with Leonard Nimoy:

President Obama has drawn not-infrequent comparisons to the Spock character. Do you see any similarities there?

I’ve met him twice. The first time was a couple years ago, very early on when he had just announced his candidacy. He was in Los Angeles, speaking at a luncheon we were invited to. There was a very small crowd — minuscule compared to the crowd that he gathered later — at a private home in Los Angeles. And we were standing on the back patio, waiting for him. And he came through the house, saw me and immediately put his hand up in the Vulcan gesture. He said, “They told me you were here.” We had a wonderful brief conversation and I said, “It would be logical if you would become president.”

Good anecdote! I, too, have met Obama twice. So basically, I’m Leonard Nimoy.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Just Another Wingnut Friday

Marshall: Some Lines Just Can't Be Crossed

According to testimony at his failed 1986 confirmation hearing, during a Klan prosecution during the time he was US Attorney in Alabama, now-Senator Jeff Sessions had an interesting view on just when the KKK went too far.

Sessions told colleagues that he "'used to think they [the Klan] were OK' until he found out some of them were 'pot smokers.'"

Think Progress: Cheney: ‘I think it would be a mistake’ for the GOP to become more moderate.
With only 20 percent of Americans self-identifying as Republicans, the GOP is searching for a way forward. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), along with Colin Powell, have said the GOP must move toward the center to expand its tent. In an interview with Scott Hennen, a North Dakota radio host, Cheney declared that becoming more moderate “would be a mistake“:

HENNEN: Some people are wringing their hands saying, “This is an example of why the party needs to change, to hear the message of Specter,” that, as Colin Powell said, the Republican Party needs to moderate. Do you think the Republican Party needs to moderate? Is that the message of the Specter defection, or the state of the party these days?

CHENEY: No I don’t. I think it would be a mistake for us to moderate. This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas…what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and Constitutional principles. You know, when you add all those things up the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most us aren’t. [...] So I think periodically we have to go through one these sessions. It helps clear away some of the underbrush…some of the older folks who’ve been around a long time (like yours truly) need to move on, and make room for that young talent that’s coming along. But I think it’s basically healthy. I don’t spend a lot of time or lose a lot of sleep over it. I just think now is the time for people who are committed to get out there and find candidates they like and go to work for them.

RNC Chair Michael Steele has sounded a similar note earlier this week. “All you moderates out there, y’all come. I mean, that’s the message,” Steele said, but added, “Understand that when you come into someone’s house, you’re not looking to change it.”

  • Joe Sudbay (DC) Glad to see that Dick Cheney is still vying to lead the GOP. Always happy to see him rear that ugly head. And, we already know Cheney's "commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles." His commitment was to destroy the rights we have enshrined in the constitution.
  • Benen:
    Cheney added, "Most Republicans have a pretty good idea of values, and aren't eager to have someone come along and say, 'Well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.'"

    I can only assume Democrats are delighted to hear this. Indeed, if the DNC were writing up the script, party leaders would have Dick Cheney doing public interviews, encouraging his party not to move towards the middle. The former vice president continues to do more to help the majority party than hurt it.

    This weekend, Cheney is scheduled to appear on CBS's "Face the Nation." It's all part of his plan to "move on and make room for that young talent that's coming along."

  • as a consequence, Steve Benen says RIDGE TAKES A PASS...
    Republicans leaders practically begged Tom Ridge to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania, assuming, correctly, that he would be their best candidate.

    The lobbying efforts didn't pay off -- Ridge passed on the race today.

    "After careful consideration and many conversations with friends and family and the leadership of my party, I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Senate," Ridge said in a statement.

    "I am enormously grateful for the confidence my party expressed in me, the encouragement and kindness of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania and the valuable counsel I received from so many of my party colleagues."

    Ridge's decision is a setback for Republicans looking to challenge Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in next year's general election. Several public polls showed Ridge running competitively against Specter in a general election.

    The party is concerned that former GOP congressman Pat Toomey is too conservative to win a general election in the Keystone State.

    Ridge would have no doubt faced some withering attacks from Toomey and the right, which may have discouraged him. His association with the Bush administration, his lobbying work, and the fact that he hasn't actually lived in Pennsylvania for several years might have also factored into the decision. That Ridge would have had to take a big pay cut no doubt mattered, too.

    As for the party and the Senate race, Republicans are now likely to turn to Rep. Jim Gerlach, from the southeast corner of the state, as a challenger for Toomey.

    And what of the Democrats? The good news for Specter is that Ridge was a very credible general-election candidate, and today's decision removes the most competitive Republican. The bad news for Specter, as Brian Beutler explained, "[O]ne of the key arguments for nominating Specter is his name recognition and strength in a general election. With Ridge out of the race, the risk to Democrats of a potential Joe Sestak candidacy is greatly diminished."

Joe the Quitter May 7: Outraged by the GOP's overspending, the infamous "Joe the Plumber" told Time magazine that he is planning on leaving the Republican Party. MSNBC's Richard Wolffe talks about why the Republican Party is having trouble retaining members.

This just fits here ... again.

Gotta keep 'em separated May 7: President Obama proclaimed for Americans to pray today, since it's the National Day of Prayer. The religious right is criticizing the proclamation because he didn't do it like President Bush. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? Rachel Maddow is joined by Interfaith Alliance President Rev. C Welton Gaddy.

    We talked earlier about President Obama breaking with Bush's habit of recognizing the National Day of Prayer. In the past few hours, though, the bizarre lies from the right about the president's decision have been remarkable.

    Let's quickly summarize. In the early 1950s, when lawmakers were adding "under God" to the Pledge and changing all American money to include the phrase "In God We Trust," Congress created an official annual Prayer Day for the nation. Congress, under pressure from the religious right, changed the law in 1988 to set the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May. Obama, like his predecessors, issued a proclamation (pdf) honoring the "holiday."

    So, what's the problem? Unlike George W. Bush, Obama didn't open up the White House to the self-appointed National Day of Prayer Task Force, run by religious right activists, which has hosted exclusive events for the last eight years.

    This has led a variety of conservatives to make a variety of demonstrably false claims.

    Lie #1: Rush Limbaugh said Obama tried to "cancel" the National Day of Prayer.

    That's obviously not true; Obama issued a proclamation acknowledging the day. No effort was made to "cancel" anything.

    Lie #2: Fox News' online project, Fox Nation, said the president "won't celebrate" the National Day of Prayer.

    Again, the proclamation proves otherwise.

    Lie #3: Fox News' Gretchen Carlson said the president's decision to participate in "private" prayer on "National Prayer Day" is evidence of Obama "giving in to the PC society that we live in."

    No one pressured Obama to keep the National Day of Prayer Task Force out of the White House; it was just the obvious thing to do. As for the knock on "private" prayer, I might recommend Gretchen Carlson read Matthew 6:6.

    Lie #4: Fox News' Steve Doocy said Reagan and George H. W. Bush held events similar to that of George W. Bush.

    As hard as this is to believe, Doocy has it backwards. Reagan largely ignored the NDP for his first seven years in office.

    Lie #5: Elisabeth Hasselbeck said on Fox News that the National Day of Prayer "has been a huge tradition" in the U.S.

    That's just nonsense, since most presidents, like most Americans, have largely ignored the "holiday." Besides, Obama is keeping the "tradition" going by doing what his predecessors have done -- he issued a proclamation. [Update: And if we're really going to talk about American "traditions," it's also worth remembering that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days. And all Madison did was write the Constitution.]

    Hasselbeck -- who is she again? -- concluded, "We should be able to gather and pray as we see fit." What I'll never understand about conservative activists is why they think they need government to get involved in spiritual matters. Hasselbeck could get together with others to pray as they see fit yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Whether the Dobsons get to hang out in the East Room of the White House is irrelevant.

    Honestly, I'm not sure which is more annoying -- the conservatives' prayer-related dishonesty or their prayer-related whining.

Think Progress: Obama’s budget eliminates funding for abstinence education programs.

Keeping with a campaign pledge “not continue to fund abstinence-only programs,” President Obama’s 2010 budget — further details of which were released today — cuts funding for “Community-Based Abstinence Education” and several other abstinence-education programs (p. 491):


Indeed, abstinence programs have been shown time and again to be unsuccessful in preventing teen pregnancies. (HT: Ben Smith)


Yesterday, a Politico headline read, "Disgraced John Edwards back in the spotlight." Jamison Foser responded with a short item that got me thinking.

Maybe someday, we'll see a Politico headline like this about Newt Gingrich.

That would be nice. After all, Gingrich, while in Congress, was plagued by questions over ethics violations, carried on an extramarital affair with a younger aide while impeaching President Clinton, enjoyed Cheney-like approval ratings from the public, was forced from his leadership post by his own caucus, and soon after resigned from the House altogether. Is he a "disgrace"? Sounds like it.

I'm not necessarily bothered by the Politico's use of the word in relation to John Edwards. The former senator's future in public life is certainly bleak. But Foser's broader point -- what constitutes a "disgrace"? -- is worth considering.

As far as I can tell, doing something disgraceful isn't enough. Republicans like Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and David Vitter, among many others, have seemingly disgraced themselves, but none are commonly awarded the term.

In contrast, Dems like Edwards and Rod Blagojevich are labeled a "disgrace" with minimal hesitation.

The rule, then, seems to be that politicians are a "disgrace" when their allies no longer want anything to do with them. If like-minded figures are willing to hang out with you, you're in good shape. If not, expect the "d" word. Democrats won't return Edwards' calls,so he's in trouble. Vitter is seeking re-election, presumably on a "pro-family" platform, so he's fine.

With this in mind, the problem with Gingrich isn't that he doesn't deserve to be called a "disgrace," it's that Republicans still consider him credible. Perhaps, if the GOP had higher standards, we'd have more "disgraces."

Think Progress: VIDEO: GOP Wastes No Time In Embracing Frank Luntz’s Vapid ‘Patient-Doctor’ Health Care Rhetoric

Earlier this week, a memo written by right-wing message guru Frank Luntz was leaked instructing the Republican Party on how to frame the health care debate in order to defeat progressive reform. Since his pivotal role in helping craft Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, Luntz has had an impressive record of cloaking regressive and conservative policies with carefully poll-tested language. For instance, Luntz is credited with persuading Republicans to use the intentionally misleading term “death tax” to describe the estate tax.

According to CQ, Republicans are enthusiastically embracing Luntz and his health care memo. At a private workshop organized by the House leadership, Luntz was welcomed with applause and cries of “Welcome home!” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) gushed, “We look to him for how do we express the things that we believe in ways that are effective.”

Luntz’s health care memo urges Republicans to denounce progressive reforms as ideas based upon a “committee of Washington bureaucrats.” The memo then calls for Republicans to strongly emphasize the “protection of the personalized doctor-patient relationship” because this approach allows Americans to believe that the GOP is doing something to “protect and improve something good“:


ThinkProgress compiled a video featuring Rep. Phil Gingrich (R-GA), Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) all embracing the vapid “patient-doctor” talking point in the past 48 hours. Watch it:

As the Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky details, Luntz’s strategy is to “obstruct health reform by ignoring what Obama is actually offering.” In all fairness, Luntz is very candid about his strategy of misdirection. Since Republicans currently have absolutely no plan for reforming health care, Luntz says to avoid projecting a policy plan and instead focus on language that “captures not just what Americans want to see but exactly what they want to hear.”

Indeed, Luntz also provides his polling and language advice to a plethora of health insurance companies.


Literally every attack Republicans have thrown at the Obama administration has been a dud. Some have been more embarrassing than others, but when "socialism" started polling well, it probably should have been a signal to the GOP to reevaluate their smear tactics.

Now, however, Republicans leaders are very excited about the new line of attack. Today, they're rallying support for the "Keep Terrorists Out Of America Act." This follows up on arguments from January, and the message hasn't improved since.

The GOP argument is that the president, by closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, may move as many as 250 detainees to detention facilities in the U.S. Congressional Republicans want to make that next to impossible, arguing that Obama would put American lives at risk by bringing suspected terrorists onto American soil.

This is a very stupid argument.

There are multiple angles to this, but let's cut to the chase: we already lock up some extraordinarily dangerous people in maximum-security facilities. Al Qaeda suspects may be scary, but they don't have super powers. Obama isn't going to just drop off bad guys on Main Street and ask them to play nice.

I'll just quote Jon Stewart's commentary from January, which summed up the problem nicely. In a message to Republicans, the "Daily Show" host explained:

"I know you guys are freaking out, but you know what we in these United States do better than anyone? Imprison people.

"We've got 2.3 million people locked up. Per capita, we're #1... But these detainees are 'the worst of the worst'; the creme de la crud; they want to kill Americans. Yeah, unlike our current inmate population of jaywalkers, cream puffs and boy scouts who only want to hug Americans [images of Charles Manson, Tim McVeigh, et al, on screen].

"Look, I know you're Republicans so you don't watch MSNBC, but check it out on the weekends. They have this 6-10 hour block called 'Lockup.' [video shows a prisoner saying, 'I pulled his brain out and took a bite out of it'] We can't handle these piddly punks from Guantanamo? I'll put a good, old fashioned, USA born and raised, brain0eater against any of those motherf***ers. Any of them. USA! USA!

"Let's stop pretending these Guantanamo guys are all super villains. They're thugs and jackasses, not Magneto. If they had mutant powers we would've known by now. But you don't want them on our soil. I understand. We're safe as long as they're in Cuba with 90 miles of ocean between us. Yeah, nobody could ever make that harrowing journey -- oh, except maybe a six-year-old with access to high-tech innertube technology. I know Janet Reno would like you to believe that Elian got here on the wings of a magical schnauzer, but no! It might be comforting to keep these prisoners in legal limbo, but the thing is they're not actually in limbo. They still exist. So until we can come up with an actual limbo, a phantom zone so to speak, I'll take my chances with the system that's been able to contain the brain-eater guy."

It's hard to know for sure whether Republicans know all of this, but are desperate for an effective attack (in which case they're lying), or if they actually believe their own nonsense (in which case they're fools). Either way, the "Keep Terrorists Out Of America Act" is absurd.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Torture. by any other name, smells.

Dan Froomkin:
By failing to return to the story again and again -- with palpable outrage -- I think the media actually normalized torture. We had an obligation to shout this story from the rooftops, day and night. But instead we lulled the public into complacency.

Secondly, while it's certainly worth exploring why any number of people were either actively or passively complicit in our torture regime -- and I'm all for some national self-flagellation here -- that has nothing to do with whether senior administration officials willfully broke the law, and whether they should be held accountable. It doesn't change the law.

Quote of the Day:

Dan Froomkin writes an impressive piece that exposes the torturers and their media enablers who covered up and participated in the torture policy of the Bush White House that is a must-read. It's called: "Complicity -- and Accountability -- on Torture," and he ends it on this note:

"The more the right wing tries to justify the torture policy, the worse they look. Using national security to justify torture is just a bald-faced attempt to hide the truth. What really went on was simple. The Bush administration felt that Al-Qaida could not be defeated while still preserving what America stands for."

Sully: The Lies Of Presidents

It occurs to me that the two most famous statements of the last two presidents will be "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," and "We do not torture." And both were lies in plain English, were understood to be lies by the two men involved, and yet both were subject to mental and legal asterisks that could give both men some kind of formal, if absurd, deniability.

For one statement, we impeached. For another, we kept on walking.

Sometimes history is not tragedy repeated as farce; it's farce repeated as tragedy.


Spanish Magistrate Baltasar Garzon continues to look into possible charges against the "Bush Six" -- Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo, William J. Haynes II, David Addington, and Doug Feith -- for their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantanamo Bay.

John Bolton, Bush's former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and one of the nation's least credible but most recognized neocons, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post urging President Obama to intervene to protect the former Bush administration officials.

That wouldn't be especially noteworthy, were it not for Bolton's choice of words. (thanks to reader M.J. for the tip)

Behind-the-scenes diplomacy is often the best, and sometimes the only, way to accomplish important policy objectives, and one hopes that such efforts [from Obama administration officials] are underway. But in this case, firm and public statements are necessary to stop the pending Spanish inquisition and to dissuade others from proceeding.

Does Bolton really want to throw around, "Spanish inquisition" in this context? It seems pretty ironic since the actual Spanish Inquisition was when waterboarding was put to extensive use -- the very torture technique that's proven to be so problematic for the Bush Six.

Bolton added, "I believe strongly that criminalizing policy disagreements is both inappropriate and destructive." But as should be obvious by now, we're not talking about criminalizing "policy disagreements"; we're talking about criminalizing crime.

The real Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century and the Bush administration in the 21st century embraced the same torture technique. This problem goes well beyond a "policy disagreement."

Sully: "Inhuman"

It's odd, isn't it, that we use this word to describe abuse and torture of prisoners. The reason it's odd is that I'm not sure any animals torture. Yes, they can kill and maim and inflict dreadful suffering in the process of killing, eating or fighting. But the act of intentionally exploiting suffering, of lingering over some other being's pain - using it as a means to an end - is not an animal instinct, unless I'm mistaken.

And so torture is in fact extremely human; it represents in many ways humankind's unique capacity for cruelty.

It is the relationship between torturer and tortured that evokes the term "inhuman". Because it robs the victim of human dignity - and removes the torturer from the civil community of humankind. So this very human act of inhumanity is why torture, like rape, has, until recently, been so anathematized in the Abu-ghraib-leash civilized West. This dehumanization can take many forms, and it isn't only in the act of torture. It is also implicit in the conditions and circumstances of the abuse. To take a simple example, Bush and Cheney authorized the stripping of prisoners of their clothes in order to break them down psychologically. Not many of us have been stripped like that, en masse, or separately, herded like animals from one cage to another, mocked, beaten, sexually abused and made more vulnerable, as naked humans are, to the extremes of heat and cold. You can't, after all, strip an animal of clothes and thereby deny it of dignity or add to its suffering. Shelter, maybe, of domesticated animals, but not clothes, that inherently human artefact.

For good measure, Bush and Cheney also robbed these suspects - I repeat suspects - of light by hooding or imprisoning them in windowless cells from which many were told they would never escape. They deprived them of sound - which is what bombarding human beings with insanely loud noise constantly does. When there's nothing but noise, there's no sound. They shackled them in positions that were both excruciating in pain but also means to deny them the simplest acts of basic autonomy, like wiping their asses when they shit. This was about destroying people at their core - over a period of time, as a means to "break" them as humans. Have you ever been shackled naked in such a fashion that you have to piss and shit on yourself repeatedly without being able to clean? Can you imagine how that feels?

Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors...

No animal does this to other animals. Only humans do this to humans (and, of course, animals). Until you are turned into this:

"During questioning, [Padilla] often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body," Mr. Patel said. "The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel."

That's why I find the focus on waterboarding to be off-base. Yes, it is torture, even if the New York Times cannot bring itself to say so. It is also a form of rape - using drowning rather than sexual penetration as the chosen form of mastery. But the focus on a legal specificity - we can count the number of times these victims were near-drowned and suffocated! - misses, I think, the real abuse. Here is what one FBI agent said he saw at Guantanamo (and God knows what went on there after the FBI walked out of the program):

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If you believe that America cannot survive without doing this to human beings, then what exactly is the America you believe in?

Wingnuts: ignoring culture warriors Edition

QOTD, Patrick (PA commenter): Most smart people, when shown facts that prove them wrong, do not continue to say the things that were proven untrue. I wonder why this doesn't apply to republicans.

Malkin Award Nominee "Is it safe to say that Democrats were willing to protect pedophiles but not offer the same protection to servicemen and women?" - Sean Hannity on the gay hate crimes bill.

BarbinMD (Daily Kos): Tony Perkins on the National Council for a New America

When I first wrote about the National Council for a New America (NCNA), the new GOP group whose goal is to rebrand the party listen to Americans be determined, I pointed out that the so-called values voters were the first victims of the Republican's latest effort to stop the bleeding, given that they had planned to ignore abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration as issues that America cares about.

And Tony Perkins agrees (which really must chap his ass):

In another step away from its conservative roots, Republican members of the House unveiled The National Council for a New America in hopes of recasting the Party's ailing identity. The effort only underscores the Republicans' present identity crisis, as the GOP leadership kicked off the campaign devoid of the values that once caused voters to identify with the party.

The group's priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas. [...]

Turning away from those fundamental truths would be a death knell for the GOP as little would be left to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.

The NCNA is the gift that keeps on giving; from its shifting messages, to holding their first "outside the beltway" meeting inside the beltway, to Rush Limbaugh calling the shots, and now, hacking off the head of the Family Research Council, the NCNA has been a godsend ... to Democrats - both for the opportunities to mock and as another sign that the ongoing schism in the Republican Party between the wingnuttia and the extreme wingnuttia continues.

  • Steve Benen adds:

    I can only assume this kind of talk will become louder and more prevalent, because the religious right no doubt realizes they're losing clout. The NCNA ignored culture/social issues, as did the "Resurgent Republic" project and most of the "Tea Party" rhetoric. There's no shortage of talk from Republican leaders -- on the Hill, on Fox News, within the RNC -- and practically no one is out there arguing that bashing gays and limiting reproductive rights should be the basis for a GOP comeback.

    The more the religious right movement feels ignored, the more it's going to rebel. And the more the movement gets noticed, the more Republican leaders will be put in a bind -- embrace intolerant culture warriors stuck in the past, or distance the party from a large part of its base?

    What I suspect will happen is that Boehner, Steele, and others will start quietly telling religious right leaders, "Don't worry, we're still with you. We're not talking about your issues, but this is just p.r."

    Except, that won't work for groups like the Family Research Council and their ilk. The whole point of a culture war is to take the religious right's issues to the public and putting "the family" up front and center.

Jay Newton-Small (TIME Swampland): This Week's Cover

Here's this week's cover story by Michael Grunwald on the state of the Grand Ole Party. An interesting tidbit: Joe the Plumber is leaving the Party in disgust. An excerpt:

So are the Republicans going extinct? And can the death march be stopped? The Washington critiques of the Republican Party as powerless, leaderless and rudderless — the new Donner party — are not very illuminating. Minority parties always look weak and inept in the penalty box. Sure, it can be comical to watch Republican National Committee (RNC) gaffe machine Michael Steele riff on his hip-hop vision for the party or Texas Governor Rick Perry carry on about secession or Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann explain how F.D.R.'s "Hoot-Smalley" Act caused the Depression (the Smoot-Hawley Act, a Republican tariff bill, was enacted before F.D.R.'s presidency), but haplessness does not equal hopelessness. And yes, the Republican brand could benefit from spokesmen less familiar and less reviled than Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich, but the party does have some fresher faces stepping out of the wings.

The Democratic critiques of the GOP — that it's the Party of No, or No Ideas — are not helpful either. It's silly to fault an opposition party for opposition; obstructionism helped return Democrats to power. Republicans actually have plenty of ideas.

That's the problem. The party's ideas — about economic issues, social issues and just about everything else — are not popular ideas. They are extremely conservative ideas tarred by association with the extremely unpopular George W. Bush, who helped downsize the party to its extremely conservative base. A hard-right agenda of slashing taxes for the investor class, protecting marriage from gays, blocking universal health insurance and extolling the glories of waterboarding produces terrific ratings for Rush Limbaugh, but it's not a majority agenda. The party's new, Hooverish focus on austerity on the brink of another depression does not seem to fit the national mood, and it's shamelessly hypocritical, given the party's recent history of massive deficit spending on pork, war and prescription drugs in good times, not to mention its continuing support for deficit-exploding tax cuts in bad times.

I asked Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel about this same subject in an interview not too long ago, here's his take:

We have a long time to go but I'd still bet on us in 2010. If you look at history, I mean it happened in ‘72, people talking about the dominance of the Republican Party because of Richard Nixon's trumping. In 1980 they were saying that about Ronald Reagan. I just think that anybody that tells you that they can predict the future -- I mean ‘64 to ‘66 and then '68 -- I don't think anybody should be in the business of predicting two years out let alone 10 years out. That said, first, we have a New York 20 race that should've been a lay down for the Republicans and it wasn't. Second, I think what Republicans tactically and strategically are saying today is a mistake. And, third, look at long-term trends in the country, the ascending groups in the population are Democratic by proclivity of three-to-one and the descending groups are Republicans in almost every group. You know, you see the rise of the Hispanic vote, the rise of the young voter, the professional couple, as a larger proportion of the electorate; those are all Democratic in proclivity.


George Will just can't seem to stay away from environmental policy, no matter how much trouble it gets him in.

On Sunday, Will argued on ABC's "This Week" that Toyota's Prius is only affordable because the company "sells it at a loss, and it can afford to sell it at a loss because it is selling twice as many gas-guzzling pickup trucks of the sort our president detests."

The conservative pundit liked the observation so much, he repeated it in his Washington Post column today.

[Obama] says: "If the Japanese can design [an] affordable, well-designed hybrid, then, doggone it, the American people should be able to do the same." Yes they can -- if the American manufacturer can do what Toyota does with the Prius: Sell its hybrid without significant, if any, profit and sustain this practice, as Toyota does, by selling about twice as many of the gas-thirsty pickup trucks that the president thinks are destroying the planet.

Will already seems to be backpedaling, at least a little. On Sunday, Toyota sold every Prius at a loss. On Thursday, Toyota sells every Prius "without significant, if any, profit." What constitutes a "significant" per-sale profit? Will doesn't say.

We talked a bit yesterday about Will's latest error, but this item helped explain the facts in additional detail.

By George, Toyota and independent analysts say the Prius is a money maker for Toyota, and it has been since 2001.

As we noted last week, Toyota and Honda, though both struggling in the recession, are making about 300,000 yen (US$3,100) on each hybrid they sell, a number similar to what they are making on gasoline-only cars, according to Japan's Nikkei. The Nikkei adds that "Toyota appears to have earned gross profits of around 100 billion yen (US$1 billion) on its sales of second-generation Prius hybrids last year." And in spite of the recession, pre-orders are rolling in for the third generation, solar-roof-optional, 50-MPG 2010 Prius hybrid.

For years, the research and development costs that Toyota poured into its flagship hybrid car had kept it from earning true profits, something that it sought to quietly play down. While the company still doesn't reveal exact figures, financial analysts have backed up the company's claims.

But as Mike pointed out recently, "since [R&D] can be spread over many vehicles, over a long period of time, and since it can help automakers future-proof (a lot of hybrid tech will probably be useful in plug-in hybrids and electric cars), it would probably cost more not to make those investments." [...]

Ultimately, the Japanese automakers profits from hybrid cars can't be completely verified. But that doesn't mean they aren't making profits -- and evidence suggests they are, and increasingly so.

Maybe Will should stick to baseball?


Karl Rove thinks Democratic senators are much meaner than Republican senators when it come to Supreme Court nominees.

Republicans ... generally do not treat Supreme Court nominees as roughly as do Democrats. Consider their treatment of President Bill Clinton's picks for the high court. Ruth Bader Ginsberg [sic] was confirmed by a 96-3 vote in 1993. The following year, Stephen Breyer was confirmed by a vote of 87-9. There were no fireworks at either hearing and nothing close to what Democrats did to Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

That's one way of looking at it. The other way is to realize that Ginsburg and Breyer were consensus choices that Orrin Hatch had endorsed before Clinton even nominated them, while Bork was a radical ideologue that even many Republicans were uncomfortable with, and Clarence Thomas was a right-wing jurist who apparently sexually harassed Anita Hill.

Other than the overwhelming differences, though, Rove's comparison is the kind of sharp insight we've come to expect from the Wall Street Journal columnist.

Lunchtime: Criminals in Space Edition

Daily Kos kept putting this video up. Now I know why. LOL:

In the asking the right questions department . . .
Ezra Klein:

The Senate Finance Committee is holding hearings on cap and trade today. And Baucus starts it off with a nice point. "Action would not be without cost," he admits. "But the costs of inaction would be far greater."

That's really the key insight. No one advocates a cap and trade program or a carbon tax because it seems like fun. No politician pushes these proposals because they're a surefire ticket to reelection. It's simply that if we don't do something, the consequences could prove disastrous. There are, of course, some opponents of action who simply deny the reality of global warming altogether. Asking for their cooperation is like asking a Christian Scientist to help reform the health care system. But then are those who admit the reality of global warming but spend their time talking up the downsides of all the policies that would actually reduce carbon emissions. Of all the positions on the table, that one's actually the most dishonest and nakedly opportunistic.

Baucus's full remarks follow the jump.

Voltaire wrote: “Men argue, nature acts.”

While people argued over global warming, nature acted. Now, at long last, people appear nearly ready to act in response.

Last year, the Senate had a good discussion of legislation to respond to climate change. As part of that effort, the Committee heard from witnesses about the tax and trade aspects of a cap-and-trade program. But ultimately, the Senate did not act on legislation last year.

This year, we will once again take up climate change legislation. President Obama has given a high priority to addressing the problem. It is time for us as a nation to show leadership and responsibility. It is our moral imperative to address climate change. It is time for us to act.

Action would not be without cost. But the costs of inaction would be far greater.

Many have analyzed the effects that a cap-and-trade program would have on our economy and our ability to compete in the world. Each study has generated its own set of questions and uncertainties. But we need to move ahead with the best information that we have.

Today, we have asked our witnesses to share their analyses of the effects of a cap-and-trade program on the economy. And we have also asked for their thoughts on the best way to design the system to provide certainty, where we can. We need certainty in terms of establishing and containing costs. And we need certainty in terms of meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

We will ask: How can we reduce the effect of potentially increased energy costs on our economy?

How can we reduce the effect on energy consumers?

How should an auction be structured?

How should allowances be allocated? Should they be auctioned, given away for free, or some combination of the two? What is the proper balance between free allowances and auction revenues?

Are free allowances an effective tool to assist industries facing particularly high costs? Are they effective to assist industries who are trade sensitive?

If we provide free allowances, who should receive them? Based on what criteria?

These are all questions that I hope our witnesses can help us to answer.

And so, while people argued, nature acted. Now, Congress can act in response. Let us find out what we can, so that we may act wisely.

As "holidays" go, the official National Day of Prayer is difficult to understand. For the faithful, every day is a day of prayer. For a secular government that separates church from state, the idea of a state-sanctioned day in which the public is encouraged to pray is rather odd.

In the early 1950s, when lawmakers were adding "under God" to the Pledge and changing all American money to include the phrase "In God We Trust," Congress created an official annual Prayer Day for the nation. Congress, under pressure from the religious right, changed the law in 1988 to set the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May, which brings us to today.

The good news is, President Obama is choosing to honor the official National Day of Prayer in a very different way than his predecessor.

The National Day of Prayer White House event is history -- for now.

The White House has announced that President Obama will sign a proclamation on the National Day of Prayer, to be held on Thursday, but will not hold any sort of event. This marks a return to the practice of presidents before George W. Bush, who hosted religious leaders for a ceremony in honor of the day.

Conservative Christian leaders who popularized the event are regarding it at a snub, calling it a "boycott." ... During the Bush administration, the first Thursday in May -- the National Day of Prayer, as mandated by Congress -- included a ceremony in the White House East Room with prominent evangelicals. It was headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

There's no White House ceremony this year.

Good. If Americans want to pray today, they will. If not, that's fine, too. There's no need for the White House to host a special event, organized by evangelical activists, promoting an exclusive and unnecessary "holiday" encouraging worship.

My friends at Americans United for Separation of Church and State noted that Obama is doing the right thing. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn said, "I am pleased that President Obama has made this decision. The president is required by federal law to declare a National Day of Prayer, but there is no requirement that a special event be held at the White House in observance of this event. During the Bush years, the Dobsons and other Religious Right leaders were given special access to the White House. That seems to have come to an end, and I'm glad."

So am I.

Post Script: One prominent religious right activist, Concerned Women for America's Wendy Wright, said, "President Obama may have problems believing in the Christian faith, he should at least honor the traditions and foundation of our country."

First, the president doesn't have a problem "believing in the Christian faith," and these ridiculous attacks only make the religious right appear more sleazy. Second, if we're going to honor "the traditions and foundation of our country," I'd remind the religious right that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison specifically opposed government-endorsed prayer days.

hilzoy does good. Dueling Videos

The Senate Republicans have put up an unusually boneheaded video about the idea of holding Guantanamo detainees in the US:

Something about 9/11 seems to have produced a kind of amnesia among some people on the right. It's as though they think that we have never before had to figure out such questions as: how can we hold dangerous people in detention safely? When someone has served his time and we think he might go on to do something bad, how might we monitor him to ensure that he doesn't? Suppose we have captured someone who might be guilty of a violent crime, but we do not have enough evidence to charge him: what should we do?

These are not problems that we confronted for the first time after 9/11. They have been with us from the founding of our country. We somehow managed to face down the world's most powerful empire, survive a brutal civil war, defeat Hitler, and live for about forty years with an immense arsenal of thermonuclear weapons pointed at our cities, and do all that without giving up on the rule of law. But let nineteen guys with boxcutters fly planes into our buildings and, apparently, we face a Brand New Existential Threat that causes our entire legal history to fly out of our collective heads.

To explain this point, and to prove that I too can make a movie with Carl Orff's 'O Fortuna' as the soundtrack, I present my own YouTube. (It's the first time I've ever made a movie. Be gentle.)

If we can't have dangerous people living among us, then we are going to have a whole lot of extra prisons sitting around empty.

Just saying.
  • sgwhiteinfla adds:
    Here is the deal, Congressional Democrats have an opportunity here and they are squandering it. What they need to do is stand up and say that they would welcome the opportunity to house some of the detainees in their state. Not only should they project an aura of confidence that American jails can hold foreign terrorists, but also that the move could help create more jobs in their state. They should also point out that those who wouldn’t be similarly enthusiastic about helping to maintain our national security are COWARDS. This NIMBY bullshit that the Republicans are embracing is exactly the chance Dems have been waiting for for years to be able to wrest the mantle of “tough on crime” and “strong on national security” from the GOP. I can’t for the life of me understand why they are scared to take Republican on with this issue. The detainees will be in supermax prisons. They don’t have any frikkin superpowers to be able to break out. And by not confronting the GOP on this and in some cases actually agreeing with them that it would be dangerous to house detainees on US soild they are not only legitimizing what is at its core a nonsensical viewpoint, they are also opening themselves up to charges of being weak on defense of the homeland.

    Fuck it, if the Republicans are going to use the issue anyway its time to make them pay for being the bed wetting pussies that they really are. I keep waiting to hear “Send them to us, we know just how to handle them” from ANYBODY in the Democratic caucus but it seems like they are just going to allow Republicans to frame this issue and then turn around and use it as a platform to run against them next year. I can’t tell you how stupid that is and how much it frustrates the hell out of me. We have the WTC bombers in jail in Colorado for pete’s sake along with the Oklahoma City bombers. We have a long and storied history of locking up the most dangerous people in our society and in fact the world in our prisons here. Why in the fuck should Democrats now show so little faith in their consituents that they run away from an issue that they could clearly win on? Somebody needs to step up to the plate and in a frikkin hurry.
Sully: The SBC On Torture


"It violates everything we believe in as a country," Land said, reflecting on the words in the Declaration of Independence: that "all men are created equal" and that "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."

"There are some things you should never do to another human being, no matter how horrific the things they have done. If you do so, you demean yourself to their level," he said. "Civilized countries should err on the side of caution. It does cost us something to play by different rules than our enemies, but it would cost us far more if we played by their rules," Land concluded.

He was also clear that waterboarding is categorically torture. So the core religious body of the Christianist right has now taken a stand. Against. And torture is a war crime. And war crimes must be prosecuted.

Colbert has a modest suggestion.
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A.L. The OPR Report
Just to add to Hilzoy's typically insightful post on the forthcoming OPR report, I want to make two points.

First, people seem to be focusing too heavily on the report's (apparent) refusal to recommend criminal prosecution of the OLC lawyers who drafted the torture memos. But the real news here is that the report apparently recommends that at least a few of the lawyers be referred to state disciplinary authorities for reprimand or disbarment. That's a really big deal. Disbarment is major punishment for a lawyer. Not only does it constitute a major public shaming, but it also represents a loss of livelihood. As I've written here before, I take a very consequentialist outlook on this whole affair. The most important question in my mind is not what kind of punishment the various bad actors deserve, but what steps can be taken to minimize the chances of this ever happening again.

The OLC lawyers played an indispensable role in allowing these illegal torture and surveillance programs to be implemented. The White House and CIA would not have pressed forward with these initiatives (at least for a sustained period of time) without the blessing of the OLC. So the key to preventing this kind of illegality in the future is to up the stakes for future OLC attorneys, to make them understand that there are potentially significant consequences to intentionally distorting the law. Disbarment would serve that purpose fairly well. If future OLC lawyers know that they might be disgraced and lose their livelihood if they distort the law, they'll be far less likely to do so. And that's the key. As much as I think that some of these attorneys deserve to be prosecuted criminally, there's very little precedent for that kind of prosecution and such cases would be very, very hard to prove. Disbarment, however, is a realistically attainment penalty, and one that would serve as a significant deterrent to future illegality.

The second point I want to make is this: though I haven't seen the OPR report, I suspect it focuses on more than just the torture memos. As bad as those memos were, some of the OLC opinions on other issues, particularly warrantless surveillance and the applicability of FISA, were likely much worse. Based on the reports I've read, the arguments the OLC was relying on in those memos were just laughably bad; they completely disregarded well established case law and principles of constitutional and statutory construction. Of late, the debate over the culpability of OLC lawyers like Bybee and Yoo has focused almost exclusively on their roles in approving torture. But their enabling of other Bush administration programs may have been even more egregious.

C&L, : Fed Says High-Risk Equity Firms Can't Take Over Banks

Oh, boo hoo! How dare the Fed stop him from having his way? More to the point, how dare they say "no" to a Wall St. player? (Which begs the rhetorical question: Don't these people ever learn?)

CAINSVILLE, Mo. — No one seems to want to own a business in this dusty, windswept corner of rural America, population 370, with its crumbling sidewalks and boarded-up storefronts.

Except, that is, for J. Christopher Flowers, a media-shy New York billionaire who last year bought the First National Bank of Cainesville, one of the United States’ smallest national banks.

Mr. Flowers, a private equity manager, has no particular love for rural Missouri; in fact, he has never set foot in Cainsville. Rather, he wants to use the national bank charter he picked up in this farm town to go on a nationwide buying spree.

With that charter in hand, Mr. Flowers plans to take over a handful of large struggling banks, casualties of the economic crisis. In some cases, he hopes, the federal government will help.

But Mr. Flowers, whose investments in banks overseas have made him one of the richest men in America, has run into a major obstacle in the United States: the Federal Reserve, and its very notion of what a bank should be.

The Fed does not mind if private equity firms have a minority interest in banks — the Obama administration even wants them to invest. But the Fed will not let them take control, a stance the firms are lobbying regulators mightily to change, especially given that stress test results to be released Thursday are expected to show a glaring need for capital in the banking system.

It’s not personal, Fed officials say. It’s just that as the nation recovers from one of the worst banking crises in history, the Federal Reserve wants to make sure that it does not set the stage for the next financial implosion by turning banks over to private equity firms, some of the riskiest players in the business world.

So while Mr. Flowers was able to buy the bank here with his own money, he cannot tap into the billions his firm, J. C. Flowers & Company, has raised.