Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Primary, Please

If there was ever a quote to invite a primary challenger, this is it. Here's Diane Feinstein's response to the ads targeting her for refusing to embrace meaningful health care reform:

“I do not think this is helpful. It doesn’t move me one whit,” she said. “They are spending a lot of money on something that is not productive.”

She isn't Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, or Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where you can at least chalk up their douchiness to bad political advice over "what wins" in their home states. This is Diane Feinstein OF CALIFORNIA.

She's up for re-election in 2012. It's 100% her right to ignore her voters, let's just hope she pays the price for it.

Coup in Honduras

Sunday:
Honduras is now torn between two presidents: one legally recognized by world bodies after he was deposed and forced from the country by his own soldiers, and another supported by the Central American nation's congress, courts and military.

Presidents from around Latin America were gathering in Nicaragua for meetings Monday to resolve the first military overthrow of a Central American government in 16 years, and once again Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took center stage, casting the dispute as a rebellion by the region's poor.

"If the oligarchies break the rules of the game as they have done, the people have the right to resistance and combat, and we are with them," Chavez said in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua.

There is a deep rift between the outside world — which is clamoring for the return of democratically elected, but largely unpopular and soon-to-leave-office President Manuel Zelaya — and congressionally designated successor Roberto Micheletti.
As Matthew Yglesias points out, there is one major positive from the reaction to these events:
I’ll also note as a broader analytic point that one major benefit of their not being a cold war on, is that when something like this happens pretty much everyone is against it. Hugo Chavez and his leftist bloc in Latin America are strongly anti-coup, the Obama administration is anti-coup, the European Union is anti-coup, etc. A point that often gets overlooked in the oft-airy “democracy promotion” debate in US politics is that, in practice, the greatest gift to democracy our foreign policy can give is to create a situation in which we don’t have the kind of major great power conflict that helped fuel so many coups and insurgencies in the 1945-89 period.
Agreed. Having a foreign policy that isn't based on "overthrowing anyone we don't like" is always a good step towards democracy promotion. Our country's legacy of Latin American interventions is horrific, and the Reagan years alone are responsible for the current ruin of many states and over a hundred thousand deaths. The leader of the coup in Honduras is even a graduate of the notorious US backed "School of the Americas", proving that our past actions there continue to effect the region.

But like Yglesias said, the fact that everyone can agree on denouncing this coup is a big step forward for the relationship between the US and the rest of Latin America. After the history we've had, any progress is major progress.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dana Milbank: Dick Whisperer

Last week, when Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post was called on for a question at Obama's press conference. Obama said he heard Pitney was soliciting questions from people in Iran using the internets, and wanted him to relay one of those questions. Now if Pitney had lobbed him a softball rather than asking him probably the toughest question of the night, I would understand peoples' concern. But since he did ask a tough question, it seemed simply like a smart move by the president (to appear concerned with the plight of the Iranian protesters) while also a cool use of technology (soliciting questions from people who are very far away and choosing the best one).

But not according to Dana Milbank. When you write a fluff column for the Washington Post, you know serious journalism:

In his first daytime news conference yesterday, President Obama preempted "All My Children," "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless." But the soap viewers shouldn't have been disappointed: The president had arranged some prepackaged entertainment for them.

After the obligatory first question from the Associated Press, Obama treated the overflowing White House briefing room to a surprise. "I know Nico Pitney is here from the Huffington Post," he announced.

Obama knew this because White House aides had called Pitney the day before to invite him, and they had escorted him into the room. They told him the president was likely to call on him, with the understanding that he would ask a question about Iran that had been submitted online by an Iranian. "I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet," Obama went on. "Do you have a question?"

Pitney recognized his prompt. "That's right," he said, standing in the aisle and wearing a temporary White House press pass. "I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian."

Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.

The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world -- Iran included -- that the American press isn't as free as advertised. But yesterday wasn't so much a news conference as it was a taping of a new daytime drama, "The Obama Show." Missed yesterday's show? Don't worry: On Wednesday, ABC News will be broadcasting "Good Morning America" from the South Lawn (guest stars: the president and first lady), "World News Tonight" from the Blue Room, and a prime-time feature with Obama from the East Room.

. . .

But yesterday's daytime drama belonged primarily to Pitney, of the Huffington Post Web site. During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner -- from the Huffington Post.

Pitney said the White House, though not aware of the question's wording, asked him to come up with a question about Iran proposed by an Iranian.
Those crazy liberals, getting angry when Bush dressed up a male prostitute as a journalist and let him ask questions like this:
"Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work – you've said you are going to reach out to these people – how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"
Yep, that sounds like the right comparison for Pitney's staged softball:
"Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there isn't that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working for?"
Accusing the president of betraying the demonstrators in Iran? Clearly a set up. And with all the extensive reporting Milbank did on the LEGITIMATE Gannon controversy (Zero Columns), I'm glad he's chosen now to unleash his outrage.

Anyway, somehow his outrage lasted into the weekend when Pitney and Milbank faced off on Howard Kurtz's CNN show. There was a predictably heated exchange between the two, where once again, Milbank refused back up any of his claims that Obama's team asked Pitney for a softball. That part was predictable. What happened next, according Pitney himself, was not:
The only thing that surprised me was when Dana turned to me after our initial sparring and called me a "dick" in a whispered tone (the specific phrase was, I believe, "You're such a dick"). Howie Kurtz wrote on Twitter that he didn't hear it, which is understandable -- he was doing the lead-in for the next part of the segment on the ABC White House special. But it happened (I urge Howie to watch the video of the panel during the ABC intro) and it was frankly pretty odd.
And with that, it was born:


Dana Milbank: Dick Whisperer


Friday, June 26, 2009

Israel Being Israel

The Israeli Government seems to be firmly committed to the foreign policy that's led them to such a peaceful existence over the last 40 years:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank, defying U.S. calls for a halt to settlement growth.

Activists for Bimkom association, which works for justice and human rights in planning and knows a thing or two about the situation in the territories, have discovered that Barak recently authorized the Civil Administration to submit a plan for the construction of 300 housing units in the unauthorized outpost of Givat Habrecha, near the community of Talmon.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pressed Israel to halt settlement activity as part of a bid to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians
This reaction isn't too surprising, simply because no one has ever stood up to Israel on settlement building/anything they do. But now that Israel's made their intentions clear, will Obama take his stance on settlements to the level and break out the foreign policy sticks? And by foreign policy sticks, I mean casually mentioning that we fund the military that allows you to build houses on other peoples' land.

Joe The Plumber Returns!


After a brief hiatus from the Republican party "talking to crazy people" circuit, everyone's favorite non-plumber is back!

Wurzelbacher has a reputation for being a blunt, politically incorrect speaker. Referring to Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., more than once, Wurzelbacher asked, "Why hasn't he been strung up?"

I'm not sure I'd use the term "politically incorrect" for calling for the lynching of a sitting US Senator. But don't stop him, he's rolling.

Referring to the Constitution as "almost like the Bible," Wurzelbacher said of the Founding Fathers: "They knew socialism doesn't work. They knew communism doesn't work."

Here, Joe is undoubtedly citing that totally kickass Federalist Paper in which Alexander Hamilton and James Madison put the beatdown on Marx and Engels. Suck it, leftards!

After speaking, Wurzelbacher signed autographs and posed for pictures with the crowd. In a brief interview Thursday, he said a recent Time magazine report that he had left the Republican Party was false.

We need to do whatever we can to keep him in the news until the 2012 cycle, where he could host one of the debates, or maybe even be a surprise VP candidate! Who knows? In today's Republican party, the sky's the limit for this blithering idiot!

Train of Thought Lounge: Leave Me Alone

Like Ta-Nehisi said, I feel like this is somehow appropriate:



R.I.P. Michael Jackson, the Undisputed King of Pop

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For the Record

Me, two days ago:
On the other hand, I'm a bit speechless that we didn't wait until the night of the draft since Rubio has been slipping in several mocks, and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to take it if he was still there at 5.
In no way did I actually expect this to happen, but I was right about one thing: it's pretty fucking difficult to take.

DCJonesy's point about the stakes of Grunfeld's move is also more true than ever. Now rather than simply being judged by Washington's successes or failures, his record be also be measured by the arc of Rubio's pro career. Predicting how draft picks will turn out is always a crap shoot, but betting the house against Rubio isn't a place I'd want to be.

Is Our Senators Learning?

Apparently not. (Via Yglesias)

I think you rarely see a sitting Senator be as reflective about the legislative process as Max Baucus is here when he says he regrets that the idea of a single-payer health care system was left out of the mix:

He conceded that it was a mistake to rule out a fully government-run health system, or a “single-payer plan,” not because he supports it but because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left Mr. Obama’s proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.

I find myself feeling about the same way I did when I heard yesterday's news. While it's good that this legislative battle has taught the chair of an extremely important senate committee how politics works, you really have to wonder why he couldn't have understood these lessons at say... some earlier point in his 31 year senate career.

It's hard to think of any other career where someone can be that incompetent for so many years and still easily retain their job. Other than NBA head coach, that is.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Grunfeld Risks His Career in D.C., Makes Bizarre Trade for Randy Foye

Well, good to know that a whole year without Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood which saw us tie the franchise-worst ever record netted us... Randy Foye. Yeah, totally worth it.

Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld has practically staked his reputation, along with his future in Washington, on this move, which sent the fifth overall draft pick, Darius Songaila, Etan Thomas and Oleksiy Pecherov to Minnesota in exchange for Foye and Mike Miller. My initial reaction to this trade is "not good." Upon further reflection, I suppose the Wizards do need to upgrade on the defensive side, especially on the perimeter. The longer we sit here and say we need to improve defensively and summarily fail to add any defensive-minded players, the stupider we'll be.

However, you cannot tell me that the number five pick, even in a draft as watered down as this one, is only worth Randy Foye. I liked him well enough when he played at Villanova, and I honestly haven't seen enough of him in the pros to make a full assessment of his skill (probably has something to do with the fact that he was in Minnesota). But there were way bigger names being bandied about in these trade talks (Ray Allen, Amar'e Stoudemire) and I personally feel that if all we're getting back is Foye, we would have been better off just using the pick ourselves.

The bottom line, though, is that this strange move could make or break Grunfeld's tenure as Washington's GM. If this works, and Foye provides balance among our guard rotation and Miller adds scoring from the bench (as he brings nothing else to the table), Grunfeld will get to say a hearty I-told-you-so, all the while helping acclimate new coach Flip Saunders by surrounding with just about everyone he could from his former team. But if this trade doesn't work... well that's another story entirely. The only things this guarantees is that draft night will be utterly useless to watch as a Wizards fan and nearly impossible to enjoy, unless the Clippers trade the number one pick for Stephon Marbury.

One final note about the trade is that it sees Etan Thomas' long run with the team end after alomst a decade. On the court, Etan was virtually useless at this point, having missed the better part of the past two years with a heart ailment and a knee injury. In the community, he was a tremendous humanitarian, a poet, and an activist. His service to the D.C. area was invaluable and he was never afraid to speak his mind.

Well, now that any sense of anticipation for tomorrow's draft has been mercilessly sucked out for any Wizards fan, I guess I'll go back to biding my time until the Redskins do something stupid enough for me to rant about.

Limbaugh: Completely Indistinguishable From the Dumbest Freeper

I told myself I was going lay off Limbaugh and Free Republic for a while, but then I saw this and renounced all my vows:

“Let's see. I talked about this yesterday, the
four Uighur terrorists that were in Guantanamo
Bay, Chinese version of Al-Qaeda, we released
'em to Bermuda.”

"the four Uighur terrorists that were in Guantanamo
Bay, Chinese version of Al-Qaeda"


"terrorists, Chinese version of Al-Qaeda"

Seriously, this is some unbelievable shit from a guy who is assumed by millions of Americans to have a fucking clue. I’m used to seeing this from random freepers . I’m used to seeing it on the rest of their sites, and hearing about how other conservative voices have said the same thing. Finally hearing it from Limbaugh himself is still somehow shocking, though. People supporting their continued detainment exhibit the ultimate height of all the worst aspects of modern conservatism: a combination of willful ignorance, belligerence, and unthinking hatred. Let’s take one more look at these “Chinese al-Qaeda” types:

“The Pentagon had previously determined, reportedly
as early as 2003, that the Uyghurs should be released.
The Post reported in 2005 that these detainees, who
had been classified as “No Longer Enemy Combatants”
were not only still being incarcerated, but were still
being shackled to the floor. None of the Uyghurs were
alleged to have engaged in active hostilities. None
of the Uyghurs described seeing the United States as
an enemy. All of the Uyghurs who mentioned the Chinese
government described them as oppressive occupiers.”
"Hurf durf I’m Rush Limbaugh and I want to rant about the release of the Uighur captives because reconciling my stupid factually incorrect views with reality would be inconvenient.” Hey, if merely helping someone take up arms against the Peoples Liberation Army is all it takes to become Chinese al-Qaeda, then guess who else qualifies by Limbaugh’s own logic? The CIA. The CIA is Chinese al-Qaeda. Chushi Gangdruk (“Four Rivers, Six Ranges,” a nickname for Kham, or eastern Tibet) was a Tibetan resistance group which fought the PLA for years after the invasion. Who was their principle supporter?

“The US Central Intelligence Agency provided the group with material assistance and aid, including arms and ammunition, as well as training to members of Chushi Gangdruk and other Tibetan guerrilla groups at Camp Hale.”

So the Uyghur organizations fighting Beijing are Chinese al-Qaeda, sounds like the Tibetan groups are too. Does that make the Dalai Lama into Chinese Osama bin-Laden? He’s been advocating peaceful resistance for decades, but initially after he fled Lhasa he did acquiesce to people who wanted to start an armed rebellion- including his brother, Thubten Norbu, who helped the CIA train guerillas. This year was quiet compared to last year, but there were a few bombings and incidents near the 50 year anniversary mark. Will we hear about Limbaugh wanting to throw them into Guantanamo next?

No, of course not. That’s because the only difference here is the only one that matters to Limbaugh and other conservative mouthpieces: the Uyghur captives are Muslim, as opposed to the Tibetan Buddhists. You know I don’t expect much from Limbaugh, but most of the time the people he’s ranting about are politicians who want to stay in office, or celebrities who have put themselves in the spotlight. To go off like this about a bunch of random people who were abducted by our military and then declared innocent years ago, and to use his platform to reinforce completely inaccurate misconceptions about people who suffered for years in a Kafkaesque nightmare care of Uncle Sam, is really low (if not exactly unexpected).

*resets “Days Without Talking About Limbaugh” timer to 0*

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Even a Blind Squirrel

Why is it that even when the Senate Democrats do something right, you get the feeling that they only stumbled into it after trying everything else, and that no lessons were learned at all?
Behind-the-scenes attempts to get a deal with Republicans on nonprofit co-ops as an alternative to a public plan have led only to frustration, complains a key Democrat. He and his colleagues may have to go it alone, said Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The co-ops were seen as perhaps the last hope for compromise on a contentious issue that threatens any remaining prospects of bipartisan support for President Obama's sweeping plan to remake the health care system.

"I don't think I could say with a straight face that this (co-op proposal) is at all close to a nationwide public option," Schumer, D-N.Y., told The Associated Press on Sunday. "Right now, this co-op idea doesn't come close to satisfying anyone who wants a public plan."
. . .
Schumer's role is important because he had been acting as an intermediary between liberal Democrats and moderates who are trying to strike a deal on the issue with Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee. Of the five House and Senate committees working on health care, Finance is the only one that appears to have a chance at reaching a bipartisan agreement.

Schumer said Finance Republicans had rejected several proposals designed to beef up the suggested nonprofit insurance co-ops. These included setting up a national structure for the co-ops, $10 billion in government seed money, power to negotiate payment rates to medical providers nationwide and creation of a presidentially appointed board of directors.

Without "dramatic" changes, Schumer said he would oppose the co-ops deal and urge other Democrats to do so as well.
. . .
Both sides are nervous. Some Democrats say they doubt the plan has enough Democratic support to clear the Senate.

"I think there's a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union.
So the Republicans aren't bargaining in good faith over the public option? Wow! What gave that away? Was it the events of the last two weeks or the fact that THEY HAVEN'T EVER DONE THAT ON ANYTHING!

Seriously, what's wrong with these people? Do they get amnesia each time they move on to a new issue? Do they assume that since they repeatedly rolled over when they were in the minority that the Republicans would follow suit?

Regardless, it seems like they may be heading in the right direction this time, despite their best efforts. Ends justify the means and all that, but would it kill them to learn from their past experiences just once?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why the Senate Sucks at Doing Anything

As you may have noticed following this blog or politics in general, the Senate is the place where good legislation goes to die or get made crappier. Matthew Yglesias recently had a few posts were he made some great points about today's Senate:

Continuing on yesterday’s theme, if you add together the two Republican Senators from Wyoming with the one from Alaska, one from South Dakota, one from New Hampshire, two from Maine, two from Idaho, two from Nebraska, one from Nevada, two from Utah, two from Kansas, two from Mississippi, one from Iowa, two from Oklahoma, two from Kentucky, one from Louisiana, two from South Carolina, and two from Alabama, the 28 of them collectively represent (on a system in which you attribute half the population of a given state to a senator) 11.98 percent of the American population.

Meanwhile, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein together represent 11.95 percent of the American population.

Now of course Texas is also a big state (though at 7.81 percent of the population it’s a lot smaller than California) and there are small states (like Vermont and North Dakota) that have two Democratic Senators. So the point here isn’t a narrowly partisan one, though the wacky apportionment of the Senate does have a partisan valence. The point is that this is an unfair and bizarre way to run things. If you consider that the mean state would contain two percent of the population, we have just 34 Senators representing the above-average states even though they collectively contain 69.15 percent of the population. The other 66 Senators represent about 30 percent of the people. If the Iranians were to succeed in overthrowing their theocracy and set about to write a new constitution, nobody in their right mind would recommend this system to them.

Then you add in the filibuster…

On the current use of the filibuster:

Marc Ambinder reports that there will be no recess appointments for Dawn Johnsen or Harold Koh:

The true culprits, though, are Republicans, who refuse to allow the Democratic majority to pass the nominees through the Senate by unanimous consent, which would require 50 votes. Non-unanimous consent implies a full debate, which Republicans intend to use to reduce the policy-making energy of the Democratic majority. If the Democrats bring a controversial nominee to the floor, Republicans will filibuster, knowing that there aren’t 60 aye votes. That would eat up precious legislative time.

I continue to be a little bit astonished by how little attention the political establishment is giving to the implications of the routinization of a 60-vote supermajority requirement for all Senate business. This is a very new “tradition” in American governance, it goes against everyone’s common understanding of how democratic procedures are supposed to work, and there’s very little reason to believe that the results will be beneficial in the long run. The fact that the Democrats currently hold 58-59 Senate seats is, I think, to some extent clouding people’s thinking about this. It’s quite rare for either party to have a majority that large. And the implication of the currently evolving norm is that a new president with a 54 or 55 copartisans in the Senate could find himself completely unable to confirm vast numbers of subcabinet nominees, rendering the country essentially ungovernable.

Meanwhile, the administration and the Senate leadership seems to be shockingly ineffective in bringing attention to this. Consider especially the case of Johnsen, who’s apparently being filibustered on the grounds that she’s pro-choice. How is it that Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both pro-choice Senators from a pro-choice state that voted for the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 feel they can participate in this obstruction with impunity?

Not too much to comment on here, other than the fact that I share his frustrations at both the undemocratic structure of the senate as well as the current "everything needs 60 votes" era. It sure would have been nice if Democrats played that game while Bush was busy destroying the country.

Ice Cream Kid

While it's easy to be a bit down because of the increasingly upsetting news about health care reform, you should take a moment to watch one of the funniest youtubes I've seen in a long time. (via puck daddy)

Enjoy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Liberal"

After the mind blowingly stupid firing of Washington Post Columnist Dan Froomklin yesterday, Atrios put up a great post on the evolution of what it means to be called a liberal:
I think one mistake people, including me, have been making in discussing Froomkin was to assert that he's a liberal and, as Glenn Greenwald said, is almost alone in the mainstream media in criticizing Obama from the Left. This is true, in some sense, but only because our political discourse has become so weird. I mean, a decade ago, whatever I thought of conservatism, I wouldn't have considered "following the law" and "constitutional limits on executive power" and "skepticism about government secrecy" and "acknowledgment of the 4th amendment" and "accountability for government misdeeds other than blowjobs" and "lying our way into war is maybe wrong" and, perhaps, most of all, "torture is bad" to be just "liberal" positions. But since we just came off the age of Bush, where only liberals actually got upset about these things, and conservatives haven't yet (for some reason) become all that concerned that Rahm Emanuel might be bugging their phones, these are now apparently "liberal" positions. So in our discourse Froomkin became an extreme leftist, even though I don't remember him actually expressing opinions on the vast range of issues which, in non-crazy times, we associate with liberalism.
(Emphasis mine)

Celebrate Juneteenth and enjoy your weekends!

Pressure Works/ Clapping Louder Does Not

As a follow up to my post on the pressure the Obama administration is getting from the Gay community, it's worth pointing out the news that broke earlier today.

Reacting to a rising tide of anger from gay and lesbian supporters at a series of slights and deferred promises, President Obama will tomorrow extend some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

The move, which begins to mirror the policy of many large corporations, will have an immediate effect for many workers, but it is a deeply reactive response to a core Democratic group whose concerns have been festering for six months. The presidential memorandum -- scheduled for signing tomorrow at 5:45 p.m., may in the short term, give Joe Biden something positive to say at a June 25 fundraiser that has seen prominent guests drop out, a host sharply attack the administration, and which is expected to be marked by protests.

Awesome! Except...

However, the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from extending health and retirement benefits to same-sex couples, so the benefits are more likely to be marginal -- like relocation assistance.

So while the move sucks as far as actual substance goes, it shows that they are feeling the heat, so much so that they were compelled to react (albeit with a fairly meaningless executive order).

There are two schools of thought in the progressive movement right now on the best way to achieve our goals during a Democratic Administration. One side believes that the best way to do this is to create political pressure on the issue, such as the actions surrounding this fundraiser, and "make him do it" as FDR once said. The other school of thought is to "clap louder" as Chris Bowers put it, and not criticize Obama, hoping that he will do the right thing at the end of the day.

There are often gray areas to these debates and times when people can agree to disagree. This is not one of them. The overwhelming majority of the time, the first method works and the second one does not. There will be rare occasions when politicians act out of the goodness of their heart and "do what's right", but believing that will occur with any regularity is to live in a fantasyland.

Real change gets made when people start to feel the pressure, and the Obama administration feels it on this issue. The progressive movement needs to wrap their minds around the fact that this is how politics works, and learn how to adapt their tactics on other issues that are in need of progressive pressure.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

MSPaint Drive #2 Begins!

Let it never be said that the Train isn’t interested in giving back to the community. When we see problems that can be fixed by charitable donations of our considerable artistic prowess, we happily do what we can. Today once again we find ourselves face to face with true, undeniable need- Mr. Ziegler calls. Who out there will answer this cry for help? Here are some basic guidelines for what you should consider giving:

1. David Letterman is bad! Create images that will help rile up the masses and hopefully play some role in getting him fired for making an unfunny joke.
2. John Ziegler is good! Ziegler should somehow be involved in the picture, likely as a tool of Sarah Palin’s divine retribution.
3. Send them to me if you know my email address. Otherwise, send them to the Train email listed on the top of the right-hand column. I’ll wait until 11 or 12 EST Sunday night.
4. Send your submissions in jpeg or png format- please no 80 gigabyte uncompressed bitmaps! Also keep in mind that the column here is pretty narrow, so if you make some gigantic wide-angle masterpiece the site is going to compress it something fierce!

Go wild! To get us started I have two images: one by commenter Nimsofa and the other by yours truly.



Remember: you have until Sunday night to make something magical!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Republican Protest Attempt #2: Avenging Sarah Palin

The Train Recap: A few days ago David Letterman unleashed his scathing wit on Sarah Palin with this hilarious zinger:

“One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”

Haha, because Palin’s daughter got pregnant before, remember? It’s a thing that happened, and mentioning it in a vaguely out-of-context manner is comical. Now to be serious for a moment, that’s an impressively unfunny joke. Before we even get into anything else just take a moment and appreciate how damn hard that one falls on its face. I think the best description of the joke comes from Letterman himself, who called it "ugly," "cheap," and "in poor taste” during his apology the next day. Seven months after the election I still schedule a few minutes every day for chuckling about how awful Palin is, but that humor should come from her being a terrible politician and not from her messed up family or the exciting escapades of her daughter.

Still, the outrage from the right has this forced quality that I still can’t quite believe. Jokes about Chelsea Clinton weren’t entirely unheard of during the 90’s, and a quick review of the usual suspects on the conservative forum lineup confirms that some people are already going at Malia and Sasha Obama. The Tea Parties* have given some people a newfound appreciation for protesting, though, and someone sensed an opportunity. That person? None other than John Ziegler, the man we last saw during our first MSPaint For The Needy (no, by the way- he never responded to our generous artistic donation). That MSPaint drive was kicked off after I noticed some appalling web design on his site- a theme we’re about to see repeated!

Behold the glory of Fire David Letterman, a new site by Mr. Ziegler that somehow manages to look even crappier than The Drudge Report. I’m not joking- look at both sites, and then try to explain to me how anyone could ever come up with something that looks worse than Drudge in the year 2009. The content is even funnier- the impact of Ziegler’s claim of 47,000 petition signatories is somewhat lessened by the results from his first real-life protest: 15 protestors in New York City, a group outnumbered 2-1 by members of the media there to cover them. I’m hoping Time Magazine’s next Person of the Year will be The Underwhelming Conservative Protest, because they’re really going all out this year. Credit where credit’s due, right?

All of this got me thinking: maybe all Ziegler needs is some more artwork to help get people fired up. Look at all that white space on Fire David Letterman: isn’t there a better use for that? I’m going to create a starter image and some guidelines, and get back on here in a day or two to begin our second MSPaint For The Needy.


*Sadly the Letterman protest didn’t even draw enough people for it to get infiltrated and trolled by Laissez's Fair. Some of their excellent work from the recent protests, both of which were displayed at real Tea Parties near real deranged Tea Partiers:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Give Us Money or We'll Continue to Do Nothing for Your Cause!

So last week there was this idiocy:

President Obama called the Defense of Marriage Act "abhorrent" on the campaign trail and won praise from gay rights advocates for promising to reverse the whole act, not just one section.

But for now, Americablog finds, his Justice Department is defending it as the law of the land — and defending it forcefully, with analogies to incest and child marriage.

The government's motion to dismiss is below; here's John Aravosis:

It's pretty despicable. And before Obama claims he didn't have a choice, he had a choice. Bush, Reagan and Clinton all filed briefs in court opposing current federal law as being unconstitutional (we'll be posting more about that later). Obama could have done the same. But instead he chose to defend DOMA, denigrate our civil rights, go back on his promises, and contradict his own statements that DOMA was "abhorrent."


Pretty disgusting stuff. Also probably not the time for this:(Image via Pam's house blend)


We've actively turned our back on promises to fight for your rights... now give us money! The good news is that big names have started make their discontent known with their wallets, the only gesture that politicians truly understand:

Two prominent gay figures, activist David Mixner and widely read blogger Andy Towle, have pulled out of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser later this month amid growing calls to confront the administration at what was supposed to be its first large scale opportunity to bring in gay cash.

"I will not attend a fundraiser for the National Democratic Party in Washington next week when the current administration is responsible for these kind of actions," Mixner wrote of a motion to dismiss a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act that drew a parallel between same-sex marriage to incestuous marriage. "How will they ever take us seriously if we keep forking out money while they harm us. For now on, my money is going to battles within the community such as the fight in Maine or the March on Washington! I am so tired of being told by Democratic operatives to 'suck it up' because so many other profound issues are at stake," Mixner wrote.

"I've had concerns about the lack of movement from the administration on LGBT issues for some time now but I wasn't comfortable attending after that DOMA brief came out," Towle, who writes the widely read Towle Road blog, said in an e-mail.

And today a few bigger names dropped out, a sign that the whole fundraiser might be scrapped according to John Aravosis of Americablog:
It's over, folks. A lot of us have been saying that if Marty Rouse, the Human Rights Campaign's National Field Director, were to pull his attendance from next week's DNC $1,000 a person gay fundraiser, then the fundraiser would effectively be dead. Well, HRC official Marty Rouse just pulled out as a result of the White House's homophobic DOMA brief in which they equated gay marriage to incest.

The DNC was hawking the attendance of "HRC's Marty Rouse" for a few weeks now, among other gay luminaries, in order to build attendance at the event.
It's great to see this kind of push back, and it needs to be a lesson for the rest of the progressive movement on how to effectively pressure your side into action. Chaos like this makes politicians think twice before enraging their supporters, and that's always a good thing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Netanyahu's Speech

After watching CNN's coverage of Netanyahu's big speech yesterday, I was gently reminded of just how skewed our debate over Israel/Palestine remains. I was watching the recap before I'd seen the speech, and hearing words like "bold", "courageous" and "historic" thrown around, I started to get the crazy idea that something "bold", "courageous" and "historic" might have actually happened.

Well nothing brings you down to earth quite like reading the actual speech. It starts with Netanyahu saying that he is opening talks with the Palestinian leadership without preconditions. Apparently no one told him what "preconditions" mean, because he then proceeded to list off two preconditions that essentially amount to deal breakers.

Mattew Yglesias sums things up:

The quantity of positive press that Benjamin Netanyahu was able to garner yesterday for a speech in which he offered the “concession” of agreeing that Israel should uphold some-but-not-all of its previously made commitments is really pretty astounding. On the key short-term question of settlements, he conceded nothing at all. The number of Israelis living in the West Bank will continue to grow, Jewish-only roads will continue to exist and expand, checkpoints will continue to choke the Palestinian economy, etc.

And on the long-term, territorial details and refugees aside, rather than agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian state, he agreed to the creation of a kind of autonomous Palestinian protectorate that he’ll generous call a “state.” The phrase of choice seems to be that he has a vision for the creation of a “limited” state. But what’s a “limited state”? Who lives in one? It’s true that a variety of states without armed forces exist—basically Costa Rica and a bunch of small island nations—but I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a state without the right under international law to make its own decisions about national defense.

But while not conceding anything to the Palestinians, he’s invented new conditions they need to meet! The whole thing is clearly a tactical retreat to try to shore up his political position here in the United States. People shouldn’t fall for it.

That last section is dead on. The purpose of this speech was to get people (The US/Obama) to back off. That's how this dance has always worked, and Netanyahu is banking on Obama falling into that same trap. So far Obama hasn't taken the bait, and let's hope that continues.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Train of Thought Lounge: Johnny Kemp

An appropriate jam for this Friday:

Johnny Kemp - Just Got Paid



Limbaugh weighs in on the Holocaust Museum Shooting

“This guy, is a leftist, if anything. This guy's beliefs, this guy's hate stems from influence that you find on the left, not on the right."

Welp, guess it’s time for another round of “Is he lying, or is he just ignorant?” Both seem equally plausible here: Goldberg-style “liberals are the real fascists” arguments are in vogue right now on the right, but on the other hand this isn’t any greater of a spin than Limbaugh has knowingly put on issues before. Will the average dittohead realize that Von Brunn was criticizing Bush and the Republicans from the right, not from the left? He was disappointed that Republican Party racism knows some bounds, and that their ardent support of the Israeli military (in his opinion) benefits Jews.

Many of the same conservative pundits that howled with outrage when they saw the DHS report warning about the possibility of right-wing extremists engaging in acts of terrorism are now trying to reconcile their yowling with a string of examples of right-wing extremists engaging in acts of terrorism. Limbaugh is taking a rather unimaginative route with this one- remember, he and his peers also claim that Hitler was a leftist (because he was a member of the National Socialist party, and apparently names trump literally everything else). What does reality say about Von Brunn’s record?

To start with the most obvious one, he was a white supremacist who decried multiracial America. His user page on Wikipedia mentions that he said that “Marxism-Multiculturalism-Judaism is the Enemy of Mankind.” The Guardian reports that “Von Brunn was a member of the American Friends of the British National Party, a group that raised funds in the United States for the far-right and whites-only British National Party.” Wow, really sounds like a leftist to me! Perhaps the most damning evidence is right here, though: When his articles were reposted on Free Republic (funny how this site keeps coming up, huh?) they were met with glowing praise and hundreds of overwhelmingly positive responses.

It should go without saying that the vast majority of Republicans don’t support terrorism. It’s baffling that conservative pundits refuse to admit that conditions are ripe for a surge in right-wing extremism, however, and going out on a limb like this to try to pin it on the left is pretty pathetic. Clearly Limbaugh has very little respect for his listeners- feeding them something so blatantly untrue even by his own standards is pretty shocking. In case it’s somehow unclear, I choose “lying” as my answer for this round of the Limbaugh game. What do you think?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pelosi Draws a Line in the Sand

How political power works:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Huffington Post Thursday that a health care overhaul that did not include a public option wouldn't make it through the House because it "wouldn't have the votes."(...)

Asked by HuffPost if she would allow a reform package without a public option out of the House, she responded: "It's not a question of allow. It wouldn't have the votes."

As enraged as I've been by Pelosi in the past, having a Democratic president seems to have brought out the best in her. It would have been nice for her to have this attitude during the last two years of Bush when she could have been stopping the Iraq war and not selling us out on trade, but whatever.

Add this to today's great quotes from Obama on the public option and I'm more optimistic than ever about the prospect of quality health care reform.

And the lucky recipient of 17 Uighur detainees is…

Palau! Far from being an onomatopoeic word describing the sound of another Bush-era mistake finally being rectified, Palau is actually a small Pacific island nation. Today they agreed to take the last of the Chinese Uighur detainees, people mistaken for Afghani or Pakistani jihadists and held in Guantanamo Bay for the last million years. Giving them to China would have resulted in surefire executions, so figuring out where to put them became an ongoing legal drama made all the more complicated by inexplicable Bush administration efforts to keep them imprisoned forever.

So they get to live out their days in Palau, which does sound better than being hunted by Chinese army divisions or enjoying torture sessions care of Uncle Sam. Reading the story made me wonder, though- how was Free Republic taking the news? A few months ago we saw that Freepers, confronted with a decision between supporting the authoritarian ~*Communist*~ Chinese government or the Muslim rebels trying to free their province, went on and on talking about how great Beijing is for torturing and killing Uighurs and wistfully pined for an America that would happily do the same. What do they think of the Uighurs new home? A great new thread gives us definitive answers.

Phrogphlyer wastes no time:
This could work. Palau could take the terrorists,
then take the money, then issue their own version
of terrorist hunting licenses.

I know I'd be up for a Pacific vacation if they did.

Just to summarize: Phrogphlyer sides with the communists, traditional enemy of all Freepers, in wanting to kill the Uighurs- even though everyone agrees that they aren’t terrorists. Everyone except for a bunch of morons on the internet, that is. Well surely other people must be a little brighter, Phrogphlyer is probably in the minority on this o-

deserted islands.......Low tide....pier pilings.....
crabs......barnacles.....sharks....industrial
strength cop tie wraps.......works for me....


Thanks usmcobra, I too salivate over the thought of the lawless, senseless killing of innocent people. Armsted Fragg must be worried about all the noise from jet planes keeping our Uighur friends up at night:

Hopefully, they’ll put them on one of the islands
without an airport.
Very considerate! Bustinchops presents some practical solutions:

Why not just let these guys walk out the front
gates of Gitmo and leave it up to them to
figure out where they;re going to go and how to
get there if they can find a place to take them.
Otherwise they can stay in Cube (I’m sure Castro
can find a use for them, even if it’s prison
labor in their wonderful facilities and system).
Spring ‘em with a handful of change for the pay
phone, a few bucks to eat off of, some toiletries,
a decent set of clothes and shoes and tell them
adios, then slam the door behind them. They managed
to behave in a way to get them thrown into Gitmo;
let them figure out their own ticket out, too.
Do you think the average Freeper realizes that ‘behaving in such a way as to get thrown into Gitmo’ can mean pretty much anything? Given that we can’t even figure out how most of them got there (and that reasons for ones we do know include things like ‘pissing off their neighbors with a noisy party’ and ‘being Muslim near a confused American soldier’) we can only conclude that ‘behaving in such a way as to get thrown into Gitmo’ can be pretty much any kind of behavior- I think Bustinchops qualifies. Mylife is worried about the children:

NOoooo!!! dont taint Micronesia with these pigs!
Heaven forbid a bunch of random Uighur Chinese end up in Micronesia, the place will be forever spoiled! Demshategod gives us one more:

That’s not fair. I need to behead some little kids
and shoot American soldiers so I can go live in Palua.
Oh well, I guess living in Oklahoma is better than
being a murdering Muslim.
There are no words.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How to Lose with Class

No sarcasm here, because that's actually what Terry McAuliffe did last night after last night's blowout loss:

This email hit inboxes less than three hours after the polls closed in Virginia:

Earlier, I called Creigh Deeds and congratulated him on becoming the Democratic nominee for Governor. And I told him something that I know you all will agree with: he MUST be the next Governor of Virginia. Creigh Deeds will carry on the proud tradition of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and he will get Virginia's economy back on track.

Bob McDonnell, on the other hand, has done everything he could to stand in the way of Virginia's progress. He voted "no" on Mark Warner's budget reform. He said "no" to Tim Kaine's transportation reform. He even said "no" to President Obama's economic stimulus plan, rejecting $125 million of your taxpayer money that is now going to other states.

With Bob McDonnell sitting on millions of dollars in his bank account, Creigh Deeds needs our help to gear up for the general election. So please, make a contribution to his campaign and help continue the progress we've made over the last seven years.

Click here to contribute to Creigh Deeds' campaign.

I have been following politics for about half of my lifetime. And I have never seen a vanquished candidate in a primary exhort his supporters to financially support the primary winner within hours of the polls closing in the election.

This is particularly impressive when you consider how his former boss handled her primary loss about a year ago:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took the stage before supporters Tuesday night and finally asked the question that so many people had been posing: “What does Hillary want?”

She listed some policy goals and demanded respect for her supporters. But she did not really answer her own question, demurely suggesting instead that it was up to her backers to advise her by e-mail on what she should do next.

What the crowd gathered at Baruch College in Manhattan for her final primary night celebration wanted was clear, from those outside chanting “Denver, Denver,” urging her to go all the way to the party’s convention in August, to those inside interrupting her speech with shouts of “Yes, she will! Yes, she will!”

And while Mrs. Clinton reminisced about her campaign and talked of a need to unite the party, she did not concede, and indeed did not acknowledge that her rival, Senator Barack Obama, had passed the threshold of delegates needed to secure the nomination.

Now that a year has passed and she's been named secretary of state for reasons I will never understand, it's easy to forget just how truly disgusting her campaign was.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And Just like That... Geithner's Plan Was Gone

News came out in an under reported story last week:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. indefinitely postponed a central element of the Obama administration’s bank rescue plan Wednesday, acknowledging that it could not persuade enough banks to sell off their bad assets.

In a move that confirmed the suspicions of many analysts, the agency called off plans to start a $1 billion pilot program this month that was intended to help banks clean up their balance sheets and eventually sell off hundreds of billions of dollars worth of troubled mortgages and other loans.

Many banks have refused to sell their loans, in part because doing so would force them to mark down the value of those loans and book big losses. Even though the government was prepared to prop up prices by offering cheap financing to investors, the prices that banks were demanding have remained far higher than the prices that investors were willing to pay.

Robert Kuttner goes further to describe why the plan failed, and where it leaves us:

First, the government has bent the accounting rules to allow the banks to carry nearly worthless securities on their books at their nominal full value. The Wall Street Journal ran a terrific investigative piece June 3 on how the banking lobby and legislators of both parties pressured the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to suspend its rules requiring assets to be carried on banks' books at their current market value.

With this change, banks had no incentive to sell these deeply depressed securities at anything like their actual market value. So if a speculator, armed with Fed funding and a government guarantee against losses was prepared to take a speculative flyer in a bond by bidding, say, 30 cents on the dollar, the bank was not prepared to sell at less than 90. Hence, no deal.

Second, some hedge funds and private equity companies sniffed around these deals and concluded that they weren't worth the bad publicity or government scrutiny if the deals resulted in big windfall profits (the only kind that hedge funds pursue).

Cooking the books to inflate the value of depressed securities also explains how zombie banks like Citigroup could pass the government's "stress tests" with flying colors. Citigroup, which has depended on $45 billion in straight government cash and hundreds of billions more in guarantees, was found by the stress-testers from the Fed and the Treasury to need only $5 billion more to be adequately capitalized. This is, of course, preposterous if you value the junk on its books accurately.

The failure of Geithner's plan is actually good news for those of us who don't believe in rewarding speculating hedge fund managers with a trillion dollars of taxpayer money. The plan was immoral, and while it's a setback for the administration, it's good news that they get sent back to the drawing board. With Geithner and Summers in charge who knows what you're gonna get, but you'd think it would be better than their first effort.

If You Live In Virginia...

Please do me a favor and don't vote for this guy:



That is all.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Case For Joe Sestak

For some time now, I've tried to make the case for just how much Arlen Specter sucks.

What I haven't done is make the case for his challenger, Congressman Joe Sestak, and what positives he brings to the table regardless of Arlen Specter's sucking. Luckily, Chris Bowers knows the race and offers a great endorsement:

Sestak is an extraordinarily relentless campaigner--I have honestly never seen anyone better than him on this front. His constituent services are, from what I understand, possibly the best in the entire Congress. His biography and resume are difficult, if not impossible, to match. Further, he is significantly more progressive than Specter according to all voting scorecards. Also, despite the standing ovations in front of the party leadership, there was a stronger anti-Specter undercurrent at the state Democratic committee this weekend then I think most news reports are indicating. You are talking about hundreds of people who spent thirty years trying to defeat Specter, after all.

I don't think many people are Democrats just for the sake of Democrats accumulating more power. People become Democrats because of the causes and ideals represented by the party. An octogenarian Senator who switched parties to save his job and who fails to cross even the bare minimum threshold on many of these causes and ideals is simply not why people are Democrats. The insider relationship that Governors and other high ranking party officials care about are irrelevant to the rank and file. In a campaign this high profile, most high ranking endorsements won't matter much, either. People want cheaper health care, and they don't want elections decided for them behind closed doors.

This is going to be a very close, election. I'm one Pennsylvania Democrat, state committee member, and former union organizer, who is throwing his lot with Joe Sestak.

Once we get Sestak's official announcement, the craziest and most significant primary since Lamont/Lieberman begins.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Train of Thought Lounge: Nirvana

I tend to listen to music in waves, picking up on various artists or groups or genres for a certain period of time, then moving on to find new music or rediscover old favorites, before often times migrating back to what I listened to before. Sometimes these phases last a couple of months, sometimes a couple of years. Maybe I'm not the only one who experiences music this way, but at any rate I can't explain why I do it.

And so, I can't explain exactly why I've been listening to Nirvana's MTV Unplugged album from 1993 so much recently, but I have. Here, for your viewing and listening pleasure, is their cover of the Meat Puppets' "Oh, Me."

Obama at 137 Days!

All those attempts to evaluate Obama's presidency at 100 days were kind of lame, mainly because FDR started the first 100 days thing, and since we haven't exactly elected many people of his caliber in the last 80 years, it doesn't usually lead to flattering comparisons. And besides, 100 days is a pretty arbitrary time to evaluate someone anyway, since Obama has mostly been laying the groundwork for stuff that will happen later on the legislative calender.

But today's earlier post got me thinking: You know what's not an arbitrary time to evaluate the President? 137 Days!

What would you call his high point and low point over the first 137 days of what will (hopefully) be 8 years as president?

As I said in the earlier post, my high point would have to be his strong stand against Israel's attempts to expand settlements, and his reaction to the political backlash that followed. A rule I've learned following US politics is that you should always expect politicians to cave to AIPAC at all times, no matter the issue, no matter the reason, and no matter how awesome that politician may be in other areas. So when politicians actually do take a stand against that lobby, it should be seen as a major act of political courage. While putting up real opposition to Israel on the creation of new settlements may not seem like a huge deal, it's the first time in at least in my lifetime that a US leader has actually said "no" to Israel on a legitimate issue, and then not backed down to the political pressure that followed. Definitely the high in my book, and a great sign for the potential resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

As you might have guessed from reading this blog, my low point would have to be the handling of the banking crisis. Considering that Obama has followed a center-right path on economic issues throughout is career and campaign, I was fully prepared for center right economists to populate his cabinet. Unfortunately we got something much worse with two people who have direct responsibility for the financial crisis in both their actions and their devotion to the failed ideology that caused it. This has led to a series of awful decisions, topped by "Geithner's toxic asset plan" which amounts to a trillion dollar transfer of wealth from the US Treasury to the pockets of hedge fund managers. I'd say that qualifies as a low.

What are your thoughts at this all important juncture of day 137?

It's All About Israel/Palestine

When reading the reactions to Obama's speech yesterday, you wonder why our stance in the Israel/Palestine conflict doesn't get the attention that it deserves as central source of disagreement between the US and the Muslim world. The Iraq war was a huge source of tension and our involvement in Afghanistan remains an issue to a lesser degree, but at the end of the day, our our unconditional support of Israel's extremely unpopular foreign policy will be the most important issue in that relationship. Politico analyzes the applause (or non-applause) lines:
Similarly, when Obama talked about “America’s strong bonds with Israel” and said that bond “is unbreakable” there was no applause.

The crowd was far more receptive, erupting into applause and shouts, when Obama moved on to the plight of the Palestinian people and said: “So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”

“The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security,” Obama said to applause.

But the lines that followed were met by a vast stillness. “Palestinians must abandon violence,” Obama said. “Violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.”

Obama was repeatedly interrupted by applause, however, when he said the following: “At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel ’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

Juan Cole:
I think he may be reading too much into some moments of silence, but he is absolutely correct that Obama's even-handedness in defending Israel would not have been and was not popular. Arab publics think that Israel has been doing something criminal to the Palestinians, and they can't understand why the international community condones it.
This makes Obama's refusal to engage in the usual US/Israeli Kabuki dance even more encouraging. The reality of the situation is that our relations with the Muslim world won't significantly improve until our role in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict changes. If he keeps up his actions on that front, he has the potential to change the way the US is seen throughout the world for generations. His willingness to confront Israel's hard line stance on the settlements has been (in my opinion) the most impressive achievement of his presidency so far. There's a long, long road ahead, but his actions on this issue so far make the future look extremely bright.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama In Cairo


I haven't seen it yet, but from what I read it sounds good.

Anybody see it and have an opinion?

Morning Joe's Stupidity Knows No Bounds

It's always fun when conservatives get caught building upon the factually challenged cornerstones of their philosophy to create amazing leaps in logic (Gay Marrige=End of Civilization, Taxes=Bad no matter what, Not carpet bombing at all times= Weakness, etc.). Yesterday on Morning Joe, we saw this phenomenon in action, in relation to unions. According to the hosts and the show's panel:

Unions=Evil, bad for business >>> Unions= So evil and bad for business that it makes it impossible to make a profit >>> NO UNION BUSINESS HAS EVER MADE A PROFIT IN THE HISTORY OF TIME!!1!!1!

Media Matters:
The Morning Joe crew was on an anti-union tear this morning, claiming the union label on a company means "sell." Mika Brzezinski went so far as to say of unions: "They cripple the system that makes a company work." Collectively, the journalists on Morning Joe couldn't name a single "successful" unionized company.

This says more about their qualifications to discuss public policy and labor relations than it says about unions. To pick just one obvious example, UPS is unionized -- and the company made more than $3 billion last year. That's "billion" with a "b," and those are profits, not revenues.

Oh, what the heck, let's take one more example. GE is one of the world's largest companies; in 2006, its revenues were greater than the gross domestic products of 80 percent of UN nations. The company made more than $18 billion in 2008 -- again, billion with a b, and again, those are profits, not revenue. All that despite (or, perhaps, because of) the fact that 13 different unions represent GE workers.
Oh, and GE owns NBC-Universal, which owns MSNBC, which pays Joe Scarborough a handsome salary (and the unionized workers who help get his show on the air considerably less.

Does Joe Scarborough think NBC and GE are not "successful" companies? Does Mika Brzezinski think the unionized workers she no doubt interacts with every day are crippling her ability to do her job, or her employer's ability to be successful?
Although in a strange way I guess Morning Joe is trying to prove it's own point by producing such a crappy product that their show (produced by a union company) no longer remains profitable. Keep it up, guys!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

20


The majority of my students wouldn't recognize this picture.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Obama Drops a Truth Bomb

Obama on Bill Clinton during the primary:
"We had to figure out how to deal with a former president who was just lying, engaging in bald-faced lies."
Fucking awesome. I guess we'll find out if this was a case of when keeping it real goes wrong during the next cabinet meeting.

AIPAC Targets Donna Edwards for Embracing a Sane Foreign Policy

In a Politico story filled with plenty of veiled primary threats and ridiculous distortions, we find out that the warmongers in the Jewish community are not very pleased with Donna Edwards' sane approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) knocked off incumbent Al Wynn in a 2008 primary by tapping into liberal resentment of the Democratic congressman and portraying him as a tool of K Street who had lost touch with his suburban Maryland constituents.

But after just a year on the job, Edwards herself is facing grumbling from within her own party, not to mention the possibility of a primary opponent with support from an alienated constituency: the suburban Washington-area Jewish community.

“The relationship between the Jewish community and Donna Edwards got off to a rocky start,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “I would be lying if I told you there wasn’t concern.”

So what got them off to such a "rocky start"?

At issue is Edwards’ support for Israel. Jewish leaders say tensions began to rise in January, when the House voted on a nonbinding resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” and condemning Hamas for its attacks on the Jewish state.

The resolution, introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), passed 390-5 with overwhelming bipartisan support. But Edwards balked at supporting the measure, joining 21 other members who voted “present.”

At the time, Edwards said the “House voted on the wrong resolution at the wrong time” and that she chose not to back the resolution because Congress ought to instead support the United Nations’ call for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East.

Agreeing with the rest of the world that killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians isn't a great way to achieve peace? The nerve.

Her explanation did little to quell the controversy, and in the weeks after Jewish leaders complained that an Edwards-sponsored forum on the Israel-Palestine conflict failed to include a hawkish, pro-Israel voice and that the first-term congresswoman was unresponsive to requests to organize a meeting with suburban Washington Jewish leaders to discuss the vote.

“The fact that she did not vote in favor [of the resolution] is cause for concern,” said Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of the B’nai Tzedek synagogue in Potomac, Md. “It certainly raises questions for our community.”

“It appears from that vote that she has reservations about support for Israel that others don’t,” said Rabbi Ari Sunshine of the B’nai Shalom synagogue of Olney, Md.

Her forum failed to include a "hawkish, pro-Israel voice"? It may not have included a warmongering nut job, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean there wasn't a "pro-Israel" voice represented. Great unbiased reporting, Politico!

And she has reservations about blindly supporting a country's military actions that have a direct impact on our national security? The horror!

Bring on the threats of a primary challenge:

There are already signs that the Jewish community is preparing to back a primary challenge to Edwards. Last month, Maryland Del. Herman Taylor attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington — in no small part, he said, to gauge support for a run against Edwards.

“I have a lot of friends in the Jewish community,” Taylor told POLITICO. “There seems to be a lot of people not completely thrilled with her lack of support for Israel.”

“I do think there are people who would like to back a pro-Israel candidate against Donna Edwards,” said Larry Fishbein, the president and publisher of the Washington Jewish Week newspaper. “She is certainly opening the door to another candidate who would be more receptive to the Jewish vote.”

Since he's asking AIPAC for help and throwing around the "pro-Israel" term without definition, let's just rewrite those two paragraphs so that there a bit more accurate.:

“I have a lot of friends in the warmongering faction of the Jewish community,” Taylor told POLITICO. “There seems to be a lot of people not completely thrilled with her lack of support for endless war.”

“I do think there are people who would like to back a pro-carpet bombing candidate against Donna Edwards,” said Larry Fishbein, the president and publisher of the Washington Jewish Week newspaper. “She is certainly opening the door to another candidate who would be more receptive to warmongering lobbyists with tons of money.”

Much better. And speaking of lobbyist money, you know who really loved Israel? Al Wynn!

Jewish leaders complain that Edwards is emerging as a far less reliable ally to Israel than Wynn, who during his time in office was a staunch supporter of the annual U.S. aid package to Israel. In 2005, he called on Egypt to condemn Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that “Israel must be wiped off the map.” During his 2008 campaign against Edwards, Wynn received $24,500 from the pro-Israel lobby, according to contribution records compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

“He was very receptive to the Jewish concerns, very responsive to the Jewish community,” said Weinblatt.

I'm glad they put it all in one paragraph in case you were wondering why Mr. bought and paid for Al Wynn just loved Israel so much. The man would be on the House floor defending Ahmadinejad if he had a lobby that could raise him $30,000.

Oh yeah, one more time, this has NOTHING to do with being responsive to Jewish concerns or the Jewish community. LITERALLY NOTHING. This is about your feelings on pointless violence, and the long term safety of Israel, Palestine and the United States. Trying to make this seem like an angry group of constituents is an insult to everyone's intelligence. Donna Edwards is being attacked because she had the courage to speak out against the most powerful lobby in the United States. They frame their attacks this way because because Politico would be less likely to write a story titled "AIPAC attacks Donna Edwards for Opposing the Indescriminate Killing of Civilians with US Taxpayer money."

While several years ago the article would have ended there, one of the last paragraphs gives you hope that someday AIPAC's grip of our foreign policy debate will be broken:
“We consider her to be extremely pro-Israel,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, a pro-Israel organization that endorsed Edwards in her 2008 race and favors a dovish approach to the Middle East conflict. “She is very interested in finding a way to bring peace to Israel through diplomacy.”
While J Street is still in it's infancy, their existance is massively important for many reasons, starting with simple press quotes like this. As the rest of this article shows, we have a long way to go before this changes in a major way, but growing organizations like J Street is a big start.

Oh yeah, and if you have time, or a little money, support Donna Edwards. I volunteered for her in 2008, I'll work for her again in 2010, and you won't be dissapointed with the awesome member of congress you get in return.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Talking About Policy is for Suckers

Sometimes shows like Hardball give you truth bombs that are much more closer to reality than anyone is willing to admit:
CILLIZZA: Here's the problem. She, she holds a press conference, she brings the leadership with her to show that everyone is behind her.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, but Steny was acting like her defender, he's her biggest rival...

CILLIZZA: I agree. She talks for, they talk for twenty-five minutes about essentially nothing. Everyone knows she has a plane to catch...

MATTHEWS: It's called policy, by the way, Chris. (LAUGHTER) Something only a political reporter would say.

CILLIZZA: That gets me. Well-played.

SIMON: Stuff we don't care about...

MATTHEWS: All this stuff, health care, cap and trade, all this stuff.
What Digby said:
Political reporters are often derided as being sportswriters. But sportswriters actually bother to watch the game. Cillizza's comment is akin to saying that the Lakers and the Nuggets for four quarters did "essentially nothing" to run out the clock on the postgame press conference so reporters couldn't ask Kobe about his relationship with Phil Jackson. I've never seen a group of journalists so openly dismissive about a subject they ostensibly exist to cover.

Right Wing Terrorism Hits Home

Yesterday:

George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who became a national lightning rod in the debate over abortion, was shot to death this morning as he walked into church services.

Tiller, 67, was shot just after 10 a.m. at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th, where he was a member of the congregation. Witnesses and a police source confirmed Tiller was the victim.

Greg Sargent wonders if people might reconsider their reactions to that Homeland Security Report from a few months back:

You may recall the enormous controversy that erupted in April over a Department of Homeland Security report that assessed the threat of “right wing extremists.” The story provoked days of nonstop cable chatter, and DHS chief Janet Napolitano ultimately apologized.

Fast forward to the huge and horrible news yesterday that late-term abortion doctor George Tiller was shot dead by a man who reportedly posted on the blog of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. Maybe we should take another look at all that criticism?

One passage from the DHS report that provoked nonstop outrage said that right wing extremists “may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

Some on the right read this passage and decided it was a reference to them. Top conservative blogger Michelle Malkin warned that it meant you’re being targeted by Obama’s big brother government “if you are a member of an active conservative group that opposes abortion” or if you are active on other issues.

This wasn’t a fringe interpretation of the report, by the way. RNC chair Michael Steele for instance, blasted the report for labeling peaceful dissenters on issues “as terrorists.” Other Republican members of Congress sounded similar tones.

And at the very least, Bill O'Reilly will have some explaining to do:



The press release from Operation Rescue shows you the type of unhinged minds that we're dealing with:

Randall Terry, Founder of Operation Rescue, will hold a press conference to discuss how the pro-life movement should deal with Dr. Tiller’s death…

Mr. Terry states: “We must not fear, we must not flinch, we must not retreat a single inch. George Tiller was a mass murderer, and we must continue to say so in his death just as we did in his life.”

All this in the name of being "pro life".