Thursday, April 30, 2009

When Demonization Fails

For 30 years, Democrats were at the mercy of GOP demonization. Even when dems didn't literally faint and cower in a corner, whimpering, whenever repugs called them liberals, the effect was the same.

Democrats lost the White House, the Senate, the House, the states to repugs who couldn't recognize a Constitutional principle or articulate a rational policy to save their lives.

Even Bill Clinton survived only because he pacified the repugs by sacrificing the middle class to the piranhas of Wall Street.

Yes, Barack Obama was a once-in-a-century candidate, but the repugs are caught in feedback loop of self-destruction because they finally took demonization too far.

Steve M. explains:

Why was the GOP hit with an electoral backlash? It wasn't social issues per se. It was the ratcheting up of the entire GOP culture of demonization. Or actually it wasn't even that -- it was the ratcheting up of that demonization even as the broad public became increasingly skeptical about whether the GOP's top demons were really so scary.

The GOP failed the demonization smell test over and over again. Straight people on Main Street U.S.A. began to meet more and more out gay people and started wondering what the hell harm could come to them if gay people were allowed to marry. Barack Obama turned out to be not a scary Mau-Mauing monster, but the most reasonable-seeming guy on earth. Saddam Hussein turned out not to have WMDs. Protesters against the Iraq War didn't burn flags or spit on troops or engage in '60s-style terrorism (and turned out to be right). Rosie O'Donnell and Barbra Streisand and the Dixie Chicks never seized control of the country.

And the demonizers themselves, handed power, actually turned out to be the menace they said all kinds of other people were. They screwed up the economy and foreign policy and Katrina and everything else they touched.

So, no, it wasn't a fixation on social issues, in and of itself, that brought the GOP to ruin. It was the general public's sense that the GOP had a lot of the wrong enemies -- and not nearly enough of the right ones. Republicans toppled Dan Rather, but they let Osama bin Laden and the bandits at AIG get away scot-free.

It helps that President Obama ignores the repug attempts to bait him with schoolyard insults, but Janet Napolitano's ludicrous apology for a completely accurate report that was ordered by the previous administration proves that some Democrats are still vulnerable to GOP intimidation that has lost all its power.

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

Bad Bet of the Year

How desperate was Mitch McConnell to keep Arlen Specter in the Republican Party? And how much does McConnell hate his fellow Kentucky repug Senator Jim Bunning?

So much that in March McConnell gave $10,000 to the re-election campaign of a man who just six weeks later became a Democrat, and not one thin dime to a repug on the verge of losing his seat to a Democrat.

Herald-Leader star John Cheves has the story:

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell may be fuming at Sen. Arlen Specter now, but a month ago, he was cutting him a $10,000 check.

McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, gave $10,000 to Specter’s 2010 re-election campaign on March 11 through his leadership political action committee, the Bluegrass Committee.


“Well, obviously we are not happy,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

By the end of 2009’s first fund-raising quarter, there was no sign of McConnell giving to the campaign of fellow Republican and Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, who also is running for re-election next year.

Hey, Mitch: here's a piece of advice, free, gratis and for nothing: Don't place any bets on the Derby Saturday.

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

The Morals of Atheists

The indispensable PZ Myers demolishes the latest attempt to prove that only good white murkins who have been saved by the precious blood of baby jeebus are moral.

We are social animals. We are the children of a particular kind of animal that improved their chances of survival and reproduction by cooperation, working together as a family/tribe/nation. We have an operational, working definition of what is good and evil that is defined by our history: goodness is that which has promoted the survival of our community and ourselves. Anyone who has a reasonable grasp of Darwinian logic ought to be able to see that this is the kind of property that can emerge from forces entirely within a group's history, with no exogenous agent required.

I certainly do have grounds to be outraged at the use of torture. Those are fellow human beings who are experiencing pain: I empathize with them, I see them as fellow members of the greater community of humanity, and I can rationally see that a society that allows torture is one in which I and my family are less safe. I do not need a little god sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, "Oh, PZ, you aren't supposed to enjoy that person's suffering".

My sense of horror and outrage points me to a common humanity, not some invisible magic man who wills it because he works in mysterious ways.

Read the whole thing, and don't skip the comments.

I will never understand the mindset that believes the most effective way to influence behavior is through a combination of threat (Hell) and bribe (Heaven.) What a low opinion of one's fellow humans is required to think they respond only to fear and greed.

Rational human beings need neither carrots nor sticks to do the correct, moral thing; doing so is its own reward.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Rude Theory on Specter

I think the Rude Pundit is giving Arlen Specter too much credit in this one, but it's still not to be missed.

Warning: X-rated.

America's Divine Right of (Republican) Kings

"But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America the law is King. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other." - Thomas Paine

"the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men. . . . that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of law, is the best of republics." - John Adams

"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor." - Teddy Roosevelt

After the Abu Graib torture and NSA domestic spying scandals failed to faze fanatic Smirky/Darth supporters, I said that such people would still worship Bush even if they saw him ass-rape a five-year-old live on national television.

Boy it really pisses me off when my best hyperbole is trumped by reality.

Glenn Greenwald brings his patented eloquent outrage to the insistence by the Beltway Media Villagers that no crime is terrible enough to justify forcing high government officials to be prosecuted for breaking the law.

It just cannot be said enough that our political elites truly do believe that "law" is only for the dirty, filthy masses -- but not for them. It really is that explicit. Joan Walsh was on Howie Kurtz's CNN show yesterday and the other guests -- The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and former Bush speechwriter David Frum -- responded to her like she was from Neptune all because she repeatedly made one point -- torture is against the law and therefore those who ordered it, by definition, committed crimes. This is a point they literally could not comprehend. That's because they reject the necessary premise in which this simple proposition is grounded: that political leaders are bound by what we call "law." The reason we have become the country we've become is because we've fallen all the way down to Jon Meacham and David Broder from what, at least in principle, used to guide us.


If one surveys the wreckage that has become our political class, this explains much of it: we've gone from Paine ("so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is King") and Adams ("an empire of laws, and not of men") and Roosevelt ("No man is above the law") to Newsweek and Jon Meacham ("That is not to say presidents and vice presidents are always above the law") and David Broder (holding leaders accountable for lawbreaking is ugly, destructive, populist vengeance except when it involves a sex scandal).

It's difficult to imagine how nauseated (though perhaps not surprised) people like Paine and Adams would be if they would have known that, a mere 230 years later, we'd have as opinion-making elites people like David Broder and Jon Meacham declaring that "presidents and vice presidents are [not] always above the law" -- this is the American President we're talking about; criminal prosecutions are inappropriate for his crimes-- as though that theoretical concession represents the reasonable, centrist, responsible view rather than the authoritarian, lawless, establishment-revering, deeply un-American tripe that it is.

Read the whole thing.

Don't Count McConnell Out Yet

McClatchy's saying Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party "will likely rob Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of his strongest tool — the filibuster."

I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

Specter makes the Magic Filibuster-breaking Sixty only if:

  • Minnesota's Al Franken is seated before the 2010 elections, which Specter's defection makes significantly less likely;
  • Traitor Joe Lieberman fails to realize what a huge opportunity this is for him to peddle his ass back to the repugs, AND
  • Specter actually votes with the Democratic caucus on closure votes, instead of trying to have it both ways by supporting repug filibusters.

A technical 60-vote Democratic caucus also assumes that Harry Reid can hold Evan Bayh's Cocksucking Caucus in line, a feat of which he has proven singularly incapable to date.

Specter's defection gives the Blue Dogs the balance of power in the Senate. That is extremely bad news for Democrats and President Obama.

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Atheists Next Door

Come out, come out, come out of hiding all you atheists. If we can go public in South Carolina, we can go public anywhere.

More than ever, America’s atheists are linking up and speaking out — even here in South Carolina, home to Bob Jones University, blue laws and a legislature that last year unanimously approved a Christian license plate embossed with a cross, a stained glass window and the words “I Believe” (a move blocked by a judge and now headed for trial).

They are connecting on the Internet, holding meet-ups in bars, advertising on billboards and buses, volunteering at food pantries and picking up roadside trash, earning atheist groups recognition on adopt-a-highway signs.

They liken their strategy to that of the gay-rights movement, which lifted off when closeted members of a scorned minority decided to go public.

“It’s not about carrying banners or protesting,” said Herb Silverman, a math professor at the College of Charleston who founded the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, which has about 150 members on the coast of the Carolinas. “The most important thing is coming out of the closet.”

Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.

Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.

Read the whole thing.

As PZ Myers notes:

This is the kind of article that should cause the religious to worry. It's not their common hysteria about the vicious atheists coming to eat their puppies…it's about the reality of atheism, which is that it is made up of mostly good people who want to live their lives well.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Cheap, Easy, Quick Renewable Energy We Could Have Today

If Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is serious about promoting renewable energy in this state (yeah, yeah, I know he's not, but bear with me), there's a quick, easy, no-cost way to vastly increase renewable energy production in Kentucky, goose the economy and vault Kentucky to the top rank of clean energy states at the same time.

It's called a feed-in tariff, and it's making Gainesville Florida green-energy-self-sufficient and everyone in town filthy rich.

This winter, as Congress was scrambling to pass the stimulus package, the bottom fell out of the renewable energy sector—the very industry that lawmakers have held out as our best hope of salvaging the economy. Trade groups like the American Wind Energy Association, which as recently as December was forecasting "another record-shattering year of growth," began predicting that new installations would plunge by 30 to 50 percent. Solar panel manufacturers that had been blazing a trail of growth announced a wave of layoffs. Some have since cut their workforces in half, as stock prices tumble and plans for new green energy projects stall.

But there is one place where capital is still flowing: Gainesville, Florida. Even as solar panels are stacking up in warehouses around the country, this city of 120,000 is gearing up for a solar power boom, fueled by homegrown businesses and scrappy investors who have descended on the community and are hiring local contractors to install photovoltaic panels on rooftops around town.


Why is the renewable energy market in Gainesville booming while it’s collapsing elsewhere in the country? The answer boils down to policy. In early February, the city became the first in the nation to adopt a "feed-in tariff"—a clunky and un-descriptive name for a bold incentive to foster renewable energy. Under this system, the local power company is required to buy renewable energy from independent producers, no matter how small, at rates slightly higher than the average cost of production. This means anyone with a cluster of solar cells on their roof can sell the power they produce at a profit. The costs of the program are passed on to ratepayers, who see a small rise in their electric bills (in Gainesville the annual increase is capped at 1 percent). While rate hikes are seldom popular, the community has rallied behind this policy, because unlike big power plant construction—the costs of which are also passed on to the public—everyone has the opportunity to profit, either by investing themselves or by tapping into the groundswell of economic activity the incentive creates.

Read the whole thing.

This is win-win-win-win-win ... which of course means that Kentucky will jump on the feed-in-tariff bandwagon just about the time it becomes obsolete.

(While Kentucky has some of the cloudiest weather in the nation and dozens of fewer sunny days per year than Gainesville, solar panels do produce energy here, if not as much as in sunnier places.)

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

Killing Us Quickly With Coal Mining

Never let it be said that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear does not have an overdeveloped sense of irony.

The day after an expert on coal mining's effect on Eastern Kentucky gave a speech condemning all strip mining, brazen coal cheerleader Beshear announced his heartfelt commitment to "renewable energy."

I put "renewable energy" in scare quotes because, as usual, Beshear either thinks blasting mountains to smithereens and destroying the freshwater streams upon which local communities depend in order to get cheap coal qualifies as "renewable," or he's lying.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear today announced that he is joining the U.S. Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition.


While studies show that Kentucky does not have the classic Level 3 winds currently required to produce enough wind power for base-load generation, many business people and farmers are interested in distributed wind generation.

In other words, Beshear is endorsing a form of renewable energy that has precisely zero chance of becoming viable in Kentucky, far less than zero chance of challenging King Coal's death-grip on the Commonwealth, and 100 percent chance of providing a fig-leaf for Beshear and other state politicians while they rake in millions in campaign cash from the Mountain-Destroying Community Killers of Big Coal.

This bullshit comes from Beshear just hours after he listened to this:

Ron Eller, Eastern Kentuckian and former direct of UK's Appalachian Center, was on a panel yesterday with Dan Mongiardo and Steve Beshear at the Eastern Kentucky Leadership Conference, and.... well, let's just say that he spoke truth to power.

He started by saying he wanted “to be a little more frank with you tonight.” He told the crowd he’d undergone triple by-pass heart surgery and “that sometimes gives you a different outlook on life.” He said he wanted to address the assembly “as one of you, someone from the mountains, not someone from Lexington.”

Eller was more than just “a little frank.” He said things many who live in the mountains don’t want to hear.

“We must change how we understand this place and how we understand our place in it,” said Eller. “We must look beyond an extraction based economy to one that values and enhances the landscape and the resources it holds.” He said the region needs a new generation of political leadership and new ways of looking at developing “the good life” for the people who live there.

Then, he delivered the most provocative statement of the night.

“We must begin – I think – by abolishing surface mining, including the radically destructive practice of mountain top removal. Mountain top removal isn’t necessary to the region or the national economy. It’s just cheaper.”

Forty-six years ago, Harry Caudill wrote everything you need to know about how coal destroys everything alive, good and worthwhile in Eastern Kentucky, in his classic Night Comes to the Cumberlands.

Forty-six years later, Big Coal's grip on Kentucky is tighter than ever, Eastern Kentucky is poorer than ever, destruction from strip mining is more horrific and fatal than ever, and Kentucky's political leaders are stupider, blinder and more corrupt than ever.

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

Door's Open for Single Payer - Push Hard Now

As Jonathan Cohn wrote, Reconciliation is a game-changer. We can stake out a position so far to the left of the Blue Dogs that it'll blindside 'em coming up on the right.

... it means the Democrats will have the ability to pass health reform with just fifty votes, if they choose, rather than the sixty required to break the inevitable filibustering by Republican opponents.

It's hard to overstate how radically the reconciliation option would shift the dynamics of debate. It's not just that it would make passage of a bill more likely. It's that it would utterly redefine the conversation.

Put yourself in the shoes of a health care industry group--say, for example, the insurance industry. You probably have the power to swing at least a handful of senators your way, through advertising, astroturf organizing, and direct lobbying. If it's sixty-votes-or-bust in the Senate, reformers will probably need those senators to pass a bill. That means you have enormous leverage. You can hold out for the best possible deal and, barring that, simply walk away.

In other words, you know that there will eventually be two options on the table. A bill you like or no bill at all.

Now imagine Democrats have the option of using reconciliation. They need just fifty votes, which means they may not need your support after all. If you demand too much, they may just ignore you altogether--and craft a bill, perhaps with the help of more cooperative lobbyists, that is not in your self interest.

In this scenario, there are three options on the table. A bill you like, no bill at all, and a bill you really hate.

So what do you do? Chances are, you concentrate a lot harder on trying to get that bill you like.

"Reconciliation instructions" on the budget means that if the universal health care plan negotiated in the Senate doesn't have 60 votes by October 15, then passage will require only a straight majority - 51 votes.

Even if nine DINOs throw hissy fits over the government spending - vapors! - money to help people, the plan still passes. Harry Reid can tell Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman and Blanche Lincoln and Claire McCaskill and the rest of the repug-fellators to fuck off and die, we don't need your cowardly Blue Dog votes.

So NOW is when we need to carpet-bomb Congress with demands for single-payer.

Repugs know that with reconciliation, President Obama and Congressional Democrats are going to get the universal health care plan they want. We have to make sure that the Democratic opening negotiating position is a plan that will so terrify the repugs that they'll agree to anything else.

In order to get something really super-fabulous, like Medicare For All, let's demand perfection.

  • Full coverage, cradle-to-grave, for everything short of cosmetic surgery. No co-pays, no deductibles, no limits.
  • Full power of the federal government to negotiate payments for everything including prescription drugs.

Drop a pressure anvil on every member of Congress to pass single-payer so that Democrats can point to that public pressure and say, "Gee, guys, we'd really love to go back to the public/private plan we asked for back in March, but now with a majority of Americans demanding single-payer, Medicare For All is the best we can do."

Right now, Democratic members of Congress, progressive activists, liberal policy wonks and advocates for the uninsured are in the strongest position we've ever been in. We have an almost unimaginable amount of power to sweep the board and take it all.

If we don't use that power to secure for Americans the basic right to health care that is enjoyed by every industrialized nation on earth, then we might as well hand the government back to Dick Cheney, because we'll have proven we can't do anything.

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

Friday, April 24, 2009

Americans DO Torture, and Then They Go to Prison

We cannot let the criminals skate on this one. Torture is a crime and the Americans who committed torture, approved torture, justified torture, defended torture are criminals and must be subjected to the rule of law: investigated, arrested, charged, arraigned, indicted, prosecuted, judged and if guilty sentenced.

Anything less is abject surrender to the forces of anti-democracy, the cynics who have said for 200 years that American idealism couldn't last, the corrupters who have been waiting for us to fall. And to fail.

Readers at Talking Points Memo are still fighting for genuine American ideals.

Past as Predicate

More on torture, from TPM Reader PB:

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

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

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

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

It's All About Us

From TPM Reader CR:

"One odd thing about this torture debate is that it's all about *us.* Whether we committed a crime, how it affects our collective soul, how the wheels of justice ought to move (if at all). But nobody is talking about the victims--it's as if torture were analogous to smoking the marijuana you grew in the woods behind your house. Something technically illegal, but something that only hurts yourself, so everybody else should just butt out.

"But what nobody is talking about is who (apart from super-duper bad guys KSM and Abu Zubaydah) actually *was* tortured, how many people were tortured, whether any of them were children, what the physical and psychological results of that torture was, how many people died as a result of that torture, whether any of these people have since been recognized as harmless, and whether any of these people were American citizens."

Late Update: TPM Reader ZZ responds:

"Following up on your post from CR, how has there not been more focus on OUR people who were actually asked to do these horrific things?! What becomes of the people who waterboard the same man 183 times?

"Asking American ... to commit these heinous acts was a crime against them, as well. And their voices should be a part of this story and our sense of collective outrage."

TPM Reader MB disagrees:

"CR raises some questions that merit consideration, but I think miss the point. If all of those questions were answered, and it came out that none of the detainees died and none were harmless or children or American citizens, does that make the torture okay? Of course not. Having any of those questions answered the other way only raises the outrage level, but does nothing to change the fundamental facts about morality and the rule of law.

"In fact, I find it odd how few people are talking about the other ways this story *does* affect us. Give the government the freedom to torture, and they will someday use it on *us*, if they haven't already. Torture is a fine recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, which creates enemies for *us*. And so on."

TPM Reader CH wonders what became of justice for all:

"I think there is a significant issue not being addressed in any sort of sufficient manner; namely, there were several people prosecuted and convicted as a direct result of the policies of the people who signed off on torture. These people were [I hate to say it] thrown under the bus as "a few bad apples". What is to happen to these folks? How come the policy makers, notably wealthy individuals, get off Scot free?

"Some folks have already paid a pretty hard price, deservedly so, but they were the small-fry scapegoats.

"We need to move forward and demand accountability from those who actually were responsible for the policy of torture as high as that goes."

Repugs like to throw out warnings about American values every time a liberal sneezes and scream about how shaking hands with a Latin American pipsqueak shatters the foundations of our democracy.

But the debate over whether or not to prosecute torturers - and the outrageous fact that such prosecution is even subject to debate at all - is, indeed, a battle for America's soul.

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

Thursday, April 23, 2009

That's not a hat; THIS is a HAT

Big story in Frankfort is that Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear has chosen her Derby Hat.

Stop laughing. This is Genuine Big News, and I'm going to tell you why. First, because it's going to be raffled off and the proceeds given to the Kentucky Breast Cancer Coalition.

But more importantly, because it is the Official Kentucky Derby Hat of the Kentucky First Lady.

The tradition of the Derby Hat is sacred in Kentucky. Every year on the first Saturday in May, at the Kentucky Derby, ladies - and if you're wearing a Derby Hat, you're a lady, regardless - compete to display the biggest, fanciest, most Derby-specific, most unusual, most sophisticated, mostest-of-the-mostest Derby Hat of them all. Real Kentucky ladies would not be caught dead at the Derby without a Derby Hat.

Derby Hats get the bulk of television coverage of the Derby, which on Louisville and Lexington television stations begins around 9 a.m. on Saturday and continues non-stop for more than 9 hours until after the two-minute race, which is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. and is always at least half an hour late.

But that's OK, because there are always more hats to be filmed, even if no horses can be found. The ratio of Derby Hats to Derby Horses is about 1,000 to one, both at Churchill Downs and on the television coverage.

This year, the recession is causing great consternation among Derby Hat aficionados, who fear that ladies may cut back on Derby Hat expenditures.

This article explains.

It's an AP story so the fuckers won't let me copy any of it, but I encourage you to click on it because it includes a Derby Hat slide show that is not to be missed. They range from sedate through splendiferous, past spectacular and well into un-fucking-believable.

Meanwhile, Page One Kentucky is keeping the Derby Hat tradition hot with a plea for Derby-goers to donate their hats for charity.

Are you important? Maybe an elected official? A celebrity of some sort here in the Bluegrass? Maybe you’re married to a celebrity/pseudo-celebrity or know one?

Then you should buy and/or design (it can be goofy, don’t worry) a hat for the Kentucky Derby and give it to us when you’re finished. Why?

Because we want to auction them off– on the internets– to benefit the Exploited Children’s Help Organization.

And no, nine days out this is not remotely close to the peak of Kentucky Derby craziness.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Torture is for Perverts

People who defend torture are perverts who can't get it up without witnessing or imagining someone screaming in pain from unspeakable torture.

From McClatchy:

The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. No evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The use of abusive interrogation -- widely considered torture -- as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.

People who defend torture are perverts who can't get it up without witnessing or imagining someone screaming in pain from unspeakable torture.

From the New York Times:

"In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved -- not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees -- investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was "a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm," a former C.I.A. official said."

People who defend torture are perverts who can't get it up without witnessing or imagining someone screaming in pain from unspeakable torture.

Steve Benen on how even the best evidence the torture perverts can muster in their defense is a complete lie.

The terrorist plot against the Library Tower is the loyal Bushies' favorite. Indeed, Thiessen has used it in more than one Washington Post op-ed, and it's been repeated by Bush administration officials many, many times over the years. Both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have even told the story on several occasions, citing it as proof that their abusive tactics were a success (the former president would often call the Library Tower the "Liberty Tower")
The entire claim has been exposed as dubious over the years, but as long as torture apologists are going to keep bringing it up, it's probably worth taking a moment to periodically set the record straight.


Remember, according to Bush, Cheney, and their most ardent supporters, the thwarted "plot" against the Library Tower is the single best piece of evidence that torture -- waterboarding, in specific -- saved American lives.

Demagogic hyperbole notwithstanding -- "a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York" -- the claim is bogus.

Read the whole thing.

People who defend torture - even after all that and much, much more - are perverts who can't get it up without witnessing or imagining someone screaming in pain from unspeakable torture.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Because Being That Rich and That Clueless Is a Crime

Tom B over at They Gave Us A Republic .... has the best outburst of populist rage I've read since Molly Ivins died.

This is, of course, coming from a guy whose never CREATED a single penny of wealth, probably in his entire life. Look around you Nick. What the hell does a "financial services" company contribute to society in general?

Punished for making money? Bullshit... you're being expected to do something to EARN your hideously large piece of the pie... something of value to somebody besides yourself. If you haven't learned the difference between EARNING money and simply making it, there's no hope for this country. You don't fricking DO better than anyone else. You just get paid more for whatever it is that you DO do, that's all.

Wealth distribution??? This guy's entire career is built around "redistributing wealth". This guy has never created a goddamn thing but sits on his plush ass on some plush chair in some plush office somewhere, directing or "redistributing" the flow of wealth from the pockets of those actually creating it into those of those who think they're entitled to all of the wealth in the country simply by virtue of BEING wealthy. This circular logic is at the expense of everyone else in the damned country and for this, he gets to "redistribute" a little chunk of it for himself.

That's all he fricking does. He's never built anything, never invented anything, never healed anyone, never treated or rescued anyone, never pursued a criminal, never tried a case, never sold anything, hauled anything, fixed anything... in short he's never done a f**king thing that is of any intrinsic value to anyone except himself and the turdmaster bosses he works for. He's a parasite, plain and simple and, as often happens, the parasites now think they're more important than the hosts.

I have no idea how much damage these people think they can do to our economy and our society and still have the fricking unmitigated gall to look me in the eye and tell me they're somehow worth more than the guy driving that Sysco truck because they went to Columbia or Wharton but I have a feeling we're going to find out. My favorite Yogi-ism has always been, "It ain't over 'til it's over.", and this ain't over.

Read the whole thing.

Getting rich is the American Dream, and the self-made millionaire the American Icon, but both demand humility and gratitude for the American Opportunity.

One of the most insidiously destructive aspects of the Reagan Era, through which we are still suffering, is the profoundly un-democratic and un-American idea that rich people are somehow "better" and "more deserving" than non-rich people.

It's particularly disgusting coming from trust fund babies and Wall Street lottery winners whose billions appeared as if by magic, with no effort on their part.

It's a poison that kills every progressive initiative: single-payer health care, the living wage, workers' right to bargain collectively, top-flight public schools, social justice, public transportation, affordable college, regulation of corporations and of course clean (publicly funded) campaigns.

So don't let the rich fuckers get away with it. Challenge them at every turn. Get "How have you made the world better today?" tattooed on your forehead.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Demand a Torture Prosecutor

Stop bitching about President Obama's inexplicable failure to prosecute blatant war crimes of torture and put your digital signature where your keyboard is.

If you saw the front page of the New York Times today, you saw them pick up an important story that Marcy Wheeler broke on FDL on Saturday -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month.

She reported how the interrogators went far outside of anything they were legally allowed to do, even under the expansive laws written by the Bush Administration.

Marcy's work shows just how important it is that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate the torture of detainees.

You can sign the petition here.

The ACLU will be delivering the signatures to Secretary Holder later this week. The deadline for signatures is 9am ET, Thursday, April 23.

Thanks for taking the time to stand up for the rule of law.

Jane Hamsher

Do it now.

April Discloures Bring May Excuses

If you, like me, sneered at the new earmark transparency rules as yet another toothless gesture by Congress toward the pretense of responsibility, you might want to dig into your local representative's website.

The Lexington Herald-Leader went prospecting in the website of earmarker extraordinaire Hal Rogers (R-KY5) and found gold.

For nearly 30 years, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers has used his sway on powerful committees to steer billions in federal funds into his Eastern Kentucky district.

Now, new rules requiring members of Congress to publicize their requests on their Web sites offer — for the first time — an early glimpse into exactly which projects the Somerset Republican, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, favors before those multimillion-dollar requests are tucked into federal spending bills.

There are 103 requests totaling $466.6 million on Rogers’ 22-page request form, which is buried several pages deep on his Web site.

Those requests benefit Rogers' hometown, his extended family, and his campaign contributors.

Those requests include roughly $40 million for programs that Rogers created or that are housed in Rogers’ hometown of Somerset at the Center for Rural Development, a sprawling, state-of-the-art facility known locally as the “Taj-Ma Hal.”

The National Institute for Hometown Security, a non-profit organization that Rogers helped create and has few staffers, is slated to net $15 million “to continue to provide leadership in discovering and developing community-based critical infrastructure protections solutions.”

The Department of Homeland Security has never requested any funding for the National Institute of Hometown Security, though former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge came to Kentucky to announce the non-profit’s formation several years ago.


Rogers sees the connection as coincidental. He says he’s “never been shy about working to bring jobs to southern and Eastern Kentucky” and is merely doing what he was elected to do.

Read the whole thing, then go to the website of your own House member and find out what she thinks is a good use of tax dollars.

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

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Spending Their Money Wisely"

President Obama's Weekly Address, on making federal spending efficient and effective.

Read transcript here.

How to Retire the U.S. Debt: Auction Roy Moore

Steve Benen has a post on Judge Roy Moore's plan to run for governor of Alabama.

Moore, of course, is the Dominionist freakazoid who wants to turn the U.S. into a Talibantastic Xian theocracy. Lucky Alabama Democrats! Whether Moore's the repug nominee or runs as an independent, this is the dems' chance of a lifetime. Moore would get every freakazoid vote in the state, but if dems play their cards right, he wouldn't get a single vote from anyone else.

Man, I'd pay plenty for a repug candidate like Moore. If we'd had Roy Moore running as an independent against Mitch McConnell last year, we'd have taken that Senate seat for the dems.

How much would you pay to have Roy Moore ensuring dem victories in your state?

Hey, here's an idea: let's auction Roy Moore off. State and local Democratic parties, PACs, big donors can bid on a Roy Moore candidacy for whatever race needs a pro-dem boost.

This is the key: all proceeds go to retire the U.S. debt. If we allow Moore to run in multiple states during the same election cycle, we could put the nation back in a surplus before the end of President Obama's first term.

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

Christianity Explained

Via PZ Myers.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Without Torture Accountability, All Obama's Victories Are Ashes

Thirty-five years ago this fall, Gerald Ford turned the U.S. into the kind of banana republic that manages peaceful transitions of power only by excusing departing presidents from accountability for their crimes.

Richard Nixon never faced American justice, thus establishing the precedent for future repug presidents to commit crimes against the Constitution and American people without consequence.

Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush got away with Iran-Contra, and Smirky/Darth with crimes of treason too numerous to list here. It will happen again as long as succeeding presidents continue to allow their predecessors to avoid prosecution.

Barack Obama can put a stop to this criminal legacy only by prosecuting George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all their acomplices, and doing it now.

Keith Olbermann explains:

Transcript here.

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

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Offshore Tax Havens Stole $915 million From Kentucky Last Year

Kentucky's FY 2008 deficit is $459 million. That's just a little more than half of what offshore tax havens stole from Kentucky taxpayers last year.

A Senate report estimated in 2008 that the United States loses up to $100 billion a year in tax revenue to offshore tax havens (PDF 2MG). In a report released Wednesday, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group offers a state-by-state breakdown of the cost to taxpayers of tax revenue lost to "shell companies and sham headquarters" in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

The practice soaks dutiful taxpayers in every state for hundreds of millions of dollars, according to U.S. PIRG. The citizens of New York and Texas shoulder over $8 billion a year, and the good people of California are on the hook for an extra $11 billion.

Click here for U.S. PIRG's table with the state-by-state breakdown of the burden shifted to taxpayers.


The tax day release of the report coincides with protests at post offices across the country coordinated by the Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America Now, a coalition of groups supporting the president's budget priorities. Obama's budget calls for reigning in offshore tax havens.

In a speech on Tuesday, Obama talked about "shutting down loopholes and making sure everyone pays what they owe."

"The point is that we all pay for it," says John Krieger, a staff attorney with U.S. PIRG. "The issues of tax havens, tax avoidance -- the reason they've had so much cover is that we all think of it as a D.C wonky issue, but in reality it has an effect on every taxpayer who has to take on this extra burden."

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Exploiting the American Peasant

The brilliant Matt Taibbi reveals the historic/sociological truth behind the inexplicable Teabag Parties.

It pains me to say this as an American, but we are the only people on earth dumb enough to use a nationwide campaign of “teabag parties” as a form of mass protest, in the middle of a real economic crisis.


After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other.

That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over.

Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.

But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields.

You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger.

And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses!

If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.

Read the whole thing.

h/t Page One Kentucky.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"The House Upon A Rock"

President Obama's address on the economy at Georgetown University today sets yet another high standard in oratory that both teaches minds and reaches hearts, on even the driest of subjects.

Steve Benen wrote:

The one thing I always like about President Obama's speeches is that he just doesn't talk down to his audience. He seems intent on treating Americans like grown-ups, and today's speech on the economy was no different.

Obama warned his Georgetown University audience early on that his speech would be "prose, not poetry." It wasn't filled with obvious applause lines, and the soaring rhetoric that many have come to expect from him wasn't there.

But it wasn't that kind of speech. Instead, the president offered something along the lines of a fireside chat, which happened to be delivered from a podium in a crowded room: "Today, I want to step back for a moment and explain our strategy as clearly as I can. I want to talk about what we've done, why we've done it, and what we have left to do. I want to update you on the progress we've made, and be honest about the pitfalls that may lie ahead. And most of all, I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America's future."

White House summary here.

Whom the "Teabagging" Really Hurts

We've all had a lot of fun with the repugs naming their big anti-Obama protest after a sex act, a fact that seems to elude most of them.

But the Rude Pundit, a day after his superb Glen Beck teabagging nightmare fantasy, discovers the repugs' real victims, and they're not Obama or Democrats.

Ah, fuck this. Fuck the puns and the mocking. It's just too fucking depressing. Somewhere, Karl Marx is laughing his bearded ass off. Because what is this but classic exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie? It's a bunch of rich fucks, beginning with that tool Rick Santelli on CNBC and ending with the slavering profitmongers at Fox "news," making the poor idiots, who are desperate from fear of or actual job loss and heath insurance loss and home loss, do their bidding. Look at the people attending. Bedraggled Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin wannabes, clinging to the image of those who create the illusion of the working class without the work or the class. Ignorance is such bliss, man.

This movement's gonna die a horribly gruesome death. It really is just the last hideous gasps of a kind of right wing populism that's got nothing to do with actual populism and everything to do with a desperate scrabbling to preserve the status quo for the wealthy. It's ideological endgame, motherfuckers, and the checkmate ain't gonna be pretty.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Shorter Mongiardo Campaign: Dan's a Redneck, Not a Fag!

UPDATE, 6:45 a.m.Jim Pence's Hillbilly Report has great video of Conway's announcement and the endorsements.

Jack Conway's campaign for Jim Bunning's U.S. Senate seat next year is all of about 10 minutes old, and he's already won the Democratic Primary, 13 months early.

The campaign of Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo officially jumped the shark today with campaign consultant Kim Gevedon's insane comments to Politico.

Four of Kentucky's five most powerful Democratic politicians (actually the four most powerful if you don't count DINO and cowardly waste of oxygen Governor Steve Beshear) endorsed Conway this afternoon, and Gevedon's response was to bash them as effete commies.

Conway kicked off his campaign at a rally in Louisville this afternoon, and appeared alongside some of the state party’s leading figures: Reps. Ben Chandler, John Yarmuth, state Auditor Crit Luallen, and state House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

(Mongiardo notably received an endorsement from the state's Democratic governor, Steve Beshear.)

But in an interview with POLITICO, Mongiardo’s consultant Kim Geveden dismissed the endorsements as coming from a bunch of effete elitists.

“They’re all buddies, they’re good friends. Daniel doesn’t run in their social circle,” Geveden said. “Daniel is a sportsman, a hunter and a fisherman… Daniel doesn’t play golf, he’s not the part of that social crowd, he never has been, and he never will be.”

He added that Mongiardo would be courting the support of “ordinary Kentuckians, who work every day to make ends meet.”

Media Czech translates:

That's right folks. Dan Mongiardo is a FISHERMAN! A HUNTER! And A SPORTSMAN! He's A MANLY MAN, WHO DOES MANLY MAN THINGS! Ben Chandler, the most popular Democrat in the ENTIRE STATE, is an effete PUSSY! Did I mention that Dan Mongiardo KILLS THINGS! He KILLS them DEAD! Nobody likes Crit Luallen! She has a fucking VAGINA, for christ's sake!

I take it that it's been a really rough day in the Mongiardo campaign. Perhaps flask-inducing bad, judging by this quote.

Yes, this will be a FUN campaign.

Or a bloody slaughter. The only question left is whether Conway's double-digit win over Mongiardo in the primary will be bigger than Conway's double-digit win over Bunning in the general.

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

Number 80

Staff Sergeant Gary L. Woods, Jr. was four months away from the end of his third Iraq tour when he was killed by a suicide bomber in Mosul.

The 24-year-old Shepherdsville native was looking forward to settling down with his wife and starting a family, according to the Courier-Journal.

Woods’ father, Gary Woods Sr., said that his son, who went by his middle name, Lee, was a talented musician who sang and played the trombone, drums, piano and guitar while a student at Bullitt Central High School. He was also a member of the school’s football team.

But after finding satisfaction in ROTC classes, his son entered the military after high school, he said.

“He joined the Army just as we were going into the second gulf war,” Woods Sr. said by telephone from his home in Lebanon Junction. “He knew the chances were that we’d still be in it, but he was convinced that’s what he wanted.”

Woods rose to staff sergeant and was leading the soldiers’ mission the day they died, his father said.


“I want everyone to know what a good man he was.”

Read the whole thing.

Quote of the Day

Juan Cole in Salon, introducing a column on repug hysteria:

The weeping and trembling of Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh and William Kristol underlined once again that the rightwingers are playground crybabies who kick and scream and faint whenever they do not get their way.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

We're All Naked for the Airport Security Perverts

As you plan your summer travel, think twice - or ten times - about getting on a plane.

Because the new "metal detectors" you step through are actually displaying your naked body to TSA employees. Down to the last groin-area pore. Without your knowledge, much less permission.

The naked body scanners are taking over.

When we first checked in on them two years ago, the scanners, which see through clothing, were being deployed at a single airport. A few months later, they were upgraded to millimeter-wave technology, which delivered similar images with even less radiation—"10,000 times less than a cell phone transmission," according to the Transportation Security Administration. At the time, TSA assured us that the scanners would be used only as a "voluntary alternative" to "a more invasive physical pat-down during secondary screening." Only a few passengers, the ones selected for extra scrutiny, would face the scanners. The rest of us could walk through the metal detectors and board our planes.

Surprise! Two months ago, TSA revised its position. It began testing millimeter-wave scans "in the place of the walk-through metal detector at six airports." At these airports, everyone—not just people selected for secondary screening –would face the see-through machines. Anyone who objected would "undergo metal detector screening and a pat-down." You might even get the "enhanced pat-down," which includes "sensitive areas of the body that are often used by professional testers and terrorists," such as "the breast and groin areas of females and the groin area of males." Show us your body, or we'll feel you up.

Now the plan is going nationwide. Joe Sharkey of the New York Times reports that TSA "plans to replace the walk-through metal detectors at airport checkpoints with whole-body imaging machines—the kind that provide an image of the naked body." All passengers will "go through the whole-body imager instead of the walk-through metal detector," according to TSA's chief technology officer, and the machines will begin operating soon after orders are placed this summer.

Read the whole thing.

Don't waste time writing to your congress critter. Take advantage of the crummy economy and hit the people who are financially vulnerable here: the airlines.

I'm emailing every airline that flies out of airports within 100 miles of my house and telling them all the same thing:

Until they force TSA to stop treating the airline's customers like drug mules smuggling cocaine in our rectums, we're not flying.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Refuting the Proselytizers: Hitchens Shows the Way

It's Zombie Worship Eve for the freakazoids, so as a public service we bring you Christopher Hitchens demolishing a pathetic proselytizer.

Courtesy PZ Myers at Pharyngula:

I have encountered this pathetic rhetorical game so often…it's one of Ray Comfort's favorite tools. Christian goes up to a stranger, and says he'd like to play a "what if" game with you. What if there was a god, and the ten commandments were his rules? Do you agree that if they're real, you'd deserve to go to hell? But look, Jesus says you don't have to, if you believe in him! Isn't that nice of him? It's all a stupid con — they ask you to hypothetically accept their premises, then lead you through a script which they demand that you answer in agreement at every step, and then at the end of their absurd, comical series of weird demands, they tell you that you've agreed that Jesus is your savior. Every year at our county fair they have their "Are you going to heaven or hell" booth that tries to bamboozle kids with this spiel, and I thoroughly detest and despise them.

Todd Friel, one of those glassy-eyed glad-handing used-car-salesmen of the soul types, tried to pull this same routine on his radio show…on Christopher Hitchens. Listen as Hitchens simply refuses to follow the script, and keeps on bringing up objections to the sloppy logic of the radio show host. Friel can't cope; he's like a dumb robot who can't comprehend anything outside the narrow scope of its programming, and keeps trying to shoo the Hitch back onto his preplanned track. Friel sounds like a fool, which is great, since he is one.

Part One:

Part Two:

Thanks to PZ commenter Frank Voeth, here's the interview on MP3.

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

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reality-Based Liberals Beat Freakazoids in WYMT Poll

Memo to all online poll-writers: When you deliberately phrase a question to distort facts, history and reality, and provide choices to give your preferred answer a huge advantage, you are just begging for the reality-based community to crash it.

Which is exactly what a couple thousand of PZ Myers' godless liberal minions managed in the course of about two hours this morning.

Let's smash this silly poll about the status of the US.

President Obama said, 'We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of a values.' How do you feel about those comments?

Offended - America is still a Christian nation - 78.4%
Agree - No one religion is more important - 10.0%
Agree - Our country is not based on religious beliefs - 9.3%
Don't care - 2.3%

Crazy. There's something these people need to understand: that the nation and its government are secular does not mean that individuals cannot be religious. Similarly, this is not an atheist country, but that doesn't mean a citizen can't be an atheist.

That was at 10:45 a.m. At 1:00 p.m., the results were completely reversed: 78 percent Real American secularists and just 15 percent freakazoid.

Apologies to those of you who have already spotted the multiple ways this "poll" is biased, false, misleading, a-historical, ignorant, stupid and un-American, but let's review quickly:

  • "How do you feel about those comments" is a blatant ploy to elicit unthinking emotion rather than rational thought.
  • "Offended" is not parallel to "Agree." It's either "Agree" vs "Disagree" or "Offended" vs "Pleased, Proud and Gratified."
  • Two possible "agree" answers vs one possible "offended" answer splits the "agree" vote and gives "offended" an automatic 50 percent advantage.
  • "America is still a Christian nation" is a blatant lie. America never has been a christian nation.
  • President Obama's statement is not his opinion; it is a plain, unbiased statement of historical fact. If you really don't know by now that the U.S. Constitution never mentions any "god" and specifically bans any religious test for public office, then you really don't know enough to vote in online polls, much less actual elections.

This isn't the first time WYMT, which is the Hazard sister-station of Lexington's WKYT, has run "polls" that reveal its bias against facts, history, science and reality. It's also not the first time reality-based liberals, alerted by PZ Myers and other bloggers, have smashed the fuckers.

So keep it up, WYMT. We're ready for you.

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

I Want On This List!

A list of socialists! A SECRET list of socialists! How cool!

Oh, shit: it's just socialists in Congress.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kentucky's Next Senator Will Be Blue

UPDATE, 6:45 a.m.: The endorsements have already started.

Meet the next U.S. Senator from Kentucky, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway:

Conway's from Louisville, and Louisville politicians traditionally have a difficult time winning statewide office in Kentucky. In fact, the last one was 25 years ago, when the Jefferson County Judge-Executive won a U.S. Senate seat. He was a republican, guy name of Mitch McConnell.

In 1984, he ran against incumbent Sen. Walter Huddleston (D-Ky.), trying to become the first Republican to win statewide office in Kentucky since 1968. He ran a famous series of ads showing bloodhounds sniffing around the state looking for Huddleston to make fun of Huddleston for missing votes while in Congress. McConnell won by four-tenths of a percentage point.(2) He was the only Republican challenger to beat a Democratic incumbent that year.

I seriously doubt Bunning's going to be the only repug incumbent to fall to a Democratic challenger next year, but just to be safe, maybe Conway should cut an ad showing nursing home attendants running through the halls of the Senate trying to corral Senator Non Compos Mentis.

Media Czech's rubbing it in:
We don't need a Blue Dog to beat Jim Bunning. Jack Conway is a progressive Democrat with integrity that can whip Jim Bunning any day of the week.

But let's say that KY Republicans like Mitch McConnell are able to successfully force Bunning out of the race and replace him with the much more formidable KY Sec. of State Trey Grayson. Even in this scenario, the PPP poll shows Jack Conway beating Grayson by 4 points. Mongiardo? He loses to Grayson by 4 points.

Again: we don't have to settle for a conservative Blue Dog in this race. We have Jack Conway.

Kentucky progressives are already stepping up and showing that we don't have to settle for the lesser of two evils in this race. The Facebook group I started "Kentuckians Against Homophobia, Mountaintop Removal, and Dan Mongiardo" has more members than the Mongiardo for Senate Facebook group. We know that Bunning is vulnerable, and we don't have to settle for another Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln.
Please check out Jack Conway's campaign website, and please consider throwing some turkee his way. We have a great candidate with a great shot of taking another big seat away from the "Party of No" in November 2010.

(also, please join the Jack Conway for U.S. Senate 2010 Facebook group!!!)

I'm not completely convinced that Jack Conway is the progressive Media Czech claims he is, mostly because his record is thin and his jihad against cyber crime gives me the First Amendment willies. However, he's certainly far more progressive than Mongiardo and Ben Chandler, if not as progressive as John Yarmuth.

Page One Kentucky, meanwhile, compares and contrasts Conway's video announcement with Mongiardo's, and reminds us just how much of a scumbucket our only Lieutenant Governor really is:

Oh, don’t forget that fancy time in 2004 when Daniel Mongiardo stood behind then-Senator Ernesto Scorsone, pointing and laughing, as Scorsone spoke passionately against Senate Hate Bill 245. See the video evidence by clicking here.

The proudly liberal Scorsone, Kentucky's only openly-gay legislator and now its only openly-gay Circuit Court Judge, has more genuinely progressive integrity in one fingernail than Dan Mongiardo could ever hope to acquire in a lifetime of penitent service.

Fun historical fact: In 1998, when Bunning first ran for the seat vacated by retiring Democratic Party Icon Wendell Ford, his Democratic opponent was 6th District Congressman Scotty Baesler. The two state senators who ran for Baesler's seat were Scorsone and future corrupt and disgraced governor Ernie Fletcher. Dirty Ernie won by deploying a gay-hating whisper campaign against Scorsone.

Thus Conway beating homophobe Mongiardo for the right to take Ford's seat back from Bunning will be karmic justice of a kind.

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mongiardo Weakest of KY Dems for U.S. Senate

Like I said yesterday, polls 18 months out are bullshit. But the too-early bullshit Public Policy poll on Jim Bunning's reelection race next year is so chock-full of opportunities to bash coal-loving homophobe Dan Mongiardo, we're just going with it.

Page One Kentucky has details on the repug alternatives to Bunning, and their chances against the various dems, of whom Mongiardo is - surprise! - the weakest.

Media Czech has more poll porn, and it's bad news for Dr. Dan:

In the crosstabs, Dan Mongiardo once again shows anemic support among Democrats, as his approval/disapproval is 58/18, as opposed to Conway's at 57/10. Among indendents, Mongairdo fares poorly (35/48), while Conway does quite well (35/28). Homophobic opportunism and mountaintop removal shilling coming back to bite you, Lt. Dan?


In the matchup that we WILL see in November 2010, we have some great news:

Jack Conway- 42%
Jim Bunning- 33%

Zesty! Mongiardo is also ahead, but by a lower margin.

Dan Mongiardo- 43%
Jim Bunning- 36%

So first things first: let's put to rest that tired meme that we need to nominate a homophobic and environmentally catastrophic candidate, or else we can't win the Kentucky senate seat. That meme is officially DEAD. We can do better, and the more progressive Democratic candidate POLLS BETTER than the Blue Dog conservative Democrat.

It's time for Jack Conway to get in this race and start thumping Lt. Dan, then send Jim Bunning to the showers.

I'd just add for all the anonymously-commenting desperate and delusional supporters of Mongiardo: the rampant homophobia among Kentucky's registered-Democrats-who-always-vote-republican is a bad thing for Dr. Dan, because the homophobes think Mongiardo is gay, and that his gay-bashing is a cover.

In other words, Dan loses the progressive vote for being a homophobe and pro mountaintop removal mining, he loses the homophobe vote because they think he's gay. and he loses the racist vote because he endorsed Barack Obama. That's pretty much every Democratic vote in the state.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kentucky Senate Seat is Democratic Party's to Lose

Via Barefoot and Progressive, a new Public Policy Poll has Jim Bunning losing to any random Democrat who shows up.

Political Wire got an advance look at a new Public Policy Polling survey in Kentucky that shows Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) with a 28% favorable rating as he attempts to run for a third term.

Bunning loses head-to-head match ups with all four Democrats considering a run against him: Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, Attorney General Jack Conway, state Auditor Crit Luallen and Rep. Ben Chandler.

Complete poll results will be released tomorrow.

As Media Czech notes, the cross-tabs will tell the story. In the meantime, some contradictory thoughts:
  • Polls eighteen months out are bullshit.
  • Nevertheless, I'm sure this one has repugs shitting their pants and taking contracts out on Jimbo.
  • And making begging calls to Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who is way too smart to believe early polls, but who might have an ego susceptible to national repugs calling him savior.
  • Bullshit regardless, tomorrow we'll see Dan Mongiardo strutting around like cock-of-the-walk, nevermind that his first-quarter fundraising leaves him $180,000 still in debt.
  • Which strutting might possibly be annoying enough to get Hamlet Conway off his pretty ass and into the race.

Oh, yeah. Crit Luallen and Ben Chandler are not considering, never have considered, and never will consider running for Bunning's Senate seat next year.

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

Quote of the Day

From Noah Shactman at Wired, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates:

"[I]t is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk -- or, in effect, to 'run up the score' in a capability where the United States is already dominant -- is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I will not take."

Blue Girl has a good analysis of how we got here and the obstacles Gates faces.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Don't Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out

It's way too good to be true, but just the contemplation of this possibly happening is enough to gladden the hearts of liberals everywhere, so read and rejoice:

A RELIGIOUS RIGHT CRACK-UP?.... In general, the most noticeable fissure among politically conservative evangelical Christians is generational. In this dynamic, older evangelicals see themselves as an appendage of the Republican Party, and consider abortion and gay rights as the only "moral" issues that matter. Younger evangelicals are less partisan, and consider poverty and global warming important, too.

But there's another fissure, which in the short term, may be even more consequential. It's between leaders of the religious movement vs. those more inclined to take John 18:36 to heart (Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world").

The split first emerged, on a conceptual level, about a decade ago, when Cal Thomas, a far-right columnist and founding member of the Moral Majority, write a book called "Blinded by Might," arguing that conservative evangelical Christians have been going about their efforts all wrong. Religious right activists, Thomas said, should focus less on political power and influence -- having a seat at the proverbial GOP table -- and more on religion and family.

In her Washington Post column today, Kathleen Parker reports on how this kind of thinking has grown considerably more common, to the point that many "principled Christians" are now "finished with politics." Parker highlights a recent argument between Tom Minnery, head of the political arm of Focus on the Family, and Steve Deace of WHO Radio in Iowa.

Deace's point was that established Christian activist groups too often settle for lesser evils in exchange for electing Republicans.... Compromise may be the grease of politics, but it has no place in Christian orthodoxy, according to Deace.

Put another way, Christians may have no place in the political fray of dealmaking. That doesn't mean one disengages from political life, but it might mean that the church shouldn't be a branch of the Republican Party. It might mean trading fame and fortune (green rooms and fundraisers) for humility and charity.

Deace's radio show may be beneath the radar of most Americans and even most Christians, but he is not alone in his thinking. I was alerted to the Deace-Minnery interview by E. Ray Moore -- founder of the South Carolina-based Exodus Mandate, an initiative to encourage Christian education and home schooling. Moore, who considers himself a member of the Christian right, thinks the movement is imploding.

"It's hard to admit defeat, but this one was self-inflicted," he wrote in an e-mail. "Yes, Dr. Dobson and the pro-family or Christian right political movement is a failure; it would have made me sad to say this in the past, but they have done it to themselves."

For Christians such as Moore -- and others better known, such as columnist Cal Thomas, a former vice president for the Moral Majority -- the heart of Christianity is in the home, not the halls of Congress or even the courts. And the route to a more moral America is through good works -- service, prayer and education -- not political lobbying.

It's worth noting that both sides of the fissure believe the culture war has effectively been lost, but they differ wildly on the diagnosis. For religious right leaders, the culture war flopped because they faced too many enemies (popular culture, changing norms, progressive interest groups) with too few allies (no Republican follow-through). For those like Deace and Thomas, the war never should have been fought in the first place, because it required principled Christians to effectively become political lobbyists.

Thomas told Parker, "If people who call themselves Christians want to see any influence in the culture, then they ought to start following the commands of Jesus and people will be so amazed that they will be attracted to Him. The problem isn't political. The problem is moral and spiritual.... You have the choice between a way that works and brings no credit or money or national attention. Or, a way that doesn't work that gets you lots of attention and has little influence on the culture."

Like I said, waaaaaayyyy too good to be true. But the departure of the freakazoids from the political plane would be even more reassuring considering they are polluting our political discourse with crap like this:

But there's another problem with what Dreher and his lawyer friend think. Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that being Dreher's kind of Christian does in fact require public disapproval of homosexuality. I don't know why one would want to be that kind of Christian, as opposed to the kind who follows Christ in ministering compassionately to Pharisees and (those whom one takes to be) sinners alike, but hey: it's Dreher's life, not mine. And suppose further that allowing gay men and lesbians to enjoy full legal rights, including the right to marry, would in fact produce the (specific) results Dreher's friend fears. Here, again, is how Dreher describes the problems that loom on his horizon:

"To voice support, no matter how muted, for traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and marriage (...) would be to set yourself up for hostile work environment challenges, including dismissal from your job, and generally all the legal sanctions that now apply to people who openly express racist views."

Notice anything about those legal sanctions? They all apply to people who openly express racist views at work. There are no legal sanctions for expressing openly racist views on the street or on a public beach. Why not? We have this odd thing called "freedom of speech", which precludes them. In a country that let Nazis march through a town full of Holocaust survivors, I find it hard to believe that Rod Dreher and his friends will not find some way to express their views in public.

Apparently, to be the kind of "public Christian" that Dreher thinks he has a right to be, it's not enough to bear Christian witness in public. It's not even enough to express disapproval of homosexuality in public. You have to express disapproval of homosexuality to your co-workers, in your workplace. And you have to do so even if they find your expressions of disapproval so unpleasant that they actually file suit.

The existence of laws against sexual harassment in the workplace does not mean that no one can be a public lecher. The fact that I think it inappropriate to introduce my political views into my classroom does not mean that I do not get to be publicly political. It just means that not all remarks are appropriate in all settings. This should not be news to anyone. It's certainly not a threat to freedom of religion, any more than it's a threat to public political expression.

Only someone whose life had been very, very privileged would assume that he had the right to tell his co-workers how sinful he thought they were, or that if this supposed right were threatened, that meant not that he should bear witness to the gospel in a more appropriate setting, but that his freedom of religion itself was in jeopardy.

Yes, indeed, my religious friends, we secularists must admit that politics is a dirty, dirty business, far beneath the elevated sensibilities of such godly beings as yourself.

Withdraw, dear worthies, to your more spiritual plane and worry not your exalted minds with petty political ploys like campaigning and voting.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The 51 Deficit Hawks Who Want to Hand $442 Billion to Rich People

It's bad enough that Senate repugs and the Bayh-partisan DINOs oppose a plan to save the economy with job-producing government spending on the ground that it increases the deficit. They're just exposing their inability to grasp basic macroeconomics and the lessons of the Great Depression.

But when those same supposed hawks who clutch their pearls and faint at the idea of $775 billion in stimulus turn right around and vote to hand more than half that amount in non-productive tax breaks to people inheriting more than $5 million, you know this has nothing to do with hating deficits.

Spending money on things we need tends to be a better stimulus than tax cuts. Tax cuts for the poor and middle class tend to be better stimuli than tax cuts for the rich. But if, for some unfathomable reason, we want to give tax cuts to the rich right now, why on earth do it by cutting the estate tax?

There's a reasonable argument for cutting taxes on capital gains and income: namely, that they increase incentives to work and invest. I think this argument is outweighed by other considerations, but it does exist. But what, exactly, is the argument for cutting the estate tax? People who inherit money have not earned it. They are not doing something that we want to reward, like working; they just happened to be the heirs of rich people.

No surprise that every single Senate repug, including Kentucky's own men of the people Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell, voted to bust the budget to hand $446 billion of your tax dollars over to people with too much money already.

But they were jointed by ten DINOs - the same members of Evan Bayh's anti-Obama group of traitors so determined to slash the president's pro-growth budget.

Read the list of "aye" votes carefully and memorize the "Democrats" who love obscenely rich people, love deficits that arise from handing the tax dollars of working people over to obscenely rich people, and hate you and all your working-class friends who work two jobs at subhuman wages with no benefits in order to pay the taxes that these DINOs are handing over to their real friends, the obscenely wealthy.

Note that one of these Democratic traitors is Montana's Jon Tester, who won his seat by a hair in 2006 only because real progressives all over the country sent him their hard-earned money. We supported Tester because although he was a classic Western conservative, he claimed to be an economic populist. He lied.

Remember Tester, and Bayh, and former progressive darling Patty Murray of Washington, and all the rest the next time some mealy-mouthed Broderist starts bleating about how repug-fellating DINOs are still Democrats and it's so very, very tacky to attack them.

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


Why genuine open-mindedness does not mean believing in the tooth fairy, WMDs in Iraq, or invisible sky wizards. Although this video specifically addresses non-religious superstition, superstition is superstition, number of believers does not trump evidence, and there is precisely the same amount of evidence for "god" as there is for ghosts, unicorns and clean coal.

Via Pharyngula and JREF:

Stop believing. Start thinking.

And yes, fellow Grammar Nazis, it should be closed-minded, not close-minded.

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

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Progressive Pushback

For a little while, it looked like the most influential liberal groups might bite their tongues on criticism of President Obama and settle for the centrist policies on which he campaigned.

Now comes news that liberal activists have regrouped and are back putting pressure on the administration and Congressional Democrats to pass the progressive legislation multiple polls show a majority of Americans want.

Steve Benen:

The part of this I've found confusing is that that MoveOn and Americans United for Change aren't exactly taking radical positions here.

I'm trying to look at this from Reid's and Van Hollen's perspective. If, say, MoveOn and Americans United for Change were running ads going after Democrats because the congressional majority refused to raise the top income tax rate to 75% and buy everyone a puppy, I could imagine Democratic leaders on the Hill urging the groups to back off.

But, really, what is that MoveOn and Americans United for Change want? For Democrats to support a popular agenda. They're urging "centrist" Dems to vote for measures like a progressive budget and health care reform. This helps leaders like Reid and Van Hollen instill some party discipline.

The DCCC chair said their "singular focus" should be on "expanding the Democratic majority." Actually, for groups like MoveOn and Americans United for Change, the "singular focus" is making sure the expanded Democratic majority does what it was elected to do, advancing an agenda that voters already support.

Again, concerns from party leaders would make a lot more sense if the groups were making unreasonable demands of Democrats, urging them to take reckless political risks on unpopular issues that would undermine the party's chances in the future.
But MoveOn and Americans United for Change are doing nothing of the sort.

Steve, bless his heart, is assuming that "Democratic" leaders in Congress actually want progressive legislation. Call me cynical, but I think everything they've done and failed to do for the past eight years pretty much proves most Congressional "Democrats" will go to extreme lengths to avoid doing anything to inconvenience corporate interests.

That's why it's critical that liberals, progressives and other real Democrats support the efforts of the Congressional real Democrats who support us.

House liberals are threatening to vote against any health plan that doesn't include a "public plan option."

The Congressional Progressive Caucus made its point today in a publicly released letter to Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

The caucus is seeking to leverage its 77 votes, which is enough to block legislation on the House floor if Republicans are united against it. But for liberals to do so, they would have to vote against a Democratic president's top priority in his first year in office.

"We have polled CPC members very carefully in recent weeks and a strong majority will only support comprehensive healthcare reform legislation that includes a public plan option on a level playing field with private health insurance plans," wrote CPC co-chairmen Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

The letter says that most members of the caucus prefer a "single-payer" healthcare program, which has largely been taken off the table by Democratic leaders. They say the public plan should be included "at minimum."

To close, here's the Rude Pundit on public attitudes toward law-breaking CEOs.

There's a couple of things that Republicans (and, really, most Democrats, including the President) need to realize about the public right now. First off, we want some fuckin' blood. It's time to purge some motherfuckers, time to fuck up the lives of some rich bastards. Back when Enron crumbled, the only thing that stopped riots in the streets of Houston was the fact that Ken Lay was being chased like a plague rat. Firing the CEO of GM was a start. Now, as a condition of bailouts, there needs to be more public pantsing of other top execs (not low-level lackeys) in all the collapsing industries that are dragging us down into the big suck they've created. If we can frog walk a couple of 'em, all the better. Everyone from Joes that are real plumbers to Mary Janes that stock the shelves at Wal-Mart know that if you fuck up, you get fired. So it should be for Wall Street, so it should be for GM and Chrysler. You wanna restore some faith in the American economy? Consequences for actions are easy steps to take.

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