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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

A funny kind of hero

by digby

A fascinating short interview with George Zimmerman:
In his first interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman described life after his acquittal last year in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The former Neighborhood Watch volunteer shot the unarmed black teen in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012.

Now life for the 30-year-old is completely different.

He's always moving.

He's in debt.

And he's constantly receiving death threats.

"I just try to be smart where I go," said Zimmerman, who described the gun show at Gander Mountain Academy as a "friendly" event that didn't warrant extra protection.

Zimmerman said he carries a semi-automatic handgun for added safety.

"It's part of life," said Zimmerman, whose Twitter feed is a constant barrage of death threats. "It's unfortunately necessary right now."[...]

He said he's been described by strangers as soft-spoken and even kind. He also frequently receives invitations to parties and barbecues from strangers and will go if he's in town.

But Zimmerman still often finds himself embroiled in controversy. About a week ago, a driver called Lake Mary police accusing Zimmerman of threatening to shoot him during a road-rage incident. The driver didn't press charges, so Zimmerman was not arrested.
He's also travelling the country making speeches. One presumes they aren't being delivered to the rotary club.

He's a genuine right wing hero. Which is really disturbing. After all, even if one agrees with the verdict and buy that he thought he was acting in self-defense, he still killed an unarmed 17 year old kid. That just doesn't seem like something anyone should be proud of --- or celebrate, regardless of the circumstances. There's something really quite sick about it, particularly with his history of domestic violence and frequent confrontations with other members of the public.

It's also interesting that like George W. Bush and some other controversial historical figures, Zimmerman is an artist --- only he's very explicitly political:
He recently launched a website to give himself a platform to speak freely. One of his posts discusses a series of portraits he has painted honoring the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya.

Zimmerman said he plans to give the original paintings to the families of the four people killed but will sell replicas and donate all the funds to various wounded veterans' organizations.

Zimmerman painted the portraits so the names of the victims killed wouldn't go unknown. He shared that sentiment on his site's first post Sept. 17: "I cannot fathom an America where the name of Tyrone Woods is not as well known as mine. It makes a difference, a tremendous one."

The post was signed "Your Friend, George M. Zimmerman."

What does he mean by "it makes a difference, a tremendous one"? Is he saying that his notoriety is "making a difference"? What kind of difference?



But not a drop to drink?

by Tom Sullivan

As the People's Climate March begins in New York later today, California struggles with record drought. It's not just the hippies worried about climate change, and not just here.

The UK must prepare for “the worst droughts in modern times” experts will warn this week at a major international conference to discuss the growing global water crisis.

Britain is looking at ways of reconfiguring its water infrastructure -- expanding reservoirs, imposing tougher water extraction licenses, considering more desalination plants. “In the past we have planned for our water resources to cope with the worst situation on record but records are only 100 years long,” explains Trevor Bishop, the Environment Agency’s deputy director. “We may get a situation that is worse than that – with climate change that is perfectly possible.”

From Papua New Guinea to London, marchers bear witness to the threat.

Meanwhile in the boardrooms, scarcity for the many means opportunity for a select few. Some of those circling vultures aren't birds.

Privatizing water supplies is a growth industry. Whether it's American Water, Aqua America, Suez, Veolia Water, or Nestle, private water companies are competing to lock up water resources and public water systems. If not for you, for the fracking industry. As with charter schools and vouchers in public education, public-private partnerships are one of business' favorite tactics for getting this particular camel's nose under the tent.

When Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's emergency manager took charge in Detroit this year, it was no accident that the first public infrastructure up for sale was its water and sewer system. They began by shutting off water to thousands of poor residents behind on their bills. Local activist Maureen Taylor told the Netroots Nation conference in July [timestamp 1:08:45], “This monstrous thing that’s going on in Detroit ... beyond demonic ... You gotta leave here changed! ... Water is a human right.”

But with the metastasized capitalism Naomi Klein describes, we’re dealing with people who would sell you the air you breathe if they could control how it gets to your nose. And if you cannot afford to buy their air, well, you should have worked harder, planned better, and saved more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies

Days of wine and neuroses: My Old Lady & A Master Builder

By Dennis Hartley

Drunken boor: My Old Lady

What am I, a theater critic now? The truthful answer would be a resounding "no", but through some luck of the draw, I find myself reviewing two films rooted in the boards. Quiet in the wings, please. First up is My Old Lady, adapted for the screen by long-time playwright/first-time film director Israel Horovitz from his own original stage production.

As I am wholly ignorant regarding Mr. Horovitz's oeuvre (save for the film version of his Author! Author!), I may be talking out of school, but the setup in his film feels straight outta Neil Simon, in the vein of The Goodbye Girl or The Odd Couple. Kevin Kline stars as a self-absorbed New Yorker (is that redundant?) who inherits a spacious Parisian apartment from his late father. It's a pretty sweet deal, with just two minor drawbacks: 1) A stalwart nonagenarian (Dame Maggie Smith) and her daughter (Kristin Scott Thomas) are already in residence, and 2) An obscure French law that not only forbids the chagrinned (and strapped for cash) heir from selling "his" apartment until the old lady kicks...but requires him to pay her a monthly stipend, under penalty of losing ownership.

While the setup promises a lightweight Simonesque romp, the ensuing tonal shift makes for more of a Pinteresque pity party; its punch bowl abrim with lies, bitterness and a Family Secret (the latter of which you’ll see coming a mile away). Still, if you have to get stuck in a dusty old Parisian apartment for 107 minutes with three actors hogging most of the screen time, you could do worse than Kevin Kline, Dame Maggie Smith, and Kristin Scott Thomas (with an occasional peep from the wonderful Dominique Pinon). I only wish Horovitz had given his formidable trio of stars more interesting things to do and say.

 Joy and Pane: A Master Builder

Moving now from an overcrowded Parisian apartment to a sprawling mansion, the mood oddly turns more claustrophobic. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Jonathan Demme's A Master Builder is derived from an Ibsen play (rarely a romp in the fields). Wallace Shawn (who adapted the screenplay from a new translation) stars as a well-to-do architect named Solness, the man who designed that mansion, and a good many others in the small (New England?) town he lives in with his long-suffering wife (Julie Hagerty). Long suffering for many reasons; not the least being the fact that her husband is a manipulative asshole (I'm not sure if that would be the literal translation from the original Norwegian, so please pardon my French-and my bad English if it ain't).
However, this may all soon become moot, because we find the soulless Solness bedridden with some kind of indeterminate (but obviously terminal) illness, being fussed over by his wife, his doctor (Larry Pine) and his bookkeeper/mistress (Emily McDonnell). Here's where you need to start paying attention. Solness' mistress is also the fiancée of his most promising protégé (Jeff Biehl), whom he has nonetheless been keeping down (remember, he's an asshole), much to the chagrin of the gifted young architect's sickly father (Andre Gregory), who pleads with his long-time frenemy to promote his son and let him prove his mettle. Solness refuses to comply. Enter the Free Spirited Other (Lisa Joyce), a vivacious young woman who appears out of the blue on his doorstep (or does she...hmm). All the poisons that lurk in the mud are about to hatch out.
It's a little bit A Christmas Carol, a little bit Tempest, a little bit All That Jazz (sans dancing), and a whole lot of angst. But again, we must consider the source material (Pop quiz: How many famous Scandinavian comedians can you name, off the top of your head? I rest my case). Still, the script crackles with seriocomic intelligence, the cast is excellent (the radiant and charismatic Joyce is a particular standout and a great discovery) and it's a kick to see Shawn reunited (albeit briefly) with his My Dinner With Andre co-star Gregory. At first, Demme (Melvin and Howard, The Silence of the Lambs, Married to the Mob, Something Wild) seemed to me to be an odd choice for helming such a stagey talkfest, but refreshing myself on his resume, I realize he's no stranger to filmed stage performance (Stop Making Sense, Swimming to Cambodia, Storefront Hitchcock). His direction here is subtle; at once coolly omniscient and warmly intimate.

Why do Americans put up with this?

by digby

Via Vox:

Health care costs is a somewhat ambiguous concept, but an insurance company that needs to pay for treatments all around the world needs to reduce it to a concrete index. That's what French HMOs MGEN and LMDE have done with this map. It shows how much the company needs to be prepared to pay out to treat one of its patients if they need treatment abroad:

You can see here that poorer countries are broadly cheaper than richer ones, which makes sense because labor input costs are lower. But you also see that the United States is off-the-charts expensive compared places like Canada, Germany, Sweden, Korea, or the Netherlands.

Why is this ok with everyone? I don't get it. It's not as if our health is better or our lives are longer. We just pay through the nose for stuff that people in other countries with comparable economies pay much less for.

The boogeyman is everywhere

by digby

So we're back to this bullshit:

This early release program has been controversial from the beginning and was an issue in Quinn's 2010 primary as well. The problem is that the only answer to this alleged problem is to keep people in jail forever, something which I have little doubt the average Fox viewer is perfectly ok with. But even such liberal softies as Grover Norquist and John Beohner have been questioning this logic recently. This piece by Mother Jones from last spring discusses the new conservative prison reform movement:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to end "the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse." Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says the court system "disproportionately punishes the black community" and insists on repealing mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. Others who have spoken in favor of less draconian criminal policies include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former National Rifle Association President David Keene, former Attorney General Edwin Meese, former DEA head Asa Hutchinson, and Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist.

The roots of this shift can be traced to a mild-mannered Texas attorney named Marc Levin, who has become one of the nation's leading advocates of conservative criminal-justice reform. Levin saw the light in 2005 when a board member of the free-market-oriented Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), where he worked, told him, "We're not getting a good return for our money out of our prisons." Looking at the state's prison buildup under governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush, Levin drew the same conclusion. "Once you reach a certain rate of incarceration, you start to have diminishing returns because you aren't just putting dangerous people in prisons anymore," he says. "You are putting in nonviolent offenders. You are not really impacting crime. You are not making people safer."

For a fiscal conservative, this was a compelling argument for change. "How is it 'conservative' to spend vast amounts of taxpayer money on a strategy without asking whether it is providing taxpayers with the best public safety return on their investment?" Levin asks. Rather than spend a fortune keeping low-risk offenders in prison, Levin proposed that the same money could be used for cheaper programs that would still keep violent criminals locked away and the public safe.

The murderer whom Pat Quinn is accused of letting out of jail early to maraud through the neighborhood to kill good people was released four months early from his prison term on a cocaine charge. I'm sure you can see the little problem here.

I am going to assume that conservatives will back off their "prison reform" ideas the minute they need something to hit a liberal over the head with and get the rubes riled up about violent criminals/terrorists rampaging through the streets because Democrats are a bunch of weak-kneed cowards. It's how they roll. I hope that the window isn't already closing on the possibility of bipartisan prison reform. It's desperately needed. But this ad (and the general zeitgeist) isn't a good sign.

Strange bedfellows' forced marriage

by digby

Why do you suppose the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation might be nervous about Larry Klayman taking  important, potentially precedent setting government surveillance cases to the Supreme Court? Could it be because he's a conservative nutcase and isn't to be trusted? The good news is that they've asked to join the Judicial Watch case that's being heard in the DC Circuit, pointing out that they have a teensy bit more expertise in electronic surveillance law than Klayman:
On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation asked to join in arguments set to be held in November on the government's appeal of the first and only judicial ruling disputing the constitutionality of the NSA's program sweeping up information on billions of telephone calls to, from, and within the United States.

The groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to allow them 10 minutes of argument time.

The move is the latest step in an effort by the civil liberties organizations to have a hand in as much as possible of the pending litigation related to the NSA's so-called bulk collection of phone data for counterterrorism purposes. In July, the ACLU and EFF joined the legal team for the appeal of an Idaho nurse's challenge to the NSA program. The ACLU also brought a suit on its own behalf that is pending before the 2nd Circuit and EFF has several cases pending in California.

Klayman says they've lost some of these cases so that means he's just as qualified as the EFF. He welcomes their participation but doesn't want to give up any of his time to make oral arguments.

I'm surprised he has the extra time to even do this considering that he's hot on the trail of ISIS terrorists who are holed up in a hotel in Juarez Mexico getting ready to invade Arizona. Not kidding.

Civil libertarians are often strange bedfellows. You're always in a position of having to stand up for the rights of people with whom you disagree. But Klayman is someone to keep an eye on. He's not what you would call a "principled" civil libertarian although he's often on the right side of certain issues. Let's just say I wouldn't put it past him to make a bad argument for political/ideological reasons as part of a longer term strategy. Not that he necessarily is doing that in this case. But his record is very spotty.

TV celebrity gasbags think they work hard

by digby

Nothing like rich TV celebrities looking down their noses at the poor:

Fox News' chyrons parrot a report by the Heritage Foundation claiming "that the actual living conditions of the more than 45 million people deemed 'poor' by the Census Bureau differ greatly from popular conceptions of poverty" because many of the poor have "consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago."

Apparently, they haven't noticed that these "luxuries from decades ago" are now cheap. Jesus.

The Center for American Progress explains:
These arguments are mean and misleading on several accounts. First, the electronic devices that Heritage cites are everyday necessities today. Who has iceboxes anymore? Who doesn't need a cell phone to find a job or keep one? Fortunately, these appliances are all significantly cheaper these days, but not so the real everyday basics such as quality child care and out-of-pocket medical costs, both of which have risen much faster than inflation, squeezing the budgets of the poor and middle-class alike. In fact, if anything, those who we consider poor today are far more out of the social mainstream in terms of their basic income than when our poverty measure was first set in the 1960s.


To avoid a real discussion of these issues, the Heritage Foundation craftily creates indexes that rank households on skewed measures of "amenities" that suggest that no further federal action is needed to buoy the standard of living of poor and working-class families. Such indexes are heartless and foolish. Heartless because they ignore the fact that it takes much more than a few appliances to support a family. And foolish because they lend credence to the calls for cutting the supports that research has shown are necessary for every child to become a healthy and productive adult.

I have a neighbor who complains that people in a subsidized housing building down the street all have big screen TVs. I pointed out that you can buy a big screen TV on Craigslist for a hundred bucks at which point he admitted that he doesn't think these people should be allowed to watch TV --- they should be working.

It's the age-old argument. If you're poor, it's because you're lazy. And if you're lazy you should suffer. So you'll work harder. Like maybe work 12 hours a day at minimum wage. As the restaurant worker who lives in the subsidized housing down the street --- and juggles two jobs does.

This discussion always reminds me of Jack London's description of what happens psychologically to people who work at low paying hard labor jobs in his book Martin Eden. Martin is an ex-sailor and budding writer who takes a job working in a hotel laundry to make money so that he can ask his girl to marry him. He thinks it's a good deal --- 12 hour days leaving plenty of time in the evening for writing and reading. And one day off a week. It doesn't work out that way. The work is brutal ... and tiring. And it does something destructive to the spirit.

This picks up the story of his laundry work a week into it after he's discovered that he's too tired to do anything but sleep and work:

All Martin's consciousness was concentrated in the work. Ceaselessly active, head and hand, an intelligent machine, all that constituted him a man was devoted to furnishing that intelligence. There was no room in his brain for the universe and its mighty problems. All the broad and spacious corridors of his mind were closed and hermetically sealed. The echoing chamber of his soul was a narrow room, a conning tower, whence were directed his arm and shoulder muscles, his ten nimble fingers, and the swift-moving iron along its steaming path in broad, sweeping strokes, just so many strokes and no more, just so far with each stroke and not a fraction of an inch farther, rushing along interminable sleeves, sides, backs, and tails, and tossing the finished shirts, without rumpling, upon the receiving frame. And even as his hurrying soul tossed, it was reaching for another shirt. This went on, hour after hour, while outside all the world swooned under the overhead California sun. But there was no swooning in that superheated room. The cool guests on the verandas needed clean linen.

The sweat poured from Martin. He drank enormous quantities of water, but so great was the heat of the day and of his exertions, that the water sluiced through the interstices of his flesh and out at all his pores. Always, at sea, except at rare intervals, the work he performed had given him ample opportunity to commune with himself. The master of the ship had been lord of Martin's time; but here the manager of the hotel was lord of Martin's thoughts as well. He had no thoughts save for the nerve- racking, body-destroying toil. Outside of that it was impossible to think. He did not know that he loved Ruth. She did not even exist, for his driven soul had no time to remember her. It was only when he crawled to bed at night, or to breakfast in the morning, that she asserted herself to him in fleeting memories.

Monday morning he was hard at work, sorting clothes, while Joe, a towel bound tightly around his head, with groans and blasphemies, was running the washer and mixing soft-soap.

"I simply can't help it," he explained. "I got to drink when Saturday night comes around."

Another week passed, a great battle that continued under the electric lights each night and that culminated on Saturday afternoon at three o'clock, when Joe tasted his moment of wilted triumph and then drifted down to the village to forget. Martin's Sunday was the same as before. He slept in the shade of the trees, toiled aimlessly through the newspaper, and spent long hours lying on his back, doing nothing, thinking nothing. He was too dazed to think, though he was aware that he did not like himself. He was self-repelled, as though he had undergone some degradation or was intrinsically foul. All that was god-like in him was blotted out. The spur of ambition was blunted; he had no vitality with which to feel the prod of it. He was dead. His soul seemed dead. He was a beast, a work-beast. He saw no beauty in the sunshine sifting down through the green leaves, nor did the azure vault of the sky whisper as of old and hint of cosmic vastness and secrets trembling to disclosure. Life was intolerably dull and stupid, and its taste was bad in his mouth. A black screen was drawn across his mirror of inner vision, and fancy lay in a darkened sick-room where entered no ray of light. He envied Joe, down in the village, rampant, tearing the slats off the bar, his brain gnawing with maggots, exulting in maudlin ways over maudlin things, fantastically and gloriously drunk and forgetful of Monday morning and the week of deadening toil to come.

A third week went by, and Martin loathed himself, and loathed life. He was oppressed by a sense of failure. There was reason for the editors refusing his stuff. He could see that clearly now, and laugh at himself and the dreams he had dreamed. Ruth returned his "Sea Lyrics" by mail. He read her letter apathetically. She did her best to say how much she liked them and that they were beautiful. But she could not lie, and she could not disguise the truth from herself. She knew they were failures, and he read her disapproval in every perfunctory and unenthusiastic line of her letter. And she was right. He was firmly convinced of it as he read the poems over. Beauty and wonder had departed from him, and as he read the poems he caught himself puzzling as to what he had had in mind when he wrote them. His audacities of phrase struck him as grotesque, his felicities of expression were monstrosities, and everything was absurd, unreal, and impossible. He would have burned the "Sea Lyrics" on the spot, had his will been strong enough to set them aflame. There was the engine-room, but the exertion of carrying them to the furnace was not worth while. All his exertion was used in washing other persons' clothes. He did not have any left for private affairs.

He resolved that when Sunday came he would pull himself together and answer Ruth's letter. But Saturday afternoon, after work was finished and he had taken a bath, the desire to forget overpowered him. "I guess I'll go down and see how Joe's getting on," was the way he put it to himself; and in the same moment he knew that he lied. But he did not have the energy to consider the lie. If he had had the energy, he would have refused to consider the lie, because he wanted to forget. He started for the village slowly and casually, increasing his pace in spite of himself as he neared the saloon.

"I thought you was on the water-wagon," was Joe's greeting.

Martin did not deign to offer excuses, but called for whiskey, filling his own glass brimming before he passed the bottle.

"Don't take all night about it," he said roughly.

The other was dawdling with the bottle, and Martin refused to wait for him, tossing the glass off in a gulp and refilling it.

"Now, I can wait for you," he said grimly; "but hurry up."

Joe hurried, and they drank together.

"The work did it, eh?" Joe queried.

Martin refused to discuss the matter.

A big screen TV and a computer are probably the only respite from the mind numbing nature of the work low paid workers do --- it's all they've got to keep them from going nuts. Sadly, some of them might be watching Fox News.

QOTD: Colbert

by digby

On Sean Hannity demonstrating how his father beat him with a belt:

“After all, Sean’s dad whipped him with a belt and he never needed to go to a psychotherapist. He just has to have them on his show three times a week. Mentally, he grew up to be a psychologically healthy adult who cleaves desperately to strong authority figures, lashes out at any perceived weakness, and takes his belt off on live TV. Still, perfectly normal."

It is if you're a conservative.

Wanna see it again?

by Tom Sullivan

I wanted to make a couple more points about a post Digby mentioned the other day.

It's Saturday. Do yourself a favor and read Matt Stoller's account of how we got here. Here, being America facing yet another military engagement in the Middle East driven again by petrodollars and "an infantilized deceptive version of American foreign policy." It whitewashes Saudi and Qatari support for radical Sunni militants to "accomplish aims that their states cannot pursue openly." Twenty-eight pages of the 9/11 Commission report remain classified (censored, says Stoller) reportedly because they implicate Saudi players in funding the 9/11 attacks. Add to that homegrown propaganda, hysteria, and enforced ignorance in the name of national security and you've got an opportunity for Washington to roll out a new branded war, complete with even flashier TV graphics and a more blood-stirring musical theme than the last war's.
To recap recent history, Stoller writes:

And so, almost immediately after the [9/11] attacks, Saddam Hussein became the designated bad guy and the Bush administration, supported by the entire Republican Party, foreign policy establishment, and a substantial chunk of Democrats (Bill and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, for starters), prepared for war in Iraq. The Bush administration alluded many times to a supposed link between 9/11 and Hussein, which was a ludicrous conspiracy theory, but an acceptable one because it served the interests of the Bush administration and a coddled foreign policy elite. But rather than expose the entire secret deal by which elites conducted a shadow foreign policy through Saudi petrodollars, most journalists told Americans that Saddam Hussein had to go.
And in the PTSD-addled America post-9/11, the administration used secrecy and a lapdog media to play the American public like a fiddle. It was the one thing they were good at, as I illustrated in a 2006 op-ed well after "Mission Accomplished":
... Vice-President Cheney dismissed those who suggest that overthrowing Saddam Hussein simply “stirred up” terrorists, saying, “They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway.” (In case you missed the connection Cheney repeatedly denies making, Saddam = Osama = September 11th.)
The president weighed in too, admonishing critics to “debate responsibly when American troops are risking their lives overseas.” Debating a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq might “embolden” terrorists (read, put troops at risk).
Let’s review: a) Those concerned about emboldening terrorists lack the resolve to put troops at risk against already emboldened terrorists; and b) Those hoping to minimize the risk to troops irresponsibly put troops at risk by emboldening already emboldened terrorists.
It’s like watching close-up magicians at the Magic Castle. This trick is called: “Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.” Wanna see it again?
The doublespeak and reflexive saber-rattling was as mind-numbingly frustrating then as now. The classified state leaves the American public having learned little, and deciding how to address ISIS with the same option it had then: Trust us. If we are to make better decisions regarding ISIS, Stoller writes, we need to have an "adult conversation ... about the nature of American power [as] the predicate for building a global order that can drain the swampy brutal corners of the world that allow groups like ISIS to grow and thrive."

What Stoller doesn't say is that if petrodollars from Qatar and Saudi Arabia ultimately fuel Sunni militants, then the sooner the West abandons the oil economy, the sooner those swamps may dry up on their own. As a bonus, it just might save the planet.


Friday, September 19, 2014

View NFL Player Crimes in Interactive Graphical Form 

by Spocko

Can't keep track of which NFL player has committed what crime? Want to avoid filling in your Fantasy Football League with past or current domestic violence felons?
NFL Crimes graphic
Sort by your favorite team, crime or position!

Here's a nifty website (Link) that takes the data from USA Today's updated arrest list and lets you sort and display the info by crime, team or position.

 Note: No commissioners, NFL staff or team owners are on the list.

Think Goodell should resign? Ultraviolet petition here.

They don't own country

by digby

One of the many reasons I hate war fever --- bullshit "heartland" boosterism:

Country music loves America and cares about those Americans in ‘fly-over country’ whom sophisticated New Yorkers and CBC listeners love to hate: the farmers, ranchers, truck drivers, waitresses and cowboys who still work the land, go to church, and fight the wars that keep other Americans safe (at least for now).

Oh stick it. Like Roy, I'm a fan of country music and this irks the shit out of me.

Here's one for Real America:

This one too.

I know you are but what am I?

by digby

Salon is featuring a great piece by an anti-gun proliferation activist from Nebraska describing what it's like dealing with the Open Carry zealots. Her group came to the attention of a local pro-gun shock jock and all hell broke loose. In the end the radio talker managed to tar the anti-proliferation people as dangerous potential "school shooters" evidently because the gun nuts have convinced themselves that the only people who commit mass killings are liberals who, by definition, are against guns. You have to admire the mental agility required for that level of rationalization.

Anyway, I was most intrigued by this anecdote:
Gun violence prevention activists in Oklahoma had a similar run-in with willful misinformation in right-wing media a few months ago. Volunteers from Moms Demand Action as well as unaffiliated gun reformists had gone to a farmer’s market in Tulsa to get people to pledge to be gun-sense voters. A group of open carry activists came to the farmer’s market armed to confront the volunteers. When it began to rain the volunteers left for Chipotle, which they had advertised on Facebook, and arrived there to find open carriers already awaiting them. When a volunteer asked if Chipotle had a policy prohibiting weapons — the company had recently announced one — the manager said she had seen a memo about it but was unaware of any official policy on the matter. The open carriers continued the “conversation” about gun rights, and eventually the volunteers left with no further interaction with the management.

This didn’t stop one of the open carriers from writing a fact-scant propaganda piece for the website Freedom Outpost, whose recent headlines include “Obama to Force Militant Homosexual Agenda on Entire World” and “What More Can Barack Obama Do to Destroy America Before He Leaves Office?” In the piece, the author admits to taking a group of armed men to Chipotle to confront the unarmed volunteers. He acknowledges that Chipotle doesn’t want open carry in its stores and says they expected they would be asked to leave. Yet he claims that the gun reformists — whom they had forced into an armed encounter at a restaurant with a no open carry policy — were kicked out for “rude behavior.” Chipotle refuses to comment on the incident, but the agreed upon facts — that openly armed men followed unarmed volunteers to a place that tries to prohibit open carry — make the idea that the gun extremists were somehow the victims prima facie absurd.

Absurd as to the rationalization yes. But the implication of the story is very, very clear. If you want to protest the proliferation of guns you are free to do it. Just be prepared to face down armed counter protesters. 

That's what we call freedom in America. --- if America were run by the mafia. After all, they didn't have to actually shoot anyone to get their way. They'd just show up, flash their guns and tell the store owner, "nice little store you have here --- be a shame if anything happened to it."Those protesters would be foolish to press their case in the presence of these "good guys with guns," either. Political disputes have a way of getting out of hand at times. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to argue with people who are packing heat.

But turning the protesters into the "rude" ones who were asked to leave by management was an extra savvy touch. See, these good guys with guns needed to be armed. How else could they have protected themselves from these liberals? After all, they are irrational weirdos who are shooting up schools and movie theatres.


Update on the most transparent administration in history

by digby

Via AP:

The fight for access to public information has never been harder, Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said recently at a joint meeting of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers. The problem extends across the entire federal government and is now trickling down to state and local governments.

1) As the United States ramps up its fight against Islamic militants, the public can’t see any of it. News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off — there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from.

2) The White House once fought to get cameramen, photographers and reporters into meetings the president had with foreign leaders overseas. That access has become much rarer. Think about the message that sends other nations about how the world’s leading democracy deals with the media: Keep them out and let them use handout photos.

3) Guantanamo: The big important 9/11 trial is finally coming up. But we aren’t allowed to see most court filings in real time — even of nonclassified material. So at hearings, we can’t follow what’s happening. We don’t know what prosecutors are asking for, or what defense attorneys are arguing.

4) Information about Guantanamo that was routinely released under President George W. Bush is now kept secret. The military won’t release the number of prisoners on hunger strike or the number of assaults on guards. Photo and video coverage is virtually nonexistent.

5) Day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling. AP’s transportation reporter’s sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired. Even if they just give her facts, about safety, for example. Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad.

6) One of the media — and public’s — most important legal tools, the Freedom of Information Act, is under siege. Requests for information under FOIA have become slow and expensive. Many federal agencies simply don’t respond at all in a timely manner, forcing news organizations to sue each time to force action.

7) The administration uses FOIAs as a tip service to uncover what news organizations are pursuing. Requests are now routinely forwarded to political appointees. At the agency that oversees the new health care law, for example, political appointees now handle the FOIA requests.

8) The administration is trying to control the information that state and local officials can give out. The FBI has directed local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology the police departments use to sweep up cellphone data. In some cases, federal officials have formally intervened in state open records cases, arguing for secrecy.

They really don't want you to know what they are doing.

But you can feel confident in one thing:

So basically at least some emails that have ever in history been sent over email by some Americans have not been collected. Good to know.

Must be the "illegals"

by digby

The charming, decent and humane Laura Ingraham:

Speaking of sob stories...

What specifically is she talking about here? Ah:

Boo hoo hoo.  It's all those refugee kids illegally voting for Democrats. Because no Real American would ever vote for Democrats, amirite?


Tell us what you really think

by digby

Jonathan Schwarz found a little document prepared by our betters explaining why we need them to do our thinking for us. It an excerpts of a recently declassified CIA Magazine article (Who knew the CIA had a magazine or that it classified it?) It's about the CIA'S drug running during the 1980s:
…ultimately the CIA-drug story says a lot more about American society on the eve of the millennium than it does about either CIA or the media. We live in somewhat coarse and emotional times—when large numbers of Americans do not adhere to the same standards of logic, evidence, or even civil discourse as those practiced by members of the CIA community.

I think this is probably pretty indicative of their general attitude toward the polloi. Indeed, there was a time when they were all recruited out of the Ivy League (maybe they still are) for their superior genetic and social ties, so it stands to reason they would have these patrician attitudes.

Maybe you think that's fine. After all, they do such important work you wouldn't want to trust it someone who doesn't understand that the American people are little better than wild animals. For instance, could we expect your average coarse, illogical, overly-emotional American to properly torture someone? I didn't think so.

Click over to A Tiny Revolution to see another perfect illustration of their civilized behavior.
Scotland votes no

by Tom Sullivan

In a historic referendum, Scotland yesterday voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. With a margin of 55% - 45%, the vote went solidly against Scottish independence in what one writer hyperbolically described as "the greatest existential challenge to the British state since Spitfire dogfights in 1940." Turnout was 84.5%. UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to honor agreements to yield more power to the Scottish parliament if Scotland rejected independence.
As Scots living abroad weighed in, Valerie Wallace in Wellington, New Zealand approved Scotland remaining in the UK.
Scotland is, in fact, already a separate country – but a separate country within a larger polity. I am a Scot, but I am also a Briton, and those two things for me have never been mutually exclusive. With Scottish parents, English grandparents, Irish ancestry and a Welsh name, my Britishness can’t just be ‘unmade’.
Perhaps, but there will be some long faces this morning among American secessionists, particularly in Texas.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Exceptional Oxymoron

by digby

The land of the free imprisons more people than any other nation in the world:

Both in raw numbers and by percentage of the population, the United States has the most prisoners of any developed country in the world — and it has the largest total prison population of any nation. That didn’t change in 2013. After several years in which the prison population dropped slightly, the raw number of inmates in United States custody went up again in 2013.

More than 1.57 million inmates sat behind bars in federal, state, and county prisons and jails around the country as of December 31, 2013. In the federal prisons, more than half of those sentenced to a stints of a year or longer are still there for drug crimes. In states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, and Georgia, at least 1 percent of male residents were in prison on December 31. And across the country, racial disparities persist. Black men are six times more likely than white men to be in prison. Hispanic men are 2.4 times more likely, according to a Sentencing Project analysis of the data.

This doesn’t paint the full picture of the U.S. incarceration system. Many have estimated the total number of U.S. incarceration to be more than 2.4 million. This is in part because another estimated 12 million individuals cycle through the county jail systems in a given year for periods of less than a year, and are therefore not factored into a snapshot on December 31. There are also other mechanisms of incarceration not factored into this figure, including immigration detention, civil commitment, and Indian Country facilities, according to a Prison Policy Initiative briefing.

Does that make any sense at all?

We just disagree

by digby

Pew has a new poll out on the differences among conservatives and liberals in their approach to teaching children.  It says a lot:

Nothing particularly surprising in that. But I can't help but wonder where Jesus would come down.

I also wonder if capitalism would survive if everyone were conservative. Without valuing curiosity and creativity it's hard to see how it would. On the other hand, who would be the security guards at the store?

We do have a lot in common too:

I'm a little confused by the conservatives saying they value good manners, though.
Blowback to homegrown terrorism

by digby

So James Clapper changed his story once again and says he didn't lie to congress, that it was a "mistake", which is crap.(He was informed of the exact wording of the question before the hearing.) But whatever. We can twist ourselves up into a pretzel over whether he deserves to be sanctioned and he never will be so that's that.

He appeared today at an intelligence summit in Washington sponsored by two major industry groups. And he's described as being depressed and down, presumably because he feels unfairly maligned. But he is also upset that the government has been forced to be accountable to the public, apparently believing that we're all in danger because of it. I thought this was particularly interesting:
In a question and answer session afterward, Clapper said the disruption of a plot to behead people by supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Australia underscored the threat posed by homegrown sympathizers of the group, which he said is adept at motivating and recruiting followers.
From what we know of this plot (at least what the Australian government has told us) is a scary prospect. Now, whether it was a bunch of yahoos just jumping on the bandwagon is unknown and since we've seen a lot of allegedly scary homegrown plots revealed to be less than what they initially appeared. And yes, there have been a couple here in the states that were deadly, like Ft Hood and the Boston Marathon bombings. And that raises the question Robert Wright raises in this interesting piece:

The perpetrators of these attacks weren’t people who had been lured abroad by Jihadists, given terrorism training, and dispatched to America with a mission. They were people who, while in America, got alienated, got inspired by Jihadist propaganda, and, if any expert instruction was necessary (like how to make the bomb the marathon bombers used), got it via the internet. Apparently the kind of terrorism that’s hardest to fight is the kind that ferments at home.

And what makes it ferment? In both the Boston Marathon and the Fort Hood cases, the attackers seem to have been driven by the perception that the US is at war with Islam, as evinced (in their minds) by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, if homegrown terrorism is fostered by the perception that the US is at war with Islam, what should we do to counter that perception? Here’s what I don’t recommend: Declare war on an entity that calls itself the Islamic State, enmeshing yourself in combat that will last for years.

Obviously, this entity doesn’t deserve to be called the Islamic State, because its values don’t align with the values of the great majority of the world’s Muslims. But the relatively small number of Muslims who are vulnerable to the appeal of terrorism will consider a war against this “Islamic State” a war against Islam.

The problem of terrorism is complicated, and so is the problem of ISIS. I’m not saying that our thinking about how to respond to ISIS should begin and end with the question of whether declaring war on it will foster homegrown terrorism. But, given that, since 9/11, homegrown terrorism is the only kind of Islamic terrorism that has shown much in the way of an ability to actually kill people in the United States, it would be nice if the debate over how to handle ISIS at least included some discussion of the question.

You'd think so. But instead we have leaders beating their chests about "destroying ISIL" and hand-wringing from the nation's spooks over the fact that they have to be even the slightest bit restrained when one of the major factors driving this phenomenon is that we keep waging war on Muslims. Maybe we could try not doing that.

Wright concludes his article with this:

Again, I’m not saying that the prospect of homegrown terrorism, or even of blowback in general, is by itself a killer argument against Obama’s de facto declaration of war (though I do think that, all told, the declaration was a mistake). I’m mainly just saying that America’s national security discourse is in need of repair. When we face a crucial foreign policy decision, we fail to factor in glaringly obvious considerations.

In this case, we were too busy reacting to actually think. Once we saw a couple of gruesome videos that seem to have been designed to freak us out, we obligingly freaked out. And virtually nobody of stature said, “Wait, let’s not get emotional; let’s think this through carefully.” Certainly not Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that ISIS, manifesting “sheer evil” was a “cancer” that must be stopped. (Dubious metaphor; with cancer, the medicine doesn’t risk making the cancer itself stronger, the way Kerry’s prescription for fighting ISIS does.) And certainly not Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said ISIS poses “an imminent threat to every interest we have.” Every single interest!

A central lesson of the disastrous Iraq War is that one job of a post-9/11 president is to calm fears, not feed them. Some of us voted for Barack Obama thinking he would do that, and help restore reason to foreign policy discourse. For a while it looked like we were right. Now it looks like we weren’t.

Sigh ...


"Compassionate conservatism" is definitely out of fashion

by digby

Arkansas is number 13 out of 50 states in food stamp participation, with 16.5% of the population needing them.

But, you know, to hell with those people.

Are we ready to grapple with the truth?

by digby

If you read nothing else today, read this piece by Matt Stoller about the untold history of our foreign policy in the Middle East. Since we seem to have finally been reduced to an almost cartoon-like campaign leading into this latest round, it's vital that at least some people start looking at this from another angle and grapple with what we're really involved in. (I flagged this piece in the New Yorker the other day about the still classified 28 pages of the 9/11 report. Somebody needs to leak those pages.)

We are facing a real existential crisis with climate change. And it's being driven by greenhouse gasses and our addiction to oil. So is our foreign policy and the 23 year war we've been involved in in Iraq. This is all of a piece. Stoller says that we must discount the propaganda and stop the censorship (which is the right word to describe our insane classification system.) He concludes his piece on an optimistic note:
Adopting a realistic policy on ISIS means a mass understanding who our allies actually are and what they want, as well as their leverage points against us and our leverage points on them. I believe Americans are ready for an adult conversation about our role in the world and the nature of the fraying American order, rather than more absurd and hollow bromides about American exceptionalism.

Until that happens, Americans will not be willing to pay any price for a foreign policy, and rightfully so. Fool me once, shame on you. And so forth.

Unwinding the classified state, and beginning the adult conversation put off for seventy years about the nature of American power, is the predicate for building a global order that can drain the swampy brutal corners of the world that allow groups like ISIS to grow and thrive. To make that unwinding happen, we need to start demanding the truth, not what ‘national security’ tells us we need to know. The Constitution does not mention the words ‘national security’, it says ‘common defense.’ And that means that Americans should be getting accurate information about what exactly we are defending.

I couldn't agree more. Earlier in the piece, Matt references Rick Perlstein's observation in Invisible Bridge that we were at that moment in the mid-70s and lost our nerve. We succumbed to the cheery delusions offered up by Ronald Reagan in order to feel better and avoid facing the hard work of reckoning with our power and responsibility. I hope he's right that people are ready now to grapple with it. We'd better be.

Update: Also too, this
What's all this I hear about that silly bad flu bug?

by digby

My piece in Salon this morning takes a look at the fear scale --- and wonders why the right wing is hysterical over ISIS and thinks the president is wasting time and money trying to stop Ebola:
It certainly seems as though there have been a lot of fearful events over this long hot summer of 2014. Yahoos with too much firepower are blowing airliners out of the sky, terrorists are videotaping themselves beheading journalists, and police are shooting unarmed kids down in the streets of America, just to name a few incidents of the past few months. But it’s hard to imagine anything more scary than a rapidly mutating contagious killer disease pandemic that features all the worst symptoms of the flu until it culminates in bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and rectum, the eyes swell shut, your genitals swell up, all of your skin hurts and you have a blood-filled rash all over your body. And then you die. In the panoply of things to be afraid of you’d think everyone could acknowledge that this is the big one.
Here's just one of the idiotic rightwing pundits:
“I’m just getting very confused about the nature of this enemy. Is it those scary little worms that Drudge always has on the Drudge Report? The scary little Ebola worms? Is that the real threat to national security?”

That's Laura Ingraham. The Ivy Leaguer.

I didn't mention in the piece that there is one right wing pundit who seems to get why the president might be a tad concerned aboutthis disease. He happens to have gone to medical school:

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I applaud what the president is doing. This is America at its best. Our armed forces are essentially the biggest NGO on the planet for helping people, the way we did in the tsunami, the way we do in Haiti. It is organized to go and to establish institutions and structures, and that's what it's going to do.

Now, the reason that we are doing this is, a, this could destroy West Africa. In other words, it could destroy all of the existing social structures rapidly, because it's now in urban areas, which has never happened with Ebola.

The other thing, which is unstated because you don't want to start a panic, is that it is possible, extremely unlikely, but possible that the virus mutates and becomes more easy to transmit, perhaps even by respiratory means. If it does, it becomes like the flu of 1918. So it's because of that remote possibility, which we don't even speak about because it is sort of impossible to imagine, that we want to make sure that it stays in West Africa, and deploying the military and all of our resources is a good thing to do. It's humanitarian and it's protective.

But hey it's nothing to the imminent threat of ISIS Ninjas sneaking across the border and killing us all in our beds. So, let's be sure to keep our priorities straight.


Changing everything

by Tom Sullivan

Naomi Klein appeared last night on All In with Chris Hayes to discuss her new book, "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate." Extending arguments from her earlier work, Klein calls for a reevaluation of "the values that govern our society." She writes that, “our economic system and our planetary system are now at war ... there are policies that can lower emissions quickly, and successful models all over the world for doing so. The biggest problem is that we have governments that don’t believe in governing.”

I haven't read it yet, but I wanted to comment on the backlash we are sure to see.

Klein believes trying to address climate alone -- as the environmental movement has -- gets the issue wrong. As the Guardian put it, "[I]t’s about capitalism – not carbon – the extreme anti-regulatory version that has seized global economies since the 1980s and has set us on a course of destruction and deepening inequality." Klein told Chris Hayes, "It's not the end of the world. It's just the end of that highly individualistic, zero-sum game kind of thinking."

This, of course, will set lots of hair on fire on the right. In fact, Hayes led off the segment with a few choice quotes from some spokesmen on the right who believe climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to threaten mom and apple pie. Rush Limbaugh: "That's what global warming is. It's merely a platform to advance communism."

Please. I was born during the second Red Scare. I was a tot when they launched Sputnik. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. That was half a century ago.

A quarter of a century after that, the Berlin Wall fell and American conservatives declared that Saint Ronald of Reagan had slain the Evil Empire and won the Cold War. And a quarter of a century after that, they’re still looking for commies in woodpiles and for Reds under their beds before they cower beneath the sheets.

Last year, even Forbes gave communism all the relevance of a Renaissance festival.

Not even the Chinese are communists anymore. Have you seen Shanghai lately? China has about cornered the free market in glass-and-steel skyscrapers and the cranes and concrete to build them. They sure as hell cornered a chunk of investment by Republican donors.

It took most of the 1990s, but with the former Soviet Pacific fleet rusting away at the docks in Vladivostok, even the Pentagon figured out communism wasn’t the Red Menace anymore. It took Russia less than a decade after the Wall fell to revert to the oligarchy it was before the Bolshevik Revolution – peasants and plutocrats. Which is where we're headed, if you haven't noticed.

If conservatives' would-be leaders are so worried about the U.S. emulating the Roosskies, they might want to stop licking the boots of our domestic plutocrats. They might want to get their heads out of their anti-communism and join the rest of us in addressing the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Crumbling under the pressure?

by digby

Somebody get this guy a valium:

Speaking at a party at Downing Street, British Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly said he’s had enough. “I have to say that after the events I’ve been facing over the past few days, assassination would be a welcome release.”

Good lord, I hope he's just talking about the Scottish referendum and not something else ...

The Great Debate

by digby

I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked:
There was precious little suspense about today's House vote on an amendment to include funds for the training of Syrian rebels in the CR. The debate was heated, sure, but these debates are always slanted toward the people who want to talk. The pro-funding side was so confident that Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Iraq veteran and leadership ally, took to the floor to mock the people who had not wanted this funding sooner.

"I don’t remember these colleagues stepping forward a month ago," he said. "By many, I was called a warmonger or a guy who wanted to start a war in Iraq."
That's because when the president wants to go to war you can depend on the congress to rubber stamp it. It's a very rare instance when they don't. But hey, let's keep pretending that the real problem is the separation of powers not being properly observed instead of the fact that we are a military empire and very few people in the government (or the country) are concerned with that fundamental reality:
Kinzger won his gloating rights when the House voted 273 to 156 for the Syria amendment. That number was not far off, actually, from the 296-133 vote twelve years ago that kicked off the Iraq War. But the Iraq War vote almost suceeded with the votes of Republicans alone, 214 of their 222 members voting "aye." This time, only 159 Republicans voted for the funds, and 114 voted against them. Democrats were narrowly with the "no" side, splitting 85-71 against the funds.
That's right. This time more Republicans voted no and more Democrats voted yes. I can guarantee you that the vote would be the other way if the president were a Republican. (Go back to the Kosovo "debates" to see just how these things swing back and forth on a partisan basis.)

There are more Democrats who are consistently anti-war than there are Republicans. They are in a minority in the congress but they do exist. They voted against the Iraq war and they voted against this weird plan today. Good for them.


A throwdown between oracles

by digby

Is there some reason anyone should care whether one election forecasting model is superior to the other?  I don't see how these models that aggregate polls to predict whether one party or the other will have a majority are anything more than a parlor game.(Or maybe a way for Vegas gamblers to lay odds...)

They're fun.  I enjoy them because I'm a political junkie. But this "fight" between two of the top forecasters seems rather insubstantial to me. After all, political pros rely on their own polling in individual races to determine strategy --- these aggregate poll models really have no bearing on anything as far as I know.  If they didn't do what they're doing --- however accurate they might be --- and disappeared from the scene tomorrow, would it make a difference?

But hey, maybe I'm missing something about the importance of these forecasts. It certainly seems to have the political establishment up in arms.

It looks like somebody's clean money is touching somebody's dirty money after all.

by digby

I haven't seen many people comment on this so maybe I'm off base. But it seems to me that this is going to cause trouble:
It was one of the trickiest issues when lawmakers were debating Obamacare, in the end, the Affordable Care Act squeaked through congress after lawmakers crafted a compromise about abortion coverage. Customers who wanted to purchase a health plan that covers abortion services would be required to send a separate check to their insurers for that coverage. That way, no taxpayer money would be used to subsidize abortion.

But a new study by the federal Government Accountability Office surveyed 18 insurers.

"All but three insurers indicated that the benefit is not subject to any restrictions, limitations or exclusions," the GAO reports.

That means the federal government could have been subsidizing plans that pay for abortion.

The administration says it's done nothing wrong, but will provide guidance in the coming days.
Maybe it's no big deal and nobody will care. I hope that's how it goes. But considering what we went through during the health care debate on this issue, I'm having a hard time believing that the anti-abortion zealots are going to let this pass.

In case you don't recall what went down, here's a little reminder. You'll recall that it was pro-life Democrats, led by Bart Stupak in the House who threatened to tank the health care reforms unless the President agreed to insure that the federal government didn't cover abortion in the bill.  The compromise was to make sure that the money of someone who opposes abortion would never even touch the money of someone who wants to buy insurance to cover the procedure thus keeping the taint of Satan from your personal balance sheet.

Recall this also from (the now former) congressman Stupak after the fact. (He wasn't very bright.)

Michigan congressman Bart Stupak, who played a pivotal role in the passage of the health care bill, said there is something worse than the hatred – including death threats and angry calls to his house – he experienced because of his support for the legislation.

“Ultimately, what stings the most isn’t the hatred,” wrote Stupak in a column posted on the Newsweek magazine’s website. “It’s that people tried to use abortion as a tool to stop health-care reform, even after protections were added.”

The pro-life Democrat said in the column for the magazine’s May 17 issue that he has “two longstanding personal convictions”: that health care is a right and federal funds should not pay for abortions.

He maintained that President Obama’s executive order sufficiently safeguards against the use of federal money to pay for abortions in health care reform. Obama had assured him that the executive order is “ironclad,” he said.

President Obama, Stupak and his group of pro-life Democrats worked out a last minute deal in March that exchanged the congressmen’s votes in favor of the health care bill for an executive order stating that no tax dollars be used for abortions.

Stupak argued that at that point the health care bill would have passed even if they voted against it. He said his coalition’s agreement with the president was meant to “add pro-life protections” on the legislation.

Pro-life groups, however, denounced the deal, arguing that an executive order does not have the force of law and that Stupak betrayed the movement at the most critical time.

“We need statutory law,” Stupak recalled the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops telling him after hearing about the deal.

The Michigan lawmaker, who has served in Congress for nearly two decades, told the USCCB that President Abraham Lincoln used an executive order to free the slaves and President George W. Bush used one to block embryonic stem cell research.

Maybe nobody in the anti-abortion crowd has gotten the memo on this yet. (If not, don't say anything ...) But I'll admit I'm a little bit surprised that there hasn't yet been an outcry over this (as far as I know.)  It was a huge fight that left everyone unsatisfied.



by digby

My piece for Salon today is about the Republican who's polling at number one in Iowa right now.  No, not Jindahl, not Christie not Ryan, Paul or Cruz.  It's Mike Huckabee and he's ahead by a mile:
Byron York reported that Huckabee called reporters together yesterday for a wide-ranging conversation about the Middle East (he’s very concerned) and a possible presidential run and it looks like he’s getting back in the saddle. York observes that unlike his run in 2008 where he lamented all the chatter about Iraq, he’s going straight at foreign policy as the focus of his campaign, rather than domestic issues, which would appear to signal that the GOP is getting back in its comfortable groove. (Not that this should come as a surprise — Benghazi!™ was a pretty good first clue.)

Some of this reticence to put their hopes and dreams once again in the other man from Hope is understandable. After all, he declined to join the losing GOP clown show in 2012 after having made a fairly decent showing in 2008. (What most people would call having good political instincts is often seen among the faithful as a sign of disloyalty.) In that race, Rick Santorum was left to carry the banner for the Christian right pretty much by himself and while he did a surprisingly respectable job of sticking it out to the bitter end, there’s really nobody in the world who can see him sitting in the Oval Office, not even his own voters. Huckabee, on the other hand, has long been seen as a serious contender and for good reason. Nobody else in the Republican game today has his particular combination of political gifts. Why they’re almost, dare I say it, Reaganesque.

Read on for some fun Huck quotes and a bonus Youtube of him playing Cat scratch fever with Ted Nugent.

Seriously, I think the guy in underrated and if he does get in, assuming he can raise money, I think he has the potential to successfully weave together the GOP's various strands. (Of course, if we're at war anyone with an R after his name can do that simply by waving the flag and displaying America's big swinging manhood.)

"You can't feed a family with GDP"

by digby

That's Neil Irwin's line in the piece that accompanies this rather stunning chart:

The census numbers on what American families made last year are as mediocre as they are predictable. We now know that if your household brought in $51,939 in income last year, you were right at the 50th percentile, with half of households doing better and half doing worse. In inflation-adjusted terms, that is up a mere 0.3 percent from 2012. If you’re counting, that’s an extra $180 in annual real income for a middle-income American family. Don’t spend your extra $3.46 a week all in one place.

Going back a little further, the numbers are even gloomier. The 2013 median income remained a whopping 8 percent — about $4,500 per year — below where it was in 2007. The 2008 recession depressed wages for middle-income Americans, and they haven’t recovered in any meaningful way. And 2007 household incomes were actually below the 1999 peak.

But hey, it's nothing a little war won't fix, amirite? That is our preferred way of stimulating the economy after all. Keeps us from getting soft.

On the other hand we had a little incident in 2001 and a subsequent war and look at that chart. It doesn't seem to be working anymore.

QOTD: John Boehner

by digby

“You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.”

Everyone knows this is a negotiating tool as much as anything, right? Boehner *says to the Democrats, "Hey, I'd love to help you out here. We want the same things. But the knuckleheads in my caucus just won't stand for it. I can't control them, you know that. And I've got a lot of good people in these deep conservative districts who could be targeted if they don't toe the line. If you need our votes you're going to have to give a lot more than you've given or we just can't get there. What can I do?"

Update: *Note:  to be clear this is how I am guessing it works when they are behind closed doors. The quote linked above saying "you might notice ...." he did say today however.

Old warhorses

by Tom Sullivan

Hear that melody? Sen. Lindsey Graham is conducting the Village Symphony Orchestra in one of Republicans' favorite warhorses. You've heard it before. You'll hear it again.

"Republicans mount their warhorses" sits atop the WaPo's online Opinion section this morning. (If you arrived late, music lovers, the VSO just began the ISIS movement.)

The sudden desire for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters. (Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she opposed “giving even more money to the so-called vetted moderates who aren’t moderate at all.”)

It may be that Republicans embraced the boots-on-the-ground position because Obama rejected it. Whatever the cause, the militancy is spreading — even though polls indicate that while Americans favor military action against the Islamic State, they aren’t keen on ground troops.

Of course, whatever the Kenyan Pretender wants is not enough for Graham and the VSO. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) wants "all-out-war." Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) doesn't want another "half-pregnant war." As Dana Milbank observes, the rest of the VSO (or is it the Very Serious Orchestra?) oppose anything less than a new ground war in the Middle East. And soon, because they want to hurry back to their districts to campaign for reelection wearing new campaign ribbons. And hoping war hysteria might distract voters from quizzing them on what they haven't done in Washington to earn their paychecks.

Maybe I missed the act of war ISIS committed against the United States of America that justifies the war into which (with their new trailer) ISIS wants to goad us. Or has America just gone so far down the rabbit hole that we'll launch another war because -- when in doubt -- it's the one thing this aging empire does by default? Like the clueless civilian Buster Keaton plays in "The General," who, finding himself in the middle of a Civil War battle, brandishes a discarded saber to rally troops whenever he doesn't know what else to do?

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