Wednesday, June 2, 2010


TPM Headline of the Day:
Dems Thwart GOP Plan To Kill Jobs Bill With Porn
Marshall (TPM): Palin: Told You So About Drilling!
Sarah Palin says Deepwater Horizon catastrophe proves she was right about 'Drill, Baby, Drill' since she only meant drilling on land -- even though she also meant drilling at sea.
About a month ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) told the Chamber of Commerce that the BP oil spill disaster can be considered "just an act of God that occurred." It seemed like a bizarre assessment -- it's not as if an oil rig just appeared naturally, dug a whole into the earth a mile below sea level, and then exploded.

Nevertheless, Perry isn't the only one to think this way. Rep. Tom Cole (R) of Oklahoma said something very similar on a radio show yesterday:

"There's still a lot that can be done. But again, acts of God are acts of God. And you know, FEMA is not, you know, cannot cope with everything."

Well, no, FEMA cannot cope with everything. But since when are man-made disasters "acts of God"?

There will be incidents that occur from time to time that are natural and unavoidable events, but an explosion on an oil rig isn't one of them.

  • Atrios adds:
    Acts of God happen when my local sports franchise beats your local sports franchise, not when a company drills a mile down and then blows up an oil rig.
thers: Everything You Ever Needed to Know about the Weekly Standard
Verbatim the Weekly Standard:
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has obtained Sarah Palin's imminent Facebook post on the Israeli Flotilla incident.
Hooray for Citizen Journalism!
Sully: What Does MoDo Want?

In her column today, she doesn't offer any substantive proposals for the president to stop the oil-gush. His language has been full of rage; he has launched a criminal investigation; he is obviously exasperated; and this is a narrative he simply cannot control. Almost from the start it was clear that only relief wells could stop this, and they take time to drill in that kind of depth.

Maureen has long wanted Obama to be what he isn't. We have a temperamental WASP in the White House. And the whole point of a WASP president - like GHWBush - is that they are best judged over the long term of results rather than the short term of emotion. I can quite see how emotionally, Obama is losing this p.r. war. But since he literally cannot win against a narrative determined by physics, it seems to me that columnists should be pointing out the reality of reality rather than the "reality" of "narrative."


The late, longtime New Yorker critic Pauline Kael was said to have expressed confusion over Richard Nixon's landslide re-election in 1972 — because no one she knew had voted for him. To borrow that notion, conservatives today imagine that everyone views the current occupant of the White House as they do: Barack Obama is the worst President ever. Conventional wisdom posits that this potent right-wing, anti-Obama sentiment will diminish the President's power — enough for Republicans to vanquish Democrats in November, regain control of Congress and weaken the incumbent for 2012.

But this myopia has been created within an electronic cocoon of Fox News, talk radio, conservative websites and rhetoric from Republican leaders, all passionately reinforcing the message that the Obama Administration is disastrous on a historic scale. It's a message that is being transported as gamely by rank-and-file Republicans as it is by erudite conservative columnists with national readerships.


Within the overheated conservative bubble there is little room for discussions of serious policy alternatives to deal with America's problems, reminders that the country is typically drawn to optimistic candidates (like Reagan and Obama) and weighty appeals to the center of the electorate. If Obama is the worst President ever, as conservatives seem to believe, why do they need to say anything more than that to take control of Congress and then get rid of him? But while the conservatives' ultimate condemnation rallies their core supporters and resonates with some centrist voters, over time it is unlikely to produce a majority against the Administration.

It can't be pleasant for Obama to be the subject of such attacks. And solving the country's major problems in a bipartisan fashion will be difficult under these rancorous circumstances. But as long as those trying to beat him are blind to the fact that tens of millions of voting Americans think Obama is doing a fine job, this President has a great ally in his enemies.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) isn't satisfied with the federal response to the BP oil spill disaster because -- get this -- she wanted to see the federal government seize control and ownership of more private property. Seriously.

"Where were the boats that could have been commandeered by the government to be sent into this region to deal with that oil plume as it was coming up to the water and destroying marine life? Nowhere to be found. Why? The administration was hands off on this policy."

As a substantive matter, arguing that the administration has taken a "hands-off" approach to the disaster is absurd. When it comes to reality, Bachmann is strikingly confused.

But that's an everyday occurrence. What makes these remarks special is the way in which Bachmann is so desperate to attack President Obama, she's apparently forgotten her own extreme worldview.

As Lee Fang explained, Bachmann "is known for decrying almost every form of government action as socialism. Bachmann has denounced emergency loans to banks, student lending programs, health reform, and regulations as examples of 'gangster' government and onerous government takeovers. 'People don't want the federal government to either own or control the private economy,' she said."

I can only assume that if the Obama administration had forcibly seized ownership of private property, Bachmann would have led the charge, howling about a "government takeover," and a heavy-handed federal government. Why, she would ask, can't the administration save tax dollars and allow private enterprise to tend to the disaster a private company created?

The point, for Bachmann, is to lash out hysterically and attack the president. Whether it makes sense or is consistent with her so-called principles is irrelevant.

Kevin Drum: What Tea Partiers Think

Bruce Bartlett passes along the results of a recent poll in Washington state that asks for the views of hardcore tea party members, not just those who are generally sympathetic toward tea party goals:

What I think this poll shows is that taxes and spending are not by any means the only issues that define TPM members; they are largely united in being unsympathetic to African Americans, militant in their hostility toward illegal immigrants, and very conservative socially. At a minimum, these data throw cold water on the view that the TPM is essentially libertarian. Based on these data, I would say that TPM members have much more in common with social conservatives that welcome government intervention as long as it’s in support of their agenda.

The serious tea partiers don't think it's the government's job to guarantee equality of opportunity, strongly approve of Arizona's new immigration law, don't like Obama's outreach to Muslims, and believe that gay lesbian groups have too much political power.

  • from the comments:

    Surprise, surprise.

    Tea Party Patriot is just a pretty euphemism for Nativist. It's basically a tribal phenomenon.

    jon beats me to the point:

    jon beats me to the point: the tea partiers are nothing more than a right-wing populist group with strong nativist overtones. frankly, the racial issue is the most important here, as it always has been with american right-wing populism.

    this is why their "philosophy" makes no sense: those are not predispositions that lead one to logical thought....

John Cole: Speaking of Hacks

I thought this comment from an earlier thread was rather prescient:

What’s ridiculous is that we’re literally the only country really trying to protect Israel on this. We’ve gone out of the way to block an international UN investigation in favor of one helmed by Israel, and yet I still know that within days there’s going to be another volley of “Obama hates teh joos and loves the arabs” columns from the Charles Krauthammers of the world, because single-handedly trying to defend Israel from the entire rest of the UN isn’t sufficient penance for yelling at Netanyahu over settlements and suggesting that maybe Israel should try and comply with the NPT.

Don’t worry, Rick Moran is on it:


It’s too bad America’s best ally in the Middle East has to deal with this empty suit in the White House. With the entire rest of the world in full throated outrage over the terrorist ambush – and it has been for more than 24 hours – we have yet to hear from the man who is ostensibly the Commander in Chief and has been constitutionally delegated to make our foreign policy.

Where the hell is the President of the United States?

Trying to save Netanyahu and Israel’s ass by running interference for them in front of the rest of the world:

Behind closed doors, U.S. diplomats sought to prevent the council from authorizing a U.N. investigation into the Israeli raid, saying Israel should be given a chance to conduct a credible investigation first.

The United States found itself in the difficult position of trying to mediate between two important allies at the emotionally charged session, which provided a barometer of international anger over the Israeli attack.

Alejandro Wolff, the United States’ second-highest-ranking ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday that the United States is still trying to “ascertain the facts” but that it “regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries.” Wolff said the United States expects “a credible and transparent investigation and strongly urges the Israeli government to investigate the incident fully.”

But Wolff also scolded the members of the humanitarian convoy, saying that their unapproved delivery of aid “by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances.” Wolff said that “non-provocative and non-confrontational” procedures exist for delivering assistance to Gazans.

These people are just hopeless.


New reports out of Afghanistan point to a province where Taliban followers hope to become judges, so they can apply their religious beliefs to court rulings, rather than the secular tenets of the law.

Wait, did I say the Taliban in Afghanistan? I meant Christian conservatives in California.

A group of conservative attorneys say they are on a mission from God to unseat four California judges in a rare challenge that is turning a traditionally snooze-button election into what both sides call a battle for the integrity of U.S. courts.

Vowing to be God's ambassadors on the bench, the four San Diego Superior Court candidates are backed by pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages.

"We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values," said Craig Candelore, a family law attorney who is one of the group's candidates. "Unfortunately, God has called upon us to do this only with the judiciary."

I suppose the obvious observation here is that the direct election of judges -- the law in 33 states -- may not be the best idea.

But there's far more to this particular problem, called the "Better Courts Now" initiative. Here we have a series of far-right attorneys who are running on a fairly specific platform -- they promise to be biased, partial jurists, basing their decisions on a religious agenda. The difference between these kinds of judges and those found in Iran and Saudi Arabia is ... well, there really isn't a difference.

In other words, these judicial candidates want to turn their courtrooms into a position consistent with a theocracy. Indeed, the initiative was launched by two pastors.

"Any organization that wants judges to subscribe to a certain political party or certain value system or certain way of ruling to me threatens the independence of the judiciary," San Diego County's District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told the AP."Judges should be evaluated based on their qualifications and their duty to follow the law."

Except that is apparently old-school thinking, which some elements of the right have no use for.

Why elect a judge who will provide a legitimate forum for a fair trial when you can elect a right-wing religious activist who believes he's following instructions from above?

And given that voters don't often turn out for down-ballot races like these, and that the candidates themselves are generally not well known to the public, organizers of this effort believe they have a reasonably good chance at pulling it off -- and they may very well be right.

Adam Serwer: Marc Thiessen's Latest Mendatious Column on Gitmo.

Recently, The Washington Post decided to give torture apologist and former BushMarc Thiessen a permanent platform to exonerate the Bush administration's lawlessness after the fact. Today, he cherry picks information from the recently released Task Force report on Guantanamo Bay detainees to conclude speechwriter that "95 percent of those held at Guantanamo are confirmed terrorists."

Here's the preceding paragraph:

On Friday, while most Americans headed to the beach, the Obama administration unceremoniously released the Final Report of its Guantanamo Review Task Force. The task force found that of the 240 detainees at Guantanamo when Obama took office, roughly 10 percent "played a direct role in plotting, executing, or facilitating" terrorist attacks against U.S. targets. Another 20 percent had "significant organizational roles within al-Qaeda or associated terrorist groups" including "individuals responsible for overseeing or providing logistical support to al-Qaeda's training operations in Afghanistan; facilitators who helped move money and personnel for al-Qaeda ... and well trained operatives who were being groomed by al-Qaeda leaders for future terrorist operations." Another nearly 10 percent "occupied significant positions within the Taliban regime" or insurgent networks "implicated in attacks on Coalition forces." About 55 percent were rank and file "foreign fighters with varying degrees of connection to al-Qaeda , but who lacked a significant leadership or other specialized role." Only 5 percent did not "fit into any of the above categories."

As is typical, Thiessen leaves out the part of the report that he doesn't like. Of that 55 percent Thiessen mentions, that the report concludes that they “do not appear to have been selected” for “training geared towards terrorist operations abroad.” The report adds that while al-Qaeda used the training camps to vet potential recruits, “only a small percentage of camp detainees were eligible for these operations,” meaning "terrorist operations against civilian targets." In other words, they aren't "confirmed terrorists," even if one concluded that an internal executive branch review of the evidence against these men could be viewed a substitute for a jury trial of any sort. Indeed, the report, despite its certainty about its own statistics, notes that at least 48 detainees will be held indefinitely, because "there is presently insufficient evidence to establish the detainees’ guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in either a federal court or military commission, or the detainees conduct does not constitute a chargeable offense in either a federal court or military commission.” Convincing! And I haven't even mentioned those the report states must be held indefinitely because of their "strong family ties" to "extremist organizations."

Thiessen trots out the straw man that "The Left" sees all the detainees as "really innocent goatherds," but that's never been the argument. The argument has been that the burden should be on the government to prove these people are dangerous, and in a number of cases, the government has avoided doing so. When it has been forced to, it has lost about three-quarters of the time. Thiessen thinks the government should be able to imprison any Muslim suspected of being a terrorist indefinitely without court review and is then obligated to torture them because they are Muslim.

Thiessen would like to think that the Task Force report proves that anyone ever held at Guantanamo is guilty of being a terrorist. Sadly, that would mean that his former boss was criminally irresponsible -- as the report notes, 70 percent of detainees who had been held at the prison were transferred before 2009. Thiessen forgot to talk about that part, since it either undermines his argument that anyone ever held at Gitmo is a terrorist, or it proves that his boss was actively releasing terrorists from Gitmo. Thiessen also glosses over the mismanagement of Gitmo detainee cases that made the Task Force necessary. "The government did not have a preexisting, consolidated repository of such information," rather "each federal agency stored information concerning Guantanamo detainees in its own systems, consistent with its particular mission and operating protocols." The Bush administration's tough rhetoric on terror was undermined by a staggering lack of organizational competence.

Thiessen, not content merely to cherry-pick the report, concludes that "the folks [Liz Cheney] dubbed as al-Qaeda lawyers really are al-Qaeda lawyers." This is incredibly stupid -- Thiessen himself notes in the very same column that most of the detainees are not actually al-Qaeda, and the view that everyone should get a fair trial and a decent lawyer is hardly indicative of terrorist sympathies; it's indicative of belief in the American system of justice, which Thiessen obviously lacks.

John Cole: Probe Opened into BP

And their stock just fell off a cliff:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the massive oil spill spreading through the Gulf of Mexico.

Holder said the investigation would be comprehensive and aggressive. He promised that the federal officials will prosecute anyone who broke the law.

Holder, who made the announcement during a visit to the Gulf, called early signs of the spill heartbreaking and tragic. The attorney general was in the Gulf to survey the BP oil spill and meet with state attorneys general and federal prosecutors from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, according to the Justice Department.

In May, a group of senators—including Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California—sent Holder a letter expressing concerns “about the truthfulness and accuracy of statements submitted by BP to the government in its initial exploration plan for the site,” and asking Holder to investigate possible criminal and civil wrongdoing.

And now, in the next 24 hours, we watch all the Republicans and their talking heads in the media suddenly shift gears from “Why is Obama not doing enough to hold BP accountable” to “Why is Obama attacking big businesses and destroying our economy.” And they’ll do it without missing a beat.

John Cole: Hoocoodanode- Not Just for Bankers Anymore

Really smart piece by David Leonhardt in the Times:

In retrospect, the pattern seems clear. Years before the Deepwater Horizon rig blew, BP was developing a reputation as an oil company that took safety risks to save money. An explosion at a Texas refinery killed 15 workers in 2005, and federal regulators and a panel led by James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state, said that cost cutting was partly to blame. The next year, a corroded pipeline in Alaska poured oil into Prudhoe Bay. None other than Joe Barton, a Republican congressman from Texas and a global-warming skeptic, upbraided BP managers for their “seeming indifference to safety and environmental issues.”

Much of this indifference stemmed from an obsession with profits, come what may. But there also appears to have been another factor, one more universally human, at work. The people running BP did a dreadful job of estimating the true chances of events that seemed unlikely — and may even have been unlikely — but that would bring enormous costs.


Similarly, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan liked to argue, not so long ago, that the national real estate market was not in a bubble because it had never been in one before. Wall Street traders took the same view and built mathematical models that did not allow for the possibility that house prices would decline. And many home buyers signed up for unaffordable mortgages, believing they could refinance or sell the house once its price rose. That’s what house prices did, it seemed.

Read the whole thing.

As of last week, there are about 240 administration nominees waiting for a vote in the Senate, an almost comically ridiculous number given how long they've been waiting. On Thursday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) tried to move about a third of them as a bloc -- all of whom had had already been through the vetting process, and been approved by the relevant committee -- but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused.

McConnell didn't have a good reason, except to say his feelings were hurt when the White House gave a recess appointment to Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board earlier this year. Last week was McConnell's way of saying he holds a grudge -- and doesn't much care if the federal government has the personnel in place to function as it's supposed to.

With that in mind, don't be too surprised if President Obama, left with little choice, makes some recess appointments during Congress' Memorial Day recess.

"The president is naturally frustrated at another work period ending with a record-breaking number of nominations bottled on the floor, and he will consider next steps over the course of the coming days," a White House aide said. [...]

Congressional aides have suggested Obama may use this week to circumvent the Senate confirmation process and clear at least some of the more than 100 names lingering on the executive calendar. Obama has used his recess appointment powers just once, clearing 15 names in March.

It's not just scandalous Republican obstructionism that's the problem here, though that's clearly part of it. There's also the matter of limited Senate floor time left this year, and the fact that, with GOP filibusters on practically everything and everyone, it takes 30 hours for the chamber to vote on one nominee, even if he or she will end up being confirmed easily.

The government has important government offices that need qualified officials. The country need not suffer because Republicans have broken the Senate. Recess appointments are far from ideal -- I've really never cared for them -- but I just don't see how the GOP has left with the White House with any other choice.

President Obama has two options: allow key posts to remain vacant indefinitely in the face of unprecedented obstructionism, or start embracing recess appointments. I reluctantly endorse the latter.

Way back in November, House Republicans unveiled their health care reform "plan," to serve as an alternative to the Democratic proposal. The GOP proposal was fairly pathetic, and even some Republicans wanted nothing to do with it.

And yet, seven months later, it's back. Christina Bellantoni reported yesterday:

Just in time for the midterm elections, the Republicans introduced legislation to scrap "Obama care" -- even parts that voters like -- and sub in their own version.

As a refresher, their plan would let people buy insurance across state lines, give states more power and would include tort reform to end so-called "junk lawsuits" that the Republicans say make health care costs more expensive. The CBO score last fall found the GOP plan would cover just 3 million more people "leaving about 52 million" without insurance at about the same as the 2009 share of uninsured people. It would reduce premiums by between zero and three percent, CBO said.... It reduces the deficit over time, but so does the Democrats' law.

The GOP plan is now its own bill (H.R. 5424), and though Congress is on recess, it already has 30 co-sponsors.

I'm not entirely sure why Republicans are bothering. Presumably, GOP candidates want to be able to campaign this fall, saying, "We're not the 'party of no'; we even produced our own alternative health care bill!"

And while there will be some truth to that, let's not forget, as a substantive matter, the GOP plan was nothing short of laughable -- it largely ignores the uninsured, does nothing for those with pre-existing conditions, and offers nothing for those worried about losing coverage when it's needed most. While the Democratic proposal was put together out in the open, with Republican ideas, and subjected to months of public hearings in five separate congressional committees, the GOP plan was an entirely partisan proposal, written in secret. The Republican approach to reform sought to create a system that "works better for people who don't need health care services, and much worse for people who actually are sick or who become sick in the future. It's basically a health un-insurance policy." And as we learned last year, the plan included provisions that "mirror the suggestions put forth by the lobbying entity of the private insurance industry way back in December 2008."

That Republican lawmakers now want to re-introduce the same package, apparently as some kind of election-year stunt, suggests the party is convinced that voters are fools.

No comments:

Post a Comment