Thursday, May 31, 2012

Those Ungrateful Iraqis!

There's really a lot to take from these tweets that Charles Davis found.

Soooo... yeah.

The "Iraqis ungrateful" part of that tweet is some of the best neo-colonial rhetoric we've heard in a while. After all we've done for them, with destroying their country, the killing of upwards of 100,000 civilians and displacing several million others... how dare they!

Never believed in Iraq WMD? Uhhhhhh, that might have been useful to know, oh I don't know, sometime fall 2002-spring 2003? People might have wanted to know that you were voting to go to war based on your desire to kill Saddam, rather than what the world was hearing as the actual justifications.

On the other hand, this is a vocal supporter of the Iraq war admitting he was wrong, even if it is for stupid, racist reasons. If it means we have to deal with more mindless neo-colonial rhetoric rather than giant wars that kill lots of people, I'll take that trade!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Juking the Stats

This time, to minimize the costs of our freedom bombs. When was the last time you saw a news item that said a US air strikes had killed "militants"? Glenn Greenwald:
Virtually every time the U.S. fires a missile from a drone and ends the lives of Muslims, American media outlets dutifully trumpet in headlines that the dead were ”militants” – even though those media outlets literally do not have the slightest idea of who was actually killed. They simply cite always-unnamed “officials” claiming that the dead were “militants.” It’s the most obvious and inexcusable form of rank propaganda: media outlets continuously propagating a vital claim without having the slightest idea if it’s true.

This practice continues even though key Obama officials have been caught lying, a term used advisedly, about how many civilians they’re killing. I’ve written and said many times before that in American media discourse, the definition of “militant” is any human being whose life is extinguished when an American missile or bomb detonates (that term was even used when Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen two weeks after a drone killed his father, even though nobody claims the teenager was anything but completely innocent: “Another U.S. Drone Strike Kills Militants in Yemen”).

This morning, the New York Times has a very lengthy and detailed article about President Obama’s counter-Terrorism policies based on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers.” I’m writing separately about the numerous revelations contained in that article, but want specifically to highlight this one vital passage about how the Obama administration determines who is a “militant.” The article explains that Obama’s rhetorical emphasis on avoiding civilian deaths “did not significantly change” the drone program, because Obama himself simply expanded the definition of a “militant” to ensure that it includes virtually everyone killed by his drone strikes. Just read this remarkable passage:
Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”
For the moment, leave the ethical issues to the side that arise from viewing “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants”; that’s nothing less than sociopathic, a term I use advisedly, but I discuss that in the separate, longer piece I’ve written. For now, consider what this means for American media outlets. Any of them which use the term “militants” to describe those killed by U.S. strikes are knowingly disseminating a false and misleading term of propaganda. By “militant,” the Obama administration literally means nothing more than: any military-age male whom we kill, even when we know nothing else about them. They have no idea whether the person killed is really a militant: if they’re male and of a certain age they just call them one in order to whitewash their behavior and propagandize the citizenry (unless conclusive evidence somehow later emerges proving their innocence).
As Glenn says, the New York Times article is filled with other shocking revelations, but this one deserves special mention. For more information on the complexities of the areas where we're launching these missles, please watch last night's Frontline episode on Yemen. Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad goes inside areas in Yemen that area controlled by Al Queda, and some that are controled by neither Al Queda nor the government. The show was fascinating, and it also shows the effects that these drone attacks on the ground, long after they've taken place. Check it out:

Watch Al Qaeda in Yemen on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Under the Bus You Go, Teachers

This a tweet from Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager:
What a fucking joke. And AFT endorsed Obama a month ago? Why the rush? Also, in complete seriousness, why is AFT endorsing anyone in this race? Neither candidate even pretends to have anything but contempt for their members and their organization.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Luke Russert Sucks

Not that we didn't already know this, but considering my slight obsession with his stupidity, I figured I would mention that one of my favorite writers Alex Pareene took some time to write about lil' Luke:
But our target here is Russert, and he is not personally responsible for NBC’s decision to bequeath him a broadcasting job. If we focus on the work and not the means by which Russert got the job, things don’t look much better. Initially at least, the grownups on the air always seemed to be holding Russert’s hand as he tried to remember his lines, as if he were a child and not a fully grown college graduate and professional. It’s obvious that everyone who knew his father loves Luke. But everyone’s affection for the kid is not transmissible through a television set, alas, and Russert’s appearances seemed like some rich guy’s kid’s piano recital suddenly taking place in the middle of a professional orchestra’s concert.

His initial role was as MSNBC’s semi-official “young person” correspondent, because reporting on what he himself was seemed the least ridiculous thing to have Luke Russert suddenly doing in a national cable news network’s presidential election coverage. And in his role as a young person reporting on what young people think of presidential politics, Russert sounded like an old person — like an old Washington lifer — talking about what he thinks the young people today are all about. (No self-respecting young person, to use one brief example, uses the term millennial.)

Here’s an early report:

This is like a master class in pointless political pseudo-analysis. All the resources and staff of MSNBC at his disposal, and the package still looks and sounds like it was put together for a high school civics class presentation. (I mean, except that Larry Sabato shows up halfway through. I guess it is professional Washington journalism!) Kids are turning off their reality TV and tuning into the real-life Amazing Race!Facebook and stuff, some experts say! Only time will tell. For MSNBC, I’m a person with no business having this job.

(This is the piece that Russert concluded by making a minor gaffe that set the right against him, for a moment: The “smartest kids in the state” go to UVA, he told Matt Lauer, so they naturally favor Obama. This was actually just poorly stated conventional wisdom, not really “liberal bias” — by “the smartest kids in the state” he meant, he later explained, kids “from affluent, highly educated households.”)

Months after hiring Russert, Steve Capus, president of NBC News, called him one of the network’s “rookies of the year,” which doesn’t reflect well on NBC’s 2008 rookie class. (Russert returned the favorwith effusive praise for his boss.)

On the basis of his impressive reporting and ease in front of the camera still being named Russert, Luke was promoted, after the election, to Congressional correspondent. That’s the contempt with which NBC News views the occupation of journalism. To make Luke Russert a Congressional reporter is to say, “we believe that this job requires no particular knowledge, training or skills. If a German Shepard could be trained to speak, it could perform this work.” (That’s true of most cable news work, granted, but it really doesn’t have to be.) Proper reporting on the House of Representatives is actually difficult and largely thankless work, generally done by very hard-working and underpaid reporters. The assignment was transparently NBC’s attempt to help Russert develop chops, and what it has yielded thus far is the time Charlie Rangel called Luke dumb, which MSNBC turned into a two-day story.

NBC seems to be keeping Russert employed in the hopes that he’ll eventually develop an ability to simulate gravitas. Hopefully “Meet the Press” will still be on the air by the time Luke has mastered his serious face.

His Twitter feed presents a perfectly dull person with perfectly banal thoughts. When he drifts into attempted solemnity it’s usually more amusing than his actual attempts at humor. (More quality insight, right here.) It’s precisely what you would imagine the result would be if the elite Beltway press somehow collectively raised a child from birth — which is, in effect, what actually happened. He subscribes to every shibboleth of Washington conventional wisdom and shows fealty to all the proper institutions.

It won't disappoint.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chuck Brown Tribute: Day 7

The last day of our Chuck Brown tribute, rest in peace to the godfather of Go-Go.

Let's end it with my all time favorite Chuck Brown song:

Both Sides Agree: Austerity For All!

From meet the press last week, Via Jay Ackroyd. Paul Ryan and Dick Durban:
REP. RYAN: Well, no, David, I would say they've also raised taxes, they have--this is a cautionary tale of what happens when politicians who make a lot of empty promises end up running out of the ability to borrow money at cheap rates and now they're broken promises. It's a cautionary tale of what will happen to us if we stay on the path we are on. What we're saying is let's get on growth and prevent austerity. The whole premise of our budget is to pre-empt austerity by getting our borrowing under control, having tax reform for economic growth, and preventing Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid from going bankrupt. That pre-empts austerity. The president, his budget, the fact the Senate hasn't done a budget in three years, puts us on a path towards Europeanlike austerity. That's what we're trying to prevent from happening in the first place.

MR. GREGORY: So this is the problem, Senator, whether if the president's message to European leaders is your approach hasn't worked. He wants a pro-growth agenda. What does that mean? More taxes? More spending? More stimulus? Is that his answer for the U.S. economy as well?

SEN. DURBIN: No, Paul, David, I can tell you that Paul and I agree on the basic premise. We are facing serious deficit and debt challenge in this country. Our approaches are different. President Obama, and I agree with his position, thinks that we ought to make certain that we're strong coming out of this recession, that we are creating good jobs and growing businesses. 
We agree! What is wrong with these people? How about: Congressman Ryan's plan would ensure that senior citizens die in poverty due to a lack a of medical care, something that ACTUALLY HAPPENED before social security and medicare! What a profile in courage! Senator Durban agrees they should impoverish senior citizens AFTER they're sure we are out of the rescission. How noble!

But no, the Democratic Representative on this show with close ties to the White House would rather agree with Paul Ryan's completely invented premised of a debt crisis. It's easy to play this off as political posturing, but do we really know that's all it is? This quote from super conservative Senator Tom Coburn is one I haven't been able to get out of my head:

If President Obama is president again, those problems are still there and we have to solve them. He knows that. We’ve had conversations where he’s told me he’ll go much further than anyone believes he’ll go to solve the entitlement problem if he can get the compromise. And I believe him. I believe he would.
I believe he would too. Based on Obama's constant willingness to put medicare and social security cuts on the table, I have no doubt in my mind that Obama would get behind some "grand bargain" that "solves the entitlement problem". Based on the last 3 years, and Obama's lust for that type of deal, does anyone honestly think he wouldn't?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chuck Brown Tribute: Day 6

This video, from the Capital Center in 1987... my god.

Elizabeth Warren Blasts Schneiderman Task Force

Dave Dayen is the best reporter there is on the mortgage settlement/ Schneiderman led task force, so it's been interesting to see his takes on the latest developments. The most recent statement came from an interview he did with Elizabeth Warren, and it's fairly stunning. I've been nervous about Schneiderman's task force, but I didn't expect Warren to be this blunt:
FDL News: Are you confident that the current set of investigations, including this task force co-chaired by Eric Schneiderman looking into mortgage abuses – there’s been a lot of controversy about it, about staffing and resources – are you confident that the investigations in place today will actually lead to the necessary accountability for Wall Street for their role in the crisis?

Warren: I am not confident. No. And that’s the answer to your question. The American people are pushing for more accountability. They need to keep on pushing until it happens.
Well then. And I'm assuming she's pretty fucking plugged in to that process. Consider me a lot less confident as well.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chuck Brown Tribute: Day 5

Cory Booker Is The Problem

Good thing Cory Booker is around to save Bain capital from a burning building:
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, Newark, New Jersey Mayor and Obama surrogate Cory Booker said he was “uncomfortable” with the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record with Bain Capital.

“It’s a distraction from the real issues,” Booker said, of both attacks on Bain and Rev. Jeremiah Wright. “It’s either gonna be a small campaign about this crap, or it’s gonna be a big campaign about the issues the American public cares about.”

“I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” Booker added. “If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses — to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable.”
Booker's a rising start in the Democratic party, and if he's defending private equity, that must mean he has real ambitions.

Corporate whore Democrats like Cory Booker are the problem, and they'll be on the other side of the civil war for the soul of the Democratic party, if one ever occurs. More likely he'll be nominated for president, start championing the awesomeness of private equity and drone strikes and everyone will pretend he's a progressive because he supports gay marriage and seems like a nice guy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Train of Thought Lounge: Chuck Brown Tribute

Day 2

Things You Can't Say In DC

Two respected important people (one of them is even a conservative!) said something that you are not allowed to say:
Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann are well-known in the Beltway. They work at big-time think tanks (Brookings and American Enterprise Institute), appear on television chat shows, and write books and op-eds that powerful people pay attention to.

Lately, though, it seems they've become dangerous men.

Mann and Ornstein recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post (4/27/12) based on their new book. In it, they argued that whining about increased polarization or partisanship in politics obscures a central truth: This problem is not seen in equal measure on both sides. The headline summed it up: "Let's Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem."

They wrote:
    The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
And the piece pointed a finger at the media's false balance:
    We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

    Our advice to the press: Don't seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?
The article became quite an internet sensation–with something like 200,000 recommendations on Facebook. But as Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent (5/14/12) points out, one class of people seem uniquely uninterested in the argument: Sunday talkshow bookers.

    It turns out neither man has been invited on to the Sunday shows even once to discuss this thesis. As Bob Somerby and Kevin Drum note, these are among the most quoted people in Washington–yet suddenly this latest topic is too hot for the talkers, or not deemed relevant at all.

Ornstein tells Sargent, "Not a single one of the Sunday shows has indicated an interest, and I do find it curious."
Out of fear of being called out for bias, political reporters and news organizations constantly fail at their job to inform readers/viewers about the current state of american politics. The fact that respected inside the beltway people are being shunned for saying this just shows how deep this practice goes through our political media.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

RIP Chuck Brown

An unbelievable loss for DC, I thought this said it best:
In his honor, I'm doing 7 straight days of Chuck Brown Train of Thought Lounges.

Rest in Peace, Chuck.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"We Know We Were Stupid"

Hey, Barack! I know I'm not some awesome strategist who understands the awesome political benefits of cutting social security, but a brief bit of unsolicited advice: STOP PRAISING JAIME FUCKING DIMON!
“JPMorgan is one of the best managed banks there is,” Obama said. “Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got and they still lost $2 billion and counting,”
Jaime Dimon, two days ago:
So we’ve had audit, legal, risk, compliance, some of our best people looking at all of that. We know were sloppy. We know we were stupid. We know there was bad judgment. We don’t know if any of that’s true yet. Of course, regulators should look at something like this, that’s their job. We are totally open to regulators, and they will come to their own conclusions. But we intend to fix it, learn from it and be a better company when it’s done.
Jaime Dimon, several months ago:
JPMorgan’s Dimon obviously doesn’t think a whole lot of the scheme.

“Paul Volcker by his own admission has said he doesn’t understand capital markets,” Dimon told Francis in the Fox Business interview. “He has proven that to me.”

Dimon also went on to say we won’t destroy the market, it will simply “go overseas.”
Can we buy your airfare? What will we ever do without your understanding of capital markets???

We know that Obama and Dimon and best buddies, so I don't expect him to have any less influence but the idiocy of having Obama praise him is fairly stunning. Who let that happen? For all the shit we've given Romney over his rich person's tourettes, this is honestly just as bad.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reid Reverses Course, Favors Filibuster Reform

People say things that they don't mean all the time in politics, but this strikes me as different. For starters, how often do you hear any elected official say "I was wrong" about anything?
After an exasperated rant about Republican obstructionism, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday night that it's time to revamp the Senate's longstanding filibuster rule.

"If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it's the filibuster rule, because it's been abused, abused and abused," Reid said on the Senate floor.

Reid's call for changing the procedural rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate on a bill, came after Republicans refused to take up and pass an otherwise noncontroversial bill aimed at reauthorizing the Export-Import bank. Republican leaders said they wanted more time to offer amendments, which forced Reid to file a procedural motion delaying the vote to Monday. Sixty votes will be needed to end debate on the bill, and a simple majority will be required to pass it. The bill regularly clears both chambers with little fanfare and already passed the House unamended and with an overwhelming majority.

"I have been here in Congress 30 years, but this is a new one. Even bills that [Republicans] agree on, they want to mess around with. In years past, this would have gone through here just like this," Reid said, snapping his fingers. "The House passed something 330-93, and we're here playing around with it? It should be done. We should have passed it yesterday. This thing is going to expire."

The majority leader lamented that he didn't support a previous push by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to weaken the filibuster rule. Instead, Reidmade a "gentleman's agreement" in Jan. 2011 with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that they would preserve the rule.

"If there were ever a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it's tonight," Reid said. "These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn't. They were right. The rest of us were wrong. Or most of us anyway. What a shame."
Frankly, that's a stunning admission. There are few things more important to fixing our democracy that eliminating the filibuster, and if this means Reid is serious about changing it, than major kudos.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Want Joe Biden? I Need Joe Biden?

(if you don't understand the title, listen at about 1:19 in the video above)

When Obama was picking his VP in 2008, I wrote this about Joe Biden:
He's a master of colonial rhetoric and imperialistic statements on Iraq. He's prone to gaffes and is a great attack dog in 1 out of every 5 TV appearances. He doesn't really bring anything to the table, and he occasionally takes from it since his previous pro war stance doesn't really mesh with Barack's message. Again, he only looks like an OK option when you compare him with the other people being considered.
The last two people on the list were Evan Bayh and Tim Kaine, so that really drives home how poorly I thought of Biden.

Four years later, Biden hired the only progressive economist in the Obama administration, and his office was the site of the "Middle class Task Force", the only hope of progressive/pro labor economic measures in the Administration. He fought hard for trains and other infrastructure spending in the stimulus, and considering who he was going up against, he's probably the only reason any of it stayed in the bill. He was the main force (only, I think), within the White House arguing against an escalation in Afghanistan. And last Sunday, his honest statement on gay marriage completely screwed over Obama to the point where he had to come out in favor of Marriage equality, and who knows when/if that happens if he doesn't make that gaffe.

So, it feels really good to be wrong. A salute to you, Joe Biden.

(Image via fierysea's flickr)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obama Comes Out In Favor of Same Sex Marriage

So this happened:
President Obama made history Wednesday, becoming the first sitting president to come out in support of legal same-sex marriage.

In an interview with ABC News, Obama said, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

The ABC appearance followed several days of amped-up pressure on Obama to change his stance on same-sex marriage after Vice President Biden and members of Obama’s Cabinet expressed their support for legalized marriage between same-sex couples.
It was a long road for the President, but if I can pat myself on the back a bit, I've been pointing out for quite some time how his "evolving" position on gay marriage just wasn't tenable in the slightest. My guess had always been that he would make some speech about this later in the campaign, but I think Biden's honesty forced his hand.

Something cool to think about: Every Democratic nominee for president from here on out will support Marriage Equality. That's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Caps–Rangers Game 6 Open Thread



Let’s Go Caps!

Tuesday Was Not A Good Day

North Carolina:
Marriage between a man and a woman will now be the only legally recognized domestic union in North Carolina after voters Tuesday overwhelmingly passed Amendment One, a change to the state’s constitution that could take effect as early as next week. North Carolina now becomes the 30th state to adopt a same-sex marriage ban.
With all precincts reporting, 61 percent of voters supported the amendment, while 39 percent were opposed.
61%. Jesus.


An recall that only exists because of the fight for collective bargaining rights, now in the hands of someone to chicken-shit to mention them by name. This will end well.

West Virginia

Keith Judd, who is serving a 17 1/2-year prison sentence for extortion at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas, took 41 percent of the vote in West Virginia’s Democratic primary Tuesday night. He would qualify for convention delegates, if anyone had signed up to be a Judd delegate. 
Gee, I can't imagine why. 41% of the vote.


Daniel Aguirre becomes the seventh Colombian trade unionist killed this year, and the 61st since Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010.
Colombia (07 May 2012) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is expressing sadness at the recent murder of Daniel Aguirre Piedrahita, the General Secretary of Colombia’s Nation Union of Sugar Cane Cutters (SINALCORTEROS).  Aguirre was assassinated on April 27 as he accompanied his wife, Helena to make a telephone call in their west-central Colombian neighbourhood.

Hey, Barack, thanks for pretending to do something about those unionist murders! Heckuva job! Now someone else is dead. Blood is on your hands.

Let's end with this:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Are Gay People Human Beings? Ask Me When It's Politically Safe

Yesterday we got a refreshing statement from Joe Biden:
“And you’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now,” NBC’s David Gregory asked Biden on Meet the Press.

“I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy,” Biden said by way of a disclaimer, then continued, “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction— beyond that.”
That statement is a pretty big deal, considering that the daylight it puts between his and the President's views on the subject. As I've discussed here before, Obama's views on gay marriage are increasingly ridiculous and untenable. The world is changing around him, the public is changing around him, and for Obama to claim his views are continuing to "evolve" is fucking absurd. We've reached the point in the public discourse where questions of gay marriage boy down to a belief that gay people deserve to be full human beings, or they don't. As the aftermath shows, this is really embarrassing for president Obama, and I'd be surprised if it can last until the general election:
Reports immediately announced that Biden had fully endorsed marriage equality, followed quickly by efforts from the administration to squash that interpretation.

For a few minutes, reports coming from the vice president’s office and the White House were different. A spokesman for the vice president told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that Biden was discussing his personal, evolving opinion of gay marriage. Almost immediately, senior Obama adviser David Axelrod tweeted that Biden’s statement was nothing new and in line with the president’s view on gay marriage.
For a while I've predicted that Obama's "evolution" on gay marriage would peak with him endorsing it late September or so if the election appears in doubt to rile up the base. Overly cynical? Maybe, but what I don't really understand is views like this from Josh Marshall:
Needless to say, we all know at this point that President Obama supports gay marriage but thinks the political tides aren’t quite safe enough to come out and say so.
Uh, is that something we all know? I don't know. I don't know Obama personally, and I've seen a mixed bag of policy successes and struggles during the first four years of the Administration. Does he personally believe in gay marriage and is secretly keeping that belief until he believes it's safe? Maybe. But what if gay marriage makes him uncomfortable, yet he understand the winds of change are coming and he should look like he's getting behind it? The point is none of us ACTUALLY know this, and I feel like you always get into slippery territory when you start to look into a politician's soul to figure out what he *really* believes. These people are professional actors to a certain degree, none of us really knows what he's thinking, and it's not really worth our time. He's been president for 4 years now. His record is what he believes.

Then again, as I discussed in this post, I've don't that before, I'll probably do it in the future, because we have limited information on these people at our disposal, and sometimes it comes down to judgement calls that we can't possibly know the answer to. But I feel that should steer us into discussions of record, past expereince and actions. On those fronts, President Obama doesn't believe in gay marriage. When he says he does in real words without 30 winks, nudges and a David Axelrod walk back the next day, I'll believe him.


In addition to his contributions to music, Adam Yauch did some incredible poltiical activism as well, including some that were pretty couragous. Charles Davis:
But one memory sticks out: the recently deceased Adam Yauch, or "MCA," speaking out against the Clinton administration's bombing of Iraq.

This was not a popular thing to do at the time, it being well into year eight of the campaign to paint Saddam Hussein as the next Hitler, only this time perhaps even more crazy and Arab-y. That was reflected in the mostly young and hip crowd's response to Yauch's comments about how maybe the U.S. government shouldn't be bombing the people of Iraq: a chorus of boos. But that didn't shut him up; about a month later, he repeated his anti-war message to a much larger audience at the MTV VMAs (Ed note: video below), pointing out that each American-made cruise missile only perpetuated the circle of violence and invited the prospect of future retaliation.

Friday, May 4, 2012

What Do You Give The People You've Already Given Everything? A Speech Thanking Them For Ruining the World, Apparently

This whole article is worth reading to try to understand the pathology of people who have all the money and power in the world, and yet are filled with hate for the President who has done nothing tangible to impact them in any negative way.

I genuinely don't understand why many of them hate Obama so much, but while we ponder that question, let's all laugh at this section:
One day in late October, Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, slipped into the Regency Hotel in New York and walked up to a second-floor meeting room reserved by his aides. More than 20 of Obama’s top donors and fund-raisers, many of them from the financial industry, sat in leather chairs around a granite conference table.

Messina told them he had a problem: New York City and its suburbs, Obama’s top source of money in 2008, were behind quota. He needed their help bringing the financial community back on board.

For the next hour, the donors relayed to Messina what their friends had been saying. They felt unfairly demonized for being wealthy. They felt scapegoated for the recession. It was a few weeks into the Occupy Wall Street movement, with mass protests against the 1 percent springing up all around the country, and they blamed the president and his party for the public’s nasty mood. The administration, some suggested, had created a hostile environment for job creators.
Ok, Wall Street titans upset at being blamed for things that their industry is directly responsible for. Completely clueless, but not surprising. One person's idea to solve it, on the other hand... is... well, read for yourself:
Messina politely pushed back. It’s not the president’s fault that Americans are still upset with Wall Street, he told them, and given the public’s mood, the administration’s rhetoric had been notably restrained.

One of the guests raised his hand; he knew how to solve the problem. The president had won plaudits for his speech on race during the last campaign, the guest noted. It was a soaring address that acknowledged white resentment and urged national unity. What if Obama gave a similarly healing speech about class and inequality? What if he urged an end to attacks on the rich? Around the table, some people shook their heads in disbelief.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HA. HA. Oh man. There just really aren't words. Greg Sargent:
Where to begin? Wall Street excess helped lead to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, inflicting untold economic suffering on millions and millions of Americans. In both rhetorical and substantive terms, the Obama administration’s response was by any reasonable measure moderate and restrained. Indeed, Obama clearly viewed himself as a buffer between Wall Street and rising populist passion, telling a group of bankers in April of 2009: “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

Despite all the wailing, Obama’s subsequent Wall Street reform bill simply was not a threat to the established order of things in any meaningful sense. His call for a Buffett Rule and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts would do nothing to halt growing inequality, which has been exacerbated by trends that have been underway for decades. His push for higher taxes on the wealthy has only been about spreading the sacrifice necessary to close the deficit, and about funding measures to create jobs for working and middle class Americans who continue to suffer, even as Wall Street is now reaping huge profits. In speech after speech after speech, Obama affirms that there’s no begrudging the wealthy their success.
In seriousness, the minds of these people work in incredible ways. All the money in the world, access to a president who has bent over backwards to keep their horrible corrupt industry in place... and yet that's not enough. Did you hear he called them fat cats ONCE???

I really don't get it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Openly Gay Romney Spokesperson Resigns For Being Gay

Apparently Mitt Romney's new National Security spokesman was just a enough of an asshole for the job, but a bit too gay:
Just one week ago, The Atlantic heralded Mitt Romney’s hiring of an openly gay spokesman for foreign policy issues as “a breakthrough in the world of Republican presidential campaigns.”

Seven days later, that spokesman had already stepped down, citing conservatives whose outrage over his spot in the campaign made it impossible to do his job.
. . .

The Romney campaign said the resignation came over its objections.

“We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons,” Romney campaign manger Matt Rhoades told TPM in a statement. “We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill.”

Republican LGBT activists are seething, and say that the resignation shows some factions of the party still aren’t ready to see gay Americans living openly. (Neither Romney nor President Obama supports same-sex marriage — though Obama has said his stance is “evolving.”)

“It is unfortunate that while the Romney campaign made it clear that Grenell being an openly gay man was a non-issue for the governor and his team, the hyper-partisan discussion of issues unrelated to Ric’s national security qualifications threatened to compromise his effectiveness on the campaign trail,” Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said in a statement. “Ric was essentially hounded by the far right and far left.”

Others were more willing to cast the blame on the GOP’s anti-gay right.

“Today is a day when national security and foreign affairs is front and center and Mitt Romney don’t have the best person available speaking on his behalf,” said GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia. “He has Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins to thank for that.”
Gotta love that quote from the Log Cabin Republicans. He was hounded by the left (for his record on foreign policy issues) and by the right (for being gay). Totally the same thing! I'd go on about how clueless these people are are, but the log cabin republicans might seriously be the most confused motherfuckers on the planet.

Hey guys, these homophobes aren't outliers, they are the conservative movement and they are the Republican Party. I'm glad that your views on economics (or whatever) are enough to spend your days supporting people who don't think you're a human being! Heckuva job!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Origins of May Day

General strike from blogging because of too much work. From Salon:
The history of May 1 as a workers’ holiday is intimately tied to the generations-long movement for the eight-hour day, to immigrant workers, to police brutality and repression of the labor movement, and to the long tradition of American anarchism.

Perhaps the first nation-wide labor movement in the United States started in 1864, when workers began to agitate for an eight-hour day. This was, in their understanding, a natural outgrowth of the abolition of slavery; a limited work day allowed workers to spend more time with their families, to pursue education, and to enjoy leisure time. In other words, a shorter work day meant freedom. It was not for nothing that in 1866, workers celebrated the Fourth of July by singing “John Brown’s Body” with new lyrics demanding an eight-hour day. Agitating for shorter hours became a broad-based mass movement, and skilled and unskilled workers organized together. The movement would allow no racial, national or even religious divisions. Workers built specific organizations—Eight Hour Leagues—but they also used that momentum to establish new unions and strengthen old ones. That year, the Eight Hour Movement gained its first legislative victory when Illinois passed a law limiting work hours.

The demand for an eight-hour day was about leisure, self-improvement and freedom, but it was also about power. When Eight Hour Leagues agitated for legislation requiring short hours, they were demanding what had never before happened: that the government regulate industry for the advantage of workers. And when workers sought to enforce the eight-hour day without the government—through declaring for themselves, through their unions, under what conditions they would work—they sought something still more radical: control over their own workplaces. It is telling that employers would often counter a demand for shorter hours with an offer of a wage increase. Wage increases could be given (and taken away) by employers without giving up their power; agreeing to shorter hours was, employers knew, the beginning of losing their arbitrary power over their workers.

The Illinois eight-hour law was to go into effect May 1, 1867. That day, tens of thousands of Chicago’s workers celebrated in what a newspaper called “the largest procession ever seen on the streets of Chicago.” But the day after, employers, en masse, ignored the law, ordering their workers to stay the customary 10 or 11 hours. The city erupted in a general strike–workers struck, and those who didn’t leave work were forced to by gangs of their colleagues roaming through the streets, armed with sticks, dragging out scabs. After several days of the strike, the state militia arrived and occupied working-class neighborhoods. By May 8, employers and the state they controlled had won, and workers went back to work with their long hours. The loss of the eight-hour-day movement led also to a massive decline in unions, and the labor movement would not pick up in such numbers for almost two decades.

The Illinois law and its defeat, however, were not forgotten. By the 1880s, a new labor movement had grown up in Chicago. This one was more radical and was dominated by immigrant workers from Germany. They remembered 1877, when a strike by railroad workers spread around the country. For a brief moment, as strikers took control of St. Louis and Pittsburgh, staring down the national guard and local police, nobody knew what would happen. But President Rutherford B. Hayes called out the army and brutally repressed the strike. They also remembered the state was rarely if ever on the side of the worker. Yet they also remembered the brief shining moment when it appeared that there might be an eight-hour day.

So in 1886, the Chicago Central Labor Union again demanded an eight-hour day. Led largely by anarchists like August Spies and Albert Parsons, this renewed movement demanded “eight for 10”–that is, eight hours’ work for 10 hours’ pay. Throughout the winter of 1886, they successfully organized and won a series of small victories, largely in German butchers’ shops, breweries and bakeries, where owners agreed to recognize unions and grant shorter hours. Then they issued a new demand: that again on May 1, Chicago would go on a general strike and not return to work unless employers agreed to an eight-hour workday.

The demands of the militant Chicago anarchists coincided with a massive upswing in other militant movements. Workers and Texas farmers were rebelling against a monopolistic railroad system. The Knights of Labor were rapidly organizing and spreading their vision of a cooperative, rather than capitalistic, society. “What happened on May 1, 1886,” writes James Green, the most recent and most accessible historian to have written about it, “was more than a general strike; it was a ‘populist moment’ when working people believed they could destroy plutocracy, redeem democracy and then create a new ‘cooperative commonwealth.’”

Four days later, it all came crashing down. On May 3, police had shot to death six strikers at the McCormick Works, where a long-standing labor dispute had turned the factory into an armed camp, and beaten dozens more. On May 4, anarchists held an outdoor indignation meeting at a square called the Haymarket to protest the police murders. Anarchist leader Samuel Fielden was wrapping up his speech when the police, led by the same inspector who had led the charge at McCormick the night before, moved in to disperse the crowd. “But we are peaceable!” Fielden cried, and just then somebody wasn’t. Somebody threw a bomb at the police, the police open fire, and the course of American history changed.

To this day we do not know, nor will we likely ever know, who threw the bomb. Some say it was an agent provocateur. Some say it was an anarchist. If it wasn’t an anarchist, it surely could have been, since there were indeed anarchists who made bombs and would have thrown one given the opportunity. But we also know that many of those who died that night, including police, were felled by the police bullets.

We also know that the effect of the Haymarket bombing was far greater on the labor movement than it was on the police. Eight anarchist leaders were rounded up and put on trial for the murder of a police officer. No evidence was ever given that any of them threw the bomb, and only the flimsiest evidence was presented that any of them were remotely involved. All eight were convicted, and seven were sentenced to hang. Two of these had their sentences commuted, and a third—Louis Lingg, undoubtedly the most radical and militant of them—cheated the hangman by chewing a detonator cap and blowing off his jaw. The remaining four—August Spies, Albert Parsons, Samuel Fischer, and George Engel—were hanged on November 11, 1887. They went to their deaths singing the Marseillaise, then an anthem of the international revolutionary movement, and before he died, Spies shouted out his famous last words: “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

Before that happened, the state ensured more silence. The strike collapsed. Police around the country raided radicals’ homes and newspapers. The Knights of Labor never recovered. In the place of the radical industrial labor movement of the mid-1880s rose the American Federation of Labor, the much more exclusive and conservative organization that would dominate the labor movement until the 1930s. Meanwhile, it would take until the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to finally enshrine the eight-hour day into federal law.

May 1 would live on, mostly abroad. In 1889, French syndicalist Raymond Lavigne proposed to the Second International—the international and internationalist coalition of socialist parties—that May 1 be celebrated internationally the next year to honor the Haymarket Martyrs and demand the eight-hour day, and the year after that the International adopted the day as an international workers’ holiday. In countries with strong socialist and communist traditions, May 1 became the primary day to celebrate work, workers and their organizations, often with direct and explicit reference to the Haymarket Martyrs. May Day remains an official holiday in countries ranging from Argentina to India to Malaysia to Croatia—and dozens of countries in between.

Yet in the United States, with some exception, the workers’ tradition of May 1 died out. Partially this was because the Knights of Labor had already established a labor day in September. Opportunistic politicians, most notably Grover Cleveland, glommed onto the Knights’ holiday in order to diminish the symbolic power of May 1. In 1921, May Day was declared “Americanization Day,” and later “Loyalty Day” in a deliberately ironic attempt to co-opt the holiday. Even that was not enough, though, and in 1958 Dwight Eisenhower added “Law Day” to the mix, presumably a deliberate jibe at the Haymarket anarchists who declared, “All law is slavery.” Today, few if any Americans celebrate Loyalty Day or Law Day—although both are on the books—but the origins of May Day are largely forgotten. Like International Women’s Day (March 8), which also originated in the U.S., International Workers’ Day became a holiday the rest of the world celebrates while Americans look on in confusion, if they notice at all.
Read the whole article if you can, it's really great.