Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stop Sending Soldiers to Do the Cops' Job

Commenters on my Afghanistan post have asked, if we don't fight terrorists in Af-Pak, then where do we fight them.

I think the question is not where, but how. And the answer is not with civilian-killing, enemy-making bombs, but with the one approach that even the military acknowledges is the only one that works:

Law enforcement. Investigation, arrest, trial, conviction, imprisonment.

From a 2005 conference report of the U.S. Army's Strategic Studies Institute:

In the second paper, Mr. Michael German illustrates why he believes the U.S. reaction to terrorism is not just inadequate, but rather, by being incorrect, our strategy compounds the problem. By defining activity as terrorist warfare rather than criminal behavior, we enhance perpetrators’ status and provide them the legitimacy that they seek.

The author’s experience as an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent has given him valuable insights into terrorists’ desire for legitimacy among their supporters, sympathizers, and others who have potential to become part of those two groups. He discusses how these groups develop strategies to create overreaction by authorities and to avoid their most feared outcome, being labeled as mere criminal gangs.

He likewise discusses the patterns of governmental overreaction that must be avoided if the government’s legitimacy is to be preserved; fortunately, the U.S. Constitution provides an effective structure to avoid overreaction by guaranteeing individual rights and requiring open-source and transparent methods for criminal prosecution. Secrecy and increased governmental power is not the solution. He convincingly argues that his conclusions about domestic terrorists are applicable to their international counterparts and that the legalistic approach that has proven effective within the United States would be equally effective internationally.

Finally, Dr. Shawn Boyne discusses Germany’s recognition of the Islamic terrorist threat, but rejection of the metaphor of war in favor of its constitutional law framework. That commitment provides for the same civil liberty protections for all acts, whether or not committed by citizens and without regard for motivation. She convincingly argues that the German approach is a consequence of its relatively long and active history of dealing with domestic terrorism and more recent internal debates. Germany decided, in contrast to the United States, not to view the September 11, 2001, attacks as the beginning of a war, but through the lens of German and international law.

Germany’s response was not to create new law, but to strengthen resources to investigate and enforce existing laws. Logically, its military forces were provided specifically for Afghanistan, mostly in noncombat roles, and not for the general war on terrorism. Germany’s legalistic stance was not sufficient to avoid making difficult choices about the balance between internal security and civil liberties and may mean that democracies must remain vigilant in protecting human rights, no matter which tactics they choose to fight terrorism. At a minimum, the United States should view the German solution as an alternative to its own and compare its relative effectiveness for security and potential costs in civil liberties for its citizens.

Killing people - whether for political, monetary or romantic reasons, and whether by knife, gun or suicide bomb - is a crime. Terrorism is a tactic used by criminals.

And anyone who says the U.S. criminal justice system is not up to the task of finding, capturing, prosecuting and incarcerating a bunch of cave-dwelling medieval freaks is un-American.

(Blue Girl makes excellent points in her comment here.)

Dan Mongiardo: Bad in So Many Ways

There are some Democratic politicans who are great candidates but crummy office-holders. See Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.

There are some Democratic politicians who would be superb in offices they'll never hold because they're crummy candidates. See Kentucky Auditor Crit Luallen, who should be governor.

There are Democratic politicians who are great candidates and superb office-holders, but rotten human beings. See former President Bill Clinton.

And then there are lying, homophobic, coal-industry shilling "Democratic" politicians who are crummy candidates, horrible office-holders and rotten human beings. See Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo.

David Shankula has the details:

Over the past few months, Dan Mongiardo's 2010 Senate Primary campaign has been actively trying to silence several growing problems.

Take, for example, Dan Mongiardo's staggering "Unfavorable" numbers. A recent poll of Kentucky Democratic voters found Mongiardo has a whopping 28% Negative Rating. That's twice the rate of the other likely 2010 Democratic candidates. Mongiardo is so unpopular even some Republicans rated higher than him -- and remember, this is among Democratic voters only.

Read the whole thing.

Then go help Media Czech draft Jack Conway.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Monday, March 30, 2009

They Don't Call It "Graveyard of Empires" for Nothing

I'm with publius: the fact that Kagan, Kristol, Krauthammer and the rest of the wingnut warmongers are thrilled with Obama's Afghanistan escalation is more than enough proof that it's an inevitable catastrophe.

But if you need more evidence, here are two superb cases against increasing our involvement in Afghanistan.

In The Nation, Tom Englehardt sees an "Af-Pak Bailout" that will make the AIG giveaway seem like pocket change.

What this all adds up to is an ambitious doubling down on just about every bet already made by Washington in these last years--from the counterinsurgency war against the Taliban and the counter-terrorism war against Al Qaeda to the financial love/hate relationship with the Pakistani military and its intelligence services underway since at least the Nixon years of the early 1970s. (Many of the flattering things now being said by US officials about Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, for instance, were also said about the now fallen autocrat Pervez Musharraf when he held the same position.)


Face it, we've entered a new universe. The "homeland" is in turmoil, the planetary frontiers are aboil. Change--even change we don't want to believe in--is in the air.
In the end, as with the Obama economic team, so the foreign policy team may be pushed in new directions sooner than anyone imagines and, willy-nilly, into some genuinely new thinking about a collapsing world. But not now. Not yet. Like our present financial bailouts, like that extra $30 billion that went into AIG recently, the new Obama plan is superannuated on arrival. It represents graveyard thinking.
Af-Pak War...

Read the whole thing.

In Salon, Juan Cole writes that Obama's plan is a warmed-over version of Cold War Domino Theory. For you youngsters, that's the 50's version of "fight them over there" that got us stuck in Vietnam for 20 years.

Obama's dark vision of the overthrow of the Afghanistan government by al-Qaida-linked Taliban or the "killing" of Pakistan by small tribal groups differs little from the equally apocalyptic and implausible warnings issued by John McCain and Dick Cheney about an "al-Qaida" victory in Iraq. Ominously, the president's views are contradicted by those of his own secretary of defense. Pashtun tribes in northwestern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan have a long history of dissidence, feuding and rebellion, which is now being branded Talibanism and configured as a dire menace to the Western way of life. Obama has added yet another domino theory to the history of Washington's justifications for massive military interventions in Asia. When a policymaker gets the rationale for action wrong, he is at particular risk of falling into mission creep and stubborn commitment to a doomed and unnecessary enterprise.


This latter-day domino theory of al-Qaida takeovers in South Asia is just as implausible as its earlier iteration in Southeast Asia (ask Thailand or the Philippines). Most of the allegations are not true or are vastly exaggerated.


Obama's dark vision of the overthrow of the Afghanistan government by al-Qaida-linked Taliban or the "killing" of Pakistan by small tribal groups differs little from the equally apocalyptic and implausible warnings issued by John McCain and Dick Cheney about an "al-Qaida" victory in Iraq. Ominously, the president's views are contradicted by those of his own secretary of defense. Pashtun tribes in northwestern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan have a long history of dissidence, feuding and rebellion, which is now being branded Talibanism and configured as a dire menace to the Western way of life. Obama has added yet another domino theory to the history of Washington's justifications for massive military interventions in Asia. When a policymaker gets the rationale for action wrong, he is at particular risk of falling into mission creep and stubborn commitment to a doomed and unnecessary enterprise.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Finally, a Sign of Rationality at Homeland Security

dday brings us good news on immigration.

Today's Washington Post reports on a policy shift toward punishing the businesses who hire the undocumented rather than the individual workers themselves.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.

A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute - increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers.

Worksite raids, particularly as they were used in the Bush Administration, were unnecessarily harsh, separated families and in some cases violated due process and other civil liberties. The employers are just as responsible for breaking the law, yet during the Bush years they were almost never charged. This shift in operations at DHS and ICE not only makes sense on a moral and ethical level, but is likely to be more successful in deterring companies from hiring and exploiting undocumented labor.

I know immigration isn't a front-burner issue right now, but there are better priorities than the government operating like commandos and taking workers away from their families, while recognizing that the only way to truly solve the problem is through comprehensive reform.

Amen, Hallelujah and About Fucking Time. As bad if not worse than middle-class taxpayers funding billion-dollar bonuses to economy-destroying Wall Street gamblers is the way factory owners around the country have gotten away with treating immigrants as slave labor, with immigration officials from Homeland Security acting as whip-wielding overseers.

Janet Napolitano, unlike Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, seems to understand that it's the workers who make this economy run, and the corporations who fuck it up.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Adventure at Kentucky State Parks

I admit it: I'm completely in the tank for Kentucky State Parks. I grew up spending family vacations camping in them, I learned how to water-ski at Lake Cumberland and snow-ski at General Butler. I learned spelunking at Carter Caves and day-hiking at Pine Mountain.

For close-to-everybody, inexpensive recreation in spectacular scenery you can't beat it. In the same state park you'll find the golfing, swimming pools, dining room and lodge accommodations citified types demand and the secluded camping, quiet trails and near-wilderness we hippies prefer.

Not to mention the many special events and adventures Kentucky State Parks are now promoting.

As the weather improves, so do the opportunities to get out and find an adventure or two at a Kentucky State Park.

During April and May, many state parks will be holding special events including canoeing, overnight backpacking, hikes, mountain biking and cycling. Campgrounds will also open in April and Camper Appreciation Weekend will be April 24-26 at all state parks.

Here is a listing of some of the state park adventures in April and May. For more details on these and other events, along with online reservations for lodging and camping, visit www.parks.ky.gov.

There's canoeing on the Licking River and at Natural Bridge, overnight backpacking at Lake Barkley, hiking at Greenbo Lake, cross-country hiking at Carter Caves, mountain biking at General Butler, and Pennyrile Forest, geocaching at Lake Cumberland and much more.

Don't miss these:

Family Spring Adventure-Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
4/25/2009 and May 2, 9, 23

Cumberland Falls is a nature-lovers' paradise. Get the family out this spring with these adventurous activities: Canoeing, archery, bird walks, wildflower walks, fire tower tours, astronomy, wildlife programs, and hikes to other waterfalls and arches. Some activities are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Family Adventure Quest

The Kentucky State Parks are again offering the Family Adventure Quest program in 2009. This is a trivia and digital photo scavenger hunt based on visits to state parks. Families can win prizes if they correctly complete challenges. This year’s quest is based on Abraham Lincoln in honor of his birthday bicentennial. For more information, click here.

Nature Weekends at Natural Bridge State Resort Park.If you’re a nature enthusiast, Natural Bridge State Resort Park is offering two nature-filled weekends for all plant and animal lovers.

Wildflower Weekend, April 17-19, is a chance for gardeners, nature lovers and botanists to enjoy the hundreds of species of native plants at Natural Bridge. Field trips and walks will be offered for the beginner and advanced wildflower enthusiast at many different times during the three-day event, starting at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Herpetology Weekend, May 1-2, is a way to learn about nature’s most misunderstood critters. On Saturday, May 2, experienced herpetologists will lead field trips at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. into the Red River Gorge to observe reptiles and amphibians in their native habitat. Collection is prohibited. Children’s activities will be offered at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

There will also be evening speakers at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, as well as various demonstrations that will include live venomous snakes!

Nature Fest at Barren River Lake April 24-25.

Buffalo Dinner and Native American Day at Kentucky Dam Village on April 25.

"Pickin' At the Caves" Carter Caves State Resort Park will begin hosting “Pickin’ at the Caves” on the first and third Monday of every month beginning April 6.

Anyone who plays a musical instrument is invited to come and play between 6 and 10 p.m. at the Lewis Caveland Lodge. And for those who don’t play, come out and listen!

The park will offer a special buffet for $6.95 on these Monday nights at the Tierney’s Cavern Restaurant. The restaurant is open for dinner from 5-8 p.m.

If you can't find a memory-making event, place, weekend, family moment, favorite tree or perfect lake at a Kentucky State Park, you aren't trying.

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Via P.Z. Myers, an untouched photo of a real sign on a real church in Arkansas:

This is why saying you don't "believe" in evolution is like saying you don't "believe" in gravity. Facts don't go away no matter how much faith claims otherwise.

This is why facts always trump faith, except in the minds of the faithful.

And this is why any religious believer who claims to be capable of rational thought and basic logical reasoning should be laughed out of the room.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Crisis and Service

President Obama's Weekly Address, dedicated to the people working to save their homes from flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Full transcript here.

Stimulus FUBAR in Kentucky

There's something worse than the repug governors trying to refuse federal stimulus money because it will help the unemployed, poor, sick and elderly in their states.

That's a "Democratic" governor who loses $45 million in no-strings-attached federal stimulus money because he failed to make a teeny-tiny change in state law.

Kentucky will miss out on an estimated $45 million in no-strings-attached federal stimulus money -- funds to extend unemployment benefits for thousands of jobless Kentuckians -- because of its failure to make a simple change in state law.

The change would have allowed unemployed workers who exhaust their benefits to receive up to 20 additional weeks at no cost to Kentucky when the state's three-month jobless rate climbs to at least 8 percent. The state's current rate is 8.5 percent.

Beshear not only failed to take the simple, no-cost step to get that additional $45 million in federal stimulus money, when questioned he lied about it.

In an interview, Gov. Steve Beshear downplayed the significance of the state's failure to act. He stressed that jobless Kentuckians will be eligible for the 13 weeks of federal benefits when the 5 percent threshold is met -- which he said will happen soon.

"Under our current law, and under the federal stimulus, we are taking full advantage of all the stimulus has to offer," he said.

Read the whole thing for details.

Adding insult to injury, on Friday Beshear announced a task force to deal with the catastrophe of the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Wonder how much Beshear losing $45 million in free federal money is making that catastrophe worse?

The press release features yet another shameless Beshear lie:

"We will ensure that Kentuckians receive all benefits to which they are entitled under the federal stimulus," said Gov. Beshear.

I call Steve Beshear a DINO and cowardly waste of oxygen because Steve Beshear is a DINO and cowardly waste of oxygen.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Caging the Blue Dogs

Between an economic plan designed and run by protect-the-rich jerks Geithner and Summers, the Senate majority leader telling progressives to sit down and shut up and the Democratic margin of majority in the Senate composed of repug-fellating DINOs, liberals today are more under seige than before the election.

Barack Obama may not be the second coming of FDR for which we hoped, but that just makes it more critical that we keep pushing him harder and further left than he would go on his own.

Harry Reid may find our grassroots campaigns for liberal priorities in the budget tacky and inconvenient, but that's all the more incentive for us to keep the pressure on that whiny coward.

Evan Bayh's Wastes of Oxygen Who Are Afraid to Admit They're Really Wingnut Freakazoids may be throwing a "centrist" temper tantrum, but that just forces us to make sure they get a political time-out. Steve Benen gets it:

Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) has noticed some of the progressive pushback to his new working group, compromised of "centrist" Democrats, who want to water down make President Obama's popular domestic policy agenda more palatable to a small Republican minority. Apparently, he's not happy about it.

Bayh announced last week that a group of centrist Democrats had come together to negotiate as a bloc with the White House and party leaders on major legislation. He promptly found himself targeted by an ad accusing him of "standing in the way of President Obama's reforms."

"We literally have no agenda," Bayh shot back. "How can they be threatened by a group that has taken no policy positions?"

The problem, of course, is that people feel "threatened" because Bayh and the Blue Dogs do have an agenda, and we've already seen some of their policy positions. The Wall Street Journal noted this morning that the working group's stated goal is to "protect business interests."

Ryan Powers highlighted some of these Democrats' other recent exploits:

* Shrinking Economic Recovery: The group's first significant "success" was "paring down the more than $900 billion economic stimulus bill to $787 billion," reducing the government's ability to spur economic recovery quickly. [Roll Call, 3/12/2009]

* Preserving The Bush Tax Cuts: Regarding Obama's plan to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, Bayh said, "I do think that before we raise revenue, we first should look to see if there are ways we can cut back on spending." [Politico, 3/3/2009]

* Delaying Cap-and-Trade: Bayh coalition member, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), explained that the group might "push for a more lenient phase-in period for a cap-and-trade system and revenue-raising offsets to pay for expensive mandates." [CQ Politics, 3/9/2009]

* Weakening Bankruptcy Protection: Centrist Democrats "forced changes to a House bill that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages, ensuring that the legislation better reflected the concerns of the financial-services industry." [WSJ, 3/25/09]

Americans elected Democrats to hold a 58-seat majority in the Senate, and yet, the majority party will struggle to pass its agenda -- a popular agenda, mind you -- because of Republican obstructionism, and Democrats who prefer to drive with their foot on the brake.

I'd just add that calling Bayh's bunch "Moderate Dems" undermines the liberal position. Call them what they are:

"Insecure Little Pricks Who Crave Attention We Can Only Get By Tearing Down the Most Popular Democratic President of Our Lifetimes."

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dan and Steve Against the World

Kentucky's newest political couple is homophobe and coal industry shill Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, and DINO/cowardly waste of oxygen Governor Steve Beshear, who just endorsed Mongiardo for the 2010 U.S. Senate race.

Page One notes this was released at 4 p.m. on a Friday, right in the middle of the firing of UK basketball coach Billy Gillespie and while Louisville is preparing for an NCAA tournament game. That might mean Beshear feels obligated to give Mongiardo superficial lip-service support, but won't go out of his way to raise money or campaign for him.

I hope that's it, because I have a hard time believing that Beshear would stand with Dr. Dan against Attorney General Jack Conway and the entire Democratic political establishment plus every progressive Democratic voter in the state. Or alternatively, that this endorsement would cause Conway to abandon his Senate race plans.

Fortunately, a statement from Democratic political operative Mark Riddle appears to support the damn-with-faint-support theory:

"People will have to decide for themselves whether a tepid statement honoring a long-standing political commitment, done on a Friday afternoon while the Governor is out-of-town is indeed newsworthy,” Riddle said. “Most expected the Governor would have to say something on his running mate’s behalf. However, in a larger sense, many Democratic leaders believe their party should have a choice in selecting the nominee who can best lead our Commonwealth into the future, and Attorney General Conway is seriously considering this race for the U.S. Senate."

But here's some Political Paranoia for your weekend consideration:

What if THIS is the reason repug Senate President David Williams had an inexplicable change of heart and let the state senate approve tax increases on tobacco and alcohol? Beshear helping Mongiardo win the Democratic primary for Senate is how he pays Williams back. Mongiardo is worse than a weak U.S. Senate candidate - he might be the only Democrat in the state who could lose to Jim Bunning next year. And Mongiardo would probably lose to another republican rumored to be interested in the race: one David Williams.

Fasten your seat belts, sports fans. As Media Czech said: IT. IS. ON.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

John Hope Franklin, R.I.P.

Historian John Hope Franklin died Wednesday at age 94. He had a unique perspective on America in the 20th Century, and the silencing of his voice is a great loss.

See a slide show remembrance at TPM.

And via Wonkette, this lovely Charlie Rose interview from 1995.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sorry, Dan: Jack's Gonna Take On Jimbo

Roll Call belatedly realizes that there may be more than one Democratic politician in Kentucky interested in kicking Jim Bunning (R-non compos mentis) out of the Senate.

A source close to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said this week that the Democrat will run for Senate in 2010 and that he is expected to announce his candidacy as soon as early April.


With Conway set to throw his hat in the ring, it appears that the other top Bluegrass Democrats who have considered challenging Bunning will stay on the sidelines. Conway, state Auditor Crit Luallen (D) and Rep. Ben Chandler (D) are all close allies, and party insiders don’t believe any of the three would challenge the others in a primary race.


“The attorney general is staying in constant communications with Auditor Luallen, Congressman Chandler and [Democratic Rep. John] Yarmuth and they are in the process of sorting out this important election,” Riddle said. “Obviously Jack is very humbled that people are talking about his candidacy and encouraging him to run.”

As Page One notes, this is old news. Not just that Conway will run with Luallen's and Chandler's support, but that homophobic coal industry shill Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo's campaign is already struggling.

The Roll Call story gets better. We couldn’t agree more with the following excerpt:

Pointing to the hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign debt — much of which he owes to himself — that Mongiardo continues to carry from that 2004 campaign, the Democratic source said, “If he is such a good fundraiser, why hasn’t he cleared that up?”

Attention Mongiardo crew: If you’ve really raised substantial money, send us some some documentation to back it up. We’d love to know where you stand before the reporting deadline.

Read the whole thing.

Here's my 20-months-out prediction based on nothing that anyone who reads Kentucky political blogs doesn't already know:

Jack Conway will take the Democratic Senate primary in a walk. Mongiardo might not even make an embarrassing second place, if the usual unknowns jump into the race. Conway will beat Bunning in a landslide in the general, but lose to Secretary of State Trey Grayson if Bunning drops out.

Grayson is unlikely to challenge Bunning in a primary, although he could beat Jimbo easily, because why should he risk alienating Kentucky republicans in a 2010 primary when he can get them 100 percent behind him in a 2011 general election challenge to Governor Steve Beshear?

Don't be surprised if Mongiardo follows up his losing Senate campaign by challenging his own governor in the 2011 primary. Mongiardo is that delusional, and Beshear is that determined to exceed Dr. Dan's unpopularity with Kentucky progressives.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why Does Governor Beshear Hate Kentuckians?

Kentucky DINO and waste-of-oxygen Governor Steve Beshear dropped trou today and exposed his shortcomings on two issues of critical importance to impoverished and working-class Kentuckians.

First, he responded to President Obama's moratorium on new mountaintop removal coal mining projects by demanding that the feds continue to allow mountain-raping corporations to choke freshwater streams with toxic mining waste.

Then Beshear claimed to be protecting economically distressed families by signing a bill that gives aid and comfort to the very loan sharks who force those families into destitution.

There are wingnut freakazoid republican politicians in this state who in a lifetime of working to make Kentucky comfortable for rich people haven't done as much to fuck over working poor people as Steve Beshear did today.

Mountaintop removal coal mining is to Eastern Kentucky what the crack cocaine epidemic was to inner cities: a way for outsiders to get rich quick off a business that sickens and kills children, ruins homes, tears families apart and destroys communities. Beshear has been hiding behind his Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo, a shameless advocate of the practice that is destroying his own home region, but now Beshear has come out of the closet with his concern for the "404 permit backlog."

404 permits are what the Army Corps of Engineers issues to mining corporations to dump thousands of tons of toxic coal mining waste into the headwaters of freshwater mountain streams, thus cutting off sources of drinking water and causing massive floods.

In other words - words you won't find in Beshear's press release - a 404 permit is a license to kill people. Poor Kentucky mountain people.

After they are flooded or blasted or poisoned out of their homes, Beshear's Eastern Kentucky victims can join their fellow citizens at the quick-cash loan sharks for whom Beshear once lobbied and continues to protect.

Governors who don't give a shit about people who can't afford large campaign contributions are nothing new in Kentucky, but I can't remember one so blatant yet hypocritical in his eagerness to actively hurt them.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Montana Plane Crash Reveals Xians' True Colors

To all the "modern" christians who insist that their enlightened, "rational" faith should not be confused with freakazoid insanity, this is the Christian reality that you're going to have to destroy if you expect anyone to believe your claims of humanity.

PZ Myers on "a heartless faith:"

There was an appalling and tragic plane crash in Montana: 14 people were killed, 7 of them children.


Nine of them were members of one family. This was a horrifying and genuinely horrible accident; I can't begin to imagine the grief felt by the survivors, who lost children and grandchildren.

I can feel great anger, though. Here is something that will make you furious and outraged, too. Irving Feldkamp is the father of two and grandfather of five who were killed in that accident; he lost a shocking great swath of his family in that one sad afternoon. Irving Feldkamp is also the owner of Family Planning Associates — a chain of clinics that also does abortions.

You can guess what segment of the Christian community I'm about to highlight.

Choke back your gag reflex and read this hideous, evil article on Christian Newswire. Some moral cretin named Gingi Edmonds wrote a wretched story on this tragedy that makes it sound like divine retribution on Mr Feldkamp.

It begins by telling us that the plane crashed in a cemetery — a Catholic cemetery that has a "memorial to the unborn", dedicated to aborted fetuses. We are apparently supposed to feel some sense of irony at this.

All I can feel is horror at the kinds of monsters who would find grim satisfaction in the death of 6 to 10 year old children, as if it were payback for abortion. At amoral pious hypocrites who would regard this as an opportunity to assault human beings broken-hearted by pain and loss, to proselytize for the bloody-handed god of their death cult, to compound agony with accusations of guilt. There is no humanity left in these sanctimonious creatures, it's been bled out and replaced with fanaticism and dogma.


Once again, I am confirmed in my opinion that Christianity is a breeder of evil, a cesspit in which the most hateful and inhuman commitment to lies and delusions can ferment. Don't ever preach at me about Christian morality: I've seen it, and it is empty of love for humanity, replaced with sanctimonious idolatry and commitment to dead, dumb superstition.

Again, with enthusiasm:

Christianity is a breeder of evil, a cesspit in which the most hateful and inhuman commitment to lies and delusions can ferment. Don't ever preach at me about Christian morality: I've seen it, and it is empty of love for humanity, replaced with sanctimonious idolatry and commitment to dead, dumb superstition.

And no, the other monotheisms are no better.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"This Budget is Inseparable From This Recovery"

UPDATE, 6 a.m.: Click here for the video.

Click here for full transcript.

Excerpts from President Obama's opening remarks for tonight's 8 p.m. EDT press conference:

[W]e’ve put in place a comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis on all fronts. It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to re-start lending, and to grow our economy over the long-term. And we are beginning to see signs of progress.

The budget I submitted to Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation, so that we do not face another crisis like this ten or twenty years from now. We invest in the renewable sources of energy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses, and less dependence on foreign oil. We invest in our schools and our teachers so that our children have the skills they need to compete with any workers in the world. We invest in reform that will bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government. And in this budget, we have made the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term – even under the most pessimistic estimates.

At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led to a narrow prosperity and massive debt. It’s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest.

That’s what clean energy jobs and businesses will do. That’s what a highly-skilled workforce will do. That’s what an efficient health care system that controls costs and entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid will do. That’s why this budget is inseparable from this recovery – because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity.

We will recover from this recession. But it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together; when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other – that’s when we succeed. That’s when we prosper. And that’s what is needed right now. So let us look toward the future with a renewed sense of common purpose, a renewed determination, and most importantly, a renewed confidence that a better day will come.

Eating Our Educational Seed Corn

Sometime before Derby, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is going to have to call the General Assembly back into session to deal with a budget deficit that is getting bigger by the day.

This time, they probably won't be able to avoid massive cuts in higher education. They won't even try, because no Kentucky politician ever lost re-election for cutting funding to elitist, ivory-tower eggheads.

PZ Myers brilliantly decries the attitude pervasive in every state that cutting educational budgets is like eliminating dessert, when it's really a starvation diet.

One of the challenges facing the country right now in this time of economic crisis is that we're also about to be confronted by the result of a decade of neglect of the nation's infrastructure, in particular, the chronic starvation of our universities. It's an insidious problem, because as administrations have discovered time and again, you can cut an education budget and nothing bad happens, from their perspective. The faculty get a pay freeze; we tighten our belts. The universities lose public funds; we raise tuition a little bit. A few faculty are lost to attrition, and the state decides to defer their replacement for a year or two or indefinitely; the remaining faculty scramble to cover the manpower loss. We can continue to do our jobs, but behind the scenes, the stresses simply grow and worsen.


Since the state is contributing less and less every year, we will soon reach a point where we simply won't be allowed to replace essential personnel, and then the whole system is going to break down.


The United States is supposed to take some pride in its educational system — at least, we're accustomed to hearing politicians stand up and brag about how our universities are the envy of the world. It's a lie. We're being steadily eroded away, and all that's holding it up right now is the desperate struggles of the faculty within it. We're at the breaking point, though, where the losses can't be supported much more, and the whole edifice is going to fall apart.


The next layer of the problem is the state government. They keep seeing the educational system as a great target for saving money with budget cuts, because the effects will not be manifest for several years — and so they steadily hack and slash and chop, and the universities suffer…and now they're at the point where they begin to break, and they keep cutting. Write to the Florida legislature! Tell them that we need to support higher education, that as a scientific and technological nation, we are dependent on a well-educated citizenry!


Another part of the problem is…you. Why do you keep electing cretins to your legislatures who despise the "intellectual elite", who think being smart is a sin, who are so short-sighted that they care nothing for investing in strengthening the country in ways that take ten or more years to pay off? Stop it! Your representatives should be people who value education enough to commit to at least maintaining the current meager level of funding, but instead we get chains of ignoramuses who want to demolish the universities…and simultaneously want to control them to support their favorite ideological nonsense, via "academic freedom" bills. This is also a long-term goal: we have to work to restore our government to some level of sanity. It's been the domain of fools and thieves for far too long.

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Paging Eliot Spitzer

OK, enough with this amateur shit. You want the bank bailout fiasco handled by somebody who knows that the first step in dealing with Wall Street is to get their attention by smacking them upside the head with a two-by-four?

Then get the guy who used to smack Wall Street around for a living.

We deserve a Treasury Secretary who hasn't been a player in Wall Street's lifestyle of bonuses and legalized corruption. Nobel Prize winning economists Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman would be strong choices; yet they are increasingly valuable as watchdogs and constructive critics working outside the Administration. I've also thought that Obama would be smart to promote former Economic Policy Institute Fellow Jared Bernstein, who is currently serving as Biden's chief economic adviser.

Then there's a novel idea. Why not bring in the man who took on Wall Street and AIG long before it was trendy? Eliot Spitzer. Call me crazy. But he foresaw the bubbles and disasters resulting from deregulatory frenzy and the financial service industry's creation of toxic credit default swaps and derivatives. As the Sherriff of Wall Street, Spitzer launched investigations and lawsuits deploying the creative cudgel of the previously-obscure 1921 Martin Act. Yes, he acted miserably toward his wife and family and he should pay the price for that. But some believe Spitzer was taken down by certain "masters of the universe" seeking vengeance for his aggressive policing of their financial fraud and corruption.

In his first television interview since resigning as Governor, on CNN"s Fareed Zakaria's "GPS" program, Spitzer offered a compelling analysis of how we got into this mess and spoke clearly about the need for new regulations to rein in Wall Street's "recklessness and greed." He criticized Wall Street's former masters for their "hot dog cowboy mentality which leveraged everything up." (And he praised old fashioned Wall Street types like Felix Rohatyn for not falling prey to that mentality.)

While acknowledging the outrage of AIG's bonuses, Spitzer focused on the larger outrage: the use of billions in taxpayer dollars to prop up AIG and various counterparties, including Goldman Sachs (which received $12 billion plus of the government's original infusion). He also castigated the media, including CNBC, for failing to ask the tough questions, and the SEC and other relevant government agencies for lacking the will and creativity to do their job. When asked about how he'd handle the legal issue of retrieving AIG 's bonuses, Spitzer referred to tort law and the theory of unjust enrichment--along with other creative ideas--to get justice for taxpayers.

Spitzer took on Wall Street's metastasizing corruption before the meltdown. He defended consumers' and taxpayers' rights. He speaks with passion and clarity about what went wrong and what needs to be done to restore integrity to our system. He is chastened by personal scandal, yet untouched by complicity in Wall Street's public scandals which have obliterated peoples' savings and devastated our country.

Spitzer for Treasury Secretary?

Read the whole thing.

Actually, fuck the Treasury Secretary. Make Spitzer the Wall Street Czar. Give him the power to match his experience and knowledge, to decide who gets nationalized, who goes bankrupt, who pays back bonuses, who has to disgorge profits hidden overseas and who goes directly to jail.

Who better to sort out whores than somebody who knows from whores?

Add Your Voice to Ask the President

President Obama's calling on Huffington Post online reporter Sam Stein at a press conference in February gave activists hope that the reign of the Beltway Villagers over presidential communication might be ripe for toppling. The Nation has a way we can make that happen.

On his first day in office, President Obama pledged to make his administration "the most open and transparent in history." Americans can already see more of their government--from splashy slide shows of Oval Office meetings to newly declassified memos about the executive's wartime powers. Unlike Obama's dynamically interactive campaign, however, WhiteHouse.gov does not foster much meaningful dialogue with citizens. At least not yet.

Obama can go much further to deliver on his promise. He took a small step in February by fielding a question from a Huffington Post reporter at his first press conference. Yet advancing a connected, engaged citizenry requires more than acknowledging the rise of online media. Here is one tradition that Obama could start: invite new and independent voices into the East Room by pledging to take a citizen-generated question at every prime-time press conference.

To put this idea into action--and give the busy White House something tangible to work with--The Nation is teaming up with a broad coalition of new and traditional media, including the Washington Times and the Personal Democracy Forum, to begin gathering questions from you, the public.

You can suggest questions and vote on the questions you'd like President Obama to answer at Ask the President.

After public voting, the coalition will select and send a credentialed journalist to attend the next presidential press conference, ready to choose from the list of the most popular citizen questions. (This journalist would focus only on these questions from citizens and would not reduce the time available for the standing pool of White House reporters.) The precise question will not be announced in advance, though the choices will obviously be public. At the press conference, the journalist can choose from the top questions, prioritizing a topic that is substantive, factual and that has not already been addressed by the president.

This assumes, of course, that President Obama agrees to participate.

The East Room press conferences are among the most exclusive and least democratic public gatherings in American politics; the White House controls who attends and who gets called on. So the coalition is appealing directly to the Obama administration to admit and call on the journalist armed with citizen questions. Obama has repeatedly pledged a more innovative, interactive government. Wide public engagement in "Ask the President"--and strong political support for Obama's participation--can make that pledge a reality.

Read the whole thing, and post your question/video at Ask the President today.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Have a White House Garden at Your Place

You don't need a White House staff, expensive equipment or even weed-pulling kids to grow inexpensive, healthy, too-delicious-to-believe organic vegetables in your yard, on your deck or even on a city balcony.

I learned organic gardening and the importance of always having a Victory Garden of veggies from my parents. Thanks to them, I internalized the Depression/World War II value that an expanse of un-productive lawn was evidence of moral laxity and lack of patriotism.

Organic gardening at home means never having to worry about the safety of the spinach you grow yourself. Organic gardening at home re-defines a vine-ripened tomato as one plucked five minutes ago and five feet from your kitchen door. Organic gardening at home means freedom from the over-priced, pesticide-soaked, weeks-old pathetic produce in the grocery store.

So whether you start with a single cherry tomato plant in a pot on your porch, a row of spinach next to the driveway or a trellis of sugar snap peas to snack on right where you grow them, you'll be emulating the First Family in continuing one of this nation's most productive and rewarding traditions.

Get started today.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

AIG Bonuses A Red Herring to Hide a Power Grab

There aren't many obvious ways to make the bank bailout fiasco worse, but the most idiotic would be to give even more power to big bank apologists/protectors Tim Geithner and Larry Summers.

So guess what's really behind the AIG bonus hysteria?

As frustration with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) reaches a fever pitch, both on the Hill and among his home-state voters, it's worth taking a step back and asking why some fellow Democrats left him to flail this week while they scrambled for cover from AIG anger.

Here's one potential answer, gleaned from months of watching the still-evolving debate over broader financial regulatory reform: depleting Dodd's political capital positions the Federal Reserve for a major increase in power by next year -- handing a plum position to Larry Summers, who has long been tipped as the next Fed chairman.

Assigning Summers and Geithner to fix the global financial catastrophe isn't letting the fox guard the henhouse; it's handing every chicken on earth over to people who slaughter chickens for a living.

As The Nation explains, the bonus fiasco comes as no surprise to anyone who paid attention to the arguments against Geithner's confirmation.

The truth is that Geithner's been a horrible player from the start. Democratic Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Tom Harkin of Iowa, and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, were right to vote against confirming him as Treasury Secretary. While Republican opponents of the Geithner nomination may be accused -- fairly or not -- of having simply been playing politics, Byrd, Feingold, Harkin and Sanders raised profound and appropriate concerns.

Sanders said: "Mr. Geithner was at the Fed and the Treasury Department when the deregulatory fervor that got us into this mess ran rampant. He was part of the problem."

Added Harkin: "(Geithner) made serious errors in his job as chief regulator of the financial institutions at the heart of the current financial crisis."

Feingold said he based his "no" vote on concerns about Geithner's failure to pay taxes. But, the senator added, "I am troubled by Mr. Geithner's track record on some of the issues that have contributed to the credit market crisis..."

Savvy senators were unwilling to place their faith in Geithner.
But Dodd was not a savvy senator.

So Geithner demanded Dodd drop his amendment controlling executive compensation like the bonuses, and now Dodd's taking the blame, his credibility shot. TPM again:

But why would kneecapping Dodd help those in D.C. who want regulatory power consolidated at the Fed?

Because as Congress debates where to situate a new "systemic risk regulator" (that's Capitol-speak for "long-term protector of the financial system"), Dodd is openly questioning whether the Fed should have the job.

Current Fed chair Ben Bernanke has not done a horrible job trying to prevent complete economic meltdown, but his hands are full and the AIG fiasco got away from him. Larry Summers would be another Alan Greenspan, sacrificing Main Street to feed the greed of Wall Street.

Chief among the Fed's mistakes, in the eyes of its critics, was its mishandling of the original government takeover of AIG. Dodd went on to say yesterday, as he has on several recent occasions, that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is a better choice to become the "systemic risk regulator" because it has a more solid track record on consumer protection.


It's not clear whether Geithner and Summers agree that the Fed should become "America's regulator-in-chief," as the Economist puts it today.
But given Geithner's history at the central bank, and Summers' apparent vying for the chairmanship, it's reasonable to suspect that they'd much prefer the Fed to the FDIC, where chief Sheila Bair has openly clashed with the new Treasury Secretary over remedies for the financial meltdown.

It may be a long time before we know for certain who did what wrong and who committed what crimes in the Great Collapse of 2008, but in the meantime, I'll suggest this rule of thumb:

In seeking solutions to problems caused by people on Wall Street, put not your trust in people from Wall Street.

Or in other words, whatever Tim Geithner and Larry Summer suggest, do the opposite.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fill Out Your Bracket of Evil

This is a tough one.

Personally, I think any Bracket of Evil ought to include Duke, but this one restricts you to the regions of Government, Media, Corporate and Mavericks.

Can you figure the Number One Seeds before opening the bracket?

"Class Economic Rape"

Keith Olbermann on the bankers not even Alexander Hamilton could love.

Transcript here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

For Those Too Busy Hating, It's Robo-Prayer!

When the protagonist of that perennial Roman Empire best-seller said:

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full!
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

I don't think this is what he meant.

Do you feel like you don't pray enough? Are you too busy working, or playing golf, or fornicating to actually take the time out to get down on your knees and praise the invisible man in the sky?

Well, there is a service for you: Information Age Prayer. For the low, low price of $3.95 a month, they will run your prayer of choice through a voice synthesizer every day, and allow the computer to speak to god for you.

Is a loved one sick? For only $9.95 per month, the computer will beg god to help them 5 times a day! Throw enough money at this service, and you can just skip church altogether, not waste any time with the holy muttering, and get all the benefits of piety, every single one. Sign up today!

(Lest you think this must be a humor site, the buttons to bill your credit card actually work, and go through paypal. If it's a joke, it's an evil one that might actually suck some money out of the pockets of the desperately stupid.)

Via the always-valuable PZ Myers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Senate DINOs Announce Plan to Destroy Obama's Presidency

Because there is really no other way to describe this.

Roll Call reports that a group of 15-20 “moderate” Senate Democrats — boosted by their success in “paring down the more than $900 billion economic stimulus bill to $787 billion” — plans to “formally announce next week that it is aligning as a loose coalition or working group focused on deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility”:

Led by Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), members said early press reports of their meetings were mischaracterized as an opposition group to President Barack Obama’s agenda and budget. But they acknowledge that they are seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill. […]

[Nebraska Sen. Ben] Nelson said the moderate bloc is modeled after the Blue Dogs, but that the realities of the Senate prevent them from being as organized or unified as the House group, which regularly wins concessions from House Democratic leaders.

But as one anonymous Democratic senator told Roll Call, “Once you decide to be part of a bloc that is completely dislocated from the main [Democratic] caucus interests, you’ve not only separated yourself, you’ve also burned a lot of bridges.” Politico previously explained the possible implications of such a group, writing, “If the moderate Democrats in the Senate are willing to work with moderate Republicans…they will negate the White House’s ability to portray opposition…as partisan obstructionism.”

Kevin Drum pours fiery sarcasm on their asses:

ThinkProgress glosses a Roll Call story today telling us that Evan Bayh is spearheading a group of 15-20 Democratic senators "seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill."

And it's about time, isn't it? We've now gone nearly a full two months without Democrats forming a circular firing squad designed to bring down a Democratic president and prove that Democrats can't actually get anything done. I say, that's two months too long.

But at least a bunch of senators will get to preen a bit about how they managed to water down progressive legislation and get the White House to beg them for their votes. And that's what public service is all about, isn't it?

Steven Benen reminds us that Matt Yglesias nailed the pathetic psychology behind DINO treason.

A couple of weeks ago, Matt Yglesias had a great item explaining how "moderate" Democrats like Bayh view the policymaking process.

[T]he key legislative players aren't reasonable, moderate people they're "reasonable" "Senate moderates." A "Senate moderate" is someone who takes his party's proposals, objects to them, waters them down a bit, and then congratulates himself on a job well done. Which is great if his party's proposals are unduly immoderate. But it's big-time trouble if his party puts a reasonable, moderate agenda on the table.

After all, you don't maintain the painstakingly achieved Nelson/Bayh "Senate moderate" brand by clapping politely. You need to bitch and moan and be quoted in inside-baseball only media outlets that none of your constituents pay attention to, and hold conferences and have meetings at the White House where people hold your hands. You need to be praised by the opposition party, and extract your pound of flesh from the proposal. Then when it looks like it might go down to defeat, you can vote for the somewhat-watered-down version and be the hero who saved the day and nobody will mention that you saved the day from yourself.

But you really do need to do that stuff. You can't just say "well, this is a reasonable proposal so I'll back it." Then your moderate license gets taken away.

The answer, then, is for President Obama to readjust his approach to negotiating.

The president seems to believe in honesty -- work hard to create sound ideas, and then encourage reasonable lawmakers to vote for them. What nonsense. Obama apparently needs to high-ball every proposal so Bayh and the Blue Dogs can water them down to "reasonable" levels and feel good about themselves.

Stomping on their necks until they scream for mercy works for me, but I'm not as subtle as the President.

More importantly, even if President Obama manages to co-opt the Baby Liebermans long enough to get universal health care, carbon caps and a second stimulus passed, the Ungrateful Bastards Caucus will remain in office unless we vote them out.

Yes, we know it can be done, because it has been done. Just two years ago, DINO extraordinaire Al Wynn was ousted in the Maryland Congressional Democratic primary by novice and Proud Liberal Donna Edwards, who went on to win the general election.

Progressive groups specifically targeted Wynn because of his conservative, un-Democratic positions, and Edward ran on a specifically DINO-killing platform.

That success led to the formation of Accountability Now, dedicated to recruiting and supporting primary election opposition to "Democrats" in Congress who are more beholden to corporate interests and Beltway groupthink than to their constituents.

I'd say announcing your intention of stopping President Obama from rebuilding a nation destroyed by three decades of criminal corporate greed pretty much qualifies Bayh's Senate Blue Dogs as Accountability Now targets.

Read about Accountability Now's plans for the 2010 elections here. Join the good fight today.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Fuck-It List

This one's in danger of going viral.

Feministe picked it up and Terri got it next.

If you're too lazy to click the links - shame on you! - a fuck-it list is the opposite of a bucket list (things to do before you die).

So, here's my list of things I feel no need to do before I die:

  • Run for office
  • Appear on television
  • Let jaysus into my life
  • Forgive my enemies
  • Join a club
  • Buy stocks
  • Gamble at a casino
  • Ride an ATV/Jetski
  • Mentor a child
  • Own a gun
  • Go on a cruise
  • Play golf
  • Watch Faux News/Hannity/Limbaugh/O'Reilly
  • Twitter
  • Eat tofu
  • Fuck a republican (literally)
Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ...

Obama's Socialism Needs Work

One of the many annoying habits of the wingnut freakazoid crowd is its deliberate use of emotional push-button words that don't mean what they pretend they mean. Words like patriotism, freedom, terrorism, commander in chief, liberal.

And Socialism.

In last Sunday's Washington Post, Billy Wharton, head of the Socialist Party USA, explains why President Barack Obama is doing a piss-poor job of turning us into a Socialist Hell-hole.

The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat -- one of a generation of neoliberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies.

The first clear indication that Obama is not, in fact, a socialist, is the way his administration is avoiding structural changes to the financial system.

Nationalization is simply not in the playbook of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his team. They favor costly, temporary measures that can easily be dismantled should the economy stabilize. Socialists support nationalization and see it as a means of creating a banking system that acts like a highly regulated public utility. The banks would then cease to be sinkholes for public funds or financial versions of casinos and would become essential to reenergizing productive sectors of the economy.

The same holds true for health care. A national health insurance system as embodied in the single-payer health plan reintroduced in legislation this year by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), makes perfect sense to us. That bill would provide comprehensive coverage, offer a full range of choice of doctors and services and eliminate the primary cause of personal bankruptcy -- health-care bills. Obama's plan would do the opposite. By mandating that every person be insured, ObamaCare would give private health insurance companies license to systematically underinsure policyholders while cashing in on the moral currency of universal coverage. If Obama is a socialist, then on health care, he's doing a fairly good job of concealing it.

Issues of war and peace further weaken the commander in chief's socialist credentials. Obama announced that all U.S. combat brigades will be removed from Iraq by August 2010, but he still intends to leave as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq and wishes to expand the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A socialist foreign policy would call for the immediate removal of all troops. It would seek to follow the proposal made recently by an Afghan parliamentarian, which called for the United States to send 30,000 scholars or engineers instead of more fighting forces.


I doubt that any of Obama's policies will someday appear in the annals of socialist history. The president has, however, been assigned the unenviable task of salvaging a capitalist system intent on devouring itself. The question is whether he can do so without addressing the deep inequalities that have become fundamental features of American society. So, President Obama, what I want to know is this: Can you lend legitimacy to a society in which 5 percent of the population controls 85 percent of the wealth? Can you sell a health-care reform package that will only end up enriching a private health insurance industry? Will you continue to favor military spending over infrastructure development and social services?

My guess is that the president will avoid these questions, further confirming that he is not a socialist except, perhaps, in the imaginations of an odd assortment of conservatives. Yet as the unemployment lines grow longer, the food pantries emptier and health care scarcer, socialism may be poised for a comeback in America. The doors of our "socialist cubby-hole" are open to anyone, including Obama. I encourage him to stop by for one of our monthly membership meetings. Be sure to arrive early to get a seat -- we're more popular than ever lately.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Poverty Theorists Can't See White People

One of these days, academic social scientists are going to find out that this country is chock-full of poor people who are white, but I wouldn't want to hang from a rope until then.

The 12-zillionth book on the "culture of poverty" has hit the shelves and no one seems to think it's odd that it speaks exclusively to black urban ghetto poverty.

Even though just last month ABC's "20-20" managed to get the entire Appalachian region up in arms with a show on mountain poverty that focused on actual poor white people.

The really bizarre part of Sudhir Venkatesh's review of William Julius Wilson's More Than Just Race is that it stresses culture rather than race as the factor defining poverty, yet refuses to acknowledge that people caught in this non-racial culture can be any race other than black.

I haven't read Wilson's book, but Venkatesh accepts Wilson's apparent thesis that poverty is cultural, not racial. His argument would be a lot more persuasive if he didn't insist that this non-racial culture is confined to one race.

Moynihan forced a nation to ask, "Is the culture of poor blacks at the core of their problems?"

This question continues to haunt us, and Moynihan's arguments about black culture still preoccupy and divide academics. (The January 2009 issue of the Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science is dedicated to a critical reappraisal of his report.) Coming from a liberal democrat, the senator's discussion of race was remarkably bold and straightforward: Unemployed black men were "failures"; female heads of households ("matriarchs") threatened black masculinity; blacks needed help from "white America."

Replace "black" with "Eastern Kentuckian" or "rural" and "white America" with "Central Kentucky" or "wealthy suburbs" and suddenly you're talking about white people.

Newsflash: the vast majority of poor people in this country are white. The white culture of poverty is just as entrenched, just as tied to drug-dealing, just as rewarding of teenaged single motherhood, just as lacking in good jobs, just as dismissive of education and hard work as is the black culture of poverty.

The Mountain Parkway between Pikeville and Lexington is paved with the shriveled souls of anti-poverty workers who spent their best years beating their heads against the brick wall of the "culture of poverty" in white Eastern Kentucky.

Liberals believed that black poverty was caused by systemic racism, such as workplace discrimination and residential segregation, and that focusing on the family was a form of "blaming the victim." Conservatives pointed to individual failure to embrace mainstream cultural values like hard work and sobriety, and intact (read: nuclear) families.

Nor is discrimination against poor people based on skin color. Ask any white Letcher County native how many Louisville employers and landlords rejected him after getting an earful of his mountain accent.

Yes, entrenched poverty affects a far greater percentage of the black population than the white population, but confining the discussion of the "culture of poverty" to black culture only reinforces the association of poverty with being black. Refusing to recognize that the "culture of poverty" is also white culture just feeds the racism beast.

Wilson wants to explain inner-city behavior—such as young black males' disdain for low-wage jobs, their use of violence, and their refusal to take responsibility for children—without pointing simplistically to discrimination or a deficit in values. Instead, he argues that many years of exposure to similar situations can create responses that look as if they express individual will or active preference when they are, in fact, adaptations or resigned responses to racial exclusion.

Really? In Owsley County, the third-poorest county in the entire country, "young (white) males' disdain for low-wage jobs, their use of violence, and their refusal to take responsibility for children" are probably not "adaptations or resigned responses to racial exclusion." They are, however, pretty obviously responses to economic, educational and cultural exclusion.

As for the argument that welfare payments act as an incentive to teenage girls to have babies, does no one remember that Eastern Kentucky whites invented welfare dependency three decades before Moynihan?

Venkatesh keeps nailing the all-races culture of poverty, then undermining the point by reverting back to black-only references.

Wilson does more than argue for the rationality of such behaviors. The actions of both the young man and the teenage mother are "cultural," he suggests, because they follow from the individual's perceptions of how society works. These perceptions are learned over time, and they create powerful expectations that can lead individuals to act in ways that, to the outside world, suggest insolence, laziness, pathology, etc. In this way, Wilson's framework seeks to find individual agency in contexts of dire economic hardship.

Wilson describes this process succinctly: "Parents in segregated communities who have had experiences [with discrimination and disrespect] may transmit to children, through the process of socialization, a set of beliefs about what to expect from life and how one should respond to circumstances. … In the process children may acquire a disposition to interpret the way the world works that reflects a strong sense that other members of society disrespect them because they are black."

I don't think Venkatesh is ignorant of white poverty, or the similarity of its culture to black poverty culture. Which only makes his refusal to acknowledge it in this review that much more inexcusable.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hope for the War on Drugs

A good working definition of uncountable infinity would be the true cost - in tax dollars, in destroyed lives, in lost revenue, in overcrowded prisons, in wasted law enforcement resources, in lost opportunities, in dead bodies - of the 40-year failed War on Drugs.

Equally infinite would be the positive effects of decriminalization at least and legalization/taxation at best.

President Obama has not yet gone as far as FDR did to goose federal revenues by ending Prohibition, but his nomination of Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerkorkian as Drug Czar is a strong indication that reason and logic may be displacing hysterical stupidity in our national drug policy.

On Wednesday, Rachel Maddow covered the nomination, and interviewed Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.

MADDOW: Do you think that there should be a drug czar? And if there is going to be one, is Gil Kerlikowske a good choice?

MIRKEN: Well, I think, frankly, a lot of us wonder if there should be a drug czar and in the best of all possible worlds, we‘d probably like to see it be a public health person.

But that said, I think there‘s reason for cautious optimism here. Mr. Kerlikowske is a guy who comes a town, Seattle, that has instituted some significant reforms. For example making arrests for personal marijuana the lowest priority for local law enforcement.

And while he hadn‘t been one of the folks pushing for these reforms, he has not been mindlessly obstructionist. And I think by most accounts, he‘s a guy that you could have a rational dialogue with. That was absolutely not the case under George Bush‘s drug czar, John Walters, who was, frankly, a pitchfork-wielding fanatic. An absolute zealot, particularly on marijuana, who had no interest in facts, no interests in data and frankly was perfectly happy to lie about what the research says in service of his ideology.

MADDOW: Well, we saw the results of that when everybody in America stopped smoking pot during the Bush era. No, I‘m just kidding.

Bruce, given what you know of Barack Obama‘s history on this issue and how he has behaved as president thus far, just in terms of how he does politics, what do you expect him to do differently on the drug issue other than this appointment?

MIRKEN: Well, you know, I don‘t think we‘re going to see sudden, radical departures but I think we can see a beginning of rationality. He‘s already talked about dialing back the drug enforcement administration‘s raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it‘s legal.

We have seen that reaffirmed recently by the attorney general. And, you know, we‘re talking about a guy here who keeps saying that we should base policy on data, on research. We should put science ahead of ideology. And if he does that, it opens up the possibility for dialogue on a lot of things, certainly on medical marijuana.

The data is here. We know that this relieves certain kinds of pain, nausea, side-effects of drugs that are used to treat AIDS and cancer. And we should just stop being irrational about it and deal with the science and maybe we can begin to do that.

MADDOW: Bruce, beyond the medical marijuana issue, on the full legalization argument, some folks are starting to make an economic argument that the economic stimulus that booze sales and booze taxes contributed at the end of prohibition might be duplicated now with the end of the prohibition on marijuana, that it could actually be some sort of an economic boon in terms of its taxation and regulation. Do you think that‘s a useful argument?

MIRKEN: Well, I think it‘s a true argument, first of all. I mean, the cost of prohibition in terms of both law enforcement expenses and lost tax revenue is estimated somewhere between $10 billion and $40 billion. That‘s not pocket change.

But, you know, there‘s another side to the economic argument, too. Our current laws are funding these horrific Mexican drug gangs that have started a real war on our southern border. 60 percent of their income, according to Mexican officials, comes from marijuana.

If we treated marijuana like we treat our wine industry here in California, brought it out of the shadows, regulated and taxed it, we could cut off 60 percent of the income to these horrific gangs.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

How Open is Your State Government? See the 2009 Sunshine Week Report

Which state do you think has the most categories of public records available online? One of the liberal bastions, right? New York, Minnesota, California.

Wrong. It's Texas.

New York is fourth-highest and as usual Mississippi is dead last. Kentucky is a pleasant surprise at 26th.

Find out which categories of public information are available online in your state here.

And celebrate Sunshine Week by exercising your right to know what your government is doing - file a Freedom of Information Act request and demand your state, local or federal government put that information online.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"There Are Certain Things Only Government Can Do"

Like food safety, the theme of your weekly address from President Obama.

Transcript here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stand Up and Be Counted - No, Not You Homos

You know that cute family down the street? The one with the 2 kids, the minivan, a dog, a cat and a turtle, the one who brought the great potato salad to last year's Fourth of July block party? The one with two Daddys?

It's not a family. Not according to the United States Census.

Good news, homophobes: The 2010 Census is going to make homosexuals disappear. Well, OK, they will still exist, just not officially. That's because the census will neither ask about sexual orientation nor recognize gay marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships. Married same-sex partners with a child won't even be considered "families." The U.S. Census Bureau simply isn't interested in a person''s "lifestyle," explains spokesperson Cynthia Endo, "This is all about the numbers" -- and gay people just don't count.

As Salon commenter Firefly points out, this is about far more than prurient interest in people's personal lives.

Are they even mildly interested in how this counting method might be skewing statistics concerning single parenthood, out-of-wedlock birth and poverty, for instance? Or who's caring for children not living with their biological parents (since many foster/adopted kids are actually with family members and their partners). I'd want to know, if it were my money going to address problems associated with those conditions.

Oh, wait, it is my money...and yours. We all have a stake in this, whether or not we're gay. The government is knowingly miscounting and producing a false report on the condition of our population. It's not even self-serving (which would imply that there's some sort of financial interest in not counting, but they may very well be costing the government money by not knowing these things); it's just stupid.

All due respect to Firefly, it's way fucking worse than stupid; it's undemocratic, unconstitutional and inhumane.

Somebody Check David Williams' Basement for Pods

First he turned on a dime and permitted the Kentucky state senate to approve tax increases on tobacco and alcohol.

Now the republican senate president has blocked a gay-bashing bill from coming to a vote.

Scum-bucket sponsor Gary Tapp vows to bring the gay-bashing bill back next year, and maybe the plan is to get the bill passed as Tapp launches his 2010 re-election campaign.

I'm open to the idea that new Democratic state house Speaker Greg Stumbo has some kind of persuasive/blackmailing power over Williams, but Invasion of the Body Snatchers makes a lot more sense.

Maybe Williams is trying to project an appearance of reasonableness in preparation for running for Jim Bunning's U.S. Senate seat next year, although support for taxes and gays is hardly the way to win a repug primary in this state.

Whatever's behind Williams' bizarre behavior, Kentucky Democrats would be making a huge mistake to assume that it's safe to turn our backs on him.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Your Nation-Building Tax Dollars At Work

The "modern" "democratic" government we installed in Afghanistan just showed us the true wages of nation building.

The International Herald Tribune reports that the Supreme Court of the country formally known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has upheld a 20-year prison sentence for an Afghan university student accused of blasphemy. His alleged crime? Writing and distributing an article criticizing the role of women in Islam.

The 24-year-old student, Parwiz Kambakhsh, was sentenced to death in 2007 after accusations that he had written and distributed the article in question. Last year a Kabul appeals court commuted the death sentence to 20 years’ imprisonment. Kambakhsh disclaims authorship of the article, saying he downloaded it from the Internet.

Kambakhsh’s lawyers and his family say he has been denied a fair trial. Afzal Nooristani, a defense lawyer for Kambakhsh, said that he "was not allowed to talk with the judges and officials, which is a complete violation of law." Kambakhsh’s defense team and his family only learned about the Supreme Court’s decision recently. The decision was made in in secret on February 12, and only came to light when the attorney general’s office issued orders to enforce it.

According to the Tribune, Kambakhsh’s brother issued a statement decrying "the tragic level of justice in Afghanistan today. It is just a make-believe system of justice and humanitarianism. The reality is that the Afghan government and judiciary, although supported by the U.S., the UN, the EU and other democracies worldwide, is morally bankrupt."

Human rights organizations and many Western diplomats agree: although Afghan president Hamid Karzai has made assurances of freedoms of press and speech, the Afghan news media has suffered from threats and attacks from the Taliban and pressure from the Afghan government. Karzai’s critics allege

Let's not forget this is the Supreme Court of the government we installed. To repeat, this is not a Taliban leftover - this is the American-installed government that has sentenced a student to death for the crime of - reading. (How long do you think he'll actually survive in the hell of an Afghan prison?)

I'm happy to write a blank check for a massive airlift to evacuate every woman and child out of Afghanistan and resettle them permanently in the U.S. Let the Taliban fuck goats and each other into oblivion.

But not another goddamn dime to legitimize un-democratic, inhumane, Dark Ages oppression.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

How Progressive Are You?

Take the quiz and find out.

OK, I'm 342 - more than double the least-progressive group (conservative repugs), and significantly higher than the most-progressive group (liberal democrats.)

h/t Barefoot and Progressive

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Liberal Courage Saves the Day

We all have a lot of fun throwing rhetorical rocks at the Kentucky General Assembly, which 99 percent of the time deserves all the rotten tomatoes and verbal calumny we can hurl at them.

But every once in a while, the handful of Members with Integrity, aka Liberals with Backbone, step forward to stop attempts by the New Feudalists to return us to the 14th century.

Today, take a few moments to thank the Democratic members of the House Health and Welfare Committee, who stopped the horrific forced ultrasound, Shame the Sluts anti-choice abomination.

Have you hugged your Reginald Meeks today? If not, you should. Or at least send him a very nice thank-you note! And hey, while you're at it, thank "hatchet-man" Tom Burch, too. The mandatory ultrasound bill will not leave the House Health & Welfare Committee this session. Of course, I am sure we can all eagerly await its return next year, as anti-choicers are nothing if not persistent showboaters. While all of the panel's Democratic members are deserving of our sincere gratitude, this is why I single out Representatives Meeks and Burch:

Meanwhile, proponents blamed committee chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, for the bill’s demise.

"He did it by actively lobbying to bring the bill to his committee where he knew he could kill it,” said David Edmunds of The Family Foundation of Kentucky. Edmunds noted that House Democratic leadership last year sent the bill to the Judiciary Committee, where then-chair Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, “killed it.” “It appears this leadership has a new hatchet man in Tom Burch,” he said. Burch said he simply gave the bill a hearing and it did not garner enough votes to get out of committee.

Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, said he was torn by the vote, noting that another lawmaker had threatened to hold one of his bills hostage in another committee if he didn’t support the proposal. Meeks said he was not going to be held hostage and voted against the bill. He did not identify the other legislator.


ex post facto: Gary Tapp swears it was all just one big misunderstanding and that says Rep. Meeks is a liar. Sorry, Gary. When you go on record as a despicable bigot, you don't get to say other people are liars.

Thanks and kudos, too, to Terri of Barefoot and Progressive, who courageously addressed the heart-rending, stomach-churning truth behind the forced ultrasound bill, and kept it at the forefront of the progressive priority list.

Gay-bashing KY legislator tried to outlaw erections

Page One Kentucky, of course, has the low-down.

Not only is Gary "Tapp Tapp" Tapp obsessed with legislating homophobia, he had the audacity to help create legislation - seriously, with House Bill 59 during the 2000 Regular Session - making it a misdemeanor to be seen in public in a "discernible turgid state."


Really, he wanted to classify having a boner as nudity and wanted to make it illegal.

I'll leave it to Page One's commenters to speculate on what subconscious perversity drives Tapp's obsession with other people's penises.

I want to know what kind of twisted vocabulary would make a person choose "turgid" to describe the state of an erect penis.

From Webster's online dictionary:

1. Ostentatiously lofty in style; "a man given to large talk"; "tumid political prose".

2. Abnormally distended especially by fluids or gas; "hungry children with bloated stomachs"; "he had a grossly distended stomach"; "eyes with puffed (or puffy) lids"; "swollen hands"; "tumescent tissue"; "puffy tumid flesh".

Synonyms: bloated (adj), bombastic (adj), declamatory (adj), distended (adj), large (adj), orotund (adj), puffed (adj), puffy (adj), swollen (adj), tumescent (adj), tumid (adj).

(Emphasis added.)

In five decades of voracious reading, the noun I have seen most often modified by "turgid" is "prose," and it never meant the writing was hard, swollen, excited or tumescent.

I've successfully avoided reading romance novels, though; maybe "turgid" is a popular adjective among the ripped-bodice crowd.

You gotta stop reading those romance novels, Gary.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....