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Monday, January 26, 2015

QOTD: winning edition

by digby

And no, I'm not talking about Palin's rambling in Iowa. This is from Bobby Jindal at The Response, this past week-end's American Family Association's prayer rally for "a nation in crisis."
It is like God has given us the book of life. He doesn’t let us see the pages for today, tomorrow. He doesn’t promise us everything will go the way we want. He doesn’t promise you your sports team will win, or you’ll get the promotion at work. He doesn’t promise you you’re going to win the next election or that everything’s going to happen like you want.

“But he does let you see the last page in the book of life. And on the last page, our God wins.”
Ok, so the first part about the book is fine. God doesn't promise you a rose garden. But what in the world does "our God wins" mean? Is he saying that God is playing a game with us? Is God in competition with other Gods and at the end of the world, he will win? What exactly is on that last page? It sounds as if conservative Christianity is more akin to the Greek and Roman pagan beliefs, in which there were many Gods in perpetual battle with each other, than anything I learned in Sunday school.

The crowd reportedly went wild at this line so whatever it means, they like it.


Maybe night vision goggles?

by Tom Sullivan

The voter fraud frauds are at it again:

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Supporters and opponents of a Nebraska voter identification bill packed a public hearing Friday for a fierce debate over the measure.

The Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard heated arguments on a bill by Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill. The legislation would require voters to show a driver's license or state identification card at a polling place. Fifteen other states have such a law.


Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom testified in support of the measure, saying it protects the sanctity of the system and compared voter ID laws to a vaccination preventing polio.

Because America's Most Sanctimonious don't want their elections tainted by diseased Others — infected with too much poor, too much melanin, or too much not-one-of-us.

Talking with a newly minted ex-Republican over the weekend, I recounted attending a 2013 "boot camp" for training T-party sleuths how to purge voter rolls. I wrote at the time that,

... they emphasized the need for getting dead and inactive voters off the rolls because of the possibility of widespread voter fraud — or was it a widespread possibility? — for which they never seem to produce evidence. Basically, T-partiers are convinced that if they lose an election it must be because their opponents cheated. What else could it be? Zombies? Bigfoot?!

Much of the day focused on dead and inactive voters who remain on the rolls (by law) too long for the T-party's liking. So they employ crowd-sourced data-matching to get voters removed. Two women described perusing the MLS listings for homes for sale and foreclosures. Then they drive by, taking geocoded photos of the properties and any empty houses they find to prove to the local Board of Elections that people registered there no longer live there. They scour the daily obituaries for the freshly dead, then take the notices down to the local Board of Elections and try to have them removed from the voter rolls.

Of course, Board of Elections professionals could do all this with enough manpower and enough money from enough taxes ... oh, right.

Not once in seven hours, I told my new friend, did anyone suggest expanding the franchise or registering new voters and encouraging them to exercise their right to vote. It was utterly defensive, aimed at keeping the imagined, invisible hoards of THEM  from casting ballots.

Her eyes grew wide in shock as she said, "That's so sad."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The baby party has another tantrum

by digby

They have delicate feelings:
Soon after becoming House Speaker in 2011, Republican John Boehner started running the traps on inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint meeting of Congress. 
But when Barry Jackson, then Boehner’s chief-of-staff, checked with President Barack Obama’s top advisers, Jackson said he was left waiting a month only to get no response. Ultimately the Netanyahu speech went ahead in May but soon after Jackson faced the opposite problem: the White House had promised South Korea’s leadership an appearance before Congress, he said, without checking first with the speaker.

None of these slights justify what seems like payback now: Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu again, only this time without advising Obama or Democrats in Congress.

But the sequence of events does capture how much the normal courtesies between this White House and Congress have deteriorated — even in front of guests from another country.

“There appear to be no rules anymore. If you can do it, do it,” said Patrick Griffin, who recalls nothing quite like this even in the tempestuous times Griffin served as White House liaison between President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), herself a former speaker who oversaw similar joint meetings for foreign guests, said the management of the invitation was “inappropriate” and Boehner risks squandering his power in a fit of “hubris.”

Right. The Republicans have always acted like the mature grown-ups :

They always act like this.

A squabble in the fever swamps

by digby

A little fun on a lazy Sunday afternoon from TBOGG:

Good news, America!

Two of the most reprehensible people on the Internet — and that is not an exaggeration — are duking it out; revealing Breitbart family secrets, opening up old wounds, and saying things neither of them will ever regret saying because they are are the kind of people who will say anything for a website click and a buck because they are amoral soulless monsters.

Dana Loesch, –whom you may remember from her star turn on CNN saying she would like to pee on dead Muslims, because she is both measured in her responses and classy at the same time — has had it up to here with Chuck C. Johnson, ‘journalist,’ abortion-watcher, rape victim re-victimizer, and claimer of having ‘The Autism,’ which excuses all of his crimes against ethics in gaming journalism.

What should have been a private tête–à–tête between these two obvious soulmates who both previously worked at Andrew Breitbart’s Inland of Broken Toys That Nobody Wanted In The First Place, seems to have its genesis in Chuck outing Bible-n-gun toting American mom Holly Fisher.

According to our intrepid Chuck, Fisher seductively slipped the American flag from around her shoulders to engage in some All-American adultery-banging with a Tea Party dude while her soldier husband was keeping America free so that Chuck Johnson could 1st Amendment-report on her aforementioned adultery.

Nobody ever said that freedom of speech and the press wouldn’t get ugly from time to time.

This enraged conservatives who, you may remember, showed considerable restraint when Bill Clinton got a blow job that one time.

It was in all the papers, you should look it up.

Loesch took offense because she is BFF’s with her fellow gun/flag/Bible-toting sister in arms and unfollowed Johnson on Twitter — which is, like, 9/11 or Benghazi, or something maybe even worse. read on ...

It was inevitable that they'd start fighting among themselves. It's what people who are losing inevitably do.

And I know this because I am a liberal. BTDT... too many times to count. But these guys are so much more vicious. Of course they would be ...


Fast and furious on the taser trigger

by digby

Taser 'o the week:

It's not actually true that police are required to show three pieces of ID (I don't know where she got that idea) but that's not really the point. The point is that the guy asked a question and the police escalated in a matter of seconds, screaming and aiming their guns at him and tasering him when he wasn't being threatening. There was little reason for it. A bit of calm and common sense from the authorities could have avoided all of that.

They subsequently charged him with felonies, one for driving to a well lit spot rather than pulling over on the side of the dark highway (something I thought we were all supposed to do) and for allegedly attacking the police officers which is a charge they can apply to anyone they taser regardless of whether they were actually attacked. (I guess this is another one of those "I felt afraid" deals.)

I believe this is another example of the ongoing militarization of police. Unfortunately most American citizens have not yet been fully indoctrinated in the new reality in which their streets are considered a battleground and where the police are armed, paranoid combat troops who see all citizens as an enemy combatant until proven otherwise. They might even assume that when they put their hazard lights on and police pull them over it's not because they are criminal suspects. They might foolishly walk up and try to talk to them. They might even think it's ok to ask them for ID since the whole situation is kind of weird.

Someday they will have us well trained to accept that all our rights are suspended in the presence of police. We will know that we must obey their orders without question, submit completely, ask nothing and say nothing unless they ask us. They don't teach this in school but in America it's only after the fact that you may assert your rights --- at which point you can feel confident that no action will ever be taken against the police who violated them. Because they have a hard job and it's not for anyone to second guess their decisions in the moment.

But it's the thought that counts.

h/t @Chicago_Todd

I hope they don't mind the smell of Aquanet in that clown car

by digby

Donald Trump did a long interview on Fox this morning. He complained about people being overtaxed and the government being too big and then noted that when he goes to Europe he sees beautiful roads and highways and then comes home to potholes and crumbling infrastructure.

He announced that he's seriously considering running for president  ... and lamented that the whole world is laughing at America.

Where the people are

by digby

If half the people live in these blue shaded areas of the country can they really be called "elites"?

Using Census data, we've figured out that half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.

Here's the map, with said counties shaded in. Below the map is the list of all the counties, so you can see if you live in one of them.

It's even more stark than it appears.  Within those counties the humans are clustered in even smaller areas.   These are what we call "cities" and contrary to popular myth, they are as "real" as the rest of America.

Sunday funnies

by digby

Bryan McFadden, NY Times:


Let me count the ways

by digby

So every Villager is frantically tweeting this allegedly brilliant quote from Lisa Murkowski this morning:
"I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska”
Perhaps Lisa Murkowski doesn't understand that Alaska is in the United States? And that the people of the United States (not to mention the world) have an interest in insuring that the arctic isn't degraded any faster than we are already degrading it?

Perhaps she also doesn't understand that Iran is not part of the United States? That it is a sovereign nation over which the president has no authority while he does have authority over the "sovereign state" of Alaska?

Here's the full quote (above link):
What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,” said Murkowski, who spoke to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about the department’s plan during a brief phone call Friday, in a statement. “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory. … I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.”
Here is the cognitive dissonance. More and more Alaskans, particularly of the Republican stripe, identify the federal government and pork-barrel spending as the enemy, although Alaska was built by both.

Alaska’s appetite for federal dollars has always been voracious and is not confined to the stimulus. A study by Prof. Scott Goldsmith of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, noted that an “extraordinary increase” in federal spending drove the state’s pile-driver growth of the last 15 years.

In 1996, federal spending in Alaska was 38 percent above the national average. Thanks to the late Republican Senator Ted Stevens, who was Senate appropriations chief for several years, and to the military, which keeps expanding its bases here, Alaska’s share now is 71 percent higher than the national average.

Some of this owes to the expense of serving Alaska’s rural reaches. But much is bred in the bone. The federal government carved this young state out of the northern wilderness, and officials here learn to manipulate federal budget levers at a tender age.

Still, many see strings attached. Lynn Gattis, a Republican Party official, lives by a lake in Wasilla, surrounded by aspens. She is a sourdough Alaskan, meaning she was born here, and she is a pilot, which means she threads her way around those cloud-hugging peaks. She knows that the federal government paid for the port of Anchorage and the highway that leads to Wasilla allowed Target and Sports Authority to take root.

But she sees a government that delays oil exploration, as President Obama did recently; that regulates timber and salmon harvests and hydropower; and that, in her view, cares more about polar bears than about Alaskans. (The government lists as endangered the beluga whales of Cook Inlet, a vast gray expanse that stretches out from Anchorage. Some Alaskans argue that this could stall construction of a multimillion-dollar bridge, which as it happens would be paid for by the federal government.)

“It just feels like the federal government intrudes everywhere,” Ms. Gattis said. “Enough Ivy League lawyers — let’s get people who can dig a mine and run a business.”

This sentiment baffles Tony Knowles, a long drink of a man who worked on the North Slope oil rigs before becoming the governor of Alaska in 1994 as a Democrat. He understands the frustration that comes with bumping into federal officials at each turn. But the trade-off is not so terrible, he notes, such as having the feds pay to put broadband in Alaskan villages.

“Nobody likes to have all their eggs in one basket, and so you do feel vulnerable,” he said. “But Ted Stevens, who was a Republican and beloved, was never shy about bringing money in.”

Some Alaskans have made a founding narrative of their grievance. “Before statehood, when a distant federal bureaucracy managed our resources, Alaskans experienced devastating economic effects,” Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, says on his Web site.

The historical record is a bit more complicated. Federal dollars, fishing and timber sustained Alaska until the discovery of oil in the 1960s. Victor Fischer, who helped write the state constitution in the 1950s, shrugs.

“There’s all this verbiage that says we’re the frontier, rough and ready,” says Mr. Fischer, lithe and sardonic in his mid-80s. “The Feds paid for everything, but the conflict runs through our history.”
Yep. They didn't build that.

The fact is that the Arctic is vital to the continued health of the planet. It needs to be protected. Too many Alaskans, sadly, aren't dedicated to being good stewards and would turn the whole place into a strip mine if it meant putting some temporary money into their pockets. So I have an idea. Let's just have the federal government pay every adult who was an Alaska resident as of January 1, 2015 50k a year tax free for ten years. That would probably make up for anything they'd make on some short term projects in the wildlife refuges or the Arctic ocean. I'd have zero problem with that and I'd guess the majority of Alaskans would be for it too. Unfortunately, it would preclude some of the big guns getting rich so there would still be mighty outcry. But considering the history of federal largesse to the state it would hardly be unprecedented.

Barbarous species

by digby

A local leader in Tanzania has been attacked and beheaded by a gang of men, who then cooked some of his body parts, police say.

The attack took place on Friday night in the southern Katavi region of the east African nation, local police chief Dhahiri Kidavashari said, naming the dead man as 31-year-old Richard Madirisha.

Police said there had been local reports accusing Mr Madirisha of adultery.

"Five people stormed Madirisha's room wielding machetes, beheaded him, chopped off legs, hands and genitals," Mr Kidavashari said on Sunday.

"The assailants later cooked the chopped off body parts outside the house," he added.

Also too:

Magu (Tanzania) (AFP) - It was a hyena that killed the boy, but four elderly women got the blame. Villagers slashed them with machetes then set fire to their bodies for casting spells on the wild animal.

"They cut her with machetes," said Sufia Shadrack, the daughter of one of the murdered women in her small village in Tanzania's northern Mwanza district. "Then they took firewood, mattresses, an iron sheet and burned her like you would cook fish or meat."

In Tanzania, hundreds of people are killed each year accused of being witches.

Like Shadrack's mother, many victims are elderly, vulnerable or marginalised -- or own property that greedy relatives seize after accusing of witchcraft.

But while some are killed falsely accused of black magic, others are murdered by the "sorcerers" themselves: scores of people with albinism have been killed and their body parts cooked up for spells.

I don't really have any larger point in writing about this except to point out that the world is full of barbarity.

Michael Smerconish is filling in for Candy Crowley today and told White House national security advisor that his callers are hysterical right now, worried that the world has hit a "tipping point" --- that we are spinning out of control. McDonough said that this isn't really true that it only seems that way because the worlds most "nefarious actors" can disseminate their cruel acts. That is undoubtedly true. But the dissemination of these cruel acts can also serve the agendas of a number of different actors. There are always people who are eager to take advantage of the opportunities that hysteria provides.


Gonna soak up the sums

by Tom Sullivan

If nothing else, Sarah Palin's "bizarro" speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend warmed up the crowd for the real cowboys.

But even as Republican presidential wannabes tried to out-right each other in Iowa, the people who count most in this country — those with the most to count — held their annual donors' summit at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Rancho Mirage, CA. John Nichols, writing for The Nation:

“Americans used to think Iowa and New Hampshire held the first caucus and primary in the nation every four years. Not anymore,” explains Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “Now the ‘Koch brothers primary’ goes first to determine who wins the blessing and financial backing of the billionaire class. This is truly sad and shows us how far Citizens United has gone to undermine American democracy.”

Sanders was referencing the five-year-old US Supreme Court ruling that struck down barriers to corporate spending to buy elections—one of a series of decisions that have dramatically increased the influence of not just of corporations but of billionaires like the Koch brothers.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida chose not to attend the Iowa event, instead reserving their time for supplication at the Koch brothers' event, along with another unofficial 2016 presidential contender, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

An hourlong panel discussion featuring U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida will take place at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. [PST, presumably]

ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl will moderate it, and the network will livestream part of it.

Perhaps Cruz will again repeat the Churchill's bust nonsense as he did again in Iowa on Saturday. Debunked three years ago? No obstacle in this alternate universe.

Update: More detail on bustgate.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Family values

by digby

She seems nice.

Meanwhile, here's some salad:

Cruel and unusual

by digby

Ritualized state executions of this sort are barbaric too:

On Thursday, Richard Glossip will be put to death for a crime he says he didn't commit.

The 51-year-old former motel manager has spent more than 17 years on Oklahoma's death row for a murder conviction. He's maintained his innocence from the start and plans to fight for his life until the end, but he says he knows that realistically he may not live past January 29. Among U.S. states, only Texas has executed more people than Oklahoma...

The 51-year-old has been on death row ever since he was convicted of first-degree murder nearly 17 years ago on the testimony of a single witness. Glossip has maintained his innocence from the start, and now he's hoping that a last-minute reprieve from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) -- or the White House -- can spare him from becoming the 196th person to be put to death by the state of Oklahoma.

Justin Sneed, a young contract handyman who worked and lived at the Best Budget Inn that Glossip managed in Oklahoma City, confessed to beating motel owner Barry Van Treese to death with a baseball bat on Jan. 7, 1997. Prosecutors said Glossip feared losing his job and recruited Sneed to kill his boss. Sneed would later testify that Glossip promised him $10,000 to commit the crime. Both men were convicted of first-degree murder. In exchange for his testimony, Sneed received a life sentence without parole; Glossip received a death sentence.

A judge told Glossip that if he admitted his involvement in Van Treese's death, he would be sentenced to life in prison and eligible for parole in 20 years. Glossip said he refused to perjure himself by admitting to something he didn't do.

I'm against capital punishment for all the usual reasons. But the idea that someone can be executed solely on the word of someone who actually perpetrated the violence and who got a reduced sentence in return for his testimony is absolutely mind-boggling.

Dispatch from King's ring kissing ceremony

by digby

Byron York gives his informed take on Iowa and the state of the GOP primary at the moment. There's lots to think about, most of it really disturbing. First, they like Chris Christie because he's a "fighter." This doesn't surprise me. As long as he sticks it to liberals, particularly if he is willing to take on the Beyotch the way he takes on schoolteachers who question him, there are a whole lot of conservatives who will forgive any previous apostasy. That's what they live for. And not just Iowa conservatives. In fact, over Christmas I had California relatives all telling me how much they love Christie for telling voters to "sit down and shut up."

Then there's this:
Foreign policy has become as important as social issues, and that means people will listen to John Bolton.
Did I mention it was disturbing? How about this?:

You know what Bobby Jindal said about Muslim "no-go zones" in Europe, a statement that resulted in Jindal being criticized and mocked by mainstream commentators? It turns out many social conservatives in Iowa really liked it. To them, Jindal was warning about the danger of enclaves of unassimilated Muslim populations in an age of Islamic radicalism, a problem they fear could be in store for the United States. Jindal, who is himself the model of an assimilated American from an immigrant family, not only did not suffer from his remarks but instead benefited from them.

So Fox News really is to the left of the GOP base now. Dear God.

There's lot's of interesting analysis in this article and I urge you to read it.  We are going to be in for quite a ride.

Is Fox News on drugs?

by digby

I don't know what's going on over at Fox News but there seems to be a tear in the matrix. You already know about their profuse apologies for suggesting that Europe is riddled with "no-go" zones where Sharia law is practiced and the state has no influence. And Rupert Murdoch himself had to back track for saying that moderate Muslims are responsible for Islamic extremism. Since when do they give a damn about insulting Europeans or Muslims? That's part of their business model.

But what in the hell is this?
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace slammed Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu over his upcoming trip to the U.S. to deliver a speech to a joint sitting of Congress on March 3 – an invitation extended by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and in violation of diplomatic protocol. It is the White House, not Congress, which usually invites world leaders to visit the country.

The invitation has been interpreted as an attempt by Netanyahu and his Republican allies to push through more Iran sanctions – a move that Obama has warned will damage the nuclear negotiations taking place with the Islamic Republic. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday that they will not meet Netanyahu during his U.S. trip because of the close proximity to the Israeli elections.

These are all foreign policy and national security topics so perhaps Fox is just trying to tame the crazies a little bit so they don't accidentally blow up the world. But it seems unlikely. This stuff is their bread and butter. What's going on?

Watch the video.  You will be surprised.  Keep going to the end for the truly surreal conclusion... somebody clearly slipped some ecstasy into the coffee ....

How do we tell which ones are the good guys with guns again?

by digby

It's gets so confusing when they let black people carry guns just like white people:

A surveillance video from a Walmart located near Tampa shows 62-year-old Clarence Daniels trying to enter the store to purchase some coffee creamer for his wife this past Tuesday. He barely steps through the automatic doors before he is pummeled by shopper Michael Foster, a 43-year-old white man.

"He's got a gun!" Foster shouts, to which Daniels replies, "I have a permit!"

According to local news reports, Foster originally spotted Daniels in the store's parking lot placing his legally owned handgun underneath his coat. In keeping with Florida's well-known vigilante spirit, Foster decided to take matters into his own hands by following Daniels into the Walmart. Without warning, he tackled Daniels and placed him in a chokehold.

Police soon arrived and confirmed Daniels indeed had a permit for the handgun.

I'm very sure that he would have done exactly the same thing if he'd noticed a white man with a concealed handgun going into Walmart. Of course he would have.

On the other hand, Daniels should be happy that Foster didn't just shoot him down. He could have. And he could have gotten away with it if he could have convinced the cops that he feared for his life. And the gun proliferation zealots would have called him one of the "good guys."

Exercising 2nd Amendment rights doesn't mean you won't get your hair mussed. A few thousand innocent people getting shot every year is a small price to pay so that some people can carry lethal weapons around in public for no good reason. It's how we keep ourselves safe from tyranny. Apparently.

QOTD: pleaseohpleaseohplease

by digby

The clown car wouldn't be complete without her:

“Without putting any words in my mouth, you can absolutely say that I’m seriously interested,” said Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee, in the lobby of the Marriott late Friday night.


The Dickens, you say?

By Tom Sullivan

As Digby said yesterday, they will never quit trying to dismantle the social safety net. Both here and abroad, it seems, we've gotta keep those "takers" from taking. They are somehow keeping our "Makers" from making. (Genuflect here.)

It seems the British have set up a system of sanctions to keep the eligible jobless from receiving help. And, boy howdy, you thought Fox News' obsession over the grocery shopping habits of Americans receiving SNAP benefits was Dickensian. Check out the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the land of Dickens:

“A Ukip parliamentary candidate named Lynton Yates this week suggested banning benefit claimants from driving: “Why do they have the privilege to spend the tax payers [sic] hard earned money on a car, when those in work are struggling to keep their own car on the road?” Ukip’s communications people said that Yates’s suggestions were “not Ukip policies and they will not form part of the Ukip manifesto”, and the media rejoiced in the week’s example of the party’s supposed fruitcakery – though at the time of writing, Mr Yates was still Ukip’s choice for the East Midlands seat of Charnwood.

But the problem isn’t his, or Ukip’s, alone. After all, in the sense that he proposed stripping “benefit claimants” of something most people take for granted, Yates’s plans merely sat on the outer edge of what now passes for mainstream thinking. When the state makes it clear that the poor and unfortunate are not to have spare bedrooms, and embraces the idea of stopping them buying booze and fags and shredding their entitlements if they have more than two kids, is it really such a leap to deny them non-public transport too? For all its inanity, there is a sadism at the heart of the Yates idea that is not a million miles away from the cruelties increasingly built into the benefits system: cruelties most of us would not put up with for a minute, but which are visited on thousands of people every week.

Can't let them breed, now, can we? Because "nits make lice."

UKIP issued a statement to clarify that Yates' pamphlet containing these suggestions was not a joke or a hoax:

On the topic of the cost of keeping criminals in prison, it continued: "I personally would look to overseas countries who could tender for their incarceration.

"I'm sure they could dramatically reduce this cost to the taxpayer."

And, no doubt, decrease the surplus prison population.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Because you need this

by digby

It's been a long week and I think we could all use a drink and baby pygmy hippo right about now:

Who was it who compared Ted Cruz to Joe McCarthy?

by digby

He adamantly denies the resemblance, much to Ann Coulter's dismay.


Two arch-conservatives unveiled legislation on Friday to revoke the U.S. citizenship of anyone who seeks to join a group designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.

The Expatriate Terrorist Act, offered by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), amends the Immigration and Nationality Act so as to deny an American passport to — or strip the existing citizenship of — an individual

whom the Secretary has determined is a member, or is attempting to become a member, of an organization the Secretary has designated as a foreign terrorist pursuant to section 12 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 13 U.S.C. 1189).
"I believe these American terrorists have voluntarily renounced their citizenship upon taking an oath to a foreign terrorist organization (FTO)," King said in a statement.

In a sign that the legislation has legs in Congress, it is co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration policy.

In case you are wondering why this is considered necessary, I'm guessing it's so that they can deny Americans their rights under the constitution. I would hope that it isn't possible to do this before they are convicted of anything (under the constitution) but once they are, I guess they could be sent to Guantanamo after President Huckabee expands it.

Anyway, God bless the USA.


They will never quit

by digby

With a fight over Social Security brewing in the new Republican Congress, advocates are worried that a possible GOP angle is to turn Social Security into a perennial crisis in much the same way raising the debt limit has become. By setting up a series of forcing events, the argument goes, Republicans would be able to create an ongoing crisis atmosphere around Social Security that would create a pretext for dramatic changes to the 80-year-old program.

As TPM has documented, the House passed a rule on the first day of the new Congress that prohibited the routine transfer of tax revenue between Social Security's retirement and disability funds, the latter of which will stop being able to make full benefit payments starting in late 2016. The transfer, known as reallocation, has been done under Democratic and Republican administrations multiple times in the past, most recently in 1994, but the new House rule forbids it unless it is accompanied by measures that improve the overall solvency of Social Security.

House Republicans have been transparent about their intentions of using the new rule to force a debate on changes to the program, while advocates and Democrats warned that the rule could lead to benefit cuts. But there is another possibility: Republicans could pass a short-term reallocation that would set up another shortfall a few years down the road -- and one that could arrive under a new Republican president.

It would in theory turn Social Security reallocation into something akin to the debt ceiling of the last few years: A formerly routine accounting move that the GOP is now trying to use as a leverage point to advance conservative proposals. Advocates told TPM that it was a scenario they were taking seriously.

"Just as with the debt limit, Congress could require regular short-term action, keeping a climate of crisis and requiring new legislation frequently," Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, told TPM. Advocates are pushing for a clean reallocation, which is projected to keep both funds solvent until 2033.
And remember, these deficit fetishists are always wrong about everything:

August 28, 1996

CHICAGO - Sen. Bob Kerrey smells an odor coming from the Republican and Democratic stands on entitlements.

"It's one of the cruelest things we do, when we say, Republicans or Democrats, `Oh, we can wait and reform Social Security later,' " the Nebraska Democrat said.

Mr. Kerrey says that without reform, entitlements will claim 100 percent of the Treasury in 2012.

"This is not caused by liberals, not caused by conservatives, but by a simple demographic fact," Mr. Kerrey warned at a meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council.

"We [will have] converted the federal government into an ATM machine."

Yes, that is a Democrats saying that. And there are plenty of them today who believe the same nonsense. At some point I have no doubt that the GOP will wear them down and train them to reflexively give in rather than undergo repeated crises. They are Pavlov's dogs. And Pavlov wants some of that social security money for his portfolio.

They finally cracked the internet

by digby

It took them a while, but they did it:
In the last four years, ForAmerica has quietly amassed what it likes to call a "digital army" on Facebook—a force that that now numbers more than 7 million. The group's spectacular growth can be explained in part by the paid acquisition of its members through targeted advertising. But thanks to a daily stream of savvy and snackable red-meat messaging, these mercenaries have become loyal conservative digital soldiers whose engagement is attracting new recruits. These days, a routine post on ForAmerica's page reaches more than 2 million people, achieves more than 100,000 "likes," and has tens of thousands of people repost and comment. 
But shutting down the White House switchboard this summer was just a warm-up act. Bozell and his father, Brent Bozell, the group's chairman and a fixture in the hard-liner wing of GOP politics, have been positioning their troops for a bigger battle: policing the 2016 Republican presidential race. 
"Anybody who runs as a conservative," Brent Bozell declared, "is going to have to satisfy our army." 
Already, the Bozells have proved willing—if not eager—to direct their army's rage against fellow Republicans. They jammed the lines of Mitch McConnell's campaign office in the final days of his crucial reelection contest, accusing the senator of sounding wobbly on repealing Obamacare. Just last week ForAmerica urged its members to dial up House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and demand he toe the conservative line on immigration. These pressure campaigns are orchestrated by the Bozells, but executed by their group's excitable, activist base.
For a long time the left was way ahead of the right on the internet. And I'd guess they still are in some respects. But there was no way the right wouldn't figure out how to harness the grassroots through this new medium. They were the ones who invented direct mail, which built the conservative movement over decades.

And whatever medium they use, they are extremely good at getting their message across to their base and keeping them active and engaged. They changed the face of American politics.

Guess who set the little landmine called the "subsidy clawback"?

by digby

Brian Beutler makes an excellent argument in this piece that the Republicans knew very well that the ACA anticipated that states would use a federal exchange, the basis of the ridiculous suit before the Supreme Court called Burwell vs King. It has to do with the subsidy clawback that I and other have been complaining about and which we are going to hear a lot more about once people sit down to do their taxes.

I somehow missed the fact that this wasn't in the original ACA but was rather a 2011 proposal by the House Republicans --- a proposal with which the Democrats ended up agreeing and which the president signed. WTF!

Here's a contemporaneous account from CJR:

The health reform law, aka the Affordable Care Act, took a hit last week. Many journos, though, were apparently snoozing. In a talk at the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Washington and Lee University law professor Timothy Jost revealed that the president had just signed a bill giving the business community a present it had been wanting in the worst way. The much-despised 1099 form reporting requirements to the IRS were finally gone. What does that have to do with health reform, you might ask? It means, said Jost, “Many Americans are going to be shocked to discover when they figure up their taxes at the end of the year that what they thought was a grant was in fact a loan.”

It seems that when the reform law was moving through Congress, lawmakers needed to raise revenue to pay for the subsidies that millions of the uninsured will receive to buy health policies come 2014. They had to do that without overtly raising taxes so they settled on a plan that would require firms to report transactions totaling at least $600 a year paid for goods and services. The idea was to capture unreported tax revenue—estimated at some $22 billion—that could be used to pay for the subsidies.

Businesses howled and ran to Congress where Dems and Republicans alike agreed the reporting requirements were too onerous—too much paperwork, and one of the “tweaks” began winding its way through the legislative process. To get rid of the reporting rules, legislators had to find additional money to make up for the revenue they had counted on from the 1099 reporting requirement. Where did they find it? You guessed it —from those who would receive the subsidies in the first place. As part of the same bill, Congress required those receiving subsidies to pay back any extra subsidies resulting from changes in income. What Congress gives, it can also take away.

Jost explained to reporters that the government will pay subsidies to insurers in advance each month, based on past and estimated future income. But the day of reckoning comes at the end of the year when the government will want to know if it overpaid on someone’s behalf. And that can easily happen. Said Jost:

Income is often unstable in low income families. A person may work 40 hours one week, 20 or none at all the next. Projecting income over a year is very difficult. A person may lose or secure a reasonably well paid job half way through the year, making household income look very different on April 15 than when the benefits were received.

A family with an income around $67,000—about 300 percent of the federal poverty level—who has a child move out of the house halfway through the year, could end up owing up to $2500 on tax day.
Jost offered other observations for reporters writing about health reform—and for the public, too. The reform law ends the insurance practice of checking up on your health when you apply for a policy and refusing to issue a policy to people who have expensive health conditions.

Insurance will thus cost more for the healthy and less for the unhealthy. What people pay will also be related to their age. Most of the time older people will pay more than younger ones. But in general, Jost said: “Premiums are likely to be quite costly for those who do not receive premium assistance,” he said. In fact, he added, “premiums will go up significantly” for those who don’t qualify for subsidies. A bad omen!

So these rising costs and the clawbacks are tied together. This bundle has been one of the most underreported stories in the whole health care discussion.

And we expect that the Democrats will do anything in their power to maintain what's left of the integrity of the ACA? Jesus, they didn't even fight this in the very beginning, and the president, whose name is attached to it, signed on the thing. Who needs the Supreme Court?

The other problem is that the exchanges didn't say much about this last year. And if they had, people would have looked much more closely at the real cost of their insurance policy in order to gauge how much they might owe if they had to pay back the subsidy. This makes it risky for a fair number of people to participate fully in the program and get the best insurance available to them. What you end up doing is buying the cheapest policy regardless of the subsidy, because you are afraid of how much will owe the government if you make a mistake or do better financially than you expected to do.

I can easily see why the wily Republicans wanted to do this. It's a little bit more mysterious as to why the Democrats did. Stupid or dishonest? You decide.


"A nation of infantilized yahoos"

by digby

This piece about the Patriots and their balls is why I've always thought Charles Pierce is one of the best writers in America. He never, ever, ever falls for the bullshit.

I'm so glad the whole nation is in an uproar over the integrity of the NFL and the sport of football. If we burn someone at the stake over this monumental scandal perhaps they will show some concern about the epidemic of head injuries and domestic abuse. Baby steps ...

*And no, I'm not a Patriots fan making excuses. I'm a 49ers fan. (So shoot me ..;)

Laying it on a little thick don't you think?

by digby

Of course the Saudi government has only beheaded 15 people so far in 2015, so I guess all the plaudits are appropriate:

The US government isn't the only allegedly civilized Western nation to be lugubriously eulogizing the King of Saudi Arabia today. They all are.

Think about that the next time somebody lectures you about failing to understand the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.


Are we not Ubermen?

by Tom Sullivan

Those using the Gregorian calendar count the years since the birth of Christ as Anno Domini, A.D. Bullshit is probably a lot older. But given that it's a new millennium, maybe it's time we started counting the years in A.B. “One of the most salient features of our culture,” as Aaron Hanlon quotes philosopher Harry Frankfurt at Salon, “is that there is so much bullshit.”

Case in point. In its obsession with turning everything on this planet into the Precious (other planets will come later), the Midas cult has turned its sights on sleep because “sleep is the enemy of capital.” Thus, sleep must be abolished. From caffeine-laced Red Bull to topical sprays to marshmallows, “perky jerky,” and military experiments with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), Newsweek  looks at how we are waging the war on sleep:

For those looking to sleep less without drugs or military tech, there’s the “Uberman” sleep schedule: 20 minute naps taken every four hours. That’s just two hours of sleep in every 24 hours. Uberman is based on the theory that while humans experience two types of sleep, we only need one of those to stay alive. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the stage in which we dream, and it also has been shown in lab tests to be critical to survival: Rodents deprived of REM sleep die after just five weeks. Then there is non-REM sleep, which itself is broken down into four separate stages. One of those is short wave sleep (or SWS). Scientists aren’t really sure what function SWS serves, and Uberman advocates argue that it may not be critical to survival at all.

We spend only 20 percent of our sleeping time in REM sleep, and, usually, we need to work our way up to it, going through non-REM sleep first. But according to the Polyphasic Society, a segmented-sleep advocacy group, that’s a waste. They say the Uberman and sleep schedules like it can force the brain to reconfigure its sleep cycle to avoid the non-REM sleep and jump straight into REM, saving a handful of precious, precious hours every day. The disadvantage? Physical stress, even to the point of lifting heavy objects, can cause Uberman sleepers to unexpectedly “black out.”

That's nice.

In service to the Midas cult, Americans are working over a month more per year than they did in 1970, Newsweek  reports, "137 hours longer than the Japanese, 260 hours longer than the British and 446 hours longer than the Germans, according to a report put out by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization." And looking for ways to work even longer hours with even less sleep. Because, Betsy Isaacson writes, "Sleep is perceived to be the enemy of efficiency..."

And why? Because any human inefficiency, anything not critical to (some humans') survival, anything that stands in the way of converting every human relationship, every human emotion, every waking hour (or unconscious hour, if that can be arranged) into the Precious must be eradicated.

Can you say pathological? Sure, I knew you could.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The grown ups are definitely back in charge. Unfortunately they're morons.

by digby

I apologize to future generations for this irresponsible circus. There's just no excuse for this:

Addressing his Senate colleagues before the vote, Inhofe once again cited the Bible to argue that the climate does indeed change but that humans aren't the cause. "Climate is changing, and climate has always changed," said Inhofe, who chairs the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. "There's archeological evidence of that. There's biblical evidence of that. There's historic evidence of that." He continued: "The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful, they can change climate. Man can't change climate." You can watch the back-and-forth above.

And with that, every Republican except Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), voted "aye." The amendment passed 98-1, and the Senate was on record agreeing to the obvious fact that climate change sometimes occurs.

But they weren't done. Next, Republicans brought up their own climate amendment, which stated that climate change is indeed "real" and that human activity "contributes" to it. This amendment got 59 votes (one short of the 60-vote threshold for passage), but just 15 of the chamber's 54 Republicans supported it.

And of course, the scientific consensus isn't merely that human activity "contributes" to climate change. Rather, scientists say that humans are the "dominant cause" of the recent warming. That was the subject of a third amendment, from Democrat Brian Schatz (Hawaii), which stated that human activity "significantly contributes" to climate change. That was too much for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who objected specifically to the word "significantly." Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, urged her colleagues to vote no. In the end, Schatz's amendment received just 50 votes, and only five of those came from Republicans.

This is an embarrassing. Humiliating really. The leaders of the free world are cretinous imbeciles.



by digby

This was essentially a political trial designed to scare the bezeejuz out of anyone who goes anywhere near Anonymous.
A court in Dallas has sentenced Barrett Brown to 63 months in federal prison, minus 28 months already served. For count one in the case, he receives 48 months. For count 2, he receives 12 months. And for count 3, he receives 3 months. He is also ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution.

The government's charges against the intelligence and security reporter stemmed from his relationship with sources close to the hacker group Anonymous, and the fact that Brown published a link to publicly-available copies of leaked Stratfor documents.

Brown read a statement to the court during the sentencing hearing, and you can read that statement in entirety here.

"Journalists are especially vulnerable right now, Your Honor, and they become more so when the FBI feels comfortable making false claims about them," Brown wrote:

Deny being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, and you’re still a spokesperson for Anonymous. Deny being a journalist once or twice, and you’re not a journalist. What conclusion can one draw from this sort of reasoning other than that you are whatever the FBI finds it convenient for you to be at any given moment. This is not the “rule of law”, Your Honor, it is the “rule of law enforcement”, and it is very dangerous.

From our earlier coverage:
Among the secrets exposed were collaborative efforts between the government and private contractors to monitor social networks, and to develop online surveillance systems.

Brown, 33, was arrested in 2012 after his and his mothers' homes were raided and he used "threatening" language toward FBI officers in a response posted to YouTube. He was subsequently accused of working with the hackers whose efforts yielded a huge tranche of embarrassing and revealing information concerning misbehavior and sleaze at U.S. government contractors.

Among the charges was the claim that merely linking to the leaked information was illegal—an alleged crime for which prosecutors sought decades in prison and which roused the interest of press freedom groups.

Hacking is one thing. It's not the same a linking to publicly available documents. And yet he was convicted of doing that.

In case you don't recall what that "collaborative effort" was, Lee Fang's story in the Nation hits the highlights of the plan. And this story, also in the Nation spells out Brown's role in exposing it. (Read the beginning of it to get a sense of who Brown was --- a satirist/journalist in the Hunter S Thompson mold.)

This is the story in a nutshell:

In February 2011, a year after Brown penned his defense of Anonymous, and against the background of its actions during the Arab Spring, Aaron Barr, CEO of the private intelligence company HBGary, claimed to have identified the leadership of the hacktivist collective. (In fact, he only had screen names of a few members). Barr’s boasting provoked a brutal hack of HBGary by a related group called Internet Feds (it would soon change its name to “LulzSec”). Splashy enough to attract the attention of The Colbert Report, the hack defaced and destroyed servers and websites belonging to HBGary. Some 70,000 company e-mails were downloaded and posted online. As a final insult to injury, even the contents of Aaron Barr’s iPad were remotely wiped.

The HBGary hack may have been designed to humiliate the company, but it had the collateral effect of dropping a gold mine of information into Brown’s lap. One of the first things he discovered was a plan to neutralize Glenn Greenwald’s defense of Wikileaks by undermining them both. (“Without the support of people like Glenn, wikileaks would fold,” read one slide.) The plan called for “disinformation,” exploiting strife within the organization and fomenting external rivalries—“creating messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization,” as well as a plan to submit fake documents and then call out the error.” Greenwald, it was argued, “if pushed,” would “choose professional preservation over cause.”

Other plans targeted social organizations and advocacy groups. Separate from the plan to target Greenwald and WikiLeaks, HBGary was part of a consortia that submitted a proposal to develop a “persona management” system for the United States Air Force, that would allow one user to control multiple online identities for commenting in social media spaces, thus giving the appearance of grassroots support or opposition to certain policies.

The data dump from the HBGary hack was so vast that no one person could sort through it alone. So Brown decided to crowdsource the effort. He created a wiki page, called it ProjectPM, and invited other investigative journalists to join in. Under Brown’s leadership, the initiative began to slowly untangle a web of connections between the US government, corporations, lobbyists and a shadowy group of private military and information security consultants.

One connection was between Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce. WikiLeaks had claimed to possess a large cache of documents belonging to Bank of America. Concerned about this, Bank of America approached the United States Department of Justice. The DOJ directed it to the law and lobbying firm Hunton and Williams, which does legal work for Wells Fargo and General Dynamics and also lobbies for Koch Industries, Americans for Affordable Climate Policy, Gas Processors Association, Entergy among many other firms. The DoJ recommended that Bank of America hire Hunton and Williams, explicitly suggesting Richard Wyatt as the person to work with. Wyatt, famously, was the lead attorney in the Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit against the Yes Men.

In November 2010, Hunton and Williams organized a number of private intelligence, technology development and security contractors—HBGary, plus Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and, according to Brown, a secretive corporation with the ominous name Endgame Systems—to form “Team Themis”—‘themis’ being a Greek word meaning “divine law.” Its main objective was to discredit critics of the Chamber of Commerce, like Chamber Watch, using such tactics as creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” giving it to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then subsequently exposing the document as a fake to “prove that US Chamber Watch cannot be trusted with information and/or tell the truth.” In addition, the group proposed creating a “fake insider persona” to infiltrate Chamber Watch. They would “create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second.” The leaked e-mails showed that similar disinformation campaigns were being planned against WikiLeaks and Glenn Greenwald.

It was clear to Brown that these were actions of questionable legality, but beyond that, government contractors were attempting to undermine Americans’ free speech—with the apparent blessing of the DOJ. A group of Democratic congressmen asked for an investigation into this arrangement, to no avail.

By June 2011, the plot had thickened further. The FBI had the goods on the leader of LulzSec, one Hector Xavier Monsegur, who went under the nom de guerre Sabu. The FBI arrested him on June 7, 2011, and (according to court documents) turned him into an informant the following day. Just three days before his arrest, Sabu had been central to the formation of a new group called AntiSec, which comprised his former LulzSec crew members, as well as members as Anonymous. In early December AntiSec hacked the website of a private security company called Stratfor Global Intelligence. On Christmas Eve, it released a trove of some 5 million internal company e-mails. AntiSec member and Chicago activist Jeremy Hammond has pled guilty to the attack and is currently facing ten years in prison for it.

The contents of the Stratfor leak were even more outrageous than those of the HBGary hack. They included discussion of opportunities for renditions and assassinations. For example, in one video, Statfor’s vice president of intelligence, Fred Burton, suggested taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to render Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who had been released from prison on compassionate grounds due to his terminal illness. Burton said that the case “was personal.” When someone pointed out in an e-mail that such a move would almost certainly be illegal—“This man has already been tried, found guilty, sentenced…and served time”—another Stratfor employee responded that this was just an argument for a more efficient solution: “One more reason to just bugzap him with a hellfire. :-)”

(Stratfor employees also seemed to take a keen interest in Jeremy Scahill’s writings about Blackwater in The Nation, copying and circulating entire articles, with comments suggesting a principle interest was in the question of whether Blackwater was setting up a competing intelligence operation. E-mails also showed grudging respect for Scahill: “Like or dislike Scahill’s position (or what comes of his work), he does an amazing job outing [Blackwater].”)

When the contents of the Stratfor leak became available, Brown decided to put ProjectPM on it. A link to the Stratfor dump appeared in an Anonymous chat channel; Brown copied it and pasted it into the private chat channel for ProjectPM, bringing the dump to the attention of the editors.

Brown began looking into Endgame Systems, an information security firm that seemed particularly concerned about staying in the shadows. “Please let HBGary know we don’t ever want to see our name in a press release,” one leaked e-mail read. One of its products, available for a $2.5 million annual subscription, gave customers access to “zero-day exploits”—security vulnerabilities unknown to software companies—for computer systems all over the world. Business Week published a story on Endgame in 2011, reporting that “Endgame executives will bring up maps of airports, parliament buildings, and corporate offices. The executives then create a list of the computers running inside the facilities, including what software the computers run, and a menu of attacks that could work against those particular systems.” For Brown, this raised the question of whether Endgame was selling these exploits to foreign actors and whether they would be used against computer systems in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the hammer came down.

The FBI acquired a warrant for Brown’s laptop, gaining the authority to seize any information related to HBGary, Endgame Systems, Anonymous and, most ominously, “email, email contacts, ‘chat’, instant messaging logs, photographs, and correspondence.” In other words, the FBI wanted his sources.

At that point the FBI put the squeeze on Brown's mother and Brown "snapped" going on youtube and making a stupid video that threatened the FBI and that was that. (Another episode of "When smart people do dumb things" ...)

But what's most interesting to me about this story is that nobody cares about what was revealed in the HBGary documents. I doubt that more than a handful of people are even aware of them. I find that a bit mind-boggling.

Meanwhile Barrett Brown has been in jail already for years awaiting trial. And he's going to stay in for quite a lot longer.

I hope I live long enough to see how this is treated in historical terms. It certainly looks like injustice at the moment.

Here's Barret Brown's statement at his sentencing.


QOTD: You didn't build that edition

by digby

Via Right Wing Watch

By now we all know that President Obama wants universal community college: free tuition for every person in America. But I’m having a hard time finding where the Constitution mandates that every American is entitled to an associate’s degree. We are now six years into the Obama presidency and they have a reputation for being less than truthful. Take for example this notion of free community college.

It turns out that free education is going to cost American taxpayers $60 billion over the next decade, and that doesn’t even include all of the free condoms and cell phones and medicinal marijuana bongs. You know, back when I was growing up, college kids were expect to work their way through school, it was considered shameful to ask for a handout. But this is Obama’s America and the entitlement crowd thinks that they are entitled to our money.

Wow. They're giving away free condoms and medicinal marijuana bongs in college? I think that's great. Good public health is good for all of us. And if everyone had cell phones we'd all be safer. These strike me as excellent, low cost benefits.

But I take issue with Starnes' assertion that nobody got a handout back in the day when he went to college:

Starnes went to Georgia State University. Let's just say it's not a private school. It appears that tarnes felt he was entitled to quite a bit of the Georgia taxpayers money.

And in the 1980s when Starnes went to college, tuition was far less than it is today and the government picked up much more of it:

Judicial Activism for me but not for thee

by digby

I wrote a piece for Salon today on the subject of "judicial activism" and the history of the use of the term on the right going back to the 1950s. Here's an excerpt:

Back in 2002, Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum sent out this warning declaring that the judicial activism was “the biggest issue of the 2002 election.” Think about that. It was one year after 9/11 and Schlafly didn’t miss a beat. By 2005, at the height of their power controlling both houses of congress and the White House, conservative legal scholars held a meeting in Washington at which Tom Delay, then the powerful House majority whip declared:

“The sanctity of the Constitution is under assault from many different directions. “The branch of government charged with maintaining the sanctity of the Constitution no longer feels bound by the constraints of that same Constitution. The courts today recognize no limits on their authority. They legislate with reckless abandon. They overturn the will of the people as expressed through their legislative representatives. What we’re left with is an imperial judiciary that knows no bounds to its power or its tenure. This is a recipe for tyranny!

He then brought the crowd full circle to be met with energetic applause from the room full of conservative lawyers:

“America’s founders believed that impeachment could be an effective way to keep the judiciary within its proper bounds. When judges exercise power not delegated to them by the Constitution, I think impeachment is a very proper tool.”

The 2008 GOP Platform had this to say about it:

“[J]udicial activism is a grave threat to the rule of law because unaccountable federal judges are usurping democracy, ignoring the Constitution and its separation of powers, and imposing their personal opinions upon the public.”

Even today, National Review has a recurring feature on their web-site called “This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism.” It has a part of GOP dogma for so long that all a candidate has to do is utter the words in a stump speech and the well primed crowd will cheer and hoot as if he’d just declared the end of World War II. Nothing has been more fundamental to modern conservatism than the notion that the federal judiciary must be restrained from any decision that overturned precedent (or Scalia’s time travelling mind-meld with Alexander Hamilton) lest they betray our most cherished constitutional principles.

So what are we to make of Republican Senator Rand Paul who just last week stood before the Heritage Foundation and declared, “I am a judicial activist”? (They didn’t escort him out of the building.) This piece by Ian Millhiser at Think Progress explains what Paul meant by it, which also explains why a room full of conservative activists didn’t explode in anger:

Lest there be any doubt that Senator Paul, himself an elected official, believes that the problem with American government is that it gives the people too much say over how they are governed, Paul endorses the Supreme Court’s long-ago overruled decision in Lochner v. New York. Lochner, which Paul has also praised on the Senate floor, invented a so-called “right to contract” that employers could use to resist laws protecting their workers. The idea was that the Constitution places strict limits on any laws that interfere with people’s ability to enter into contracts. So if an employer wants their employees to work 18 hours days, or if it wants them to sign away their right to unionize, or if it wants to pay them just a few pennies an hour, then the workers who agree to do so cannot seek refuge in the law even though they were forced into these jobs by desperate circumstances.

For decades, the Supreme Court wielded Lochner to strike down minimum wage laws, laws protecting the right to organize, and similar protections for workers. Lochner is now taught in many law schools as an example of how judges should never, ever behave.

Read on ...


"Yes Virginia, all that money printing did show up as inflation"

by Gaius Publius

Nice catch by Ian Welsh. Start here, then think about it:
One of the great “mysteries” of the last 7 years or so is why all the money from unconventional monetary policy hasn’t shown up as inflation. Many analysts thought that printing that much money must surely increase prices, but inflation indices in most of the developed world are barely up, and in many cases are flirting with deflation.

The answer is obvious, but you’ll hardly see anyone point it out.
My inner Modern Monetary Theorist says, an expanded money supply can't show up as inflation until there's way too much, which there isn't yet. That's the nature of fiat money systems, which we have, especially at zero interest rates.

But Welsh is onto something. There is way too much, but only for some people — our "billionaire overlords," as the mistress of this place is wont to say. Welsh completes the thought:
First, who was the money given to?

Rich people and corporations.

Ok then, what do rich people and corporations spend their money on?  Stocks, and real estate—high end real estate.

In America as a whole, let alone New York, housing prices have not returned to pre-financial crisis values.  But luxury apartment prices now exceed pre-financial crisis pricesReal estate prices, period, in London, are now higher than pre-financial collapse.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Index is up about 175% off its lows of 2009. The annualized gain is therefore about 29% a year.  GDP has not risen anything like that, neither have wages.  Corporations, however, are flush with money, and they have spent a great deal of it on stock buy-backs, while rich people, of course, have bought stocks.

Inflation has, then, shown up exactly where one would expect, in the assets bought by the people who were given money.
Welsh has more to say, but I'd like to end here, with one more instance of what I've been calling the invisible obvious:
This is not hard, this is not difficult, this is not complex. The fact that mainstream analysts and pundits do not connect the dots on this is because they do not want to.
Too right.

By the way, if you think that asset inflation is a problem or an error, think again. Assets are where the global wealthy have parked their money; their piggy bank. If Fed governors don't keep those values high, they'd be replaced by governors who will.


A slogan that gets to the heart of the matter

by digby

"The womb is the most dangerous place for a child"
Well, that says it all, doesn't it? It's right out of a dystopian novel. This is basically saying that the half of the population that is biologically programmed to gestate the species is actually an enemy of the human race.

Here's the thing.  If you believe that life begins at conception then that's actually true.  The baby birthing vessels (sometimes called "human beings", "women" and "mothers") lose millions of zygotes, blastocysts and embryos through their natural biological processes. But apparently the birthing vessels don't even know or care that they are committing mass murder over the course of their lives. This slogan tells all of them what they really are.

These people are talking about abortion, but that doesn't change the basic thrust of this argument. If life begins at conception then the womb is an extremely dangerous place for children. The only people who have wombs are women.  Therefore, women are the most dangerous threat to children. You can't separate one from the other.

This is the kind of deeply embedded misogyny that has ruled this world since the beginning.  That bitch Eve tempted poor Adam with the apple and revealed woman's true nature. What I can't figure out is why they think so many of these murderous baby-killers should be trusted to raise children in the first place. Back in the day they solved that little problem by giving men full property rights over their children. If all women are child murderers then that only makes sense. Maybe they'd like to go back to that.

But for some reason these same people tend to immediately lose interest in the whole question of child safety after they emerge from the dangerous, life threatening womb:
Kaleb Ahles' grandparents sobbed as Pinellas detectives investigated the 2-and-a-half-year-old's death.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the boy's father, Kevin Ahles, put his son in the family car. As other family members helped Kaleb's parents move out of their house, at 1094 Misty Hollow Lane in Eastlake, the toddler found a small .380 caliber handgun in the glove box. He suffered a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound around 4:47 p.m. Wednesday, deputies said.

"It's just one of those things that happens where everything lined up the wrong way where we had a 2-and-a-half-year-old that was able to take a gun, pick it up, turn it around, and he shot himself dead center in the middle of the chest," Gualtieri said.

Several witnesses told investigators Kaleb was by himself when the single shot went off.

"The father turned around, heard the gun shot go off, turned around, found the child in the car, saw the gunshot wound to his chest, saw the child bleeding," the sheriff said.

Kaleb's mother, Christina Nigro, and his aunt started CPR. Paramedics continued on the way to Trinity Hospital, but Kaleb didn't make it and was pronounced dead.
I'm going to say that the most dangerous place for children is any place where loaded guns are left lying around for 2 year old to find. The womb, not so much.

Patriarchy? What patriarchy?

by digby


Sixteen House Republicans delivered impassion floor speeches Wednesday evening promoting a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy - a number that included only one woman.

GOP leadership originally scheduled the vote to coincide with the annual March for Life on Thursday, when thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators will descend upon the National Mall. But after facing a high number of defections from GOP women and centrists, the House will instead vote on legislation prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, which largely codifies current law.

At issue among Republicans in the original bill was language only allowing exceptions for rape if the victim reported it to police. The Justice Department estimates that nearly 70 percent of rapes go unreported.

Despite the swirling controversy, the series of floor speeches about the initial measure after the last votes of the day overwhelmingly featured white men. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) was the only woman to join her 15 other colleagues on the House floor Wednesday evening for what are known as "special order" speeches.

Wagner recalled first participating in the March for Life in 1990, when she was 28 years old and 12 weeks pregnant with her son.

"While killing an unborn child is unconscionable at any time, it is especially abhorrent at the 20-week mark, when a child is able to feel the pain of an abortion," Wagner said.

That is, of course, a lie. But whatever.

The good news is that the compassionate conservative Lindsay Graham is trying to find a middle ground:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, chief Senate sponsor of the GOP’s effort to undermine Roe by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, spoke this morning to the Family Research Council’s “ProLifeCon,” about the House GOP’s decision to cancel a vote on its version of the bill that had been planned for today. The House leadership pulled the plug on the vote in response to protests from some Republican women who objected to a provision that exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they report the rape to police. Some anti-choice groups have objected to including a rape exception in the bill at all, a last-minute addition after the bill’s previous House sponsor, Trent Franks, implied that women who are raped rarely get pregnant.

Graham acknowledged that opponents of rape exceptions are being “intellectually consistent and honest about ‘the baby is the baby’” but argued that banning rape survivors from accessing abortion is a political impossibility: “Some of us who have these exceptions do so in a democratic society believing that there are some places we will not go.”

“I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” he told the audience.

“The rape exception will be part of the bill … We just need to find a way definitionally to not get us in a spot where we’re debating about what a legitimate rape is, that’s not the cause that we’re in,” he said.

The problem is they're in a "definitionally" tough spot what with the beyotches bringing up the rape exceptions all the time and it coming into conflict with the belief that said beyotches are murderers and all, which is, after all, even worse than rape. It's a problem.

But look, this is is a feature not a bug. When we're arguing about whether or not there should be a rape exception for an abortion ban at 20 weeks, we've lost ground. A lot of it. This is yet another moving of the goal post. So, basically I agree with Huckleberry. Arguing over the rape exception misses the point. But then so does he.

First they came for the women with horrible third trimester complications and called it "partial birth abortion" and we did nothing ...


Born under a bad sign

by Tom Sullivan

On Wednesday, NPR ran a story about a Russian writer, Mikhail Bulgakov, whose work Stalin enjoyed, but whose ideas Stalin considered "too dangerous to publish." Ideas are like that. Invasive. Pernicious. Bulletproof, as "V" said in the movie. They can spread like a virus. Or, reduced to shibboleths, become objects of worship. For many, freedom works like that now.

Also this week, Michael Kraus and Jacinth J. X. Tan of the University of Illinois released a paper on the role of a particularly virulent notion, essentialism, in how people see themselves and report their health:

In this research, we proposed and examined the possibility that lay theories that people hold about social class categories can mitigate class-related health disparities. Across three studies, we found that while lower-class individuals were more likely to report experiencing poorer health and greater negative self-conscious emotions compared to upper-class individuals when they endorsed essentialist beliefs about social class, this class-based difference was not observed when participants endorsed non-essentialist beliefs about social class.

Basically, if you are poor and believe social status is inbred —in your genes—you are more likely to report being unhealthy, the study suggests. Poor people without this belief are more likely to report being healthier and less likely to accept their status as unchangeable.

A bad idea like Social Darwinism can be debilitating, studies suggest. Yet, we give lip service to the Horatio Alger myth while privately believing that some people are just "born that way."

Kraus has been studying this effect for awhile. Last year Kraus released another such study along with Dacher Keltner of the University of California at Berkeley. Matthew Hutson wrote:

Kraus and Keltner looked deeper into the connection between social class and social class essentialism by testing participants’ belief in a just world, asking them to evaluate such statements as “I feel that people get what they are entitled to have.” The psychologist Melvin Lerner developed just world theory in the 1960s, arguing that we’re motivated to believe that the world is a fair place. The alternative—a universe where bad things happen to good people—is too upsetting. So we engage defense mechanisms such as blaming the victim—“She shouldn’t have dressed that way”—or trusting that positive and negative events will be balanced out by karma, a form of magical thinking.

Kraus and Keltner found that the higher people perceived their social class to be, the more strongly they endorsed just-world beliefs, and that this difference explained their increased social class essentialism: Apparently if you feel that you’re doing well, you want to believe success comes to those who deserve it, and therefore those of lower status must not deserve it. (Incidentally, the argument that you “deserve” anything because of your genes is philosophically contentious; none of us did anything to earn our genes.)

The richer you are, the more likely you are to believe it is not the luck of the draw that put you where you are, but something essential about you and your breeding. Poor? You were born under a bad sign.

Social class essentialism is basically inciting social Darwinism. This distortion of Darwin’s theory of evolution, in one interpretation, is the belief that only the fit survive and thrive—and, further, that this process should be accepted or even accelerated by public policy. It’s an example of the logical fallacy known as the “appeal to nature”—what is natural is good. (If that were true, technology and medicine would be moral abominations.) Social class essentialism entails belief in economic survival of the fittest as a fact. It might also entail belief in survival of the fittest as a desired end, given the results linking it to reduced support for restorative interventions. It’s one thing to say, “Those people can’t change, so let’s not waste our time.” It’s another to say, “Those people can’t change, so let’s lock them away.” Or eradicate them: Only four years ago, then-Lt. Gov. of South Carolina Andre Bauer told a town hall meeting that poor people, like “stray animals,” should not be fed, “because they breed.”

More study is required, Kraus and Tan conclude this week. But the work to date suggests that liberating people of this noxious and common essentialist idea might not only improve people's prospects in life, but their health as well.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong," H.L. Mencken wrote. Explaining high or low status in life as a product of one's own genetic or moral superiority is one of them. Conversely, one of life's most profound and hardest-to-accept truths can be found in a two-word bumper sticker: Sh*t happens.

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