Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Adam Serwer at the American Prospect pulls this out of the DoD's survey on repealing DADT:

As one special operations force warfighter told us, “We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.”

Paris Hilton vs. VA Nurses

Here's a good short way to describe our current economic non-debate, from Brad Reed at Crooks and Liars:

Joe Lieberman apparently thinks (freezing pay of federal workers) is a great idea. Joe Lieberman also wants to keep tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans in place. In other words, Joe Lieberman supports denying pay increases to VA nurses taking care of wounded vets just so Paris Hilton can keep her precious, precious tax cut.

In case you haven't noticed, our political ruling class is deeply, deeply evil.

Ignore the mention of Joe Lieberman; he's just a stand-in for every rethuglican, teabagger and Blue Dog who also wants to -

deny pay increases to VA nurses taking care of wounded vets just so Paris Hilton can keep her precious, precious, tax cut.

Don't let anyone describe it any other way.

Are You Ready to Pay $500 a Month for Internet?

Because that's what coming, and fast.

From Zandar:

To everyone who said "We should let the free market take care of net neutrality issues" then I hope you don't have Comcast as your internet provider.

Level 3 Communications, an Internet networking company that recently signed a deal to deliver movies to Netflix customers, said Monday that Comcast has effectively set up a tollbooth around its broadband Internet network.

Comcast demanded a “recurring fee” from Level 3 “to transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content,” Thomas Stortz, the chief legal officer for Level 3, said in a statement Monday afternoon, seemingly alluding to the Netflix service. The action “threatens the open Internet,” Mr. Stortz added.

Comcast did not immediately respond to the company’s claims. A spokesman for Netflix declined to comment.

Worst case scenario, expect basically every other ISP to follow suit here pretty quickly as internet providers, net backbone companies, and content providers start charging each other fees for everything...and guess who these fees will be passed along to?

Unless we regulate and enforce an open internet, it will be taken from us. The war has been on, but now the WMDs are loose. This has the potential to get ugly, fast.

From CREDO Action:

It's as brazen as it is outrageous. At the very same time that the FCC is deliberating the fate of our open Internet, cable giant Comcast threatened to block Netflix from delivering streaming movies to Comcast's own broadband customers.

Without strong net neutrality rules, companies like Comcast can demand fees from innovative companies like Netflix in an attempt to choke consumer freedom and coerce users to adopt its own video services instead.

Tell the FCC: Don't let Comcast block Netflix. Support the strong net neutrality protections President Obama promised during his campaign.

Click here to sign the petition.

Government Is Not Your Family

As we approach the next battle in the 75-year-long War to Save Social Security, we must beware of plausible-sounding analogies that undermine liberal positions.

Digby punctures one of the dumbest:

Gene Lyons made a good observation the other day about the "government is family" metaphor that describes the absurdity of it in a useful way:

"The American people are ahead of their government and their politicians on this," King said. "Because, Ali, you know this, over the past two or three years every family in America has had to make incredibly difficult choices and do things they didn't want to do. And so they look at Washington and they say why won't you do things that you don't want to do, why don't you ... do something about this and be grown-ups?"

Yes, it's perfectly obvious. The thing to do is cut government spending, reduce demand, put more people out of work. Prosperity will come roaring back.

Look, Obama asked for this. "Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions," he said, announcing the Bowles-Simpson commission during his 2010 State of the Union. "The federal government should do the same."

Because the U.S. government is just like your family. And your family can't run deficits, can it? Apart from mortgages, auto and education loans, credit cards, stuff like that. Not to mention that it's the government that actually creates and maintains the money supply. Otherwise, yeah, your family's exactly the same as the Social Security Administration, the Pentagon, the National Institutes of Health, all those. So get out and build some highways: pay as you go.

My head explodes every time I hear any of them use this stupid family metaphor. And it isn't just Obama using it. As everyone here is aware, there's a whole school of thought on the left about the dueling metaphors of government as family, with the Right allegedly preferring the "strict father" model and the Left preferring the "nurturing parent" (actually "indulgent Mommy", although the proponents of this metaphor will never admit that's what it is.)

It's dumb. America isn't a family and managing a national economy isn't like managing a family budget. It isn't like a business either (the second most common stupid metaphor.) The government has a completely different set of responsibilities than other human organizing entities, and democratic government is designed to completely upend the authoritarian model of family, church and business and put the "kids" in charge. Forgetting that is what gets us into trouble.

It would be very helpful to people's understanding of how their world works if they understood the differences between our various organizational models instead of conflating them. It's confusing rather than enlightening.

The lines in this conflict could not be more clear:

Rich people, Wall Street, conservatives/republicans/teabaggers, and corporations are determined to steal the last nickels from the working people the rich have been exploiting for decades.

Working people, Main Street, liberals/Democrats and unions are fighting to make the obscenely wealthy pay their share of the taxes that make this nation strong.

Everything else is lies and distraction.

Monday, November 29, 2010

If you think poverty is a crime and war is a blessing ... you might be a republican

Via Down with Tyranny, the top 50 signs you might be a republican.

My favorites:

2. You believe stem cells are living human beings, but thousands of Iraqi children are ‘expendable collateral damage.’

5. You think trial lawyers are harmful to America, yet you support prosecuting some guy in Muncie Indiana who burned his 99¢ American flag that was made in China by forced child labor.

6. You’re all for the ‘rule of law’ when it’s applied to Bill Clinton for lying about his infidelity, but not for prosecuting Karl Rove and Scooter Libby for committing treason.

22. You believe patriotism means you should support your government right or wrong … unless a Democrat’s in power, then it’s your patriotic duty to call him a closet Muslim, challenge his birth certificate, expose his sex life and impeach him.

25. You think Darwin’s theory of evolution is a loony fairy tale, and mankind actually began with two naked teenagers, a magic apple and a talking snake.

Read them all here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"No President should fear public scrutiny of his program."

As we struggle to digest the latest document dump from Wikileaks, Brad Friedman has a great post on the larger issues of government secrecy.

As this information becomes public, and as the U.S. Government continues to scramble to mitigate what the White House is calling today a "reckless and dangerous" leak, condemning it "in the strongest terms" as an alleged threat to national security, it's worth keeping in mind, for valuable perspective, what the 1970s legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg wrote in an op/ed for The BRAD BLOG in early 2008...

Many, if not most, covert operations deserve to be disclosed by a free press. They are often covert not only because they are illegal but because they are wildly ill-conceived and reckless. "Sensitive" and "covert" are often synonyms for "half-assed," "idiotic," and "dangerous to national security," as well as "criminal."

As well, John F. Kennedy's April 1961 speech on what he described as this nation's abhorrence of secrecy, and the necessity of a free press --- as delivered to the American Newspaper Publishers Association at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York a year or so before his death --- is rather astonishing, and more than a bit ironic, in light of today's leaks and, as directly, the actions of the Executive Branch and its enablers in this country --- in Congress, in the mainstream media and in the public --- over the past dark decade. JFK's remarks include these thoughts among others that must be heard or read...

The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.

And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.

And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary.

Read the whole thing, including a video excerpt and full transcript here.

Barbarians in the Halls of Power

Here in the U.S. we're about to find out what happens when violent nihilists bent on destroying the government are given seats in Congress.

At the United Nations, they've already turned the place over to the murderers.

PZ Myers:

So, various factions at the United Nations have been pushing for anti-blasphemy motions — after all, we can't go around picking on weak ideas. But do you know who the UN thinks are fair game? Non-heterosexual people.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were once again subject to the whims of homophobia and religious and cultural extremism this week, thanks to a United Nations vote that removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. In other words, the UN General Assembly this week voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.

Jesus and Mohammed get a little cranky at the idea of someone being rude to their books of magic spells, but setting a gay man on fire? That's just an excuse to party.

The United Nations is a wonderful idea in principle, except for the little problem of giving barbarians a vote.

Yes: anyone who insists that a ridiculous myth deserves protection from insult but fellow human beings don't deserve protection from murder is a barbarian.

Slimy Lying Coward Chandler Tells Slimy Cowardly Lies

No, of course I'm not surprised. Wire Hanger has been beneath contempt for years. But for the sake of the Real Democrat I sincerely hope will step forward to primary his worthless Blue Dog ass in 2012, let's take a look at bennyboy's latest whining excuses.

From the Herald:

U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler said last week he partially blames the Obama administration and U.S. House leadership for Democrats' election losses and his extremely narrow re-election.

"If not there, where else does the responsibility lie?" said Chandler, D-Versailles, who had endorsed Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election. "You're talking about the loss of 60 or something seats held by capable public servants. There had to be something going on at a level above them. If that isn't the lesson, I don't know what is."

Somebody tell Wire Hangar that the 83,952 fewer votes he got in 2010 than in 2008 were the Democratic and liberal voters he fucked over with his votes to outlaw abortion and deny affordable health care to thousands of Kentuckians.

That's right, Wire Hangar: they sat home and cheered every sweaty minute you spent nearly losing to Ernie Fletcher mini-me Andy Barr. (No, they didn't vote republican - Barr got only 8,000 votes more than your republican opponent got in 2008.)

Those 649 votes by which you "won" this time? Those were the only Democratic voters in the Sixth District who love Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi more than they despise you.

Obama and Pelosi's accomplishments in the past two years saved your worthless DINO hide.

And naturally you're going to show your gratitude by planting your lips on Boehner's limp dick and sucking non-stop for the next two years.

You'd be better off just switching parties now, you loser. Progressives outnumber Blue Dogs in the new Congress three to one. You'll be lucky if Pelosi lets you sit on the pooper-scooper oversight subcommittee.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Patient is Bleeding to Death - Quick, Apply Leeches!

But even that is not as ass-backwards as slashing spending in a recession.


Gergen uses what's going on in Ireland right now as as excuse to tell Americans that we had better get ready for some "tough medicine" once the deficit commission comes out with their report next week and of course that "medicine" should start with going after Social Security. Heaven forbid the rich should have to pay back the government for those tax cuts. Gergen apparently thinks the peons should be paying for their excesses.

Hilarious, because Ireland is proof positive that austerity kills.

Krugman, who has been warning about this for at least two years:

These debts were incurred, not to pay for public programs, but by private wheeler-dealers seeking nothing but their own profit. Yet ordinary Irish citizens are now bearing the burden of those debts.

Or to be more accurate, they’re bearing a burden much larger than the debt — because those spending cuts have caused a severe recession so that in addition to taking on the banks’ debts, the Irish are suffering from plunging incomes and high unemployment.

But there is no alternative, say the serious people: all of this is necessary to restore confidence.

Strange to say, however, confidence is not improving. On the contrary: investors have noticed that all those austerity measures are depressing the Irish economy — and are fleeing Irish debt because of that economic weakness.


Ireland is now in its third year of austerity, and confidence just keeps draining away. And you have to wonder what it will take for serious people to realize that punishing the populace for the bankers’ sins is worse than a crime; it’s a mistake.

So the next time you hear anyone so much as hint that an appropriate response to our current recession is a spending cut of any kind, shape or form, ask her this: "You mean like Ireland?"

If she says yes, you'll know she's a shill for the bankers and is wrong about everything.

U.S. Breaks Afghanistan Quagmire Record

From Down with Tyranny:

If Russia's Soviet Union-destroying war against Afghanistan started on Dec. 27, 1979 and ended, ignominiously, on Feb. 15, 1989, guess who's been looking for the light at the end of the Salang Tunnel as long as the Russians? Earlier this week, in a NY Times OpEd, Worse Than Vietnam, Robert Wright pointed out that the U.S. War in Afghanistan, already the longest war in our nation's history, passes another milestone today: we're eclipsing the amount of time the Soviets were mired in that hellhole. Happy anniversary. It's cost about $345 billion so far, not counting the billions of dollars it will cost to treat the soldiers whose physical and mental health is being destroyed on a daily basis. It will reach over a trillion dollars by the time we get out of Dodge-- with nothing whatsoever to show for it but two shattered countries-- theirs and ours. The Wall Street Journal reminds us that we just keep increasing what we spend in Afghanistan monthly:

Between 2009 and 2010, the average monthly cost of the Iraq war fell $1.8 billion to $5.4 billion, a 25% drop. But increased spending in Afghanistan ate up that savings-- and a bit more. Monthly costs rose $2.2 billion to $5.7, billion, a 63% increase... In Afghanistan, where the military has built up additional infrastructure to accommodate the surge units, the average cost per service member is expected to rise to $694,000.

Wright's main point, though, isn't about the cost. It's about the tragedy. "The Afghanistan war," he writes, "is as bad as the Vietnam War except for the ways in which it's worse." He points out that although the Vietnam War killed far more people and was far more destructive in human terms, "strategically it was just a medium-sized blunder. It was a waste of resources, yes, but the war didn’t make America more vulnerable to enemy attack."


It doesn't look like al Qaeda and their Taliban allies are interested in a negotiated settlement unless that settlement is for foreign forces to withdraw... period. That whole ruse with the impostor negotiator was about British wishful thinking, not diplomacy. Diplomacy, on the otherhand, has actually started the process of NATO bringing Russia back into the Afghanistan War! No, I swear I'm not joking.

It's never worked before-- and it'll never work this time. Are our strategic planners ignorant or stupid? Or brimming over with hubris? Or do they have something entirely unrelated up their sleeves? I'm afraid that with Alan Grayson effectively targeted and removed, there's no one in Congress with the will or the ambition to ever find out for us. Oh well...

Read the whole thing.

When Obama chose to double-down on Afghanistan instead of ordering the Pentagon to get the fuck out of that hell-hole and stay the fuck out, several commentators compared him not to FDR, not to JFK, but to LBJ: the president whose game-changing domestic agenda was buried in the muck and gore of an unwinnable war.

I'm thinking the most appropriate presidential analogy right now is to RMN: Nixon, who deliberately prolonged the Vietnam War until after the '72 election - four long years and more than 10,000 American deaths, all because victory was impossible and withdrawal without victory would lose the election.

What Ignorance Destroys

Upton Sinclair famously wrote about another economic crisis: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."

For today's economic crisis, I'll update that to: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something he has been mis-educated to not understand."

merlin1963 at Firedoglake:

I think there is a third factor that has hampered and will continue to thwart the formulation and implementation of any progressive economic agenda: the economic illiteracy of the American people. Without some means to educate the public, the media, and our elected leaders about progressive economic alternatives to our current economic crisis, conservative politicians with their message discipline will continue to sway an electorate that is woefully ignorant on economic matters with simplistic and illogical soundbites passing as policy solutions.

Now, I define economic literacy, for the sake of this blog, as understanding SOME of the tenants of basic economics. In other words, stuff you should have learned in at least high school or maybe even college. This does not mean that you or I should be able to hold forth on the complexities of economic theory with the likes of Paul Krugman, but I do think that a basic knowledge of economics should involve understanding the definition of economics – the study of scarcity and how people deal with scarcity of resources – and a few key concepts. NOTE: I am not an economist, but I did take micro and macroeconomics in college many years ago.

Sadly — no, tragically — most Americans don’t know a damn thing about economics. . . .

Read the whole thing.

Everything I know about economics I learned from reading Paul Krugman, but apparently even that terrific writer's clear prose is not enough to overcome what Krugman himself called "invincible ignorance."

This isn't a debate between Keynes and Friedman, or even a discussion about what Adam Smith meant by the "invisible hand."

This is an existential fight against ignorance. For half a century, rethuglicans have fought to undermine and destroy public education. Now they have finally achieved their goal: an electorate unable to distinguish facts from lies, much less make informed decisions about policy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hold the Broadcasters Accountable

Fixing the foundational cracks in American democracy revealed by the recent election is going to require multiple efforts on multiple fronts, ranging from reinvigorating the Democratic grassroots on the precinct level to passing and ratifying a Constitutional amendment barring the corporate purchase of elections allowed by Citizens United.

But there's a quicker and easier fix available - if we have the determination to demand it.

Using the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission to hold television broadcasters responsible for the content of campaign commercials could both break the power of corporate cash and restore the power of independent political reporting.

John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney in The Nation:

The counsel of the self-interested "players" is always the same: raise money, more money and more money still—and don't do or say anything that makes it harder to raise money. This thinking has bled into what is left of our journalism, such that political reporters today spend more time covering the money that candidates, parties and interest groups raise and spend than examining their records and intentions. Whereas journalists once wrote stories about issues, and candidates cut commercials in response to them, now some journalists go through entire campaigns doing little more than fact-checking commercials. On many days, reviews of ads are all that appear in print and broadcast reports. And what do new-media outlets bring to the table? An opportunity to watch ads on YouTube!

As ads become the primary source of political information, we create a politics based on lies or, at best, decontextualized quarter-truths. Campaign ads are unregulated for truthfulness, unlike commercial advertising. Three decades ago Ogilvy and Mather executive Robert Spero determined that if political ads had to meet the same Federal Trade Commission criteria as commercial ads, all of them would be rejected as fraudulent. The regulation of commercial ads may be more lax today, but we doubt that any study of political ads in 2010 would regard them more favorably than Spero did.

The journalists who want to cut through the lies are having a harder time doing so. One of the truly unsettling developments of this election season was the decision by prominent candidates either to avoid the press, as Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle did, or to refuse opportunities to debate. Once upon a time challengers hungered to debate incumbents; in 2010 incumbents like Florida Representative Alan Grayson found themselves chasing after well-funded challengers. Feingold offered to debate his millionaire opponent in forums across the state, but Republican Ron Johnson, who had no record in public life and who even avoided interviews with newspaper editorial boards, refused. Instead, Johnson let his advertisements and those paid for by the Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network and sundry organizations that flooded the state with anti-Feingold ads do his talking. Even when Johnson did debate in a handful of forums available for broadcast by the state's TV stations, many stations avoided airing them in prime time. Wisconsin lawyer Ed Garvey, a former Democratic nominee for governor, tried to tune in to a much-anticipated Feingold-Johnson debate, only to find it was not being aired. He called the station and was told he could track it down on a website. "As a citizen, I was left with no option but the ads. I got nothing of substance from television stations," griped Garvey. "I thought they were supposed to operate in the public interest."

That should be the starting point of any response to the money-and-media election complex. We have to stop thinking about the crisis of our politics merely in terms of reforming the campaign finance system (though of course it's important to fight for reforms). It's a media ownership and responsibility issue as well. It goes to the heart of why freedom of the press is enshrined in our Constitution. And regulatory agencies that are empowered to protect the public interest should be the first to intervene. The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission have a duty to figure out exactly how much was spent, by whom and to what end. That examination should start with dollar amounts, but it shouldn't stop there. It should explore the issue of whether TV stations that made a fortune running campaign ads met even the most basic public-interest requirements of companies that obtain broadcast licenses. How much campaign journalism have these stations been doing, compared with a generation ago? How many debates are they airing in prime time? FCC member Michael Copps understands the crisis and intends to press ahead this fall with demands for stronger public-interest requirements for broadcasters. Copps is no fool; he knows this is the hardest of all fights. That's why he will need support from Congress as well as citizens.

House and Senate committees should hold hearings about the money-and-media election complex. How about calling Representative Pete DeFazio to testify? The Oregon maverick was one of many Democratic incumbents facing marginal challengers who suddenly found himself battered by attack ads paid for by a shadowy group no one had heard of. DeFazio pushed back, taking a camera crew to the Capitol Hill condo from which the group operated and exposing the source as a single New York–based hedge fund gazillionaire who was apparently angered by the Congressman's ardent advocacy for holding Wall Street speculators to account. That's the stuff of a good hearing. But don't stop with DeFazio; call the hedge fund manager who went after him. Then call Karl Rove. The 111th Congress has been lame when it comes to oversight; it should finish with a bang. And state legislative committees around the country should do the same.

Gathering the data and grilling the guilty players will make the case for fundamental reform, which must come at multiple levels. The FCC could require stations to grant equal advertising time to any candidate who is attacked in an ad paid for by corporations, with the free response ad to immediately follow the hit job. The FCC should consider requiring free TV ads for every candidate on the ballot if any candidate buys his or her own spots. This would allow wealthy candidates access but would prevent them from shouting everyone else down. Let the stations jack up rates to cover all the time, if they want. We suspect the appeal of TV ads will decline if the result is simply to open an equal debate rather than allow one side to dominate. And of course there is the long-overdue matter of providing free airtime to candidates and requiring debates to be broadcast.

Radical ideas? Hardly. Much of what we're talking about was outlined in the original version of the McCain-Feingold bill of the 1990s and in other proposals advanced over the years. It's time to renew them. At the same time, we need a public policy commitment to the rejuvenation of news media. A supercharged public and community broadcast system would be a good start. It's no accident that the corporate right is taking dead aim at public broadcasting, as it remains the one institutional force not under its direct control.

The framework of American Democracy - grassroots, Constitutional and regulatory - may be battered and disrespected, but remains strong. All we need is the courage to use it.

How Even the Powerless Workers Protect Themselves

If your employer tomorrow decided to cut wages 20 percent, cancel health insurance, and eliminate paid sick and vacation days, is there anything you could do about it?

Right now there are no federal laws or regulations preventing employers from doing that and worse.

But you can stop your employer - even your huge corporate employer - from doing that. Go to your union.

What's that? You don't have a union? Didn't think you needed one? Thought unions were the source of everything wrong in the workplace?

Think again.

Susie Madrak:

I'm thankful there are still people who fight for the common good against daunting odds, and that some of us are still principled enough to support them in their fight. Now if only Aramark doesn't pull any funny stuff, we might have a happy ending here. Via In These Times:

Grill cook Janet Irving has worked at the dining hall for Loyola University in Chicago for 26 years. But she still makes only $14 an hour, has no health insurance and gets little benefit for her seniority in scheduling shifts.

Issues like these are why the 204 workers from 16 countries decided to form a union. After a difficult organizing campaign where they initially faced intense opposition from their employer, Aramark, on Nov. 16 the company agreed to recognize UNITE HERE Local 1 after 80 percent of workers signed union cards.

Contract negotiations will begin in coming months and Irving, 49, is confident that things will get a lot better for workers. “It’s beautiful, it’s great, only good things can happen now,” she said.

She said workers will be surveyed to come up with specific demands for a wage increase, affordable health insurance, seniority rights and other issues. Currently Irving can’t afford the health insurance Aramark offers, so she is uninsured and relies on the public county hospital for treatment for her heart condition.

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Away from the Airport

Who will put a stop to this epidemic of elderly, bedridden, mentally ill, epileptic and otherwise helpless citizens demanding that police leave their homes and thus forcing the poor terrified officers to tase them into submission?


Many of you will probably recall that story of the police who tasered the 86 year old bedridden woman, but it appears they've filed the lawsuit and the details are just ... awful:

Hearing the 911 call made by her grandson, Lonnie Tinsley, he said he was unsure what medication his grandmother had taken and that he feared she “wanted to end her life.” He requested that an emergency medical technician come to her apartment to evaluate her.

Yet according the lawsuit (PDF) that was filed in an Oklahoma federal court, it was not the paramedics or an ambulance that responded. Instead, “as many as 10 El Reno police” arrived and “pushed their way through the door.” The grandmother, Lona Varner, who was lying in bed hooked up to an oxygen machine, responded by telling police to get out of her home.

Police admitted tasering the suicidal 86-yr-old woman in her-hospital type bed to incapacitate her after she told the police to get out. According to The Oklahoman, Officer Duran wrote in a police report that Lona Varner pulled a kitchen knife from under her pillow and threatened to kill him. The officer added she raised the knife above her head and said, “If you come any closer, you’re getting the knife.” The cop allegedly tried talking to her to calm her down but “nothing would work.”

Leaving the room must not have occurred to the ten cops since the lawsuit states, “The police then proceeded to approach Ms. Varner in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation.”

Because the bedridden grandmother sat up a bit straighter, Officer Duran stated that she “took a more aggressive posture in her bed,” and that he was fearful for his safety and the safety of others.

Tinsley said, “Don’t taze my Granny!” But the cops said they would taser him instead. Tinsley was wrestled to the floor, handcuffed and forcibly removed from his grandmother’s apartment to wait in the back of a police car.

The lawsuit states that officers fired tasers at the bedridden woman, hitting her twice, “causing burns to her chest, extreme pain and to pass out. The police then grabbed Ms. Varner by her forearms and jerked hands together, causing her soft flesh to tear and bleed on her bed; they then handcuffed” and arrested her.

That’s when the cops freed the grandson from the back of police car to ride in the ambulance with his granny. She went from the emergency room to a psychiatric ward “at the direction of the El Reno police; she was held there for six days and released.”

I suppose the total loss of common sense in situations like this is inevitable when tasers are seen by just about everyone as a joke at worst and as "harmless devices that make people be reasonable good citizens" at best. This took it to the next level, however. Anyone who is able to inflict that kind of pain to gain compliance from a bedridden old woman is a cruel sadist. There's just no other way to look at it.

Those of you who have insisted over the last few days that all this caterwauling about civil liberties is silly should stop for a moment and think about all the little acts of public humiliation and pain at the hands of authorities that have been reported at in the last few years. I think we're the proverbial frogs in boiling water. (And yes, I know that frogs would jump out. I suspect they are smarter than humans in this way.)

The authoritarian cruelty never stops.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Want Good Jobs in a Strong Economy? Switch Away from Coal

It's been obvious for decades, but a new study confirms the flip side of coal's economic destructiveness: Turning away from coal will grow a strong, sustainable economy.

From the Herald:

Weaning Kentucky from its overwhelming dependence on coal-generated electricity offers economic opportunities and job growth, according to a new report from the Berea-based Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.

The 21-page report, Building Clean Energy Careers in Kentucky, says the state can create middle-skill jobs — those that require more than a high school degree but less than a college diploma — in fields such as making homes and factories more energy-efficient, manufacturing components for energy-efficiency systems and creating renewable energy.

Diversifying the state's energy sources also would help offset what is expected to be increased costs associated with mining and burning coal, according to the report, which was written by Kristin Tracz and Jason Bailey.

Read the whole thing.

No more excuses, Kentucky. Coal kills everything: miners, families, communities, jobs, mountains, forests, clear skies and clean drinking water.

Turn away now, before we lose our last chance for sustainable energy in a strong economy.

Holiday Hope for Your Liberal Soul

Yeah, yeah, it's a liberal Rob Reiner fantasy, but today - just as it did in 1995 - it speaks to the still-unrealized desperate need for a leader who will speak liberal reality to conservative lies.

Wallow in it all you like. Then start working toward making it come true.

Full text here, and my choice of relevant bits below (for "Bob Rumson," substitute "Mitch McConnell," "Sarah Palin," "Rush Limbaugh" or any other prominent rethuglican):

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I've been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.

For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren't you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago.

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".

I've known Bob Rumson for years, and I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it!

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President's girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she's to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore.


We've got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you'd better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I'll show up. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I *am* the President.

Overthinking It condemns the film speech for what it doesn't show about what happens next, which is a tragedy and probably likely, but just points up again that in the absence of liberalism on the offense, lies and the right-wing noise machine trump facts and truth every time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Repug Voters to Congress: No Government Health Care for You

I would have bet actual money that there was no hypocrisy on the part of rethuglicans that repug voters would not ignore on the principle of IOKIYAR.

But it seems that in demanding for themselves government health care they want to deny to everyone else, Congressional rethuglicans have crossed the line.

From TPM:

Republicans and independents have decided that incoming members of Congress who ran against health care reform and still take their government-funded benefits are hypocrites. Democrats, not so much.

That's one conclusion from a new national poll from Democratic firm PPP, which shows big majorities of GOP and independent voters saying the politicians who ran against the health care reform law should forgo the health care benefits they're entitled to as employees of the federal government.

Just 28% of Republican respondents said that new anti-reform members should take their federal benefits, while a whopping 58% said they shouldn't. Among independents -- who voted for the GOP in big numbers on Nov. 2 -- 56% say politicians who made health care repeal a cornerstone of their campaigns should deny themselves their government benefits. Only 27% said they should take them.

You tell 'em teabaggers: government health care is for commiemuslinterrists!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who Killed American Jobs? The Corporations That Killed the Unions

Good jobs - plentiful, high-paying, high-benefit, defined-benefit-pension jobs - exist not because of low taxes for rich people, not because of non-existent taxes for corporations, not because of the complete absence of regulations.

Good jobs exist because of Unions.

When high-paying, high-benefit jobs were plentiful in this nation, unions were strong. Or rather, when unions were strong, high-paying, high-benefit jobs were plentiful.

That's because strong unions stop corporations from shipping jobs overseas, from cutting pay and benefits, from destroying the middle class.

Corporations know this, which is why they have waged extremely successful war against unions for 40 years. Actually, they've waged war against unions for 130 years, but only in the last 40 have they been successful.

Ian Welsh:

Solidarity is the first rule of unions. If you sell anyone down the river, you weaken yourself fatally.

On a larger scale, the destruction of unions remains job #1 of the oligarchy, especially that part of the oligarchy which prefers Republicans to Democrats. Why?

* Because union members vote Democratic, even if they are part of a demographic which normally vote Republican.

* Because the oligarchy's overall goal is to crush wages and benefits, both to pay for their bailouts and as a permanent, long-running goal. They do not really believe that domestic consumer demand is necessary to their own prosperity, and prefer workers who are in permanent debt-slavery. For a generation and a half now they have made most of their money through leveraged financial games, asset bubbles and by offshoring and outsourcing jobs. American workers are nothing to them, less than nothing.

Somehow corporations have forgotten that workers and consumers are the same people.

More than 100 years ago, Henry Ford - the quintessential capitalist - paid the workers on his Model T assembly lines the unheard-of-wage of $5 per day. The reason, he explained, was that unless his workers could afford to buy the cars they built, his business would fail.

Half a century later, the great labor leader Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers, was given a demonstration of the earliest robots on the General Motors Assembly line. A GM executive said to Reuther, "Let's see you get that to join a union."

Reuther replied: "Let's see you sell it a car."

A nation of walmart wage slaves can't support an economy of anything but walmarts.

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Don't Look Down

Shamelessly stolen from Blue Girl.

What HAS Obama done?

The Truth About Turnout

More liberal facts with which to go on rhetorical offense during Thanksgiving:

No, rethuglican victories do not mean that rethuglicans persuaded independents, much less a single Democrat, to vote for them. It means that Democratic voters stayed home.

Down with Tyranny has the numbers.

In congressional rematches, republican candidates who lost in '08 and won in '10 got the same number of votes this time as last, but the Democratic candidates got substantially fewer votes.

In other words, the rethuglicans did not "convert" democrats or independents, but rather the Democratic and independent voters who gave Democrats their winning margin in '08 just stayed home in '10.

... Mary Jo Kilroy, one of the few dedicated liberals to be defeated in the Blue Dog tsunami last week. She didn't deserve to lose, let alone to a creepy bank lobbyist and corrupt Boehner crony, Steve Stivers. After a close 50/50 decision in 2008 (139,582-137,271)-- for an open seat (and with Obama taking 54% in an Ohio that earnestly bought into the Hope & Change message)-- Stivers benefited from huge, shady third party outside spending and beat Kilroy 137,441-93,578. As you can see, almost all his 2008 voters came out and voted for him again while 46,000 of her voters just didn't show up at the polls.

I'd advise those repugs to make the most of the next two years, but not to unpack too many boxes; they're going to be packing up again after 2012.

See more turnout detail here.

Crank Up the Liberal Noise Machine: Republicans Are Deliberately Sabotaging America

And I don't mean the liberal vision of America; I mean the physical nation itself: its economy, its national security, its rule of law.

It's gotten so bad that even voices of calm, reasoned discourse are using inflamatory language.

Steve Benen:

NONE DARE CALL IT SABOTAGE.... Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you actively disliked the United States, and wanted to deliberately undermine its economy. What kind of positions would you take to do the most damage?

You might start with rejecting the advice of economists and oppose any kind of stimulus investments. You'd also want to cut spending and take money out of the economy, while blocking funds to states and municipalities, forcing them to lay off more workers. You'd no doubt want to cut off stimulative unemployment benefits, and identify the single most effective jobs program of the last two years (the TANF Emergency Fund) so you could kill it.

You might then take steps to stop the Federal Reserve from trying to lower the unemployment rate. You'd also no doubt want to create massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system, promising to re-write the rules overseeing the financial industry, vowing re-write business regulations in general, considering a government shutdown, and even weighing the possibly of sending the United States into default.

You might want to cover your tracks a bit, and say you have an economic plan that would help -- a tax policy that's already been tried -- but you'd do so knowing that such a plan has already proven not to work.

Does any of this sound familiar?


For months in 2009, conservatives debated amongst themselves about whether it's acceptable to actively root against President Obama as he dealt with a variety of pressing emergencies. Led by Rush Limbaugh and others, the right generally seemed to agree that there was nothing wrong with rooting against our leaders' success, even in a time of crisis.

But we're talking about a significantly different dynamic now. This general approach has shifted from hoping conditions don't improve to taking steps to ensure conditions don't improve. We've gone from Republicans rooting for failure to Republicans trying to guarantee failure.


But Jon's benefit-of-the-doubt approach would be more persuasive if (a) the same Republicans weren't rejecting ideas they used to support; and (b) GOP leaders weren't boasting publicly about prioritizing Obama's destruction above all else, including the health of the country.

Indeed, we can even go a little further with this and note that apparent sabotage isn't limited to economic policy. Why would Republican senators, without reason or explanation, oppose a nuclear arms treaty that advances U.S. national security interests? When the treaty enjoys support from the GOP elder statesmen and the Pentagon, and is only opposed by Iran, North Korea, and Senate Republicans, it leads to questions about the party's intentions that give one pause.

Outrageous and unprecedented, yet the response is practically non-existent, as Kevin Drum explains:

But here's what's really remarkable: virtually no one in any position of authority has picked up on this since Collender first suggested it. On the Republican side, practically everyone from the party leaders on down is thoroughly convinced that Barack Obama is one or more of: a socialist, an appeaser, a Chicago thug, a racist, a would-be killer of grandmas, and a president who wants to undermine everything that makes America great because he's ashamed of his country. This is just standard rhetoric from Fox New pundits, radio show hosts, rank-and-file members of Congress, and party poobahs. It's hardly even noteworthy anymore.

But the mirror image of that — Democrats saying the Republicans are deliberately sabotaging economic recovery — is virtually invisible. Krugman finally said it yesterday, but that's it among high-profile liberal leaders. For the most part they're just not willing to go there. This, in a nutshell, is the difference between the conservative noise machine and the liberal noise machine. One is noisy, the other is....restrained. We'll see if that changes now that Krugman has brought his cannons to bear.

Fuck restraint. Why make Krugman do all the work? Tell everyone you know: republicans are sabotaging the country.

There's a word for that, and we all know what it is.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Congressional Democrats Play Offense on Health Care

The natural reaction to congressional rethuglican opposition to "government health care" should of course be: "Fine. You can't have any."

Finally, some congressional dems have turned that into a concrete proposal.

From TPM:

House Democrats are exploiting an embarrassing moment for the GOP earlier this week to highlight the hypocrisy of Republicans' relentless opposition to health care reform.

Four members -- Joe Crowley (NY), Linda Sanchez (CA), Donna Edwards (MD), and Tim Ryan (OH) -- are rounding up signatures for a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker-to-be John Boehner, encouraging them to press their members to refuse their federal health benefits based on the same principles underlying their opposition to health care reform.

"It is amazing that your members would complain about not having health care coverage for a few weeks, even after campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which will help provide coverage to millions of Americans who find themselves without health insurance for months or even years," the letter reads. "It begs the question: how many members of the Republican conference will be forgoing the employer-subsidized FEHBP coverage and experiencing what so many Americans find themselves forced to face? If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk."

Unlike denying stimulus funds to congressional districts whose members voted against the stimulus - which would be deeply satisfying but would hurt non-rethuglican residents - denying eeeeevul government health care to members who got elected by opposing it hurts only them, and only financially because you know they'd use campaign funds to buy private policies. And their Big Insurance campaign contributors will love that!


Winter Holidays at Kentucky State Parks


Budget cuts have forced reduced hours at Kentucky State Parks, but holiday and winter events continue. Check back here for updates on events and activities.

Kentucky State Parks will help you ring in 2011 with New Year’s Eve celebrations and parties. Several state resort parks across Kentucky are having dances, dinners and entertainment on Dec. 31 to welcome in a new year. The resorts have lodges, cottages, restaurants and other facilities. Many parks will be offering overnight packages that include meals and a party and dance. Here’s a listing of the parks and the New Year’s celebration details. All events are on Dec. 31 unless otherwise noted. For more information about these and other parks, or to make reservations, visit www.parks.ky.gov.

The Kentucky State Parks will be ready for the winter holidays this year with special meals, decorations, candlelight tours, entertainment and other special events planned. State parks are a great place for holiday gatherings in December. All 17 resort parks have restaurants and state parks gift shops that offer unique gift ideas. That includes Kentucky Unbridled Spirit gift cards that are valid at Kentucky State Parks, the Kentucky Horse Park, the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea. Many state resort parks will also be holding New Year’s Eve parties and dinners on Dec. 31, 2010. For more information about these and other events, visit www.parks.ky.gov

Click here for a listing of holiday events at Kentucky State Parks.

Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park is hosting a mystery dinner theater the weekend of Dec. 10-11. The “Murder With a View” is set at a bed and breakfast in a rural area. Following the discovery of a murder scene, the owners propose their own murder investigation with the help of the staff and guests. Who did it? Join Fantastical Theatricals for “Murder With a View.” Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $34.95 per person for dinner and entertainment. Packages are available for $129 plus tax. The package includes lodge room, two tickets to the show and breakfast for two the following morning. Call 800-443-7008 for your reservation. Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park has a lodge, cottages, campground, Hidden Waters Restaurant, Pioneer Museum and Store, gift shop, miniature golf, picnic areas and hiking trails. The resort is located 45 miles northeast of Lexington off historic Highway 68.

Cottages at all Kentucky State Parks will be open seven days a week throughout the winter.

All 17 state resort park restaurants will be serving the annual Thanksgiving Day buffet on Nov. 25, 2010. The buffet will include soups, cheeses and salads for starters. Entrees include turkey and dressing, baked ham, carved roast beef and fried chicken. Vegetables include old fashioned candied yams, country-style green beans and mashed potatoes with giblet gravy. There will be a variety of desserts including pecan pie and pumpkin pie. The cost for the buffet will be $17.95 plus tax (drink included) for adults; $6.95 for children ages 6-12 and children 5 and under are free. The buffet will operate from noon to 8 p.m. at all park restaurants.

Three historic homes that are part of the Kentucky State Parks will have special holiday tours in November and December. My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown will hold its annual Candlelight Tour on Nov. 26-27, Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Hot cider and cake will be served.


White Hall State Historic Site near Richmond will hold its Victorian Christmas tours Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11.


Waveland State Historic Site in Lexington will have its traditional candlelight tour of the mansion on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 11 and 12, from 6-9 p.m.

Click here for details on the historic homes tours.

Stay on Offense on Thanksgiving

They're going to be insufferable. Those wingnut freakazoid relatives are going to show up on Thanksgiving with 12 hours of non-stop post-election gloating material.

But we're not going to give you facts and reality to defend yourself. Nope, we're giving you facts and reality with which you will go on offense.

Steve Benen:

DON'T REPEAT FAILURE AND EXPECT SUCCESS.... When Republican policymakers slashed taxes early in George W. Bush's first term, they had high hopes about what the policy would achieve. Americans were told, for example, that these tax cuts would create millions of jobs, keep a balanced budget, and generate robust economic growth.

As this tax policy gets ready to expire next month, it's worth noting that the Republican plan failed rather spectacularly. On job creation, Bush's record was the worst since the Great Depression. On balancing the budget, Bush racked up the biggest deficits ever, and added $5 trillion to the debt, en route to being labeled "the most fiscally irresponsible president in the history of the republic" by his comptroller general.

But what about economic growth? Did the Republican tax policy generate the robust economy Bush promised? David Leonhardt, responding to a Fox News item, sets the record straight.

Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.

The competition for slowest growth is not even close, either. Growth from 2001 to 2007 averaged 2.39 percent a year (and growth from 2001 through the third quarter of 2010 averaged 1.66 percent). The decade with the second-worst showing for growth was 1971 to 1980 -- the dreaded 1970s -- but it still had 3.21 percent average growth.

The picture does not change if you instead look at five-year periods.

This isn't a subjective question open to debate; we tried a policy and we can evaluate its results. In this case, Republicans said Bush's tax policy would produce wonders for the economy, and they got exactly what they wanted. We now know, however, that the policy didn't generate robust growth, didn't create millions of new jobs, didn't spur entrepreneurship and innovation, and certainly didn't keep a balanced budget.

And now, as the failed tax policy is set to expire, what's the new Republican message? That this policy must be extended at all costs, and anyone who disagrees is putting the economy at risk.

They're wrong, you're right, and liberalism always wins in the end.

Go get 'em.

"Fundamental to America's National Security"

Rethuglican opposition to this treaty should be more than sufficient to end forever the myth of republicans as the party of national security.

Full transcript here.

Smart Politics and the Right Thing to Do

Gotta second Jake on this one: The Kentucky Democratic Party did this one right.

The Kentucky Democratic Party got something right in an email blast yesterday!

Daniel Logsdon sent out a list of food banks around the state. Deserves props for that.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list that’s worth sharing:

Jake's list has hot links, and you can find another list of food banks in Kentucky here, where you can also find food banks in your state.

This is a good place to promote my favorite gift idea for the holidays: charitable contributions in the names of gift recipients. National and international charities give you "in the name of" options on their donation web pages, and local charities will be more than happy to send out a thank-you note to the person you designate.

Put Up or Shut Up: How to Beat the Obamacare Repealers

Via Zandar, a piece of legislative fucking genius:

And that brings us to GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who along with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, have come up with a wonderful plan to fix health care reform.

If the states can come up with better plans, let them. Ezra Klein explains:

This morning, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) introduced the “Empowering States to Innovate Act.” The legislation would allow states to develop their own health-care reform proposals that would preempt the federal government’s effort. If a state can think of a plan that covers as many people, with as comprehensive insurance, at as low a cost, without adding to the deficit, the state can get the money the federal government would’ve given it for health-care reform but be freed from the individual mandate, the exchanges, the insurance requirements, the subsidy scheme and pretty much everything else in the bill.

Wyden, with the help of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), was able to build a version of this exemption into the original health-care reform bill, but for various reasons, was forced to accept a starting date of 2017 -- three years after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act goes into effect. The Wyden/Brown legislation would allow states to propose their alternatives now and start implementing them in 2014, rather than wasting time and money setting up a federal structure that they don’t plan to use.

In general, giving the states a freer hand is an approach associated with conservatives. On Wednesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sent a letter to the Republican Governors Association advocating exactly that. “The most effective path to sustainable health care reform runs through the states, not Washington,” he wrote. If it’s really the case that the states can do health reform better, Wyden and Brown are giving them a chance to prove it.

Do this. This is brilliant, and something that I'd expect all 41 GOP Senators (and Mark Kirk when Illinois gets off their asses) to vote for. If your state can come up with a better plan than Obamacare, then prove it. We'll give you the money to do it.

And it gets even better.

Because the state most eager to prove that it does, indeed, have a better idea is not as you might imagine Texas, but Vermont. That's right: Howard Dean's own liberal, single-payer-loving Vermont.

Be still my lefty heart.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Fatal Poison of Lies

Remember that old Star Trek episode in which Kirk, Spock and Harry Mudd blew out the transistors of a bunch of androids by exploiting their inability to grasp the illogic of "Everything I say is a lie. I am lying"?

Contemplating the state of public "discourse" these days smells like burning circuits.

Steve Benen:

THE POST-TRUTH ERA.... It's never been easier for Americans to keep up on current events and public affairs, but the persistent propensity for large swaths of the electorate to believe demonstrable falsehoods remains astounding.

I'm well aware of the structural problems that generated Republican gains in the midterms -- high unemployment means huge losses for the incumbent majority. But I'm also inclined to believe that our stunted discourse contributes to an environment in which facts are swiftly rejected.

Much, if not most, of the country believes President Obama raised taxes. And that he signed TARP into law. And that TARP money isn't being repaid. And that the economy contracted in 2010. And that the stimulus was wasteful and counter-productive. And that this current Congress did less than most. And that the Affordable Care Act constitutes "socialized medicine" and a "government takeover." And let's not even get started on the president's birthplace.

In a historical sense, it's not at all unusual for propagandists and provocateurs to spread lies, but we live in an era in which it's almost effortless for ignorance to spread like a cancer -- leading more people to believe more nonsense, faster and easier.

Andrew Sullivan had an item on this last week that bears repeating.

It seems to me that the last year or so in America's political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama's presidency in its crib. Emergency measures in a near-unprecedented economic collapse - the bank bailout, the auto-bailout, the stimulus - were described by the right as ideological moves of choice, when they were, in fact, pragmatic moves of necessity. The increasingly effective isolation of Iran's regime - and destruction of its legitimacy from within - was portrayed as a function of Obama's weakness, rather than his strength. The health insurance reform -- almost identical to Romney's, to the right of the Clintons in 1993, costed to reduce the deficit, without a public option, and with millions more customers for the insurance and drug companies -- was turned into a socialist government take-over.

Every one of these moves could be criticized in many ways. What cannot be done honestly, in my view, is to create a narrative from all of them to describe Obama as an anti-American hyper-leftist, spending the US into oblivion. But since this seems to be the only shred of thinking left on the right (exacerbated by the justified flight of the educated classes from a party that is now openly contemptuous of learning), it became a familiar refrain -- pummeled into our heads day and night by talk radio and Fox. If you think I'm exaggerating, try the following thought experiment.

If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector's in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don't think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist.

This is the era of the Big Lie, in other words, and it translates into a lot of little lies -- "death panels," "out-of-control" spending, "apologies for America" etc. -- designed to concoct a false narrative so simple and so familiar it actually succeeded in getting into people's minds in the midst of a brutal recession.

As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, this dynamic encourages more of what we've seen of late -- when dishonesty is rewarded, we'll hear more lies, not fewer.

The post-truth era can be disheartening.

Not Leaving Without a Fight

Among the many entertaining and possibly celebratory moments this lame-duck session of Congress promises are the Going Out Fighting speeches of the irreplaceable Alan Grayson:

From his email:

Sometime between now and December 31, we will vote to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, or Obama tax cuts for the middle class. In the case of the Bush tax cuts, this money will go to the high and mighty. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the top 1% of taxpayers -- people with more than $1.3 million a year -- will receive an average of $83,347 in Republican tax breaks.

Here are some possibilities of what those masters of the universe can buy, with their new government welfare:

- A brand-new Mercedes Benz E-Class car, $83,000. Every single year. And each year, they can give the "old" one to a spouse, a girlfriend, whoever.
- A Hermes "Birkin" handbag, $64,800. (Actually, though, if you need to know how much it costs, then you can't afford it.)

- Chateau d'Yquem wine from 1787, $56,588. That will leave each one with around $25,000 of loose change in their pockets. Enough for a nice lunch, maybe.

- 20,000 jars of Grey Poupon. So when people ask, "excuse me, sir, but do you have any Grey Poupon," the answer is "Yes!"

- 800 luxury cigars. One for the morning, and one for the evening, every single day. But how will they light them? Each one, with a $100 bill. That costs only $73,000 a year. Ah.

Thank you, Republican Party. You're letting the rich in this country enjoy two cigars a day, each lit by a $100 bill.

Now I have a question for you. What do you suggest that the wealthy purchase with their welfare, courtesy of the Republican Party? What new toys for the idle rich? A Mercedes? A Hermes bag? Cigars? They need your ideas, because they will all have so much more of our money.

So please, submit your ideas.

I am counting the days until November 2012 when Grayson crushes Taliban Dan in the rematch by 20 points.

Utility Won't Build New Coal-Burning Plant

Back in the early '80s, East Kentucky Power had to hold meeting after meeting with local residents to assure them that its proposed new Clark County power plant would burn coal, not nuclear fuel rods.

Memories of Three Mile Island were still fresh and terrifying, and coal was safe and familiar.

Now it's a coal-burning plant that East Kentucky Power can't get built, even in coal-loving Kentucky.

From the Herald:

East Kentucky Power Cooperative on Thursday permanently canceled plans for a coal-fired power plant in Clark County, handing a major victory to environmental groups that have long opposed the idea.

In a settlement with the groups and others, the cooperative agreed to abandon plans for its Smith plant and not seek to build any coal-fired power-generating units for two years. The environmental groups — Sierra Club, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Kentucky Environmental Foundation — have agreed to drop a number of lawsuits and other legal proceedings.

The cooperative and environmental groups also announced they would form a group that will explore how best to implement energy-efficiency programs, which the groups have long advocated as a better solution to meet demand for electricity than a coal-fired generator.

"This is a great day for East Kentucky Power and its customers," said Lauren McGrath, Kentucky organizer for the Sierra Club. "Not building Smith means the co-op won't go close to $1 billion more in debt."

The cooperative's leadership said the decision was based on the plant's cost, not the efforts of its opponents.

"This was really just a business decision more than anything ..." Tony Campbell, the cooperative's CEO, said. "We don't need that plant."

Spin all you want, Tony: Coal is going down.

From victorious Kentuckians for the Commonwealth:

This is a new day for Kentucky’s rural electric co-ops, and a great step toward new power for Kentucky. KFTC member Steve Wilkins, a Blue Grass Energy co-op member, has been active in the campaign to stop the Smith plant and bring new power to the co-ops. About today’s agreement, he said:

"The Smith coal-fired plant meant nearly a billion-dollar investment and a further 50-year commitment to dirty power. Canceling the plant is a breath of fresh air. Even better, resources can now be redirected and the window opened to collaboration on clean energy alternatives letting the sun shine in on a New Power tomorrow; a tomorrow where rural electric cooperatives work shoulder-to-shoulder with their communities making electricity more affordable through energy-efficient housing and renewable energy sources.”

East Kentucky Power is the 600-pound gorilla of electric cooperatives in Kentucky, where they serve the majority of rural residents. That it backed down in the face of pressure from a bunch of tree-hugging liberals is a monster blow to Big Coal.

There's a long, hard struggle ahead, but this is one to celebrate. Throw a few bucks to KFTC to show your appreciation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Afghanistan Clusterfuck is Destroying the U.S.

On Saturday and Sunday, eight soldiers from the 101st Airborne - the Screaming Eagles - of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, died in two attacks in Afghanistan.

They were casualty numbers 81 through 88 from Fort Campbell just since March.

This. Is. Bullshit.

This is a suicide mission.

This is about David Petraeus' galactic ego and microscopic dick.

This is about Barack Obama being too cowardly to stand up to the rethuglicans and say: I'm not letting your fucking funders in the defense industry kill one more American soldier to fatten their bottom line.

Yes, it has always been thus: the rich and the powerful sending the poor and powerless to die in futile, meaningless wars that enrich and make more powerful the people who never have to do the fighting and the dying.

Democracy was supposed to change that. Everyone having the power to vote for their representatives makes it much more difficult to send those voters and their children to die for nothing in stupid wars.

But that depends on everyone voting. There are millions of Americans who could have put a stop to this insane shit 10 years ago, but they didn't vote. They could have stopped it eight years ago and six years ago and four years ago and two years ago and two weeks ago, but They. Didn't. Vote.

Right now, if there were a national referendum to make voting mandatory and subject non-voters to immediate summary execution, I would vote for it. Twice.

Jason Sigger at Crooks and Liars:

I haven't felt the need to weigh into the recent "he said, she said" war of words between President Hamid Karzai and General David Petraeus. But I am amused with Matt Yglesias's comment on the topic.

I don’t really get this. Everyone’s looking for a viable exit strategy from Afghanistan. And what better strategy than a handshake with the President of Afghanistan over a concrete plan for a reduced tempo of operations followed by a steady withdrawal of American soldiers? The premise of a counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan is that we’re there to help the Afghan government. That strategy can’t work if the Afghan government doesn’t share our vision, and the strategy lacks legitimacy if the Afghan government doesn’t back it. Watch Michael Cohen’s head explode over this if you like.

Now to get the easy target out of the way, no, the important players in this drama are not "looking for a viable exit strategy from Afghanistan." On the one hand, you have Karzai who probably enjoys having the United States pump the equivalent of seven times his nation's GDP into his economy. As long as US forces are there, he's in power and there's security around Kabul. On the other hand, he has to explain to the general public that he's quite upset with the number of Afghan casualties caused by US forces and private military contractors (not to mention those caused by insurgents aiming at US forces).

On the other hand, you have Petraeus and other Very Serious People in the Beltway who believe that, even after 2014, you're going to still need US forces in place to "help" the Afghan police and military operate and sustain their brand-new American security equipment. There are those analysts and military leaders who myopically focus on the idea that they can transform Afghanistan into a secure and safe environment, free of extremist Islamic groups, if just given 10 or 20 more years. Neither of these viewpoints have exit strategies, and the fault ought to be placed on the poor dialogue within the National Security Council (of this and the past administration).

But we tend to see more arguments about the operational and tactical methods of "winning" in Afghanistan than examinations of what our national interest is and how much our country is spending in this adventure. We need to answer the question of what we are trying to do in the first place and whether we're getting there in a reasonable time and level of effort. Do we need a large US force to be there between 2011 and 2014? I submit that planning for $600 billion above what we've already spent, in addition to another 1500-2000 dead Americans and 10,000 wounded, plus thousands more dead Afghanis, is not reasonable or worth the effort.

This isn't an argument for isolationism but rather a request for understanding the limitations of any government seeking to change Afghanistan into a terrorist-free utopia that idealists seem to seek. Al Qaeda is just going to move to another weak state, while training its entry-level applicants against any US forces left in the Middle East. The Taliban don't have any expansionist ideas other than controlling a little turf in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And if Karzai says he doesn't need a heavy US military force conducting seek and destroy missions in his country, maybe we ought to listen to him. It's time to deal with these realities.

UPDATE: I guess everyone's kissed and made up. Back to night raids and clearing out the southern provinces.

And looky here:

Half of Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan, according to a newly released Quinnipiac poll.

The survey finds 50% of respondents indicating the U.S. should "not be involved in Afghanistan," versus 44% who believe America is "doing the right thing by fighting the war." This is the first time Quinnipiac has found more respondents in opposition to the war than in support of it. A September 9 survey found 49% supporting American involvement, with 41% in opposition. Back in January, the pollster saw 59% supporting the war, while only 35% opposed it.

I have always believed that the majority of Americans know what is the right thing to do, and want our country to do it. The problem has always been jumping what used to be the gap and is now the chasm between the people and their government.

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

There's a Word for This

Rachel Maddow titled her segment on this last night "What's the Opposite of 'Country First?'"

Personally, I think because rethuglicans have spent so many years acting against this country's best interests - overturning the 2000 presidential election, supporting an illegal invasion, pissing away a $1 trillion surplus, demonizing political opponents, destroying the middle class, and finally openly working to undermine the nation's elected leaders - that they no longer grasp the concept of patriotism and its opposite.

I can't discuss this latest rethuglican act without using the word treason, but Steve Benen can:

THE FALLOUT OF KYL'S BETRAYAL.... The optimism hadn't been expressed publicly, but the White House really did think it finally had a deal in place for Senate ratification of the new arms control treaty with Russia, New START.

Republicans had made Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) their point man on the issue -- it's not clear why, since Kyl has no background or working knowledge of the issue -- and he made specific objections to the Obama administration clear. Officials, in response, gave Kyl what we asked for. The deal, they thought, was done.

Over many months of negotiations, the administration committed to spending $80 billion to do that over the next 10 years, and on Friday offered to chip in $4.1 billion more over the next five years. As a gesture of commitment, the White House had made sure extra money for modernization was included in the stopgap spending resolution now keeping the government operating, even though almost no other program received an increase in money.

All told, White House officials counted 29 meetings, phone calls, briefings or letters involving Mr. Kyl or his staff. They said they thought they had given him everything he wanted, and were optimistic about completing a deal this week, only to learn about his decision on Tuesday from reporters.

Kyl wouldn't even give the White House the courtesy of a phone call to let them know he was betraying them and the nation's national security needs. Worse, the dimwitted Kyl, with the future of American foreign policy in his hands, couldn't even give a coherent rationale for why he'd made the decision -- his office would only say "there doesn't appear to be enough time" in the lame-duck session.

This is what happens when serious officials try to negotiate in good faith with Republicans -- they refuse to take "yes" for an answer, they don't have intellectual capacity to explain why, and the entire country has to suffer the consequences.
The bulk of the Republican foreign policy apparatus enthusiastically supports this treaty, as does the entirety of America's military, diplomatic, and intelligence leadership. Matt Cooper noted late yesterday:

Indeed, Republicans will need to explain why they want to sit on a treaty that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has described this way: "I believe -- and the rest of the military leadership in this country believes -- that this treaty is essential to our future security. I believe it enhances and ensures that security. And I hope the Senate will ratify it quickly." [...]

There are risks for Republicans who follow Kyl and find themselves on the opposite side of the military and diplomatic community on ratification of the treaty.

There should be risks, but they don't really exist. Let me put this plainly: They. Don't. Care. They disregard the pleas of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and listen to the confused misjudgments of a buffoon from Arizona. They assume the public isn't paying attention, so there won't be political consequences. They expect this to hurt the foreign policy power of the United States, but they're fine with that since there's a Democratic president.

When it comes to Russia, inspection of the country's long-range nuclear bases will remain suspended indefinitely; the country's hard-liners will be emboldened; and Russia's willingness to cooperate with U.S. on Iran or on Afghanistan will likely disappear.

But in the bigger picture, countries around the globe will see this as a reminder that negotiating with the United States is pointless, since the country is burdened with a Republican Party that puts partisan hatred above the country's interests. It hurts American credibility in ways that are hard to even gauge.

Sleep well, Jon Kyl. Dream of the time when the United States had the respect and stature to lead the world.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why We Fight

The Rude Pundit, with a reminder that liberals are fighting the same fight, against the same enemy, for the same goals, as we always have:

Note to Democrats: Remember Where You Come From:

"This is the only place in American history where we used our Air Force to bomb our own people," the old woman said, gesturing at a ridge on Blair Mountain, West Virginia, puffing on a cigarette. "To protect the property of the coal barons." We ran into a group of elderly people who wanted to see the mountain before it was blown up. It's why we were there, too.

Where we were standing, more than 10,000 coal miners fought a battle with the hired thugs of the coal companies. The miners were marching to Logan in order to free union organizers and end martial law in Mingo County. The Sheriff of Logan County, in cahoots with the mine owners, decided that the miners would not make it to Mingo and would not succeed in unionizing. Sheriff Chafin was able to raise a force of around 3000 men because volunteers came from outside West Virginia to shoot the supposed communists. So volatile was the situation that Mother Jones herself urged the miners not to march. But for five days, the two sides fought on Blair Mountain, ending only when federal troops arrived to take the side of the coal companies. It was the largest battle on American soil other than the Civil War.

The woman wasn't entirely right. While the fairly new Army Air Corps had planes go out on reconnaissance missions, the bombs that were dropped on the miners from the air were homemade and came from private planes that the coal barons had hired. The miners turned back and the United Mine Workers Association lost its chance to unionize the southern coalfields of West Virginia for another 15 years. In fact, the union went from 50,000 members to 10,000 members, part of an ongoing effort to crush unions during the 1920s, under Republican presidents. Union membership did not climb until FDR came into office and the National Labor Relations Act was passed.

These days, the very real war against unions, where federal and state troops were often used to break up strikes against railroads, factories, and mines, is more or less forgotten, even though it occurred less than a century ago. Hell, we can't remember five years ago anymore. Why should that history matter?

It matters because there was a time, yes, distant, but not so distant, when to be a Democrat meant you fought for the cause of making the lives of the poor and disenfranchised better. And that "fighting" meant fighting; it meant being willing to take a bullet or a bomb if that's what was needed. Now we're not at that point by any stretch of the imagination. But when's the last time Democrats went on a crusade to help the poor? When is the last time the poor or the workers decided to fight for their rights (other than the right not to buy health insurance)? Now, it's all about the mythical middle class or about how much money rich people need in order to, maybe, perhaps, if we're nice and grovel, create a job or two.

If you wanted to measure how degraded the Democratic Party has become, simply compare what they once fought for, the poverty programs and civil rights, to what is being fought over now: whether or not to give a three-year tax cut to people making more than a quarter of a million bucks a year, something that the majority of the nation doesn't support. Meanwhile, most Democrats are going along with extending tax cuts to the middle class, even if the end result is gutting programs for the poor.

What the miners at Blair Mountain fought for were the rights to speak and to assemble. They wanted better work conditions and wages. Now, the descendants of those workers are brainwashed into thinking that tax breaks for millionaires will somehow make their lives better. If there is a soul left to be found in the Democratic Party, as our leaders compromise away every principle that once energized us, it is by returning to directly improving the lives of the poor in the nation.

A single marker is all that exists to show where thousands of Americans fought each other. After years of work, Blair Mountain was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in March 2009, protecting it from the moutaintop removal that has torn up the gorgeous landscape of West Virginia. However, lawyers from the coal companies, including Massey Energy, made a case that landowners weren't properly notified and that some objected (including, surprisingly, dead ones). And Blair Mountain was delisted in December 2009.

Yes, the battle goes on to preserve the site, but chances are that Massey is going to dynamite the mountain to get to the coal there. It will erase for good a part of our American history, a part of our people's history, that was already forgotten, a history that ought to energize Democrats time and again, but instead it's just easier to desecrate the dead.

For a no-bullshit, bracing perspective that will put steel in your liberal spine, read the Rude Pundit every day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"What America is All About"

Not in 34 years has a president done what President Obama did today, and if you did not watch this once-in-a-generation ceremony live, watch it here now:

This afternoon in the East Room of the White House, the President presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army -- the first living servicemember from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to receive it. "Now, I’m going to go off-script here for a second and just say I really like this guy," said the President to laughter and applause. "I think anybody -- we all just get a sense of people and who they are, and when you meet Sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about."

Transcript here.