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Friday, February 27, 2015

 
A beautiful final thought

by digby

His last tweet:






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Rand's tell

by digby

Once again, anyone who thinks that Rand Paul is a bulwark against foreign adventurism needs to think again:
[T]he contrast between Paul’s bold pronouncements and his inability to answer direct questions was stark. He was eloquent, and somewhat convincing, when he explained that the U.S. can’t fight wars everywhere. But when Couric asked him directly whether he thinks the president should send ground troops back to Iraq, he bobbed and weaved. 
“I don’t believe in any absolute prescription against them,” he told her, adding, “I’m not ready to send millions of troops around the world.” At another point he coyly allowed “we already have [sent some ground troops], and I have not objected to it.” He went on: “I think it’s a mistake to put a half a million troops in there,” and Couric interrupted. “I’m not even asking you for a number…” 
He didn’t quite shush her, but he got irritated, “I’m trying to answer the question, so you gotta let me answer the question.” In the end, we learned he would arm the Kurds to fight ISIS, and create a new Kurdistan out of parts of Iraq and Syria. Although how he’s going to get a piece of Syria without ground troops toppling Bashar al-Assad went unasked and unanswered.
Paul has a tell. He gets angry at his interlocutors when he's fumbling for a way to finesse an internal contradiction and his stalling is questioned.

I'm a little surprised that he's not just being upfront about his libertarian views on national security. The assumption was that he was running to advance his agenda and build a libertarian coalition in the party. But apparently, he believes he actually has a chance to be president which is ridiculous. And it's making him try to thread a needle that can't be threaded.  The GOP is a war party and has been for more than 70 years. It's not changing.  The best he can hope for is to form a coalition with anti-war Democrats and civil libertarians of both parties to affect some incremental change.  But unless he goes full-on shrieking warhawk, he's not going to be president. And even then, it's unlikely.

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Gotcha!

by digby

Earlier this week I wrote a piece for Salon about the history of the "gotcha" question and Scott Walker's recent problems in dealing with them:

[T]here has probably never been a more clear-cut case of “gotcha” than the Gary Hart-Donna Rice episode. Hart was the presumptive front-runner for the presidential nomination and widely considered to be the intellectual leader of the new Democratic Party. As relayed in this fascinating recitation of the events, the press knew Hart was having a relationship with Rice and clumsily staked out his house, unwittingly revealing themselves to the candidate. Hart didn’t know they had been tipped off to the relationship with Rice and stepped outside to confront them:

Hart may have surprised the reporters by choosing the time and place for their confrontation, but it’s not as if they weren’t ready. They had conferred on a list of questions intended to back Hart up against a wall — which was now literally the situation.

McGee reminded Hart that he and the woman had walked right past McGee earlier that evening on the way to his car. “You passed me on the street,” McGee said.

“I may or may not have,” Hart replied.

McGee asked him what his relationship was with the woman.

“I’m not involved in any relationship,” Hart said carefully.

So why had they just seen Hart and the woman enter the townhouse together a few minutes earlier?

“The obvious reason is I’m being set up,” Hart said …

And so it went. A picture of Hart and Rice on the boat called “Monkey Business” was eventually published and the rest is gotcha history.

But as you can see, the definition of the gotcha has undergone a subtle change over the years. Where it was once thought to be a question about their personal life or history designed to embarrass the candidate with the mere insinuation, today’s gotcha is almost always a question rudely designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of the issues and skill in navigating treacherous political controversies. (They can thank George W. Bush and Sarah Palin for that — they made it obvious these tests were necessary.)

Walker is using all this to set himself up in opposition to the "liberal media" and that may carry him for a while with the hard core base. But he's hurting himself badly with the establishment and probably with some of the donors for whom he's competing with Bush, Rubio and Christie. He's not quite as bad as Palin, but I think he might be as bad as W. Unfortunately we've proved that's not a disqualifier for the office ...
 
Kicks just keep getting harder to find

by digby

So the word is that CPAC is much less looney this year than it's been in the past. Apparently the new Koch supported organizers have cracked the whip and banished the purveyors of products like these from former conventions to the farthest corners of the convention:



This is what the new CPAC looks like:

Modern!



 
Lying Pantsuit Lady

by Gaius Publius

I've written quite a bit (for example, here) about the spokesperson in the ubiquitous American Petroleum Institute (API) ads. She's almost an institution, the way "Flo," the spokesperson for Progressive Insurance, is an institution. I've called the API actress "Lying Pantsuit Lady" for a reason. She's omnipresent, like carbon and the lies she tells defending it.

Here she is now, saying America is number one (in planet destruction). The lie? She talks like that's a good thing.


American Petroleum Institute's Brooke Alexander, their trademark Pantsuit Lady

I've so far resisted putting her face in my posts, not from a tender interest in the fact that she's providing for her family (yes, she has one) by helping bake the planet to a golden brown, but because I can't find an online version of her most striking ad, the one I call Carbon Blackmail. Its message goes like this:
Brooke Alexander (paraphrased): "Like that TV–iPad lifestyle you're living? Want to keep it? Oil is part of the mix that brings it to you, along with wind and solar, of course." 
See? Blackmail. The underlying message is this:
"If we don't stop the carbon, we'll start exiting modern life in 30 years. But that's 30 years away, and if we do stop, you won't like the result.

"So how about this — we keep burning carbon, you keep your Breaking Bad and your ESPN, and we'll add some soothing solar to the mix. It's a tough choice, right? No carbon and less TV for a while, or carbon till you die, and then who cares? We choose number two. Deal?"
Unfortunately, that one's not a lie. The geniuses at API understand the situation perfectly, better than most Americans, in fact. If you find a YouTube version of this ad, please send me a link.

But this will suffice to present her to you, since she and API have a new ad that's almost as bad. I'm calling this "America, King of Carbon." Watch, then I'll show you the lies:


About the lies, here are the two big ones:
Hydraulic fracturing technology is safely recovering lots more oil and natural gas.
That one's obvious. Fracking is safe? And:
Hydraulic fracturing technology is ... supporting a new century of American energy security.
That one's less obvious, but if we don't get a grip on the climate problem, neither America nor China will have a "new century" in which they're energy-secure. Nor will either be a single country, but at some point will have broken apart into civilized zones and wandering hunter-gatherer zones. In America's case, you can't rule the West Coast from the East Coast across a chaotic middle. In China's case, much of their "breadbasket" will be under water, and there are many regions to the south and west that are streaked with valleys, gorges and ravines. That break-apart situation has already happened once to them.

(By the way, did you notice that the American flag in the ad's second shot is a child's chalk drawing? That's a third lie if you think about it, the suggestion that promoting carbon is good for your five-year-old.)

Lying Pantsuit Lady, "LPL," a modern American icon. She stands for all that destroys us, and she stands for it proudly and well. She's been with us a long time (as has "Flo") and for a reason. She's that good.

Remember our LPL. I'm sure she'll come up again in these pages. I hope her son, and his daughter after him, enjoy their adult lives as much as she apparently enjoys hers. Carbon dollars are still dollars, you know. I'm glad for her success; it really is hard to make it as a non-star actor in Hollywood, and her career is long and filled with soaps. In Hollywood terms, LPL is the role of a lifetime, a Big Break.

But I'm also sorry for her effect, and I do think she bears a responsibility, similar to Henry "Reverse Mortgage" Winkler. Some things should not be promoted.

GP


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Make history in Chicago

by digby

This letter went out to our Blue America members this morning:

Be A Part of The History Being Made in Chicago

By Rick Perlstein

Eighteen months ago, I wrote about how a hydra-headed protest movement against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s agenda of privatization, austerity, and authoritarian governance was changing the face of politics in the Windy City. Now, it’s close to achieving a miracle: ending Rahm Emanuel’s political career once and for all.

In the first round of Chicago’s mayoral election on February 24th, Rahm Emanuel came a shocking five points shy of the 50 percent he needed to win reelection outright-- performing three points shy of the final pre-election polls. Chicagoans, it seems have had it up to here with Rahm’s crusade to build a new, more durable Chicago machine-- this one, though, headquartered in places like Wall Street (where Emanuel worked as an investment banker), Abu Dhabi (the oil kingdom whose “sovereign wealth fund” owns a third of Chicago’s parking meter concession), and Philadelphia (home of the services corporation Aramark, which after being awarded the janitorial franchise left Chicago’s public schools crawling with vermin, and responded by firing a quarter of their workforce.)

It happened despite a Karl Rove-style campaign funded by $30 million in donations from corporate interests in return for favors from the city. It was a people-powered miracle. But we’re only halfway there.

On April 6-- in less than six weeks!-- Rahm faces off against the second place finisher, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia , who is another people-powered miracle: a true reformer, compassionate, smart, and qualified. As an alderman he fought so hard against the machine that Mayor Richard M. Daley made kicking him off the city council a top political priority. The same thing happened when he served in Springfield as a state senator.

Now, as a county commissioner, he helped balance Cook County’s mess of a budget while lowering taxes. Me, I love the guy. I’m backing his campaign to the hilt. I hope you will too. We really, really need you on this one. In the first round, Mayor 1% outspent Garcia by an almost twelve to one margin. And still he couldn’t get enough votes to win. Imagine how well he could do if the financial gap was closed a bit?

Here’s the deal. All Blue America donors to Chuy’s campaign will be entered in a random drawing. One lucky winner with get a very collectible, RIAA-certified quadruple platinum for the Barenaked Ladies album, Stunt.

Twenty other randomly chosen winners will get a personally signed copy of one of my books, either Nixonland, or my latest, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.

And, of course, the satisfaction of helping deal a historic setback to everything that is awful in Democratic Party politics right now, in the person of the man who (1) was Bill Clinton’s point man in passing the North American Free Trade Act (2) made $18 million in two and a half years as an influence peddler on Wall Street (3) Presided over a crusade to kneecap the campaigns of progressive populists as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. (4) as White House chief of staff, tried to convince President Obama not to pursue the Affordable Care Act; and as mayor-- well, hell, I could run these numbers clean up to thirty or forty.

He needs to go. We have a genuine chance to make it happen. Act now or forever hold your peace!!

In solidarity,

Rick Perlstein,
Digby
John Amato
Howie Klein

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Yet another lie

by digby

At this point I think people ought to be questioning whether any story Bill O'Reilly ever told about his intrepid reporting days is true:
O’Reilly has on several occasions referred to a perilous situation he said that he endured while covering the riots in Los Angeles for Inside Edition, the syndicated news magazine show that he fronted between 1989 and 1995.

“They were throwing bricks and stones at us,” O’Reilly told an online interviewer in 2006. “Concrete was raining down on us. The cops saved our butts that time.” Earlier this week, he told the broadcaster Hugh Hewitt: “We were attacked, we were attacked by protesters, where bricks were thrown at us.”[...]

Inside Edition colleagues from the time who were in Los Angeles with O’Reilly – reporters Bonnie Strauss, Tony Cox and Rick Kirkham, and crew members Theresa McKeown, Bob McCall and Neil Antin – told the Guardian that they did not recall such an incident.

Kirkham, the show’s lead reporter on the riots, was adamant that it did not take place. “It didn’t happen,” he said. “If it did, how come none of the rest of us remember it?”

Tonya Freeman, the head of the show’s library at the time, said: “I honestly don’t recall watching or hearing about that. I believe I probably would have remembered something like that.” Another librarian from the time also said she did not recall the incident. A spokeswoman for Inside Edition declined to comment. Several other senior Inside Edition staffers from the time declined to comment when asked if they recalled O’Reilly’s version of events.

Several members of the team, however, recalled that one afternoon in the days following the peak of the riots, which began on 29 April, the angry resident attacked a camera while O’Reilly was being filmed near the intersection of Fairfax Avenue and Pico Boulevard. “It was one person with one rock,” said McCall, the sound man. “Nobody was hit.”

“A man came out of his home,” said Antin, who was operating the camera that was struck. “He picked up a chunk of concrete, and threw it at the camera.” Told of O’Reilly’s description of a bombardment, Antin said: “I don’t think that’s really … No, I mean no, not where we were.”[...]

McKeown, the director of west coast operations, and Kirkham, said O’Reilly had in the moments beforehand irritated residents who were trying to put out fires and clear wreckage. A seventh member of the team, who declined to be quoted for this article, agreed with this characterisation of the incident.

“There were people putting out fires nearby,” said McKeown. “And Bill showed up in his fancy car.” McKeown said at one point, the driver of O’Reilly’s personal car risked causing further offence by exiting the vehicle with a bottle of Windex and polishing the roof.

“The guy was watching us and getting more and more angry,” said McKeown. “Bill was being Bill – complaining ‘people are in my eye line’ – and kind of being very insensitive to the situation.” Kirkham said: “It was just so out of line. He starts barking commands about ‘this isn’t good enough for me’, ‘this isn’t gonna work’, ‘who’s in charge here?’”

The man shouted abuse at O’Reilly and the team, crew members said, and O’Reilly ordered him to shut up. He asked “don’t you know who I am?’,” according to two members of the team.

“The guy lost it,” said McKeown.

Bill? He wouldn't do that...


Think about this: he even lied about his experiences at Inside Edition.


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"Evil bastards" should go to prison

by Tom Sullivan

“I want to stop paying tax, until everyone pays tax,” Wise told the Evening Standard. “I have actively loved paying tax, because I am a profound fucking socialist and I believe we are all in it together. But I am disgusted with HMRC. I am disgusted with HSBC. And I’m not paying a penny more until those evil bastards go to prison.”

Actor Greg Wise is married to Oscar winner Emma Thompson, reported the Guardian.

HMRC has come under fire in the HSBC scandal because of a failure to carry out a criminal investigation against the bank, which has its headquarters in the UK. While the agency found more than 1,000 tax evaders among the almost 7,000 UK clients of HSBC Suisse, only one individual has been prosecuted. About £135m has been recovered in tax, a lower figure than in other European countries.

Stuart Gulliver, the head of HSBC, has apologised in writing and again on Monday, when he said the bank’s bosses were shamed and humbled by the scandal.

How refreshing. On both sides of the Atlantic, we're all breathless with anticipation to see pubic servants who've taken oaths to uphold the law do actually something about it, you know, and-justice-for-all-wise. Sent the evil bastards to prison already.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

 
Forcing Change in Big Media's Pro-war Bias

by Spocko

Yesterday I posted some positive steps to get anti-war and anti-torture voices into the media.

Today I want to suggest some other steps and some leverage methods to force the issue.

I'm going to be discussing them and the research that led to them tonight on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. at 6 pm PDT

Today Digby wrote about Chris Hayes and Laura Ingram pointing out how the networks push war. Now, what to do to change it?

Following Lee Fang's Nation article on retired generals pushing bombing without being identified. I dug into the process for getting those guests to get on the air.   I spoke to news producers, show bookers, guests, corporate media execs, FCC and FTC lawyers. I spoke to corporate CFOs, institutional investors, hedge fund managers and media trackers.

After I understood the process, I asked, "Who or what has the power to change things?"

Some of the most insightful comments came from a pundit guest and a major network lawyer.
"The news and Sunday morning show producers are both lazy and afraid." -Pundit guest

I asked for clarification. "They are afraid of getting fired for booking a 'bad' guest." How 'bad' is defined can vary from "Makes the host look bad, makes regular guests look bad, to is inarticulate on the camera."

I understand the fear, so then I asked, "Say we had new, proven 'good' guests, but with a different perspective, what would it take to get them on? A memo from the head of the news division? A call from a big advertiser? A letter from corporate lawyers that guests now have to meet certain FCC and FTC regulations? The top media CEO mandating it? A cash transaction? A conversation with a major shareholder over golf? A twitter storm from the public?"

The pundit had fascinating answers, but these questions were asked before the Brian Williams firing. The firing gave me some data that I didn't have before.

To me that story was about NBCUniversal trying to protect a certain brand image that they want the NBC News division to have. They then took actions showing the price they were willing to pay to maintain it.

Following the firing Williams dropped from 23rd to 825th on the trustworthy scale.  How much could that drop cost a network? One New York Times story had a chart showing that a 30 second spot on Williams show generating $47,000 in revenue.
NBC made the decision to distance the man from the brand. The brand promise now explicitly includes the anchors having a "responsibility to the truth."

This brand value of NBC News is clearly measured in dollars.

If NBCUniversal did not believe that this aspect of their news brand and their hosts' trustworthiness was important, they would have kept Williams on.

Of course the Williams firing leads some groups to go after O'Reilly and FOX for lying, That's great, but O'Reilly and Fox News weren't built on integrity.They are playing a different game. Fox's "Fair And Balanced" is a catch phrase not an actual practice.  The people to focus on are ABC, CBS and CNN.

Now is the time to remind them that they don't want their anchors and news brand to become a punch line like Williams.

Want a specific step? If you have prepared 'good' guests with an anti-war perspective, tweet to the networks. "Booking only pro-war voices  means your news isn't being truthful.  #don'tbelikeBrianWilliams book[anti-war person]"

Networks respond to social media pressure.  I know that recently Code Pink tried to get on to peace activists on ABC.  It hasn't worked yet, but it's a start as a model.

Hearing just from that group isn't enough nor is it the networks only pressure. It might not even be in their top 10.

What other pressures matter?  

For this question I spoke to a former network lawyer. She describing the process for making a decision on a conflict between two big companies and their ads. She said the boss gathered everyone together and asked two questions.

"What are the other networks doing? How big is the ad buy?"         --Former network lawyer
This struck me for two reasons. First is understanding any action happens in context with the peers. Peer pressure happens in the big leagues too. Secondly the financial question. People often trot out the line, "It's all about the money" which signals the ends the discussion.

I'd like people to look at "the ad buy" in another way.

The networks are selling a war. They are giving tremendous value to the companies that benefit from war.  Networks should be better compensated for that value.  By not charging for that value they are leaving money on the table and aren't serving shareholders.

The first ISIS/Sryian bombing was estimated to cost taxpayers around 870 million. The first week around one billion. Weapons manufactures had a good quarter following that week and reported it in their earnings.

Who does an anti-war message or anti-torture message give value to?

If only a war message is seen as valuable, of course networks won't go any other route.

So instead of asking for an anti-war message or trying to force them to run one, let's hold them to their shareholder's mandate.

The news networks have a responsibility to make money for shareholders, the truth is subservient to that.

If your constituency are the companies making money selling this war, you don't have a duty to tell both sides.

The networks already have on weapons salesmen without identifying their employers.  Why should the General Dynamics spokesperson get the Sunday guest spot to push drones? How much is it worth to the Blackwater spokesperson to get the spot instead to push "boots on the ground?" Auction them off to the highest bidder.

Does this seem absurd? It is only if people continue to look at the network news division as a public trust. Maybe they still are.  Will they fight the idea that they are only pro-war for the money? Now is the time to push 'em and find out.


 
Rahmbo on the run

by digby

Must read 'o the day by Rick Perlstein:

On Tuesday, Chicagoans voted themselves a reprieve. With 45.4 percent of the vote, Mayor Rahm Emanuel ended the first round of his first reelection bid almost five points below what he needed to avoid a runoff election in April—and three points below his performance in the last major pre-election poll. “Mayor 1%” will face second-place finisher Jesus “Chuy” García, the soft-spoken, compassionate Cook County board member who proclaimed himself with a Chicagoan lilt the “neighborhood guy”—who over-performed the poll.

Perhaps what turned some voters against Rahm at the last minute—or motivated them to go to the polls in the first place on a cold Chicago day that started out in the single digits—was an Election Day exposé that appeared in the British paper the Guardian by investigate reporter Spencer Ackerman. “The Disappeared” revealed the existence of Homan Square, a forlorn “black site” that the Chicago Police operate on the West Side.

There, Chicagoans learned—many for the first time—arrestees are locked up for days at a time without access to lawyers. One victim was 15 years old; he was released without being charged with anything. Another, a 44-year-old named John Hubbard, never left—he died in custody. One of the “NATO 3” defendants, later acquitted on most charges of alleged terror plans during a 2012 Chicago protest, was shackled to a bench there for 17 hours.

It “struck legal experts as a throwback to the worst excesses of Chicago police abuse, with a post-9/11 feel to it,” the Guardian reported. And for a candidate, Rahm Emanuel, who ran on a message he was turning the page on the old, malodorous “Chicago way,” the piece contributed to a narrative that proved devastating.

Read on. You won't believe how much money he spent. And how he's corrupted the political processes of Chicago.

Think about that: he's corrupted the political processes of Chicago. Unbelievable.
 
Natch

by digby



For real ...


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Shades of gray over 50

by digby


Dara Lind at Vox published this helpful chart to see the progress of President Obama's graying hair:


As you can see, it's not a serious story.  In fact, it's quite funny.

But it does raise a point that I've been wanting to make for years. At about the time any president becomes a lame duck everyone starts to remark how much the office has aged them.  Their hair has gone gray and they look much more haggard than they did when they came into office. Now I'm sure the office does take its toll. A normal person can't even imagine the stress, even for the ones who didn't seem to be all that engaged in the details like Reagan or W.

But the sad truth is that aging for everyone starts off slowly and then it seems to happen all at once.  And that coincides with the age that most presidents are in office.  President Obama came into office at the age of 47. And he's now 54.  Most of us take on a lot of gray during those years. So yeah, presidents look a lot older when they leave office than when they came in. But everyone their age looks a lot older. It's just a sad reality of the middle aged person. (You too will find this out grasshopper ...)


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Chris Hayes FTW

by digby


I wrote a piece for Salon today about the war porn the cable TV news networks are broadcasting into America's living rooms. I recount the days after 9/11 when the media went wild and ushered in the Iraq war without any skepticism or dissent. I recount the particular case of MSNBC which famously fired anti-war Phil Donohue with Chris Matthews quoted in the press saying that Donohue would "bring down the network." And I may have mentioned the political response, like Huckleberry's calm and thoughtful analysis :
"This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed here at home!!!"
But there have been a couple of exceptions this time, with Chris hayes leading the pack:
For months he’s been making the case that this lurid coverage is not only creating the conditions for war without any proper debate, it’s playing into the terrorists’ hands. When Fox’s Bill O’Reilly recently declared that we are in a “Holy War” with Islam, Hayes said on his program:

“That sort of rhetoric is, of course, exactly what ISIS wants. For if this is a Holy War, they aren’t some murderous cult or some fringe Sunni militia. No, if it’s a Holy War, then they are the representatives of Islam, which is why the president at today’s summit on countering violent extremism was so careful not to cast the fight on those terms.”

These terrorists produce this propaganda for recruitment purposes but produce them with slick production values for U.S. and other western media in order to try to make the US the common enemy of all Islam. Hayes is one of the only cable news hosts to explicitly challenge not only the Holy War meme, but the reaction of the media to every alleged threat.

But he is on the same page with one very unlikely Fox News personality. Here’s Laura Ingraham, of all people, talking about the shopping mall threat assessment:

“I don’t think we should jump every time the freaks with the ACE bandages around their faces put out videos… I think we should have a mature debate about how to secure the Homeland without changing our way of life.”

When she’s right, she’s right. Hayes responded with this:

Amen sister. I was incredibly gratified to see Laura Ingraham making essentially the same point about terrorist propaganda that we have been making consistently on this show which is that everyone needs to stay calm and rational in the face of what is obviously emotional manipulation, by people whom we all agree are invested in our emotional manipulation and who achieve emotional manipulation in large part with propaganda videos demonstrating their brutal tactics. But the ability of Al-Shabaab or Boko Haram or ISIS to murder people they’ve captured or make videos of those murders does not correlate in any meaningful way to an actual threat they pose to Americans here in the U.S. Nor does it correlate to its military potency.

He went on to discuss a a recent analysis by Zack Beauchamp showing that ISIS is, in fact, losing ground militarily and dolefully added, “if you’ve been watching the national news coverage of ISIS, Beauchamp’s report feels like it might as well be coming from Mars.”

I also make note of the fact that Matthews has again joined the war party with his usual fervor. And I wonder if, as he did in 2003, he might once more be the one whispering to the press that MSNBC isn't going to be a "left-wing network."


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Process dodge ball

by digby

Matt Duss at Tablet points out (rightly in my view)  that all this caterwauling about Netanyahu's breach of protocol is beside the point.  Yes, it's improper. But the issue isn't really about who invited whom and whether or not they should have done so:
The idea that there was nothing untoward about the Republican speaker of the House and the Israeli ambassador arranging such an invitation in secret and then springing it on the White House doesn’t really pass the laugh test. Imagine, for comparison’s sake, that congressional Democrats had, in a similar manner, arranged in 2003 for French President Jacques Chirac to deliver a speech against the Iraq invasion. Somehow I doubt we’d even be debating its propriety.

Where Leibovitz and I do agree, however, is that the current U.S.-Israel tension is more about policy than personalities. While the two men have never gotten along, it’s a mistake to treat this as a personal dispute. Treating it as such misses the important fact that the two men represent genuine constituencies who have very different views of how to advance their respective country’s security interests and the role that the other should play in helping them do that.

First off, to paraphrase John McCain, the fundamentals of the U.S.-Israel relationship remain strong. The military-to-military relationship is among the closest that the United States has with any country. The intelligence- and information-sharing between the two countries, particularly on the issue of Iran, is, as multiple Israeli security officials have told me over the past several years, “Better than ever”—or at least it was until Netanyahu decided to start selectively leaking information about Iranian nuclear talks in order to scuttle a deal.
And, not to put too fine a point on it, it's a big deal that this is happening. Manners and protocol are beside the point and they are obscuring the real issue at stake.

Now, maybe that's not a totally terrible thing in this case. These are very delicate negotiations which shouldn't be happening in public in the first place at least until an actual deal is struck.  Arguing over the diplomatic protocol of a congressional speech may actually be a good thing in this case. Still, it's a common problem with these issues of war and peace. We end up hotly debating the process and fail to argue about the underlying issue. And then it happens and everyone stands around going "w3hat the hell just happened?"

Read Duss's piece if you'd like to know what the real argument is all about and why we should be concerned about it.
 
Cantor's triumphant return

by digby


Politico reports today that Eric Cantor returned to his old Washington stomping grounds to

1) restart his political career

2) help others with their political careers

Eight months ago Eric Cantor was forced out of office amid charges that he had lost touch with his Virginia constituents, derailing the political career of the man who was in line to be the first Jewish speaker of the House.

Now he's back.

At a reception celebrating the D.C. office opening of his investment banking firm Tuesday night, it was like he had never left House Republican leadership. Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) held court among the guests, including now Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (N.C.), Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), plus a few House Democrats and a handful of GOP senators.

The high powered event for Moelis & Co. is just the latest sign of Cantor's reemergence as a political and fundraising force. The former House majority leader had practically dropped off of the Beltway radar after unexpectedly losing his primary to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat. His reputation as a political savant was battered after Brat, a virtual unknown, trounced him despite Cantor outspending him by millions of dollars.

Now, Cantor is lending his name to events for 2016 candidates, reconnecting with his strong donor network, giving counsel to former colleagues and hiring advisers to brief him on political happenings on Capitol Hill.

Funny thing. The article leaves out the likely real reason he's hobnobbing with all his former friends in government and politics: it's what he's being paid by his investment firm to do! They don't even hint at the fact that Eric Cantor was hired by Moelis and Company for no other reason. It's not as if he had any experience as a banker. He's not sitting in an office somewhere running spreadsheets. He's using his experience as a politician and a legislator on behalf of the people who now sign his paycheck and he's openly exchanging political favors and using fundraising as currency to do it.

It's so normal that the top political news site in Washington doesn't even think it's worth mentioning.


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Bow your heads as we pray the Pledge of Allegiance

by Tom Sullivan

The reason business interests want to undermine public education, I argue, is to get their hands on the largest portion of the annual budget in all 50 states. At Salon this morning, Thom Hartmann argues that conservatives hate public education because "it’s hard to sell the Conservative brand" to people who know their own history:

So now, thanks to the war on education that began with Ronald Raegan, we have come to that remote period in time Jefferson was concerned about. Our leaders, ignorant of or ignoring the history of this nation’s founding, make a parody of liberty and flaunt their challenges even to those rights explicitly defined in the Constitution. And, perhaps worse, they allow monopolistic corporations to do the same.

Our best defense against today’s pervasive ignorance about American history and human rights is education, a task that Jefferson undertook in starting the University of Virginia to provide a comprehensive and free public education to all capable students. A well-informed populace will always preserve liberty better than a powerful government, a philosophy which led the University of California and others to once offer free education to their states’ citizens.

As Jefferson noted in that first letter to Madison: “And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people. This last is the most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them…. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

Hartmann argues that the erosion of constitutional and natural rights we've seen in the last couple of decades would not have been possible had not public education been undermined along with them. Nor might we have seen the spread of authoritarian and Dominionist ideology, I might add.

On Tuesday, Digby cited a Public Policy Polling survey in which 57 percent of Republicans "support establishing Christianity as the national religion." Another piece by Ed Kilgore quotes Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaking before a gathering of "constitutional conservatives." Bundy asks the crowd, “If our (U.S.) Constitution is an inspired document by our Lord Jesus Christ, then isn’t it scripture?” A chorus from the crowd answers, "Yes."

They probably weren't polled by PPP, but they seem to fit the profile.

My wife and I attended a graduation ceremony awhile back at a private, evangelical high school in north Georgia. They began by pledging allegiance to the U.S. flag, followed by a pledge of allegiance to the "Christian flag." We looked at each other — WT? Wouldn't it have shortened the program to just combine the two? Efficiency, and all that. For some of your neighbors, that is the program.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

 
George W. Bush the anti-American

by digby

This happened one week after 9/11:

September 17, 2001:

"Islam is Peace" Says President

Remarks by the President at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.

3:12 P.M. EDT After addressing the media, President George Bush talks with his hosts during his visit to the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. Sept. 17, 2001. "And it is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the same way I do. They're outraged, they're sad," said the President during his remarks. "They love America just as much as I do.". White House photo by Eric Draper.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much for your hospitality. We've just had a -- wide-ranging discussions on the matter at hand. Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday's attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens.

These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it's important for my fellow Americans to understand that.

The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.

The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.

When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race.

America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.

Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America. That's not the America I know. That's not the America I value.

I've been told that some fear to leave; some don't want to go shopping for their families; some don't want to go about their ordinary daily routines because, by wearing cover, they're afraid they'll be intimidated. That should not and that will not stand in America.

Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.

This is a great country. It's a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth. And it is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the same way I do. They're outraged, they're sad. They love America just as much as I do.

I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come by. And may God bless us all.

Why did he hate America so much?
 
Looks like Papa Bear didn't just lie about his "combat" experience

by digby

He's pretty much lied about his whole career:

O'Reilly has claimed he has "seen guys gun down nuns in El Salvador" and "was in El Salvador and I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head" during his time as a CBS correspondent. The incident that O'Reilly appears to be referring to is the well-documented execution of four churchwomen by the Salvadoran national guard in December 1980. After this event, experts say that there were no priests or nuns killed in the country for more than eight years.

But in his book The No Spin Zone, the host writes that he did not begin covering the civil war in El Salvador until "a few weeks" after he began as a CBS News correspondent in 1981 -- the year after the execution took place.

"Before I went to El Salvador in 1981, I talked with some experienced Latin American experts, people who had seen the brutal wars down there for themselves," O'Reilly said on "The O'Reilly Factor" in February 2002. "I had never been in a war zone before, so I wanted some prep."

The Fox host also said during a 2009 interview on WVVH-TV's American Dreams Show that he arrived in El Salvador "right after" the murders.

Check out the video where he says he saw nuns shot in the back of the head.

Again, no biggie for him. This will just make him more of a hero on the right. Still, worth noting.


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3 Easy Steps to Change the Media's Views on War & Torture

by Spocko

These days I'm like Mr. Spock in the dark, parallel universe of Star Trek. I see our leadership going down the wrong path regarding the use of war and torture. It's an illogical, fear-based path, and it's presented as the only alternative.

Therefore I've come up with some fun, easy steps to change that.

In our country fear rules people and acquiring resources has trumped all ethical considerations.  The power structure and media viewpoint has rejected non-violent solutions as weak and ineffective. The discussion of other solutions are mocked,  marginalized and the proponents cast as naive or terrorists lovers.

In the Mirror Mirror universe Captain Kirk challenged the waste of lives, potential, resources and time of an Empire that ruled by fear and violence.

The goateed Mr. Spock could see the illogic of that Empire but says, "One man cannot summon the future."  Kirk replies, "But one man can change the present."

There are powerful groups and people who support war and torture. They are smart, organized, well-funded and know how to use strategic propaganda and specific appeals to ego, power and corporate monetary gain to get what they want.

How to you overcome these groups, people and their views?

In the episode Spock said, a man has to have power to change the present.  Kirk tells him of a button that makes opponents disappear. A button like that has been used on the voices and images of anti-war, anti-torture people in the media.

I could try to use that button on the opposition, but I'd prefer to push the button that can make us appear.

I've listed three methods today to help us appear and change attitudes toward torture and war. Most are focused on the "news" media but some on other media creators.

Now a fun part.  Listen to the Jimmy Dore Show. Jimmy and his writers, set up issues woth jokes like Stewart or Colbert.  This week was about the media's selling the ISIS war with no push back and how Fox News has become ISIS's PR agency. He describes Chris Matthews' strange "moral" compass and his love for war.

Changing Minds on Torture 

Since going to the Symposium on Torture and Security at Boalt Hall at Berkeley, I've been thinking about ways people can change the present on this issue.

I've been talking to people in various communities because I was puzzled by torture's support (68 percent!). My Vulcan logical brain agreed with Mark Danner. We have all the facts, why won't minds change?  My human emotional brain knows how people make decisions based on emotions as well as data. Facts about torture and the war were suppressed. Evidence of success was falsified.

What to do?

1) Get experts refuting the lies in front of the media and the public. 

Experts  and "experts" are the lifeblood of today's media. Deciding who comments on an issue is a powerful tool of the media. Big defense contractors and the CIA understand this. There is a reason General Dynamics and Raytheon hire retired generals and prep them for TV.

If you have no other source or way to get information without being subject to jail time, what do you do?  Find people who disagree with the information. Oops, those people are in jail and can't talk to you.

Following the Senate torture report I contacted Dr. Gordon the author of Mainstreaming Torture and asked if she was getting a lot of calls to discuss it. She wasn't. It didn't surprise me. When you understand how the world of booking experts on TV and radio work, you learn why the same faces show up over and over.

On the press side there is more diversity of experts, but rarely is there a coordinated approach to prep and place powerful anti-war or anti-torture sources in front of the press prior to news events.

I tried to help by prepping her and making some calls to local media. Sadly we were beaten out of the KQED Forum on the topic out by the Heritage Foundation, who had on three guests.

If you know of experts who can provide the opposite of the pro-war pro-torture world view, start suggesting them, not only to the media you watch/read but to the media you think everyone else does. With Twitter, Facebook and email it has never been easier.

And if you can't get the expert in front of the media, there are other voices that need to be heard.


2) Hear from innocent victims of torture, via the celebrity route

At the symposium someone said, "If only the American public could hear the voice of the innocent people we tortured." Again, great idea, however I follow this issue, and even I don't want to read Guantanamo Diaries.  Plus, the writer can't do an interview, he is still in Gitmo. This is a problem.

It's time to look at what pushes issues in the media today. The issues celebrities are discussing!  If I was that book publisher I would get George Clooney to do a dramatic reading of parts of the story. Amal Alamuddin, his human rights lawyer wife, could talk about the issues of torture around the world.

The media would fall all over themselves to cover it.  Unlike the serious news, there is always room for celebrity stories. Pitfalls? "Enough about torture, who are you wearing?"

Also, if you can't prep the celebrity in advance, then be prepared to jump in and support the issue. That makes the media feel better about covering celebrities, 'Clooney raised an important issue, Jamell Jeffer, the ACLU lawyer familiar with the Mohamedou Ould Slahi case Clooney mentioned told us..."

I don't know any celebrities, but I do know they often have "people" who help them. Maybe you are one of those people, or know them. Reach out and help educate the celebrities on the issues so they don't put their foot in their mouths. Get the focus back on the issue.


3) Promote alternatives in real life and fiction 
Dr. Gordon said that we get many of our ideas about torture from fiction. And in the scenarios fiction brings us, torture works. It is written to work. If it doesn't work, that is written too. We see torture dilemmas in almost every cop show in America.  Often the hero is the torturer.

It's lazily writing and it's old, it's time for fiction writers to up their game. One of the reasons I liked the show "Lie To Me" was it provided an alternative to getting information.

I have a friend who is writing a script for an action technology TV show. I'm suggesting to him not to fall into standard torture tropes.

Show the reality of torture. Show a hero's refusal to partake in torture. Give him multiple reasons it's the right thing to do and make them stick. Or show the alternative method where they "took the gloves off" and it still didn't work.

If they want some reality as their source, they can use the real CIA files as evidence where torture doesn't work and how making the choice to torture is bad for the hero in multiple ways.

If the people in the media see fiction that supports an idea, then are fed lies that supports that idea, they start thinking that their fiction is close to reality, when it is not.

It might seem strange to educate fiction writers as a way to influence the media, but since Chris Matthews seems to think First Blood was a documentary, it's an important thing to do.



 
Schmaht as whips

by digby

Apparently a whole lot of Republicans are having a hard time grappling with reality because if they did they would not be having daily hissy fits about immigration or standing up and cheering the police when they shoot down unarmed black kids:

"The fundamental challenge for my side is the seemingly inexorable change in the composition of presidential electorates," Republican pollster Whit Ayres, whose clients include Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said during a panel discussing the report. "And there's no reason to believe that that's going to stop magically."

The demographic change poses little problem for the GOP in midterm elections, when young and minority voters are far more likely than older, white voters to stay home. But in the run-up to 2016, the demographic trend has some Republicans citing a need for change.

In 2004, Republicans' most recent presidential victory, George W. Bush won 58 percent of the white vote, and 26 percent of the non-white vote -- numbers that would lose him the White House today, Ayres said.

'"That's the stunning part for me in running these numbers -- to realize that the last Republican to win a presidential election, who reached out very aggressively to minorities, and did better than any Republican nominee before or since among minorities, still didn't achieve enough of both of those groups in order to put together a winning percentage" for 2016, Ayres said.

That is stunning. George W. Bush went out of his way not to appear to be racist, a smart move considering how very wobbly so many liberals had been during the "law and order" Sistah Soljah years of the New Democrats. It worked for him too. He did better than any Republican could have hoped. And after 9/11 he went out of his way to ensure that there was as little Muslim bashing as possible. The GOP had spent years courting the American Muslim community and had deep ties there.

Now we have the GOP doing everything it can to antagonize racial minorities and Muslims even though they need to do much better with those communities than Bush did 15 years ago. It would appear they either don't believe the numbers or are gearing up for a long era of congressional dominance. I'm betting on the latter. They aren't that dumb.


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Clinton's base

by digby

I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this. As I've written before, I think this was subliminally decided back in 2008 when the primary was pretty much a tie and the party collectively agreed that Obama would go first and Clinton would go second. Her numbers are those of an incumbent:
The key to Clinton's early leads over the Republican field is that in addition to having the Democratic base strongly unified behind her, she's also getting a substantial amount of support from GOP voters. Anywhere from 15 to 20% of Republicans say they'd vote for Clinton in match ups with everyone except Rand Paul right now, against whom she gets 12% of the Republican vote. She only loses 9-10% of the Democratic vote in every match up except the one against Christie, who gets 12%. There are more Democrats than Republicans in the country to begin with, and when you combine that with having a more unified party it gives Clinton her solid early leads. Whether Clinton will be able to hold on to that Republican support once the party gets behind a candidate remains to be seen but she has it for now.

Clinton also remains dominant in the Democratic primary field. 54% of the party's voters want her to be their candidate to 16% for Joe Biden, 12% for Elizabeth Warren, 5% for Bernie Sanders, 2% for Jim Webb, and 1% for Martin O'Malley. If Biden and Warren don't end up making the race Sanders appears to have a little bit of separation from the bottom tier that could make him Clinton's leading rival.

Clinton has more than 50% support for the Democratic nomination with liberals, moderates, women, whites, Hispanics, African Americans, younger voters, and seniors. The only 2 demographic groups we track where she falls a little bit short of that mark are men and middle aged voters.

She falls a little bit short with men and middle aged voters? Actually, a large majority of middle aged voters support her (67%), just a slightly smaller majority than other age cohorts. But she doesn't get even a majority of men in the Democratic Party:

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Nation building by dummies

by digby

The dummies, by the way, are us:

“During my first night there the [Afghan National Police] village commander and 15 other [policemen] beat me with cables,” one detainee, arrested in Kandahar in May 2014 because of his brother’s suspect ties to insurgents, told the U.N. “They pulled and squeezed my testicles until my urine had blood. They kicked me in the stomach. Then they gave me pen and paper and ordered me to testify against my brother. About 10 days later I was given electric shocks on my feet three times, using power from a wall socket.”

The report’s descriptions were confirmed by a resident of Kandahar province who asked to be identified as Abdul Mosawer for his personal safety.

Mosawer was recently released after spending four years in prison; Afghan forces had accused him of having ties to the Taliban — a charge he denies. Suspected insurgents or others accused of political crimes bear the brunt of the abuse, he told Stars and Stripes, because security forces want to elicit information.

For the first three weeks of his detention, Mosawer said he endured beatings, starvation, sleep deprivation and extreme temperatures.

“After they found nothing, they stopped,” he said.

That's from a UN Report of torture in Afghanistan. I can't help but wonder if the US might be in a better position to condemn such acts if we didn't do the same things ourselves. In fact, we probably coached them:

In the years since 2001 when the United States and its allies toppled the Taliban in reaction to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Afghanistan has been the site of some of the most controversial American detention facilities. A report released last year by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee detailed myriad abuses at four CIA-run centers in the country. The revelations led Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to call the American practices “shocking” and “inhumane.”

The United States closed its last detention centers in Afghanistan in December, three weeks before the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force declared an end to its combat mission in the country.

Prior to that, the U.N. documented several reports of abuse tied to international forces. Seven detainees said they were mistreated, and the U.N. reported two credible accounts of torture, one in a U.S. facility in Maydan Wardak in September 2013 and the other in a U.S. Special Forces facility at Baghlan in April 2013, during which detainees said they were repeatedly beaten.

Coalition officials told the U.N. that the reports were investigated but could not be substantiated.

Of course not.

The torture debate is over. Western civilization takes one giant step backwards.

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What nice people

by digby

Wow:



Jesus that's depressing. As much as I may have loathed the policies of some presidents in my life I never doubted their love of country. But I'll be honest.  I'm beginning to doubt the essential decency of about 70% of my fellow Americans who identify as Republican. That's just a terrible thing to believe.

Update:

Democrats, however, are more willing to extend goodwill to the other side. Although just 26 percent have a favorable view of Giuliani, a full 54 percent say they believe he loves America, and just 12 percent say that he does not.

 

A flash of sanity in a weary world

by Tom Sullivan

Willy Wonka: [touching the gobstopper Charlie has just set on his desk] So shines a good deed in a weary world.

Liberals may not be ready to hand her the chocolate factory over it, but on MSNBC’s All In last night, Chris Hayes literally applauded Laura Ingraham for speaking sanity to Fox & Friends star power. Mediaite as the clips:

“I don’t think we should jump every time the freaks with the ACE bandages around their faces put out videos,” Ingraham told the Fox hosts on Tuesday, adding that the U.S. should not be reacting “emotionally” to threats from ISIS, Al-Shabab or other terrorist groups.

“Amen, sister,” Hayes replied, literally applauding Ingraham’s commentary. The host said he was “incredibly gratified” to see Ingraham make the same arguments he’s been making on his show all along, that “everyone needs to keep calm and stay rational in the face of what is obvious emotional manipulation” through use of propaganda.

The ability of those terrorists groups to “murder people they have captured and even make videos of those murders does not correlate in any meaningful way to the actual threat they pose to Americans here in the U.S.,” Hayes reminded his viewers.

Ingraham's pro-clearheadedness comments bookended her seeming to approve allowing Mall of America shoppers to come packing AR-15s. But I guess Hayes figured, these days you take your sanity where you can find it.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

 
Con-Con Macoute

by digby

About that wacky First Amendment...
A majority of Republicans nationally support establishing Christianity as the national religion, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday.

The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 57 percent of Republicans "support establishing Christianity as the national religion" while 30 percent are opposed. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.

It almost goes without saying that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits establishing of a national religion.
It goes without saying to you maybe. But to "constitutional conservatives" the constitution is a religious document.

Here's Kilgore:

There’s a revealing passage in a report from Kevin Jenkins of the St. George (Utah) Spectrum on an appearance by Cliven Bundy at a gathering of “constitutional conservative” zealots under the aegis of the Independent American Party:

“If our (U.S.) Constitution is an inspired document by our Lord Jesus Christ, then isn’t it scripture?” he asked.

“Yes,” a chorus of voices replied.

“Isn’t it the same as the Book of Mormon and the Bible?” Bundy asked.

“Absolutely,” the audience answered.

Now most “constitutional conservatives” outside a few western states wouldn’t include the Book of Mormon in this syllogism. But the identification of the Constitution (as crucially modified, of course, by a particular spin on the Declaration of Independence) with the Bible as inerrant (give or take a slavery or genocide endorsement) scripture is pretty common to the Con-Con creed. And it helps explain its strength in areas of the country and of the population prone to what religious critics sometimes call Bibliolatry (worship of books as exclusive repositories of divine wisdom).

To any religiously conservative American Exceptionalist, it can make for a potent combination: divine scripture and a divine Founding Document together calling on the Redeemer Nation to rediscover its divine roots and smite the modern infidels or liberalism and relativism and internationalism—by any means necessary. It’s unsurprising this mix of religious and secular themes might have a special attraction to some LDS folk, for whom America has an intrinsically central place in the unfolding of divine revelation (though the LDS authority structure offers a useful break on too much speculation in this direction). But it’s clearly attractive to all sorts of people with a tendency to deify the day before yesterday, and find eternally fixed ways of living and governing in Holy Words.

To put it another way, more often than not American Exceptionalism + Religious Fundamentalism = Constitutional Conservatism.

Only 57% of Republicans are on board with this.

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So we don't have to fight them over here ...

by digby

Helping or hurting? You be the judge:
Minnesota state Rep. Tony Cornish says the al-Shabaab threat against the Mall of America should be enough to motivate mall owners to drop their “no guns” policy so citizens can protect themselves.

Mr. Cornish, a Republican who also chairs the House Public Safety Committee, said the Mall of America has interpreted state concealed carry laws incorrectly, and he’s intent on challenging them for it, a local CBS affiliate reported.

“This is completely ridiculous. The complete opposite of what they should be doing,” he said. “If we’re threatened with an attack, the last thing you want to do is disarm citizens.”

The Republican’s comments come after a tweet sent from the Mall of America’s Twitter account said, “The mall bans all guns from the premises, you’ll note this clearly at each entrance door.”

That makes perfect sense. Right now, there are no guns allowed but if the Republicans have their way the would-be terrorists would be free to easily bring them in. Of course a bunch of armed yahoos would then shoot back so there would be even more bullets flying in all directions.

These are the people we are supposed to believe are keeping us safe from the "bad guys."


 
Coalition building 101

by digby

Ron Paul:

“I was always annoyed with it in Congress because we had an anti-war unofficial group, a few libertarian Republicans and generally the Black Caucus and others did not — they are really against war because they want all of that money to go to food stamps for people here."

People in issue coalitions don't have to like each other. They often disagree on everything but the particular cause they've joined. But it's not smart or decent to mischaracterize their support for the issue that brings the coalition together.

The Congressional Black Caucus does support the food stamp program and I'm sure they'd love to have more money for domestic use. But they are sincere in their anti-war position on a moral and practical basis and to claim that it's only about "food stamps" is really contemptuous. (He could have said they wanted the money for "jobs programs" or "education" but he used the racist dogwhistle.) In fact, one could much more easily make the case that the only reason the handful of libertarians are against foreign adventures is because they believe the money spent on war would be much better left in the pockets of the wealthy "producers" for them to create jobs for dead artists.

The CBC cares about the people overseas who die in the wars. I'm going to guess that Ron Paul hasn't lost a minute of sleep over that unfortunate consequence. After all, the problems of other people, even those in his own neighborhood much less in countries a world away, are none of his concern.

And by the way, is there anyone out there who still believes that Ron Paul was oblivious about those racist newsletters?

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Goper vs Goper

by digby


As we watch Luke Russert breathlessly report the latest maneuvering from the halls of congress over this DHS spending bill drama, it's a good idea to remember that this is not really about the DHS. It's not even about immigration. It's about the Republican Party.

Stan Collender called it a while back:

The Republican vs. Republican budget war is now wide open for all to see. The House’s intransigence on this particular issue — it insists that the DHS appropriation include language that somehow reverses President Obama’s executive orders on immigration -– is being matched by the Senate’s unwillingness to take the steps needed either to match what the House wants or develop its own alternative.

And, as I also predicted, the unwillingness of Senate Democrats to provide any votes for their GOP colleagues even on issues where there is some agreement has backed Republicans so far into a political corner that it’s not at all clear how they will fight their way out.

This is not an aberration over the very hot button immigration issue: No matter how this showdown ends, it’s virtually certain to be repeated over and over and over again this year on everything budget-related.

The current budget stalemate and those to come were inevitable the day after Election Day. Even though the House and Senate both have Republican majorities and are controlled by the same political party, the GOP representatives and senators have very different constituencies and, therefore, vastly dissimilar political needs.

Because the 2012 redistricting created more reliably one-party congressional districts, House Republicans are more concerned about intra-GOP fights in primaries than general elections and the voters in those races tend to be extremely anti-Democrat, anti-Obama and conservative. They are also far more willing to support militant tactics like shutdowns.

By comparison, reelection for many Senate Republicans depends on them appealing to a much broader and more moderate (even if it’s only just relative) statewide base that is not as comfortable with confrontational politics. Add to that the fact that 24 of the 34 senators up for reelection in 2016 will be Republicans and that many of them are from states that Obama won and you start to understand the substantially different political needs between the two GOP-controlled houses of Congress.

That makes it anything but surprising that on many or even most issues what the GOP House demands won’t be acceptable to the Republican Senate and what the Republican Senate needs will be completely intolerable to the GOP House.

The country will just have to suck it up and suffer because the Republican Party is at war with itself.

I think that most people believe this is the big crucible and that the grown-ups will finally assert themselves and vanquish the radicals forever. Personally, I wouldn't bet on it.

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Debtor's prison for profit

by digby

Alabama is an amazing place. It's quite beautiful and charming in dozens of different ways even as the echoes of its controversial history still reverberate in today's cultural battles.

But come on, this is too much:
Harpersville and Childersburg are blaming a private probation company for getting them sued by indigent municipal court defendants who claim the two cities operated debtors' prisons.

The two north Alabama cities say in a lawsuit filed this week that Judicial Correction Services Inc. raised fees without permission, used threats to collect money, and some of its employees wore badges and claimed to be "probation officers" when they were not.

The lawsuit also states that JCS and its insurance company should pay for defending them against the lawsuits by the city court defendants. The lawsuits against Harpersville in state court and against Childersburg in federal court are still pending.
[...]
Both Harpersville and Childersburg face lawsuits from city court defendants who say they were jailed after they could not keep up with payments on court fines and costs. One judge more than two years ago called Harpersville's situation a "debtor's prison" and took over that court.

Harpersville claims in the lawsuit that four JCS employees were negligent because they allegedly represented to others that they were probation officers and some carried badges with a seal. That gave the appearance that they were probation officers who spoke for the cities.

"The individual defendants never told anyone with these municipalities that they were going to refer to themselves as 'probation officers' and did not get permission from anyone from these municipalities to carry badges," the lawsuit states. "Had these municipalities known that the individual defendants were making representations that they were 'probation officers' and carrying badges, these municipalities would have ordered the individual defendants to immediately stop."

The two cities claim that as a result of the JCS employees' negligence Harpersville lost its ability to operate a municipal court and both Childersburg and Harpersville face liability to the court defendants who have sued.

And here I thought privatizing public services was much more financially prudent and efficient.

So, the private debtor's prison employees failed to tell the cities that contracted with them that they were fraudulently performing their jobs so the city isn't responsible.

Every part of that sentence is ridiculous.

But hey, at least we know we're free, amirite?

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Tweet 'O the Week, patriotic American edition

by digby

You can't make this stuff up:


Via TBOGG, who has more.
 
He was "jostled" at a street protest once.

by digby

According to CBS reports that day, O'Reilly's claim that he was in "combat" in Argentina was reported by the network as a protest in which some reporters were "jostled." There's even footage featuring some Argentine businessmen in suits peering menacingly in the car of Canadian journalists as they sped off.

Bill O'Reilly covered a street demonstration which he has repeatedly and luridly recounted as combat experience.  And he's repeated it as a way of showing his wartime bonafides in contrast to other journalists (and even soldiers like John Kerry.) He is a liar.

You can see the CBS reports here at Mother Jones. 

And even when O'Reilly wasn't characterizing this incident as "combat" he was embellishing the story an pimping his own alleged heroism:


That's not true. The riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas. There was trampling, at least one car et on fire and the usual chaos as the police fired tear gas and the crowd dispersed.  Nobody was killed.  If this was combat , then New York was an official battlefield during the Occupy protests.

As I've said before, the idea that this liar took Brian Williams to task for his exaggerations shows just proves what a pathologically dishonest hack he is.  Williams was actually in the war zone. O'Reilly was covering (very briefly, I might add, since they sent him home almost immediately because he was such a jerk) some street demonstrations and has been passing himself off as Ernie Pyle ever since.
It's intensely frustrating to see this bombastic jackass get away with this but he will.  He's the highest rated personality on Fox.  Short of getting arrested for public lewdness (and even then ...) there is nothing that will end his career.  And even worse, all evidence of his deceit will be seen as further confirmation  of his righteousness. It's an awesome racket.


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Relentless

by Tom Sullivan

I used to describe George W. Bush as a Jack Russell terrier playing tug of war with a knotted rope. Once he sank his teeth into something, he simply would not let go. You could lift him bodily off the ground and watch his butt cut circles in the air as he wrestled with his end of it. But in the end you would tire of the game first, let go, and he'd retire triumphantly to his doggy bed with his prize. I was never sure myself whether I meant that as a cut or a compliment.

This how the right wins and we lose. The thing is, conservatives often beat the left, not simply with money, but with sheer relentlessness. They play tortoise. Liberals choose hare.

At "The Fix" yesterday, Chris Cillizza looked at the national Democrats' draft "party autopsy" written in the wake of the thumping its candidates suffered in the 2014 mid-term elections. He wasn't too impressed, except with this:

The Task Force recommends that the DNC – along with the Democratic family of organizations, state parties and allied organizations – create and resource a three-cycle plan that targets and wins back legislative chambers in order to prepare for redistricting efforts. This long-term effort must be aggressive and focused on winning elections at the state and local level. It must also support efforts to take back the House of Representatives.

But even this "long-term effort" – six years – is Short Attention Span Theater compared to the decades that movement conservatives put into getting George W. Bush, their movement's apotheosis, into the White House, gaining control of Congress, and mounting a final, all-out, Koch- and ALEC-backed, legislative assault in the states on any who might oppose them. Working with those long time horizons is not the left's strong suit. We're too flighty and easily discouraged.

Cillizza writes:

Traditionally, Democrats -- and, in particular, the party's major donors -- have not been terribly good at either a) seeing the big/long-term political picture or b) getting excited about downballot races. (Republicans, on the other hand, have been brilliant at both.)

Republicans have been kicking Democrats' butts at the state and local levels (and in judges races), unanswered, for a decade.

There is an ADHD component to lefty politics. We're attracted ever so briefly to bright, shiny, national races, to candidates with fleeting star-power, and to Beltway theater. Building a state and national bench from the local level doesn't provide the buzz we crave. For political junkies on the left, how many moods rise and fall based on what did or didn't happen this week in Washington? They're up, they're down, they're in, they're out, they're thrilled, they're through. I'm not talking about dedicated, hard-core organizers, but the battalions of armchair activists who stay home in off-year elections, who consume politics like pints of Ben and Jerry's and yell at the TV, but won't get their hands dirty with the real grunt work. I've met many. (And it's mostly grunt work.) They'll never win if they won't get into the game.

Or, as happened the other day, we take ourselves so seriously that we attack allies over minor foibles. Patricia Arquette backstage at the Oscars, for instance. Instead of bashing her on Twitter, Oliver Willis went glass-half-full on Arquette's pay equity comments. She used "a national stage with an extraordinarily high viewership to elevate an issue of key importance for the progressive coalition." Thst's a good thing. Some activists complained that she wasn't perfection. Yeah? And? Willis writes:

The left has a long long history of shoving its head way up its own butt and ignoring the long fight for progress. It [is] often thanks to visionary leaders, both outside the official halls of power and within it, that the movement has had its discordant energy pointed in the right direction towards great national goals.

Along that way, it seems so often as if the left is not happy because while they got 70-80% of the cake, they didn’t get that 20% so nobody should have cake forever — until the mythical day we can get 100% cake (which is never coming and has never happened, ever in history).

At Huffington Post, Brooke Sopelsa asked the LGBT community yesterday to stop "launching attacks on well-meaning straight people" for not being hip to "the latest LGBTQIA lingo" that she can't even keep up with herself.

We have enough adversaries working a divide-and-conquer strategy against us to do their work for them. NC Sen. Thom Tillis and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, to give just two examples – not to mention their Kochtopus masters.

If Democrats and the left expect to carry the day, save democracy, or whatever, we need to start training for marathons instead of sprints. It's not just a different way of doing. It's a different way of thinking.

Once, as runners milled around before the start of a 10k race, as people compared past times and personal bests, I overheard one conversation that stuck with me. This guy I knew (barely) was telling the runner beside him how a recent race had gone. He said at such-and-such weekend event he had run two-twenty-five (or something). I laughed to myself. Anybody else overhearing him would think that was a pretty good marathon time. Except he wasn't a marathoner. He was an ultra distance runner. He meant miles.


Monday, February 23, 2015

 
Oh bother

by digby

Huckleberry felt the need to tweet this clip out for some reason:



It bothers him greatly because nothing could be "more important than hearing from our best friend." His one boy cuddly toy, it up his down his pride and joy...




But that's not all.  We must send at least 10,000 ground troops and give an open ended authorization to "beat ISIL"
"ISIL our war... The mall of America! ... They have us in their crosshairs... whatever it takes..."

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Why this Oscar mattered

by digby

Amy Davidson at the New Yorker wrote the best story about the Citizen Four win today:
“Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage,” Laura Poitras, the director of “Citizenfour,” said as she accepted the Oscar for best documentary. Neil Patrick Harris, the award show’s host, noted that Snowden couldn’t be there “for some treason.” Treason isn’t one of the crimes Snowden has been charged with—the government wants to prosecute him under the Espionage Act—but both the praise and the joke point to why this Snowden Oscar mattered. What he did was useful, and dangerous.

That wouldn’t have been enough if the movie were bad. But “Citizenfour” is worth watching, as well as celebrating. One still has to ask where the cinematic romance is. At the Oscars, an answer was provided by the young woman onstage with Poitras: Lindsay Mills, the woman whom Snowden at first left behind when he left his job and everything else for a hotel room in Hong Kong. One of the minor revelations of “Citizenfour” was that Mills had joined him in Moscow.

“Just walk me through it,” Glenn Greenwald tells Edward Snowden, in that Hong Kong hotel room. The guidance Greenwald and his colleagues look for is of three distinct kinds: How do you keep secrets? Why would Snowden tell secrets? And what has the government been hiding?
Read on ..  It's good.

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All the "lone wolves" are muslim terrorists?

by digby

Apparently not. Imagine that:
A new intelligence assessment, circulated by the Department of Homeland Security this month and reviewed by CNN, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists and comes as the Obama administration holds a White House conference to focus efforts to fight violent extremism.

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to -- and in some cases greater than -- the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.​

The Homeland Security report, produced in coordination with the FBI, counts 24 violent sovereign citizen-related attacks across the U.S. since 2010.

The government says these are extremists who believe that they can ignore laws and that their individual rights are under attack in routine daily instances such as a traffic stop or being required to obey a court order.

They've lashed out against authority in incidents such as one in 2012, in which a father and son were accused of engaging in a shootout with police in Louisiana, in a confrontation that began with an officer pulling them over for a traffic violation. Two officers were killed and several others wounded in the confrontation. The men were sovereign citizen extremists who claimed police had no authority over them.

Among the findings from the Homeland Security intelligence assessment: "(Sovereign citizen) violence during 2015 will occur most frequently during routine law enforcement encounters at a suspect's home, during enforcement stops and at government offices."

That report was leaked last week. And the right wing is still having a fit over it. Because clearly ISIS "lone wolves" are planning to kill Americans in their beds and we must all run for our lives.

I somehow doubt these alleged ISIS Lone Wolves are going to be crucifying people at the mall of America. If there are ISIS Lone Wolves in America they will probably kill people with guns or try to blow something up. Just like American Lone Wolves do. And American criminals. And American "good guys with guns." We live with the threat of lone wolves every day --- we are, unfortunately, a violent county.

Update: As for the Mall of America threat, this piece at Think Progress makes an important point:
Regarding Al Shabaab’s threat, Secretary Johnson himself admitted to CNN that there is “no credible or specific evidence” to suggest that an attack on an American mall is in the works.

If DHS had a reason to tell mall-goers to steer clear, he would have, but didn’t do so, urging only that they exercise caution – advice so vague that it’s hard to understand what one could do, or why he would bother to issue it unless, of course, it was to remind Americans, and indeed, lawmakers, of the harrowing task DHS has to perform.

If Johnson is publicizing threats he admitted were not credible hopes of renewing funding for his agency, then it wouldn’t be the first time that the Department of Homeland Security has stoked fear to achieve political ends. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge admitted to playing up fears to win support for fellow Republicans ahead of the 2004 presidential election.

While it’s hard to disprove legitimate threats without the sort of discloser Ridge has made, there are several instances from the presidency of President George W. Bush when terror threats were unveiled and security levels heightened at political opportune times: just before the 2002 midterm elections and just after as the damning scandal at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.

Given this history, Johnson sounding the alarm on non-specific terrorist threats as his agency’s funding is threatened does raise questions.

“I won’t know about when the next bad actor is going to strike,” Johnson said of the prospect of a DHS shut down – a reality which sounds like a threat in itself.
I'm afraid it does.






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