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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

 
Rick "Neidermeyer" Perry's latest lunacy

by digby

Those hipster glasses aren't working:
Now that he’s off drugs and wearing some sharp Warby-Parkers, Perry is making another run at the presidency. And as the Texas Governor (for what seems like the last century) he’s milking the refugee crisis at the border by remembering the Alamo and standing his ground against the hordes of “illegal” children and nursing mothers who are invading his state. He said yesterday that he “will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor”.

It looks like the geek specs haven’t improved his verbal clarity. One can’t be sure who it is he thinks are assaulting the American people but by process of elimination one can only assume it must be the little children. From their squalid detention areas apparently. Suffice to say that whatever this assault is, this must be stopped and the best way to do that in Perry’s estimation is to send in troops. (He’s a Republican — if cutting taxes won’t solve it, starting a war is the only thing left to do.)

That's from my Salon piece this morning. That weird comment is only the beginning ...


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One more time: The Republicans have no incentive to moderate

by digby

So theconservative majority on the D.C. Circuit Court panel seized the opportunity to strike down about half the Obamacare subsidies. Of course they did:


A federal appeals court panel in the District struck down a major part of the 2010 health-care law Tuesday, ruling that the tax subsidies that are central to the program may not be provided in at least half of the states.

The ruling, if upheld, could potentially be more damaging to the law than last month’s Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. The three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with plaintiffs who argued that the language of the law barred the government from giving subsidies to people in states that chose not to set up their own insurance marketplaces. Twenty-seven states, most with Republican leaders who oppose the law, decided against setting up marketplaces, and another nine states partially opted out.

This is a purely technical glitch in the drafting language. If we had a normal, functioning government it wouldn't even have made it to the courts, it would have been fixed with a voice vote and the president would have signed it the minute anyone became aware of it. But we don't have a normal, functioning government so this issue is working its way through the court system and will end up before the Supremes, where the five man majority could bat their eyes and fatuously declare that this is a problem only the congress can fix, knowing all the while that we have a bunch of terrorists running the House who will never do it.

I don't know if the Court is that irresponsible, but it looks as though we're going to find out.

This is why I theorize that the Republicans don't really need to win the presidency and have little reason to moderate. They don't even need to win the Senate --- it makes little difference if they do. With one gerrymandered House of congress willing to do whatever it takes and a hardcore ideological majority on the Supreme Court they can enact their agenda regardless of what the majority of this country desires. After all, what they really care about is making government dysfunctional. This furthers their political and ideological aims.

And while one might think they would like to have the presidency in order to control the Commander in Chief function, which they love, they don't really need that either. The Deep State is always in control and neither party is going to do anything to upset it beyond the very outside margins. (Actually, I think the Cheney administration actually did try to change things --- for the worse --- and it scared them a little.) And anyway, the GOP enjoys carping from the outside, portraying the Democrats as feckless, effeminate fops who are unable to run the world's only Superpower even as there are almost no real differences among them. It's all good.

The Republican Party run by the modern conservative movement is the most effective and successful minority party in history. They fully exploit every flaw in our system for their own advantage and then skillfully demonize their opponents if they try to use the same techniques. They are well funded by billionaires with a strong interest in paralyzing democracy and have a bunch of followers whose worldview is organized around discontent and hatred of "the other" which makes a government system full of veto points a perfect vehicle for their agenda. Oh, and they revel in shamelessness which is their way of flexing their power and ensuring that everyone knows who's really in charge. And everyone does.



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Making a contrast with a recalcitrant House

by David Atkins

It's basic Congressional politics in America: if your opponent is insane and wants deeply unpopular things, put out a message bill and back them into a corner with a view toward embarrassing them in the next election. The Democratic Senate hasn't been doing a very good job of that with the GOP Senate minority or the GOP House.

But the President also has the power of executive orders to make the contrast, and President Obama is increasingly using that power. And it just so happens the Senate made the right call, too:

President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order aimed at protecting workers at federal contractors and in the federal government from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American,” Obama told a group of LGBT activists gathered in the East Room of the White House. Later, he added, “we’re on the right side of history.”

It’s a move that both answers years of calls for action from LGBT activists and serves as a reminder of the limits of presidential power. While the executive order applies to 30,000 companies employing 28 million workers — one-fifth of the U.S. workforce — it does not reach all employers nationwide.

The administration had held off on the order as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act made progress moving through Congress, including a bipartisan 64-32 vote in the Senate. But after months of inaction from the House, and as Obama responds to midterm pressures, the White House chose to act where it could this summer.
The more of these actions, the better. The best chance Democrats have of doing well in the midterm elections is to do the right things--or at least to try to do them--and then point out to voters just how awful the Republicans are.

It's not fantastic, but it's the best accountability America has for this situation.


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Monday, July 21, 2014

 
"Why elect Democrats if they act this lily-livered when doing the right thing carries any political risk?"

by digby

There are a lot of horrors in the world every day --- and especially today. Watching the footage of the carnage of the Malaysian air crash is just awful. The scenes from Gaza are sickening, particularly the hundreds of kids who've been injured or killed. I'm angry and sad and feel impotent in the face of it all.

But you don't have to go around the world to see such displays of disgusting cruelty. Right here in the United States we are witnessing a reprehensible example of callous disregard for the lives of children by our own political leaders of both parties when it comes to the refugee crisis on our border. I'm with Emily Bazelon on this:

Where should the 57,000 children who are already here go? The answer is: Every state should be raising its hand and offering to take some of them. This is not a border-state problem. It is not up to Texas and Arizona to carry this load just because they’re the first places the children land. States in the Northeast and the Midwest can take some of these kids too. Yet some states are looking only for excuses to say no. Their leaders—including in my own state of Connecticut—are behaving shamefully. This NIMBY response is the worst kind of hypocrisy, especially coming from supposedly liberal blue states. Got a star on the flag? That means you have to pitch in right now.

Instead of showing some heart, my governor, Dannel Malloy, is looking heartless and feckless. He claims otherwise: “Obviously, our hearts go out to the children in this situation,” his communications director said. But that is an empty piety if I’ve ever heard one. Asked by the Obama administration to temporarily house 2,000 immigrant children at a nearly vacant training school in the town of Southbury, Malloy said no. “We don’t currently have the ability to meet this request,” the same spokesman claimed.

Malloy’s administration says Southbury is too small and decrepit. Never mind that the federal government would pay for getting the facility ready for the children and for upkeep. If Southbury, built in the 1930s for developmentally disabled people, is really unusable, then Malloy should find another place for these kids. The only reason why he so far has not is politics: He is in a battle for re-election with Republican candidate Tom Foley. “The bottom line is that too many swing voters fear immigrants, and Malloy doesn’t want the ‘optics’ of hundreds of brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking children being bused into Connecticut,” the New Haven Register editorialized last week. This is just ugly. Since Malloy also faces a third-party challenger from the left, maybe he should rethink his political calculus anyway. But the bottom line is this: Why elect Democrats if they act this lily-livered when doing the right thing carries any political risk?

On the Cowardly Governors list with Malloy: Terry Branstad of Iowa, a Republican. Branstad too expressed “empathy” for the immigrant kids and then said no to taking any children, even as a facility for at-risk youth was readying a 48-bed unit. “We’ve always felt we’ve been good partners with the state. We met with officials and decided it was not in any of our best interests to do it,” Steve Gilbert of Sequel Youth and Family Services told the Des Moines Register of deciding not to take the kids. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, scrapped a proposed site in his state without coming up with another alternative.

Yes, "it's not in their best interest" because they're fucking jackasses. And here I thought politicians were a bunch of despicable cowards for failing to accept the Guantanamo prisoners and insisting they be kept in a prison camp indefinitely. Apparently, the same goes for little children.

Good God, this is sick. It's not a million children ferchristsakes, it's 60,000. We spend vast sums of money on total bullshit every day in this country chasing down phantom drug dealers, paying off corrupt politicians and keeping our 1% fat and happy. If we can't deal with this crisis in a humane and decent fashion then it's pretty clear we are no longer a decent country. These are children.

Oh, and I don't want to hear one phony pious word out of any of these jerks about what good Christians they are and how they follow the teachings of the Bible. To quote Max von Sydow in Hannah and her Sisters, "if Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he would never stop throwing up."

Shame on these horrible politicians and the horrible xenophobes to whom they are catering.

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Job killer

by digby

Here's your statistic 'o the day:

State-by-state hiring data released Friday by the Labor Department reveal that in the 13 states that boosted minimum wages at the beginning of this year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January to June. The average in the other 37 states was 0.61 percent, the Associated Press reports.

Huh. An here I thought a raise in the minimum wage would ruin everything. Isn't that something?


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Two Americas, exemplified

by David Atkins

This is what massive income inequality looks like, physically:

A luxury condo building on New York City’s Upper West Side has gotten clearance from the city to have a separate entrance, or a “poor door,” for low-income tenants, according to the New York Post.
Extell, which is building the 33-story complex, will build a specific door for the 55 affordable housing units it’s including in order to be allowed to build a bigger building. The low-income units, which are available to people making 60 percent of median income or less, will also be in a segment that only contains affordable apartments and that faces the street while the luxury apartments will face the river.

In New York City, this arrangement is relatively common. Luxury builders get credits to use up more square footage than they normally could by promising to build affordable units as well. Those developers can then sell the credits to cover the costs of building the low-income housing. Because Extell considers the affordable segment to be legally separate from the rest of the building, it says it is required to have different entrances.

And besides being made to use a separate entrance, some low-income residents in luxury buildings are prohibited from using the amenities offered to the wealthy tenants, which in the case of this particular building include swimming pools and regulation-sized basketball courts. Several buildings in the city ban affordable housing or rent-regulated tenants from using perks like gyms, rooftops, and pools, and the practice is on the rise.
It's almost like something out of a bad novel. Except that it's happening right here and now.


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The horror of America's prisons in 20 minutes

by digby

Everybody's put this up today and for good reason. It's just so great:



One of the things I like about Oliver's new show is that he's taking on issues that rarely get any any attention --- anywhere. And because he has the time to really dig in, he's able to make them entertaining and informative.

Our prison system is an atrocity, it truly is. The numbers of prisoners alone should ring alarm bells with anyone who has a sense of justice. In fact, it's so bad and the problems so huge that it seems overwhelming.  But we have to do something about this and oddly enough there may even be some help from the far right on it. There's always a chance that these civil liberties and criminal justice issues have a small overlap there that could make a difference.

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How can we miss Chalabi if he won't go away?

by digby

My piece in Salon this morning is about good old Ahmad Chalabi and his return to the spotlight. (He never seems to go away ....)An excerpt:

The night Chalabi arrived in Iraq having enabled an invasion of his own country was a triumph surely very few have experienced. It reached a high point when he sat next to Laura Bush at the 2004 State of the Union but unfortunately, he had betrayed his patrons by doing a little double dealing with their true mortal enemy: Iran. (You know the old Neocon saying: wimps go to Bagdad, Real Men go to Tehran.) He was accused of forging Iraqi currency with stolen plates from the Iraq mint. And they believed him to have sent his Iranian friends some very sensitive information. These charges were never proven but after a brief stint in the Iraq government in 2005, in which he was held (rightly) responsible for his influence on the U.S. government to institute “de-Bathification” and even more charges of corruption, Chalabi withdrew from the scene. The last we had heard he was holding salons in his basement with various Iraqi experts on finance and government.

So why bring all this up now? Well, heeee’s baaaack. Since the eruption of violence and the emergence of the terrorist group ISIS in Iraq last month, the beltway and the press have made the belated observation that Prime Minister Maliki

Read on. His story still fascinates me, particularly the fact that he has continued to snow American hawks for decades now. They want so much to believe his con job that he can sell it over and over again ...

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That's why we like her

by digby

I know that liberals are considered to be so far out of the mainstream that Villagers remains convinced that even crazed extremists like Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo are more legitimate representatives of America than they are. So I can only imagine the laughter and glee with which this analysis from Nate Silver will be met inside the beltway since it marks Elizabeth Warren as more liberal than even the dreaded George McGovern. They so yearn to get back to hippie bashing and it's been awfully difficult when the Republicans have been acting like a bunch of right wing yippies, tearing up the place and laughing in their faces as they do it.

But why should liberals care? If you spend your life worrying about what the Village thinks you'll end up like a predictable corrupt Democratic functionary, which is to say you'll have the influence of a potted plant.


You can click here for the methodology.

By the way, liberals have a right to be represented in our political system too. They may not be as many of us as there are wingnutty lunatics, but there are tens of millions of us.

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Raising the minimum wage creates more jobs

by David Atkins

It's almost as if conservatives are wrong about everything:

New data released by the Department of Labor suggests that raising the minimum wage in some states might have spurred job growth, contrary to what critics said would happen.

In a report on Friday, the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not. The data run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, would cost 500,000 jobs.
Even if it weren't true that a higher minimum wage creates jobs due to the stimulative demand-side effect, American minimum wages are so low that at a certain point jobs that pay worse than that aren't worth creating. Most people who work minimum wage aren't teenagers living at home looking to make a few extra bucks to save up for an iPod. They're middle-aged people, often with families.

The minimum wage needs to be a living wage. The business-side discomfort with raising the wage would be more understandable if every sector was hurting. But it isn't. The rich are richer than ever, corporate profits are at record highs, the stock market is soaring. We don't need to coddle McDonalds and WalMart by paying their employees less than living wages.

But in any case, raising the minimum doesn't hurt the economy at all. It actually creates more jobs.


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Unconscionable 

by tristero

What PZ says. This is a situation in which the only hope for a positive resolution hinges upon both sides renouncing and vigorously prosecuting their own propensity for violence and ethnocentric aggression. What Israel is doing is unconscionable and the US should withdraw support. And, as PZ says, that in no way excuses for so much as a micro-second launching rockets into Israeli neighborhoods.

Related: Horrible. Nothing like dehumanizing others to justify murder.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

 
"You couldn't have been more wrong!"

by digby

This is the best clip of the year:



It’s impossible for you to have been more wrong, Rick. Your call for inflation, the destruction of the dollar, the failure of the US economy to rebound. Rick, it’s impossible for you to have been more wrong. Every single bit of advice you gave would have lost people money, Rick. Lost people money, Rick. Every single bit of advice. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. Not a single one. Not a single one, Rick. The higher interest rates never came, the inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened, the dollar never crashed, Rick. There isn’t a single one that’s worked for you.

He still maintains he was right though. And in Bizarroworld, he was.
 
If the crime doesn't exist they have to invent it

by digby

Apparently, the ATF doesn't have enough real crimes to stop:
An undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) infiltrated Jeremy Halgat’s life for three years before he lured him into drug crimes “designed and engineered by the government.” He had Halgat’s home searched and found nothing. He tried to get Halgat to buy illegal guns and Halgat recited federal gun law. Finally, after many rejected requests and a heavy hand by the agent, ATF Task Force Officer Agostino Brancato got Halgat to play a role in a cocaine sale, in pleas that exploited their false friendship, and Brancato’s false claims of monetary desperation.

A federal magistrate judge recommended this week that criminal charges against Halgat carrying a term of up to 20 years in prison be dismissed.

“[T]he government’s investigation deployed techniques that generated a wholly new crime for the sake of pressing criminal charges against Halgat,” Judge Cam Ferenbach wrote.
[...]
ATF has become known for engaging in a lot of ethically, if not legally, dubious operations. Last year, a Milwaukee Sentinel investigation (one in a series of exposées on ATF) found that the ATF used mentally disabled individuals in its undercover stings, and later arrested them for actions they performed during the stings. And a pair of federal court decisions in California last year revealed that “ATF recruited ‘chronically unemployed individuals from poverty-ridden areas,’ invented a fictitious cocaine stash-house with 20 to 25 kilograms of cocaine, and asked the defendants if they had ‘a crew . . . a couple of other homies’ that could participate in a robbery. To ensure that the defendants would suffer harsher criminal penalties, the ATF agent also imagined up nonexistent guards and told the defendants to bring guns.”

“[W]as there any evidence that these arrests, as well as all other fake stash house robberies being used by the ATF to get firearm arrests, helped in any fashion the war on drugs?” the judge wrote in one of these cases.

Police agencies coercing people into committing crimes so they can arrest them is not completely unheard of. (It's been used liberally to create the idea that the nation is crawling with Islamic terrorists.) It's nice to see a judge actually call them out on it.

And why is the ATF investigating drug crimes? One can only surmise that The Drug War is a convenient catch all for all the police agencies.  Even the NSA is cooperating with the DEA all over the world.  And here. 

Update: Also too this, which is only related tangentially but fits in well with the construction of the police state apparatus at all levels of the nation in recent years:




Bill Maher may be an ass, and he often is, but when he's right he's right.

If you build it they will use it.

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Sunday Funnies

by digby

Tom Tomorrow in The Nation


McFadden in the New York Times


Ruben Bolling at The Nib:




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Loathesome wingnut 'o the day

by digby

This one is always hard to choose, but I think we've got a winner:
"The whole idea is to invite retaliatory fire, to tell your civilians not to hide or to flee the areas where the Israelis are about to hit, and then get the civilian casualty numbers up," Lowry explained. "And then use that as a propaganda tool, and hope the media will report it as if it's Israel's fault."

"The four little kids, for example who were killed right on the beach, right on the Mediterranean in Gaza, you think that's Hama's fault?" Carlson wondered.

"Yeah," Lowry insisted. "It's wouldn't be happening, there's no reason for this conflict except for that Hamas is sending the Rockets over into Israel."

"Why don't they tell people, 'When Israel warns you that they're about to hit, please flee, please go somewhere someplace safe'?" he continued. "They don't. And you've had various Hamas officials over the years bragging, 'We're going to win because we love death more than you love life.'"
It shouldn't be surprising. The last few weeks have made very clear that the only children these people care about are ones who haven't been born yet. Callously blaming them for their own deaths --- as if they meant to die to make a political point --- is just par for the course. They were children.

Let's face it, when Tucker Carlson sounds compassionate by comparison, you should know by now that you look like a sadistic ass.

(And you know that these kids were just playing outside a shed on the beach where their father stores his boat. And that they don't have anywhere to hide anyway. More here.)

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The Latest Eating Disorder 

by tristero

Eating for health can make you sick. It's helpful to read Jordan's original post to see how crazy it got for her.

Eating specifically for nutrition strikes me personally as both puritanical and a fools errand. It's puritanical because eating should be about pleasure, not a demonstration of moral virtue like "you should live a healthy life," something Jordan has learned the hard way. As for the actual value of "eating for health," from what I've read, the nutrients in food and their interactions are not well understood even by experts. For a layperson like myself, it is absolutely impossible to remember, let alone follow, most of the recommendations, which, anyway, are often contradictory. Instead, simply eating a highly varied diet of real, delicious home-prepared food seems automatically to take care of my "nutrient balance" - whatever the hell that means. (Treats - edibles high in sugar and/or processed with unpronounceable ingredients - are not really "food," at least as I see it.)

I suspect it's likely that Michael Pollan's famous motto - Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants - is about all most of us need to know unless you have specific diet-related health problems. Food should be served and enjoyed, not prescribed and endured.

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The executive order that everybody thinks is just ducky

by digby

This piece in the Washington Post by John Napier Tye was a member of the State Department until very recently:

In March I received a call from the White House counsel’s office regarding a speech I had prepared for my boss at the State Department. The speech was about the impact that the disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance practices would have on U.S. Internet freedom policies. The draft stated that “if U.S. citizens disagree with congressional and executive branch determinations about the proper scope of signals intelligence activities, they have the opportunity to change the policy through our democratic process.”

But the White House counsel’s office told me that no, that wasn’t true. I was instructed to amend the line, making a general reference to “our laws and policies,” rather than our intelligence practices. I did.

Even after all the reforms President Obama has announced, some intelligence practices remain so secret, even from members of Congress, that there is no opportunity for our democracy to change them.

Public debate about the bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ data by the NSA has focused largely on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, through which the government obtains court orders to compel American telecommunications companies to turn over phone data. But Section 215 is a small part of the picture and does not include the universe of collection and storage of communications by U.S. persons authorized under Executive Order 12333.

From 2011 until April of this year, I worked on global Internet freedom policy as a civil servant at the State Department. In that capacity, I was cleared to receive top-secret and “sensitive compartmented” information. Based in part on classified facts that I am prohibited by law from publishing, I believe that Americans should be even more concerned about the collection and storage of their communications under Executive Order 12333 than under Section 215.

Bulk data collection that occurs inside the United States contains built-in protections for U.S. persons, defined as U.S. citizens, permanent residents and companies. Such collection must be authorized by statute and is subject to oversight from Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The statutes set a high bar for collecting the content of communications by U.S. persons. For example, Section 215 permits the bulk collection only of U.S. telephone metadata — lists of incoming and outgoing phone numbers — but not audio of the calls.

Executive Order 12333 contains no such protections for U.S. persons if the collection occurs outside U.S. borders. Issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to authorize foreign intelligence investigations, 12333 is not a statute and has never been subject to meaningful oversight from Congress or any court. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has said that the committee has not been able to “sufficiently” oversee activities conducted under 12333.

Unlike Section 215, the executive order authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons. Such persons cannot be individually targeted under 12333 without a court order. However, if the contents of a U.S. person’s communications are “incidentally” collected (an NSA term of art) in the course of a lawful overseas foreign intelligence investigation, then Section 2.3(c) of the executive order explicitly authorizes their retention. It does not require that the affected U.S. persons be suspected of wrongdoing and places no limits on the volume of communications by U.S. persons that may be collected and retained.

Did you know about this? If you were reading Emptywheel, you did, but I'd guess that most people are unaware that our democratic process is completely short-circuited in this way. Everyone understands that their communications don't stay within US borders, right?

For all the caterwauling about the president abusing his power by delaying the implementation of a law they've voted over 50 times to repeal, the Republicans have no problem with this sort of thing for some reason. (Of course it was signed by Ronald Reagan so it's divinely inspired ...) Still, the difference between these National Security orders and the order to delay a little piece of he Affordable Care Act is profound. The people can see the results of this alleged Obamacare tyranny and decide at the voting booth if they approve. All this National Security abuse is always, always done in secret, classified to death and the details even kept from those tasked with oversight.

I guess if you think being allowed to temporarily delay offering health insurance to your employees is worse than 30 years of unaccountable government spying on Americans with no oversight then this makes sense.

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Don't ask for a living wage or you'll be replaced by an iPad

by David Atkins

This is an actual billboard in San Francisco:



Pando Daily has more on this:

Its message — that minimum wage increases will lead to service workers being replaced by apps — is continued on an accompanying website — BadIdeaCA — which claims to be “holding activists accountable for minimum wage consequences.”

So who the hell pays for billboards threatening waitstaff with redundancy if they demand a living wage? A bit of digging and clicking reveals that the campaign is backed by Employment Policies Institute, the conservative lobbying group which regularly campaigns on behalf of the restaurant industry.
So, this is obviously disgusting on the part of the restaurant industry and its flacks. But it's worth noting that restaurants are already beginning to replace servers with tablets.

There are a lot of progressives out there who are very hostile to the idea that mechanization of jobs has had a huge impact on the workforce and will increasingly do so in the future. It runs against the narrative that the entirety of the screwing over of the middle class was a pure product of Reaganomics and political decisions to benefit the rich, and the correlated narrative that we really can return to the economy of the mid-twentieth century if we only go back to the old tax rates and trade deals.

The fact remains that within one year a bunch of server jobs will be gone because restaurants will replace order-taking with tablets. Within a decade or two we won't need truck or cab drivers anymore. IBM can already diagnose cancer five times better than doctors. The flattening of the teaching profession will continue apace as the technology and techniques behind MOOCs continue to improve. 3D printing will render much of what manufacturing remains obsolete. Anything requiring mid-level management or analysis will be done better by computer within two decades at the max, and probably sooner.

Pushing for a higher minimum wage is important. But ultimately we're going to have to decouple human dignity from "having a job." There just won't be enough jobs to go around, and tweaking the tax rates of super-wealthy just won't cut it at a certain point.


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Saturday, July 19, 2014

 
Saturday Night at the Movies




Love the one you're with: A Summer's Tale

By Dennis Hartley











I'm about to lose any (infinitesimal) amount of street cred that I may have accidentally accrued thus far in my "career" as a movie critic with the following admission. I was originally introduced to the work of Eric Rohmer in a roundabout and pedestrian manner. In Arthur Penn's brilliant 1975 neo-noir, Night Moves (one of my all-time favorites), there's a memorable throwaway line by cynical private investigator Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman). After his wife says she's off to catch a Rohmer film, Harry scoffs (mostly to himself), "I saw a Rohmer film once. It was kind of like watching paint dry." Since I was hitherto unaware of this Rohmer fellow, I was intrigued to explore his oeuvre (glad I did).

This is why I had to chuckle when I checked the time stamp and realized that it's nearly 8 minutes into the Rohmer film A Summer's Tale before anyone utters a line of dialog; and it's a man calling a waitress over so he can order a chocolate crepe. As for the "action" that precedes, well...a young man arrives in sunny Dinard, unpacks his clothes, and heads to the beach to check out the scene. He has a beer and a sandwich. He kicks around the boardwalk until dark. He has dinner. He gazes out his window and strums a nondescript melody on his guitar. The next day, he strolls on the boardwalk some more, then decides to grab a crepe and some coffee. As Harry might say, it's kind of like watching paint dry.

But not to worry, because things are about to get much more interesting. In fact, our young man, an introverted maths grad named Gaspar (Melvil Poupaud) will soon find himself in a dizzying girl whirl. It begins when he meets the bubbly and outgoing Margo (Amanda Langlet) an ethnologist major who is spending the summer waitressing at her aunt's seaside crepery. The taciturn Gaspard is initially discombobulated by Margo's forwardness and chatty effervescence; he cautiously tells her that he's expecting his "sort of" girlfriend Lena (Aurelia Nolin) to join him on holiday any time now (she was a little vague as to when she would arrive). No pressure, Margo assures him, she has a boyfriend (currently overseas) and just wants to pal around (can men and women ‘just be friends’?) So they pal around; days pass and still no sign of Lena. Margo is having serious doubts about this 'Lena', so without compunction she sets Gaspar up with her friend Solene (Gwenaelle Simon), who, she tells him, is looking for a "summer romance". Sparks fly between Solene and Gaspar…right about the time that Lena finally arrives. Crunch time.

A Summer's Tale could very well prove to be this summer's best (and smartest) romantic comedy, which is unusual for a couple of reasons. For one, this film was made in 1996. Released in France that year as Conte d'ete, it is only just now making its official U.S. theatrical debut. And then there is the awkward fact that the film's writer-director has been dead since 2010 (oh well...nobody's perfect). This was my first opportunity to see it, and I would rate it amongst Rohmer's best work (most strongly recalling Pauline at the Beach , which starred a then teenage Langlet, who is wonderful here as the charming Margo). If you're unfamiliar with the director, this is as good a place as any to start. In a way, this is a textbook “Rohmer film”, which I define as "a movie where the characters spend more screen time dissecting the complexities of male-female relationships than actually experiencing them". But don't despair; it won’t be like watching paint dry. In fact, even a neophyte should glean Rohmer's ongoing influence (particularly if you've seen Once , When Harry Met Sally, or Richard Linklater's "Before" series). One gentle caveat: any viewer of A Summer's Tale (or any Rohmer film) will sheepishly recognize his or herself at some juncture, yet at once feel absolved for being, after all, only human.

Previous posts with related themes:






 
Numbers that may surprise you

by digby

Via Moyers:

51 percent

Of all pregnancies in America in 2008 were unintended, according to a study published this year in the American Journal of Public Health.

40 percent

Of those pregnancies ended in an abortion.

1 in 3

Women will get an abortion in her lifetime, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

51 percent

Of women who get an abortion had used contraceptives in the month that they got pregnant.

18 percent

Of women who have abortions are teenagers.

61 percent

Of women who get an abortion have already given birth to at least one child.

9 in 10

Abortions occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. At 12 weeks of development, the average fetus is just over two inches in length and weighs just under a half-ounce.


84 percent

Of abortion providers have experienced a form of harassment or violence.

66 percent

Of abortion clinics don’t offer the procedure after 20 weeks of gestation.

$495

The average cost of a surgical abortion at 10 weeks in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.

Every last one of those millions of dizzy broads had no idea what they were doing. They need some decent people with morals to help them understand that they either need to "close their legs" or have many more children than they want.


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The bright spot of the week

by digby

In the midst of a week of horrors in Ukraine and Gaza, there was a bit of welcome news:
Iran and six world powers on Friday agreed to a four-month extension of negotiations on a long-term nuclear deal that would gradually end sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme, diplomats close to the talks said.

Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China had set a July 20 deadline to complete a long-term agreement that would resolve the decade-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. But diplomats said they were unable to overcome significant differences on major sticking points.

"We have reached an agreement to extend the talks," a senior Iranian diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Several Western diplomats echoed his remarks.

The extension agreed to on Friday begins on July 21 and negotiations on a long-term deal are likely to resume in September, diplomats said. They added that the talks were set to conclude by late November.
Talking is always better than war. As long as they're talking there's a chance we'll muddle our way through this particular problem. There are so many of them and the collapse of these talks in the middle of all the rest of it would not be good.

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Chart 'o the day, tax dodge edition

by digby

Via Joe Weisenthal:



One of the hottest strategies in corporate America right now is the use of so-called "tax-inversion" deals.

The concept is simple. A US company buys a company headquartered in a country with lower taxes (like Ireland or the UK) and then re-incorporates the entire company in that country to reduce the corporate tax bill.

A major tax inversion was announced yesterday, with Illinois-based pharmaceutical company AbbVie buying Irish-based Shire Pharmaceuticals. The entire company will be registered in Jersey, the island in the English Channel, which is famous for its low tax status.

Rumblings about these deals are growing in Washington. This chart from Goldman Sachs explains why: The strategy is exploding right now.

As you can see, there have been anti-inversion laws passed in the past. The 2004 one specified on the chart prevented intra-company inversions (inversions without deals), according to Goldman.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to ask if such corporate "persons" lose their citizenship when they do such things. Or is this the one case where human rights know no borders?

And I wonder if all that spying the NSA is doing on behalf of "American" companies applies to these corporations? I'd guess yes. After all, there's really no way to tell anymore what an "American" company really is, taxes or not, so we can simply assume that our government is working on behalf of the oligarchs who run these multi-national companies and their shareholders who own them. I'm going to guess that the interests of the American worker isn't high on the list of concerns.


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President John McCain

by digby

Here's your honest truth-telling Maverick:

“You’ll find this surprising,” he said, “but I think I would’ve been more reluctant to commit American troops.”

McCain was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq; one of his sons fought in the war.

“If presented with that same evidence today, I would vote the same way,” McCain said of his vote to deploy troops in the country. “I respected and trusted the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. But it’s obvious now, in retrospect, that Saddam Hussein – although he had used weapons of mass destruction – did not have the inventory that we seem to have evidence of. Which now looking back on it, with the benefit of hindsight, (the evidence) was very flimsy.”

If he had been president, McCain said, “I think I would have challenged the evidence with greater scrutiny. I think that with my background with the military and knowledge of national security with these issues that I hope that I would have been able to see through the evidence that was presented at the time.”

McCain specifically cited one of the sources of the faulty intelligence. “The guy named ‘Curveball’ that we were relying on turned out to be some guy in a German prison that was an alcoholic.”

The senator noted, “I’m not blaming President George W. Bush. It’s not for me to critique my predecessors, especially those that I lost to.”

Yeah, he would have "seen through" all this and wouldn't have invaded even though he'd been desperate for an opportunity to do it for more than a decade:
Throughout the late ’90s, McCain criticized what he called Clinton’s “feckless photo-op foreign policy,” but he also emerged as an important bulwark for the administration against Republicans who reflexively opposed Clinton’s every move as commander in chief. McCain strongly supported airstrikes against Sudan and Afghanistan, in retaliation for terrorist attacks on two American Embassies, and against Iraq, where Saddam Hussein was obstructing weapons inspectors. In 1999, McCain took the lead in supporting the bombing of Serbia to prevent another genocide in Kosovo. His tone had changed considerably since the days before Srebrenica. “Our interests and values converge clearly here,” McCain said in a speech from the Senate floor. “It seems clear to me that Milosevic knows no limits to his inhumanity and will keep slaughtering until even the most determined opponent of American involvement in this conflict is convinced to drop that opposition.”

By the time McCain ran for president in 2000, he was the one arguing in debates for a more robust military presence in humanitarian crises, while George W. Bush forswore “nation building” and vowed a more “humble” foreign policy. During that campaign, McCain introduced the closest thing he had found to a doctrine for foreign intervention: the “rogue-state rollback,” under which he proposed arming and training internal forces that might ultimately overthrow menacing regimes in countries like Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

McCain’s more ambitious view of American power made him a natural ally of neoconservative thinkers like William Kristol, the editor of the fledgling Weekly Standard (now a New York Times columnist), and Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Empowered during the Reagan era, the neocons were largely shoved aside during the ’90s by the more isolationist, anti-Clinton voices who dominated Republican politics. By the time McCain expanded his circle of influence to include Kristol and other neocons in the late ’90s, they had rallied around a single unifying cause: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In 1998, McCain was one of the sponsors of the Iraq Liberation Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton, which officially changed American policy from containing Hussein to deposing him, and he became a leading figure in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a lobbying group founded by Randy Scheunemann, who is now his chief foreign policy adviser. McCain met with Ahmad Chalabi, the smooth Iraqi dissident who was a favorite of the neocons, and supported him publicly.

After the terrorist attacks of 2001 and the sudden elevation of Al Qaeda as a defining national security threat, McCain never had any doubt that Iraq, with its supposed capability to unleash or share weapons of mass destruction, posed an existential threat to the United States. Reading his statements from the time, there is no indication that he ever judged the invasion of Iraq by the standard he had used earlier in his career — whether it had the potential to become another Vietnam. Instead, as American troops swarmed Baghdad, McCain repeatedly compared Hussein to Adolf Hitler and predicted that the occupation of Iraq would be remembered in much the same way that history celebrated the liberation and rebuilding of Europe and Japan.
See? No reason to believe the warmongering piece of work would have seized the opportunity to invade.

But setting all that aside, you have to love this:
"It’s not for me to critique my predecessors, especially those that I lost to."
He certainly has no problem criticizing Obama --- to whom he also lost. But from the sound of it he doesn't know that. He refers to George W. Bush as his "predecessor." Somebody needs to tell President McCain the bad news.


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Kooky extremist cartoon


by digby

No, I'm not talking about Sarah Palin again. It's this:
The creators of the YouTube series Conrad the Constitution complained to Infowars that their graphic depiction of President Obama being cowardly Second Amendmented in the back of the head ‘Abraham Lincoln style’ in a theater has earned them and their families visits from the Secret Service.

“I just wanted to let you guys know the Secret Service has been in contact with my family and is coming to interview me sometime soon about our latest episode. If I end up disappearing you’ll know why,” the ridiculous and paranoid e-mail read.

In the video, Conrad the Teabagging Constitution, Conrad steals Ron Paul’s time machine from his bunker and embarks on a mission to kill President Obama, who has shredded his future self. At the instruction of Ron Paul and his shredded self, Conrad travels back in time, sneaks up on the President, and shoots him in the back of the head.



I'm not surprised the Secret Service would investigate something like this. But the filmmakers see it as a repression of their free speech and a violation of the first amendment. (It's still up on Youtube so ... well, you know how hard it is for some people to understand what censorship really is.) The SS has an obligation to check these things out. People do sometimes get the wrong idea and when somebody seems to be saying that someone should kill the president for the good of the country it's probably a good idea if it gets checked out. It's certainly possible that one of the unhinged people who run around talking about their "2nd Amendment remedies" and "the blood of tyrants" all the time might be literal about it.

After I googled this silly story to get a sense of what this cartoon is I found that it's a series of episodes that are carried all over the internet on Tea party and libertarian web sites. It's a fascinating amalgam of right wing conspiracy theories, libertarian myth and conservative shibboleth. I think it may be the most accurate representation of the ideologically confused, hysterical right I've ever seen.

There are three "seasons" of this thing, more than any normal person could ever watch in a sitting. And perhaps the most hilarious thing about it is the fact that it bills itself this way:
Conrad the Constitution. Web series that follows Conrad, the living breathing U.S. Constitution.
I'm going to guess they're unaware that the concept of a "living" Constitution is the hallmark of liberal jurisprudence.


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Friday, July 18, 2014

 
Friday friendly platypus blogging


by digby

Happy week-end everybody:


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Goldwater's marching orders

by digby

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue! --- Barry Goldwater


Needless to say, what they consider liberty and justice differs just a tad from the rest of us ...

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If only she were more like Judge Judy

by digby

This is a very telling little bit of history from the Clinton papers.  It's a memo from Ron Klain to then Chief of Staff David Gergen about the nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

And finally, Judge Ginsburg’s technique — her failure to make eye contact, her halting speech, her “laconic” nature (to use Jim Hamilton’s phrase) -~ is not helpful….

You should be cautious in dealing with her on these and other points. Judge Ginsburg views the White House’s interest and her interests as being at odds with each other: she sees us as having a stake in presenting her as a moderate and in getting along well with the Senate; she sees her interests as “being herself, ” preserving her “dignity’,” and promoting her “independence.”

Imagine that. A respected judge not wanting to be told to dance like a marionette for a bunch of blowhard Senators. (If I recall correctly, she did just fine.)

But you just have love the scare quotes around words like dignity and independence. What a silly lady ...

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A truly evolved human being

by digby



It's a good day to celebrate Mandela.  His words have never been more necessary ...


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One personal reason for me to yearn for a Warren vs Clinton primary contest

by digby

John Dickerson has a piece explaining why an Elizabeth Warren run would be good for Hillary Clinton, which is the favorite kind of beltway piece on the subject. I think what they like most about it is this part:
She would energize the Democratic Party’s liberal base, which would then stir up other Democrats who seek to moderate or contain that group.
That's always such fun. And I suspect the Villagers are yearning for a way to balance the crazy tea partiers with some false hippie equivalence. They are obviously uncomfortable with the fact that the crazies are a bunch of nice, white Real Americans whose culture and desires they've spent the last half century insisting they represent in Washington. How embarrassing for them ...

I would welcome a Warren run for lots of good substantive policy and political reasons and I'll undoubtedly write reams about this over the next couple of years if Warren decides to run. But let me just point out the one reason Dickerson doesn't mention: how wonderful it would be for me to watch two intelligent, accomplished women stand for president and debate the issues? It's still hard for me to believe that this would be the first time it's happened.

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A video of a murder

by digby

There's no other way to see this:



A 400-pound asthmatic Staten Island dad died Thursday after a cop put him in a chokehold and other officers appeared to slam his head against the sidewalk, video of the incident shows.

“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Eric Garner, 43, repeatedly screamed after at least five NYPD officers took him down in front of a Tompkinsville beauty supply store when he balked at being handcuffed.

Within moments Garner, a married father of six children with two grandchildren, stopped struggling and appeared to be unconscious as police called paramedics to the scene. An angry crowd gathered, some recording with smartphones.

Read the whole thing. Witnesses say the man had just broken up a fight and wasn't doing anything illegal. But the cops knew they were dealing with a criminal. He had a history of selling untaxed cigarettes, you see. So, you know, they had no choice.


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The Cercei Lannister of the Tea Party and her faithful Jamie

by digby

My piece in Salon today talks about the latest Cruz and Ingraham lunacy on immigration and how they accomplish their goals as a movement even when they aren't in power. You've probably heard about Cruz upping the ante on immigration and making the demand that the president roll back his order to stop deporting the DREAM kids. But Ingraham has some even more noxious plans:
Earlier this week, Breitbart news announced that the Cercei Lannister of of the Tea Party, Laura Ingraham, has a new pet project:

“I’m all in for Joe Carr,” Ingraham said on her show. “I think he’s, look, he’s no nonsense, a citizen legislator he’ll be and he’ll be someone who will actually listen to the people, politicians at some point do have to listen to the concerns of the people, not just the concerns of one or two, big, fat, interest groups like either LaRaza or the Chamber of Commerce, the people still count, don’t they Lamar?”

Ingraham has previously promoted Carr’s candidacy based on his record of opposing amnesty, and Carr even signed the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s “no-amnesty pledge” on her radio show.

“Laura Ingraham was one of the very first national voices who felt that our campaign against Lamar Alexander’s brazen support of amnesty was credible and viable,” Carr said. “After seeing the significant impact Laura had on the Dave Brat-Eric Cantor race, we believe this can be a game-changing moment in this campaign.”

Joe Carr is a Tea Party candidate running against incumbent Senator Lamar Alexander in Tennessee and as you can see, the myth of Ingraham’s mystical juju has taken on a life of its own, regardless of the truth of it. The polling may have shown that upstart David Brat beat Majority Leader Eric Cantor for a variety of reasons relating to the district but the narrative that took hold is that he won because of his hostility to big business and “amnesty”. Ingraham’s personal support is considered to have been key to his victory. (Note that her alleged opposition to business comes in the guise of the Chamber of Commerce solely because of its support for immigration reform. )

So far, this Tea-Party-backed upstart is behind by a substantial margin but polling shows that he’s recently started to gain ground. One more come-from-behind victory for Ingraham and we could be seeing the makings of a new Republican kingmaker — a kingmaker who loathes these people she believes are threatening “our way of life and our culture” so intensely that she now endorses a form of selective ethnic cleansing:

“No. 1, first thing you do is start deporting people, not by the hundreds, not by the dozens, by the thousands. That means entire families, not just the father or mother, but we keep families unified by deporting all people who are here illegally.”

(Bill O’Reilly was lauded for his opposition to what she said there, but it should be noted that his objection was based on how it would “look” in the media, not the act itself.)

read on ...
 
The stories we tell ourselves

by digby

You've probably already read quite a bit about Hillary Clinton's stint on Jon Stewart. (You can watch it here.) I was intrigued by this comment:
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that's really why this book is something that I put my heart and soul into, because we can't practice diplomacy and define our foreign policy as leaders talking to leaders anymore because that's not the way the world works. Exactly as you said. People are empowered from the bottom up. And what I found when I became secretary of state is that so many people in the world, especially young people, they have no memory of the United States liberating Europe and Asia, beating the Nazis, fighting the Cold War and winning. That was just ancient history. They didn't know the sacrifices that we had made and the values that motivated us to do it.

We have not been telling our story very well. We do have a great story. We are not perfect by any means, but we have a great story about human freedom, human rights, human opportunity, and let's get back to telling it to ourselves first and foremost and believing it about ourselves and then taking that around the world. That's what we should be standing for.

STEWART: Can we expect other countries to view us with such nuance when we so clearly don't view them with nuance and with that type of understanding?

CLINTON: that's a really good question, because...

STEWART: that's all the time we have.

[laughter]

CLINTON: Because.

STEWART: Because.

CLINTON: Because we did a much better job telling the world who we were back in the Cold War. You know, it was a simpler job, to be fair. We had the Soviet Union. We had the United States. We had a big information effort. We sent talent, we sent all kinds of poets and novelists and rock stars. I remember when Vaclav Havel, the great dissident and the first president of the Czech Republic told me that Lou Reed had been his inspiration. American culture, American ideas permeated the world.

Wll, fast forward. That ended, and we kind of thought, okay, fine, end of history, democracy won. You know that story. And in fact, we withdrew from the information arena. And look at what happened initially with Ukraine. Russian media was much more effective in sort of telling a story: it wasn't true, but they kept repeating it over and over again. So I think we have to get back to a consensus in our own country about who we are and what we stand for, and then get out there and tell that story.
My first reaction was hostility based upon the perception that she was saying we need to pat ourselves on the back about being exceptional more than we have been and then we'll live happily ever after. And frankly, if we wanted another round of Bushian proclamations about how "we're so good and they're so evil" I think we should probably just vote for Jeb and call it a day. But after watching it again, I realized that I might have been unfair. If what she was really getting at was a need to "find consensus" on the values that animate the Enlightenment spirit of our constitution and the Declaration of Independence, then I'm all for it. It would be the first time in our history that we were able to do it, but it's probably something worth doing.

If she's talking about some sort of "greatest country the world has ever known" boosterism, then she's not going to get very far. It's been a long time since World War II and the idea that we were widely considered to be the Good Guys during the Cold War just is not the case. We may have been considered "the better guy" in that match up by many in the western world, sure. Others disagreed. But this country did a lot of shady stuff during that era that's still haunting us today and it wasn't all in the name of "freedom and democracy."

If Clinton wants to tell a better American story and have people to come to a consensus about who we are, she has to tell the story straight and then explain how we can best try to live up to our higher ideals in the future. Constantly telling ourselves a bunch of fairy tales about how great we are has painted us into a corner in which the worst elements of our leadership can rationalize any behavior --- including torture and indefinite detention in prison camps --- and nobody is willing to hold them accountable for it.

The funny thing is that the old idea that the monarch was infallible and ordained by God is exactly what the American revolutionaries were rebelling against. I'm going to guess they didn't anticipate that we would imbue our new country as a whole with the same nonsense.


Update: I see I'm not the only one who thought this was a bizarre statement.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

 
It's safer for them because they aren't important

by digby

So a congressional delegation went to Honduras to see what conditions were for the child refugees in their home country and came back with this:


Congressman Steve Pearce said Wednesday that most immigrants from Central America who are crossing illegally into the United States are driven by economic reasons, not fear of physical danger in their homeland.

...

Pearce said he and the rest of the House delegation that visited Honduras and Guatemala did not venture from their hotel very often because of the dangers, but the message they received in both countries was consistent: "Send back our children."

Right. It's much too dangerous for God fearing Real Americans to venture out into the streets but little kids are wily and quick and they can slither out of the grasp of the violent criminals who want to kidnap, torture and kill them. Anyway, it's character building.

If it makes the poor Central American parents who sent their kids north in a desperate bid for safety and a chance at life feel any better, these people hate American children too so don't take it too personally.


Via
 
Still way better than that other guy

by digby

This chart is pretty hilarious when you consider how much airtime has been given recently to Dick Cheney and the Neocon Retread Rehab Tour:




Again, why is anyone listening to them? Ever?


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Mississippi learning

by digby

I have to admit that I can't help chuckling at this idiotic Mississippi Senate race.  Here's the latest:
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's political machine paid to turn out the black vote for Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's re-election bid, according to campaign finance reports. His vanquished rival insisted that was improper and said Wednesday that a legal challenge to the loss remained likely in the next 10 days.

Barbour, a political giant in his state and a favorite of national donors, backed Mississippi Conservatives and his nephew Henry Barbour was a top official there. Mississippi Conservatives sent almost $145,000 to All Citizens for Mississippi, a late-to-arrive group that urged black voters to turn out for the June 24 runoff between Cochran and tea party favorite state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

The Barbour-led group was the sole source of money for the outreach efforts toward black and Democratic voters. The group spent $111,000 in the final weeks of the campaign to highlight Cochran's support for historically black colleges and for Hurricane Katrina recovery dollars.

McDaniel and his allies bitterly complain that Democrats helped put Cochran over the top in a state where Democrat is often synonymous with black. McDaniel himself has refused to explicitly reference race, but his advisers said that Cochran and his allies resorted to "race baiting" to win.
Imagine that. Republicans accusing each other of race baiting.

Now it is true that Haley Barbour's deadpan response is enough to make wingnuts' heads explode (and liberals laugh out loud)
"What we were looking for were Cochran supporters who didn't vote," said Brian Perry, the chief at the pro-Cochran super PAC. "When you go back and look at his 2008 general election, he had a lot of support in the black community. These are people who voted for him before and more-than-likely would be voting for him in the general. And so it makes sense to ask them to vote for him in the primary, as well."
Yeah, right. Everybody knew what they were doing --- the Republican establishment and the African Americans who participated. Let's not pretend otherwise.

It's not as though it's unprecedented  for members of the opposing party to make mischief in a primary. And it's common for the political establishment in both parties to muck around in primaries to benefit incumbents. Certainly, it comes as no surprise to Democrats when the DC Dems  try to attract conservative Republicans no make sure a progressive doesn't beat one of their New Dem/Blue Dog faves. It happens every cycle. I feel the Tea Party's pain in that regard.

The only thing that's different here is that Republicans appealed to African Americans, which is apparently such a slap in the face to the Tea Party they just can't get past it. And I think we know why that might be.  The good news is that about half of white Mississippi isn't having the usual racist fit, so there actually is some progress.

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No good deed goes unpunished

by digby

My piece for Salon today is about the sad fact that the Democrats don't quite grasp the importance of making sure the people understand they are responsible for delivering something of benefit to them. I talk about how Republicans do this very well and then highlight the unfortunate story of Democratic Senators having to run from their vote for Obamacare even though the people of their state are quite happy with it. Why? Because they don't realize that the program they're involved in is Obamacare --- because those implementing the program consciously distanced themselves from it.
Once again the Democrats, afraid of being associated with something unpopular, distanced themselves from their own accomplishments rather than seeing the long-term advantage in being the party that brought people “freedom plus groceries.” In this case that would be the liberty afforded to every individual when they are able to move to change jobs, start a business or otherwise operate as free individuals without fear of losing their health insurance — and “groceries” meaning a government that delivers a bit of financial security in an increasingly unstable economic environment.

But no Democratic good deed will go unpunished by Republicans if the Democrats fail to make people aware that they are responsible for it.

read on ...
 
How conveeeenient

by digby

Just don't say he's "suggesting anything" because he insists he isn't:
LIMBAUGH: It's a Malaysian Airlines jet and can you -- I've got the British Open on the top menu, monitor, I haven't had CNN on all day, what do you bet they have broomed everything and are covering wall-to-wall the Malaysian Airlines flight shot down by a missile? This is, I mean, you talk about -- I don't want to appear to be callous here, folks, but you talk about an opportunity to abandon the bad Obama news at the border, and no, I'm not suggesting anything other than how the media operates.
Limbaugh not appearing callous is impossible.

But certainly, it's completely unreasonable for the media to focus on a civilian airliner being shot down in Ukraine by who knows who rather than relentlessly demagogueing the alleged threat to the nation from some poor kids at the border. Seriously, this news media is just irresponsible.

By the way, the last I looked, Fox was covering the airliner story. But I'm sure they'll get back to demonizing children as soon as they can.


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QOTD: fringe benefits

by digby

Edward Snowden:

“You've got young enlisted guys, 18 to 22 years old,” Snowden said. “They've suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility where they now have access to all of your private records. In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work in any sort of necessary sense. For example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising position. But they're extremely attractive.

“So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and show their co-worker. The co-worker says: ‘Hey that's great. Send that to Bill down the way.’ And then Bill sends it to George and George sends it to Tom. And sooner or later this person's whole life has been seen by all of these other people. It's never reported. Nobody ever knows about it because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak. The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communications stream from the intended recipient and given to the government without any specific authorization without any specific need is itself a violation of your rights. Why is that in a government database?”

Then Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor-in-chief asked: “You saw instances of that happening?”

“Yeah,” Snowden responded.

“Numerous?”

“It's routine enough, depending on the company that you keep, it could be more or less frequent. These are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions."

Why wouldn't it happen? Remember this?

Exclusive: Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans
U.S. Officers' "Phone Sex" Intercepted; Senate Demanding Answers

By BRIAN ROSS, VIC WALTER, and ANNA SCHECTER
Oct. 9, 2008—

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), called the allegations "extremely disturbing" and said the committee has begun its own examination.

"We have requested all relevant information from the Bush Administration," Rockefeller said Thursday. "The Committee will take whatever action is necessary."

"These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism."

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States.

Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007.

"Calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses, sometimes their girlfriends, sometimes one phone call following another," said Faulk.

The accounts of the two former intercept operators, who have never met and did not know of the other's allegations, provide the first inside look at the day to day operations of the huge and controversial US terrorist surveillance program.

"There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens are treated with respect," said President Bush at a news conference this past February.

But the accounts of the two whistleblowers, which could not be independently corroborated, raise serious questions about how much respect is accorded those Americans whose conversations are intercepted in the name of fighting terrorism.

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.

Faulk said he joined in to listen, and talk about it during breaks in Back Hall's "smoke pit," but ended up feeling badly about his actions.

"I feel that it was something that the people should not have done. Including me," he said.

In testimony before Congress, then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, now director of the CIA, said private conversations of Americans are not intercepted.

"It's not for the heck of it. We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it," Gen. Hayden testified.

He was asked by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), "Are you just doing this because you just want to pry into people's lives?"

"No, sir," General Hayden replied.

Asked for comment about the ABC News report and accounts of intimate and private phone calls of military officers being passed around, a US intelligence official said "all employees of the US government" should expect that their telephone conversations could be monitored as part of an effort to safeguard security and "information assurance."

"They certainly didn't consent to having interceptions of their telephone sex conversations being passed around like some type of fraternity game," said Jonathon Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University who has testified before Congress on the country's warrantless surveillance program.

"This story is to surveillance law what Abu Ghraib was to prison law," Turley said.

NSA awarded Adrienne Kinne a NSA Joint Service Achievement Medal in 2003 at the same time she says she was listening to hundreds of private conversations between Americans, including many from the International Red Cross and Doctors without Borders.

"We knew they were working for these aid organizations," Kinne told ABC News. "They were identified in our systems as 'belongs to the International Red Cross' and all these other organizations. And yet, instead of blocking these phone numbers we continued to collect on them," she told ABC News.

A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders, Michael Goldfarb, said: "The abuse of humanitarian action through intelligence gathering for military or political objectives, threatens the ability to assist populations and undermines the safety of humanitarian aid workers."

Both Kinne and Faulk said their military commanders rebuffed questions about listening in to the private conversations of Americans talking to Americans.

"It was just always, that , you know, your job is not to question. Your job is to collect and pass on the information," Kinne said.

Some times, Kinne and Faulk said, the intercepts helped identify possible terror planning in Iraq and saved American lives.

"IED's were disarmed before they exploded, that people who were intending to harm US forces were captured ahead of time," Faulk said.

NSA job evaluation forms show he regularly received high marks for job performance. Faulk left his job as a newspaper reporter in Pittsburgh to join the Navy after 9/11.

Kinne says the success stories underscored for her the waste of time spent listening to innocent Americans, instead of looking for the terrorist needle in the haystack.

"By casting the net so wide and continuing to collect on Americans and aid organizations, it's almost like they're making the haystack bigger and it's harder to find that piece of information that might actually be useful to somebody," she said. "You're actually hurting our ability to effectively protect our national security."

Both former intercept operators came forward at first to speak with investigative journalist Jim Bamford for a book on the NSA, "The Shadow Factory," to be published next week.

"It's extremely rare," said Bamford, who has written two previous books on the NSA, including the landmark "Puzzle Palace" which first revealed the existence of the super secret spy agency.

"Both of them felt that what they were doing was illegal and improper, and immoral, and it shouldn't be done, and that's what forces whistleblowers."

A spokesman for General Hayden, Mark Mansfield, said: "At NSA, the law was followed assiduously. The notion that General Hayden sanctioned or tolerated illegalities of any sort is ridiculous on its face."

The director of the NSA, Lt. General Keith B. Alexander, declined to directly answer any of the allegations made by the whistleblowers.

In a written statement, Gen. Alexander said: "We have been entrusted to protect and defend the nation with integrity, accountability, and respect for the law. As Americans, we take this obligation seriously. Our employees work tirelessly for the good of the nation, and serve this country proudly."

Note that this story is from 2008, long before the Snowden revelations. It's a matter of human nature. Just look at the TSA scanner debacle.

It seems to me that it's probably not exactly a good use of time for these guys to be ogling nude pics while the terrorists are trying to kill us in our beds.


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