Friday, September 28, 2012

Bibi Has Completely Lost His Mind

So we know that he's a warmongering bigot. But during his speech at the UN yesterday, he actually did this:


God help us when Iran gets to the "final stage" and acquires a fuse for their nuclear weapon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Guess Let's All Vote or Whatever

After reading JJ's Guide to Voting from a few days back I think we're mostly in agreement- voting is OK. Makes sense that someone might do it. I do want to look at a few things, though, because I'm still wondering if we've really covered all the ways in which American democracy is a meaningless sham.

I know I'm always tying in China to discussions somehow, and that this can be annoying, but I think it's an instructive example to use when looking at the way American politics works, and also the ways in which it doesn't work. So lets take Chinese elections as our baseline for comparison, as a measure of how absolutely useless voting can be. Did you know it's possible to vote in China? The specifics vary by area, but generally politics on the lowest level, village or locality, allow voting. This is for government positions only though, not Communist Party positions, and the Party controls who gets on the ballot. They're people who have been approved by the Party, and if that means that there's only one name on the ballot, so be it. The Wukan Incident showed that once someone is in office they can remain there for years without any further voting, and a crop of independent candidates who arose to challenge the handpicked Party candidates last year were unceremoniously swept away and harassed, intimidated, or just plain removed from the ballot. In summary: voting is occasionally possible, but the only choices given are people who will back the status quo because their job depends on it. As far as I'm concerned, this is a 100% meaningless vote.

So, my question: to what extent is American democracy more meaningful? Can you advance meaningful positive change by voting in the presidential election?  And before you answer that, think about this: if I give you a candidate who has deported more illegal immigrants than Dubya, who has targeted American citizens for assassination and overseen an extensive drone strike program that has killed piles of civilians in countries around the world, who has backed banks and corporations as hard as he could and given America a Romney-style healthcare reform? If you gave me that description without anything else I'd say 'hey, that sounds like a Republican, it's probably pretty important to vote against him.'

JJ says:
Vote Obama, Green, Romney, or if you're truly undecided, at least vote in all the down ballot elections.
Oh, I'm not undecided. I'm thoroughly decided that both Obama and Romney are ridiculous pieces of shit, and that it a just world it would be a vote for which of them is exiled to a frozen wasteland or desert island or something, not which one of them gets to cackle with glee in the Oval Office while a bunch of Pakistani families get incinerated. These are both objectively bad people, one of whom is a murderer, while the other one merely aspires to become a murderer. But still, as JJ says:
As noted centrist sellout Noam Chomsky said: "Choosing the lesser of two evils isn't a bad thing. The cliché makes it sound bad, but it's a good thing. You get less evil." Sometimes it really is that simple.
And that's true, which is why we're in agreement and why voting still kinda makes sense. But I think we need to spend a bit of time thinking about that, because in the end while we may be voting for the lesser evil, but we're still voting for evil. We're going to vote for a guy and he's going to go out there and do some truly despicable stuff, and in some small abstract way it was our votes that powered it. You see someone with a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker and you're like 'you voted for Bush?!' But hey, I'm about to vote for a guy that does a bunch of the same stuff, so... politics, huh?

There is one point on which I have to disagree with JJ:
As people who read this blog know, I have quite a long list of grievances with Obama and his administration, far too lengthy to get into here. The main question here is: What would be solved by voting for Mitt Romney, voting third party or not voting at all?
Which makes me wonder, these grievances with the Obama administration... are any of them solved by voting for Obama again? None of the issues I have with the Obama administration are going to be addressed by voting for him, the only difference is that the greater evil isn't going to be in quite as good of a position to push their even worse agenda. Let's be clear about this, by stopping Romney/Ryan we're getting better outcomes for a bunch of the blocs they would like to go after. Both parties are good at mobilizing their bases by getting people worried about the things their opponents would do, while minimizing the problems that are still facing America- the end of American industry and labor, harmful trade agreements, the collapse of the middle class, growing wealth inequality and declining social mobility, rising health care costs and the continuation of a violence-based foreign policy that has deemphasized human rights. Democrats might not have the same passion for attacking medicare, medicaid, and social security as Republicans, but they don't have any passion for defending them either. If we can't get real about these problems then America will continue to decline, and voting for Obama definitely isn't going to get us any realer than we are now.

One thing that personally really gets to me about Obama is his continued silence on Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize a year after Obama. That means it shouldn't just be Obama's duty as president of a nation that supposedly supports human rights and freedom of expression around the world to speak out on his behalf, but as someone linked by holding one of the most prestigious awards on the planet. Still, he holds his tongue because, as Hillary Clinton cynically put it, "pressing on those human rights issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis." Would public pressure from Obama get Liu out of prison? I don't know, and I guess we don't get to find out. I don't know what else this episode tells us about him other than that he's a bad politician who doesn't deserve my vote, and if it weren't for the overwhelming awfulness that is R-Squared and the Republican Party, he wouldn't be getting it.

Basically, to summarize:
-Voting in China is 100% worthless.
-Voting for the President in America is merely 99% worthless, because you can control the speed of American decline. Hurtling with Republicans, or merely Plummeting with Democrats.
-Still, that 1% makes a difference, so let's all vote! Especially in state and local elections, where there's a legitimate chance that you might find A Good Politician who actually deserves to be voted for.

Credibility is Not An Absolute Value

David Roberts from Grist is one of my favorite writers out there, and this piece could not hit the nail on the head any more if it tried.
Sullivan has the cover story in the latest issue of Newsweek, called “The Democrats’ Reagan,” about the enormous potential of a second Obama term. One of his main arguments is that a decisive defeat for Republicans in 2012 could interrupt their rightward drift. Defeat would cause soul-searching, cooler heads would once again prevail, and the party would tack to the center. Color me skeptical.

Mostly I was struck by this line, which comes in the context of a discussion about immigration:

Under Obama, deportations of illegal aliens are double what they were under his predecessor; and the number of border agents is at a record high. Both give him conservative credibility on the issue, if only the right would acknowledge it.

Read it again. See if you can spot the problem.

In post-truth politics, the basic mistake to see things like “credibility” as objective phenomena in the world. Put high heat to water, you get steam. Put conservative immigration policies to Obama, you get conservative credibility.

Credibility is not like that. It’s what you might call a relational phenomenon; it exists in the relationship between object and subject. Think about a rainbow. (Always good advice.) For a rainbow to exist, you need sunlight and water vapor in the air, but also a subject positioned at a particular angle to the sun and water vapor. A rainbow is just “how the light bouncing off the vapor appears to the subject.” Without the subject, there’s no appearing, and thus no rainbow.

Credibility is like a rainbow. It is relational. “Conservative credibility” is not something that simply happens when conservative policies are enacted or conservative rhetoric echoed. It requires a subject — in this case a conservative subject — to witness and acknowledge it. One must be credible to someone, and to have “conservative credibility” one must be credible to conservatives.
There is no credibility to gain from conservatives. Period.

And that Andrew Sullivan piece is absolutely awful, in case the hacky title didn't already tell you that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Wingnuts are Not Handling This Well

Obama is rising in most polls, and has started to take a substantial lead over Mitt Romney in recent weeks. Wingnuts are dealing with this development as rationally as you'd expect, and have created a website that recalculates the polls until Mitt Romney is winning:
I present UnSkewedPolls.com, the best new website on the political Internet. UnSkewed Polls finally removes the “liberal media bias” from every single national opinion poll, and it turns out that “unskewing” them means “making it so that Romney is ahead by a lot.” Rick Perry approves!

The UnSkewed Average has Romney at 51.8 percent and Obama at a mere 44 percent. How does the genius behind UnSkewed Polls go about unskewing all the polls — like, for real, the vast majority of polls — that show the opposite result? Well, Dean Chambers, the polling genius behind the site, simply “re-weights” every single national poll to reflect his belief that Republicans are undersampled, based on right-leaning pollster Rasmussen’s partisan breakdown of the electorate. (Scott Rasmussen blurbs: “you cannot compare partisan weighting from one polling firm to another.”)

And obviously “re-weighting” every single poll to reflect an electorate made up of a plurality of self-identified Republicans also involves a bit of guesswork! Like, for example, sometimes polls don’t include crosstabs, so Mr. Unskewed just assumes they’re skewed with liberal media bias, and corrects accordingly.
. . .
Meanwhile, in reality, Nate Silver says late-September polls have a pretty good track record of predicting the winner of the race, if not the margin. In the cases of the two elections this one has been most often compared to: President Carter was down 3.4 percent in September 1980, and lost by 9.8. President Bush was up 4.5 percent in September 2004, and won by 2.4.

In fact, at this point you have to look pretty hard for examples of underdogs pulling it out: “Of the 19 candidates who led in the polls at this stage since 1936, 18 won the popular vote (Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 is the exception), and 17 won the Electoral College (Al Gore lost it in 2000, along with Mr. Dewey).” But all of those polls and electoral results were skewed, by liberal media bias.
Thought: If you're reduced to making up polling numbers until your guy is winning, that is probably not a good sign.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BUT WHY DO THEY HATE US????

A new study conducted by law professors at Stanford and New York University contends that the U.S. use of drones to target suspected militants in Pakistan has had a "damaging and counterproductive effect" on the country and has killed far more civilians than previously acknowledged.

The study, which was released on Tuesday, relies on some 130 interviews with civilians living in the regions of northern Pakistan where targeted drone strikes have been most frequent. Working with the activist group Reprieve, the team of professors have added to the growing body of literature that argues, contrary to Obama administration claims, that numerous civilians have been killed, and many more traumatized, by the drone strike program.

"Drones hover 24 hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public spaces without warning," the report said. "Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves."

Relying on data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the study's authors say that between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed in U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan since June 2004, and between 474 and 881 of them were civilians.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Undecided Voters

I hadn't seen very much of the SNL political stuff so far this election season, but this is pretty brilliant:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Train of Thought Guide To Voting

JN's post from a few weeks back made me want to write something explaining my thinking towards the coming presidential election. Presenting:



Voting

Whatever your thoughts, and no matter how fucked our system is, not voting isn't the answer. Vote Obama, Green, Romney, or if you're truly undecided, at least vote in all the down ballot elections. Republicans are not playing around when it comes to attacking our democracy and the right to vote. This isn't something to be taken lightly. They are literally attempting to make our country less democratic, because they know in the long term they're losing. The country is becoming more tolerant and less white, two things the Republican party is freaking out over because their it means their voting base of neanderthals is moving further and further into america's fringes. Their only option is attacking our democracy. If you don't vote you're doing their work for them.

Obama Vs. Romney

Our two party system, broken government institutions and the influence of money in our electoral system have basically ensured that we will have a Romney vs. Obama type choice in presidential election for some time. As people who read this blog know, I have quite a long list of grievances with Obama and his administration, far too lengthy to get into here. The main question here is: What would be solved by voting for Mitt Romney, voting third party or not voting at all?

First let's address the third party question. Our system now is set up to make it as difficult as possible for third parties to gain any political power. This is awful, and once of the worst things about our political system. With that said, voting for one of these parties during a presidential election does not seem to be an effective ways of changing our predicament . Spending time supporting things such as fusion voting in New York or other projects that make third parties more viable at the state level seems like a much better way of changing this paradigm. No clue if I'll feel the same way in 4 years, the landscape might have changed, but right now it seems like the only third party candidates with any real support come from places like the plutocracy now movement and other self funded billionaire vanity projects. This isn't to say there isn't value in movements to try and reach the 5% federal funding threshold for third parties, but until we can change the structure of this process, a third party vote at the presidential level does not strike me as particularly useful.

People who have made arguments to not vote for Obama (Glenn Ford of the Black Agenda Report comes to mind) do so by game theory-ing out a future where a Mitt Romney presidency has done something to reinvigorate a "real" left or something along those lines. Personally, I just have much less faith in my predictive powers to base my vote on that type of forecasting. That's not to say that it isn't possible that Obama could continue to do terrible things that wouldn't be possible under President Mitt Romney, it's just that I think it's really hard to predict what will happen with any kind of certainty that far down the road.

Additionally, a Romney Administration + Republican House and Senate could easily be worse than the Bush administration. That isn't to say that we won't see horrible things from the second term of the Obama Administration + Republican House and Senate. We will most likely see them push cuts to social security and medicare, the TPP, and I'm sure more yemen bombings, with potentially the extrajudicial killing of an american citizen thrown in for good measure. With Romney we could see the Ryan budget, national right to work, Israel bombing Iran, maybe even a land war for old times' sake! While this is all guess work (especially cause Romney has held opposing views on most issues at various times), but I'm decently confident that a Romney Administration gives us a much higher potential for evil.

As awful as spending the second Obama term fighting a worse trade agreement than NAFTA and cuts to our social safety net, it's worth my vote to prevent the second set of alternatives. I really do believe (well, hope at least) we are heading to a war for the future of the Democratic party, but I don't think the election will have an effect on that one way other the other.

As noted centrist sellout Noam Chomsky said: "Choosing the lesser of two evils isn't a bad thing. The clich√© makes it sound bad, but it's a good thing. You get less evil."

Sometimes it really is that simple.

Giving Money

First and most important rule: Don't give to money to the presidential race. I'm pretty sure no one reading this blog has enough money to make a difference in the Presidential race, and bragging someone  has x number of donors literally does nothing. You have limited resources, so give to places where it might actually make an impact. Obama will sink or swim without or without you. (Seriously, he will. Their goal is to raise a billion dollars. Your $20 is what percent of that? There is a better candidate somewhere who needs it more)

The best place to give money is to primary challengers, but it's too late for that this cycle. Give money to house and or important senate races. For an even greater impact, give to local races further down the ballot.

Volunteering

I've done a decent bit of canvasing and phone banking over the years, and the 2009 I reached my breaking point. A friend/co-worker of mine was rounding up people to canvas for Creigh Deeds in the Virginia Governor's race. Deeds had just spent the previous month claiming he would op Virginia out of health care reform, cap and trade, EFCA and would strongly defend their right to work laws. The conversation went like this:
Friend: Help us canvas for Creigh Deeds, he needs our help!

Me: Did you hear what he's said about literally every issue we care about over the last month?

Friend: Are you aware of how terrible Bob McDonald is?

Me: I honestly don't care. If I lived in Virginia, I'd hold my nose and vote for Deeds, but I sure as hell am not wasting my free time helping his sorry ass.
Ever since 2009, I've felt better and better about that decision, and it's now my rule. Go all in for people who have your back, or where the race is really, really important. Fuck everyone else. I worked my ass off for the Donna Edwards campaign, and would do so again in a heartbeat. The same goes for  Kweisi Mfume in the Maryland Senate primary and others. It may not seem like it, but there are plenty of people out there like them around the country who a really worthy of your free time and political activism. But fuck people who aren't on our side. Hold your nose and vote for them, but don't waste your time and energy helping them in the slightest. They just aren't worth it.

Anyhow, just my thoughts, feel free to print out this concise list of recommendations and carry it into the booth with you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chicago Teachers Go Back To Work

The contract has not been ratified, but some of the changes won by the union: (Via Corey Robin)
  • Almost 600 new art, music, and gym teachers
  • Guaranteed textbooks in the first day of class
  • $1.5 million for new special education teachers
  • $.5 million for reductions in class size
  • More than twice as much money for classroom supplies
Typical greedy teachers unions, holding out to enrich themselves.

The whole summary of their new contract is here, in pdf form.

The Modern Conservative Movement in one Video

Josh Barro is a conservative policy analyst who has been increasingly marginalized because of his non-insane views. When these three nutcase anchors for Bloomberg interview him, watching him pick them apart makes for pretty good tv.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This is Bad, Even By Mitt Romney Standards

So... last afternoon evening Mitt Romney basically conceded the presidential election:


Behind closed doors, Mitt Romney sounds like the leaders of the far-right flank of his party. That’s the central message from a video purportedly taken during a Romney fundraiser earlier this year and posted online by Mother Jones Monday.

The Obama campaign called the clip “shocking.”

In the clip, which was recorded surreptitiously at a Romney fundraiser that “occurred after Romney had clinched the Republican presidential nomination,” according to Mother Jones, Romney tells a room full of donors that people who voted for President Obama — a full 47 percent of the country — are dependent on the government.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it,” Romney said, according to the Mother Jones transcript. “That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what … These are people who pay no income tax.”
So barring an unforeseen massive event (EU collapsing, terrorist attack), I really don't know how you come back from that. As I said last night on twitter:
99% of campaign news doesn't matter. Stories that do matter:

1) The few that cross into mainstream culture (leno or snl jokes)

2) repeated stories that reinforce a narrative that crossed into mainstream culture. (Romney is rich and out of touch)
This is a massive, massive story that could not do more to reinforce Romney as an out of touch rich person if he tried. Game over. As Dave Weigel said:

Monday, September 17, 2012

BUT WHY DO THEY HATE US???????



Because we have killed (and continue to kill) lots of people in that part of the world. The end.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

What is Middle Class?

When people talk about the middle class in relation to tax cuts, it usually means up to $250,000 a year. I don't know about you, but that's always driven me insane because a family or person that brings in $250,000 probably doesn't need to be lumped in with people who are actually going through financial hardship.

And now, thankfully, via twitter, we have a graph of the data:


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Merit Pay for Merit Pay Advocates

With the recent slew of "liberal" pundits/reporters opposing the Chicago's teachers strike, I got the idea:

Any journalist/reporter/pundit that writes in favor of testing based merit pay for teachers should be forced to switch their compensation model to one partially based on the test results of a quiz given to a random sample of their commenters.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Making Twitter Fun For the Whole Family

Brett Banditelli made my day:
Now that is how you use twitter. Anyone who reads this blog and isn't on board, this is your chance.

And for background on why this greeting is warranted, read this and this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thanks Republican Sociopaths

Jim fucking Cramer
Maybe by getting so caught up in stopping non white/old people from voting, enough old/white people will also be stopped from voting and this issue will get some attention.

Will Obama Walk that Picket Line?

29,000 striking teachers in your home state. As good of a time as any to make good on your promise...

Monday, September 10, 2012

The CTU Strike is a Big Fucking Deal


Last night, 29,000 Chicago teachers voted to strike. Zaid Jilani has a good rundown of the issues:
Powerful Outside Interests Worked With Rahm To Cripple CTU’s Ability To Strike (They Failed): Last year, outside groups education privatization groups like Stand for Children worked with the city council and mayor to raise the strike threshold limit to 75 percent — meaning that 3/4 of teachers had to vote to strike. Jonah Edelman, who works for the group, bragged during the Aspen Ideas Festival that they had essentially eliminated teachers’ ability to strike. But in June, nearly 90 percent of CTU members voted to authorize a strike, easily surpassing the barrier that the city and education privatization groups had placed on them. But outside groups haven’t stopped taking aim at union rights. They’ve even paid protesters to demonstrate against CTU.

Rahm Refuses To Pay Teachers What They Were Promised: Being a teacher takes hard work, and it’s one of the most most poorly-paid professions relative to the work load. The leadership of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had agreed to offer teachers a four percent raise last year, but Mayor Emanuel canceled this agreement. The district has refused to address this raise in negotiations. While gutting teachers’ pay increases, CPS is calling for longer school days. Would you want to work more hours without being fairly compensated for it?

The City Won’t Agree To Limit The Number Of Kids In Classrooms In The Contract: Over-crowded classrooms are bad for students, teachers, and parents. That’s why 32 states have limits on classroom size. Illinois does not. CTU wants to see limits on class sizes in its contract (there arelimits in CPS guidelines, but not in the teachers’ contract) but the city refuses to discuss it. CTU analysis shows that Chicago class sizes for kindergarten and first grade are larger than 95 percent of school districts in the state.

Rahm Is Intent On Shifting Funds To Untested And Unproven Charter Schools: Rahm has been laying the groundwork for a rapid expansion of charter schools, and wants to create nearly 250 more within five to ten years (this would amount to half the system). This massive diversion of funds from the public system is not based on the facts of what actually works for students. The most comprehensive study of charter schools in the United States found that most deliver results similar to those of public schools. Not surprisingly, Chicago’s charter schools are largely devoid of unions and the benefits they provide for students and teachers alike. Charter school teachers tend to earn 8 percent less than normal public school teachers — which makes them an attractive tool for austerity-prone conservatives. CTU wants a more fair distribution of funds.

What is happening in Chicago is the culmination of what has happened to teachers unions over the last several years. They have been under attack from union busting democrats and Republicans alike, as well as billionaires like Bill Gates and billionaire funded groups like Michelle Rhee's "Students First".


Eventually, someone was going to fight back, and it's CTU. This fight will have far reaching implications, similar to Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere. A defeat for the Rahm won't stop Michelle Rhee and her union busters, but it may force other politicians to think twice before jumping in bed with her.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I'm back in... Nah wait, I'm out.

For the last few months I've been struggling with whether or not I want to vote for a presidential candidate this time around. Given how meaningless a pro-Obama vote is in both MD and DC, and what a legitimately awful job I think he's done with the presidency, it's really been a tough choice. With no chance of either place going to his opponent, am I going to go out of my way to vote for a guy who rains death on random foreigners and calls them terrorists to put a fig leaf over what really amounts to murder? The guy who didn't give enough of a shit to close Gitmo? The President who squandered a powerful moment and a Congress full of Democrats to give us the weakest, most broke-dicked Health Care Reform bill we could possibly get while still technically being a reform of health care? The dude who loaded his economic advisers with the same turds who brought us the economic crisis in the first place? Labor, Medicare, human rights in foreign policy... he's sidelined them all, if not actually betrayed them.

But then Akin runs off his mouth and Romney chooses Ryan, and the whole thing actually takes on a semblence of meaning again. I mean, if Obama is 99% crap, Team R&R seems to have pulled out all the stops and made it a round 100%. Neither of them are remotely acceptable candidates, but that 1% makes a difference, right? Maybe?

But then the DNC comes through and the party platform makes some stupid people on Fox angry and instead of laughing them off, or actually going to the people to see whether or not they support the platform as is, they pull off an astonishingly blatant display of exactly how meaningless American politics really is. Check this out:


It really instantly refocused the issues for me, unapologetically showing off how little participation seems to matter. Actually go all the way down to the convention and loudly shout no to proposed changes, and the guy will just keep asking until he thinks he can hear enough people saying yes for him to continue on with his scripted statements. Show up in the polls and vote for someone who will exit out of Campaign Mode and go into Incumbent Mode, where he'll do what he and his rich buddies want, and ignores you the same way the naysayers were ignored at the convention- not even really considered, not really a part of the script.

Right now the Republicans still have two months to do something sufficiently horrific for me to take this all back and actually take the time to go in and cast a meaningless vote for a guy dead-set on spending most of his time doing things I don't like, so... at least there's that?

Friday, September 7, 2012

FDR was such a G



I'd seen this before, but was brought to my attention again on twitter and wanted to make sure I passed it on to anyone who hadn't seen it. FDR mocking Republicans who were trying to claim they cared about social security.

Crap. Embedding is disabled for absolutely no good reason. Click through, it's worth it.

Train of Thought Lounge: Prince

I recently discovered this video. So. Fucking. Awesome.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Meanwhile...

In Yemen:

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - A U.S. drone strike killed six suspected Islamist militants in eastern Yemen on Wednesday, a security official said, the latest sign of a Washington-backed campaign against al Qaeda-linked fighters in the impoverished country.

The drone fired eight missiles at a house where fighters were thought to be hiding in the Wadi al-Ain area of Hadramout province, a witness told Reuters. Eight people managed to escape, the witness added.

Washington, concerned about the spread of militancy in the Arabian Peninsula, has stepped up attacks by unmanned aircraft this year.

Wednesday's strike was the fourth reported in Hadramout in two weeks.

Islamist militants gained ground in Yemen and took control of several towns during an uprising which forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in February.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is one of at least two militant groups based in Yemen. It has mounted operations in neighboring Saudi Arabia and attempted to launch attacks against the United States.

On Sunday, ten civilians including a 10-year-old girl were killed by a Yemeni government air strike that apparently missed its intended target, a car carrying militants nearby, said tribal officials and residents.
Are we at war with Yemen? We're not? Just checking.

Well, I'm happy we killed these suspected militants, especially since we found out earlier this year that according to our government "suspected militants" means any military aged male.

Pretty sure if a someone was haphazardly bombing my country and killing lots of innocent people I'd be spreading militancy towards them as well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Profiles in Courage

We throw words like courage and such around, but what happened yesterday at the DNC took my breath away. Undocumented Immigrants engaging in direct action in support of rights and calling for an end to deportations. 10 were arrested. Just wow.


He's Not Wrong...

Someone didn't tell Desmond Tutu that we're looking forward, not backwards:
Earlier this week, Archbishop Tutu, a veteran peace campaigner who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his campaign against apartheid, pulled out of a leadership summit in Johannesburg because he refused to share a platform with Mr Blair.

The former Archbishop of Cape Town said the US- and UK-led action launched against Saddam's regime in 2003 had brought about conditions for the civil war in Syria and a possible Middle East conflict involving Iran.

"The then leaders of the United States [Mr Bush] and Great Britain [Mr Blair] fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand - with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us," he said.

He added: "The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level."

Archbishop Tutu said the death toll as a result of military action in Iraq since 2003 was grounds for Mr Blair and Mr Bush to be tried in The Hague.

But he said different standards appeared to be applied to Western leaders.

He said: "On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague."
Right on.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paul Ryan Enters a Brave, New, Fact-Filled World

When Paul Ryan was chosen as Romney's VP, I had a small hope that all the exposure would mess up his brand if Romney lost, and he would taint the teflon brand he carries in DC circles.

Well, it happened in a different way than I had imagined, but Paul Ryan lied so much and so blatantly during his convention speech that the media basically had to take notice. Jonathan Chait nails this exactly:

A week ago, Paul Ryan’s political assets included — alongside his chiseled torso, plainspoken Midwestern demeanor, and the unshakable loyalty of the entire Republican Party — a firm reputation for honesty among the mainstream media. That reputation has suffered a massive, swift erosion. News stories about his speech at the Republican National Convention focused on its many rhetorical sleights of hand. Over the weekend, the revelation that he dramatically misstated a marathon time added a crucial, accessible piece of evidence to the indictment. Now liberals are calling him “Lyin’ Ryan” — a nickname that, a few weeks ago, would have seemed silly, like “Wimpy Palin.” Now mainstream pundits are defending Ryan with versions of the “well, all politicians fib” defense. Given that this constituency was once portraying Ryan as unusually honest, this represents a huge retreat for his political brand.

What happened?

Here’s what has not happened: Paul Ryan did not begin telling an unprecedented series of lies that suddenly exposed a predilection for shading the truth. His marathon boast is certainly odd and may well be a deliberate lie, but it could also be a simple failure to recall. The New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson, arguing for the prosecution, contends that “for someone who does run seriously,” missing a marathon time by as a vast a level as Ryan does is nearly impossible. On the other hand, given that the race occurred in 1990 and was Ryan’s only marathon, perhaps the explanation is that Ryan just isn’t a serious runner.
And Ryan’s Tampa speech, while pretty dishonest, was not especially so by Ryan’s standards. Here you can see why Ryan must view the sudden attack of the truth squad so bewilderingly. Ryan has been saying things like this, and worse, all along. The bit where he sadly shakes his head and blames President Obama for the failure of the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission that Ryan killed himself has been a staple of the Ryan shtick for two years. Reporters usually bat their eyes and coo sympathetically. Now it has become evidence of his duplicity .
Ryan seems to have fallen victim to circumstances he didn’t quite foresee. The Romney campaign has spent the last several weeks practically daring the national press corps to call out its lies. Well beyond the usual exaggerations of a national campaign, Romney has built its entire message around two accusations — “you didn’t build that” and “just send them a check” — that are obviously false. A day before Ryan’s speech, a Romney adviser told reporters, “We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” The media that had spent the last two and a half years nuzzling gently in Ryan’s lap had been prodded with sharp sticks and reacted in the predictable fashion, though probably not predictable to Ryan himself.

The thing about Ryan is that he has always resided in a counter-factual universe. He is a product of the hermetically sealed right-wing subculture. Many of the facts taken for granted by mainstream economists have never penetrated his brain. Ryan burst onto the national scene with a dense, fact-laden attack on the financing of Obama’s health-care bill that was essentially a series of hallucinations, pseudo-facts cooked up and recirculated by conservative apparatchiks who didn’t know what they were talking about or didn’t care. His big-think speeches reflect the influence of fact-free conservatives and collapse under scrutiny.
The Romney campaign and Ryan were essentially engaged in a game of chicken with anyone covering the election, daring them to call out their bullshit. They may have pushed it to far, in the sense that Ryan's speech was so over the top that some mainstream media people had to point out the truthiness of most claims.

Ryan's case is also awesome because it really is what happens when you get a creation of the fact free right wing echo chamber and place them in the wild. Because of this, he has gotten used to lying with reckless abandon, and having those lies re-enforced rather than challenged at any point. Unlike Palin, he is an articulate white male that many of the beltway media have built up into this super serious budget savant, so they may not tear him down completely and turn him into a punchline in the same way, but acknowledging that he's not telling the truth is a big first step. We have a really really crappy political media, and no matter how basic, pointing out that someone is lying is a pretty big deal for them, and it should be commended.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day

Enjoy yourselves and think about what got us to where we are today.