Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Stuff

Well said, Mr. President...

...and I think this is appropriate, and I hope you do also.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday Stuff

(By the way, no posting tomorrow, so talk amongst yourselves.)

So WATB Glenn Beck has now lost 46 sponsors, huh? Well, at least he can count on "Skank of America," as Bill Maher calls them, I guess, even if it's apparently a local "buy".

And if anybody else wants to join in the fun, click here...

...and sorry, I don't know how else to say it, but John McCain is an utterly incorrigible liar ("no amendments of significance," huh?), as Lawrence O'Donnell amply demonstrates when talking with K.O...

...and this goes on for about a minute too long, but otherwise it's pretty cool...

...and to commemorate the centennial of premier jazz tenor saxophonist Lester Young, here's his quintet performing "Pennies from Heaven" in 1950 with Con Bill Harris (tbn), Hank Jones (piano), Ray Brown (bs), and Buddy Rich (btr).

Thursday Mashup (8/27/09)

Not enough to expound on at length, but here it is again anyway (and I also posted here)…

  • This Moonie Times story tells us the following...

    President Obama's choice for the U.S. Labor Department's top law enforcement job created a first-of-its-kind program in New York that deputized unions and advocacy groups to visit private businesses and report wage violations to the government, an initiative that has raised concerns holding up her nomination.

    M. Patricia Smith told senators vetting her appointment to be the Labor Department's solicitor that her "wage watch" pilot program in New York was created over the last year to "engage groups to help us with education" and not to let the private groups conduct labor investigations.

    But internal memos obtained by Republican aides on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee show Ms. Smith's state labor agency in New York actually referred to the union and group participants as "enforcers," The Washington Times has learned.
    Oooh, “enforcers,” huh? Sounds real scary, kids!

    Until you read this…

    On Nov. 28, (New York State Regulator Lorelei) Boylan (who worked for Smith) wrote a message to coworkers, which was copied to Ms. Smith, on the subject of training groups in the wage watch program. It said, "The one day session will not turn the enforcers into labor law experts but will assist them in identifying labor law violations and make the referrals of greater value."
    The Times story tells us that Boylan “has been nominated by Mr. Obama as administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Labor Department.”

    And by the way, leading the charge against Smith is Senate Repug Mike Enzi, who apparently was able to find time from obstructing health care reform (here) to concoct this straw man (woman?) against Smith.

    Update 8/31/09: If this isn't "game, set and match" on Enzi, I don't know what is.

    There are a lot of reasons why I’m glad that the Labor Department will once more act on behalf of workers in this country under the Obama Administration, but one of them (which of course is utterly ignored here by the Times) is that wage theft was a huge problem while The Dragon Lady (pictured) ran labor under Dubya (noted here).

    The Think Progress post also noted that Elaine Chao’s DOL investigated only 1 in 10 fictitious labor violations, a sorry record that I’m sure will be topped by current DOL Secretary Hilda Solis.

  • Update 9/2/09: The New York Times tells us the following from here...

    Low-wage workers are routinely denied proper overtime pay and are often paid less than the minimum wage, according to a new study based on a survey of workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

    The study, the most comprehensive examination of wage-law violations in a decade, also found that 68 percent of the workers interviewed had experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week.
    A hat tip to Think Progress for that, by the way.

  • And while he awaits the decision on whether or not he will face charges stemming from the U.S. Attorneys scandal from Connecticut Prosecutor Nora Dannehy, Karl Rove managed to concoct this screed for the Murdoch Street Journal (the topic, once more, is health care reform)…

    ...according to a White House fact sheet titled "Paying for Health Care Reform," (Obama senior advisor David) Axelrod was misleading his readers. It notes the administration would cut $622 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, with a big chunk coming from Medicare Advantage, to pay for overhauling health care. Mr. Obama heralded these cuts as "common sense" in his June 13 radio address.

    Medicare Advantage was enacted in 2003 to allow seniors to use Medicare funds to buy private insurance plans that fit their needs and their budgets. They get better care and better value for their money.

    Medicare Advantage also has built-in incentives to encourage insurers to offer lower costs and better benefits. It's a program that puts patients in charge, not the government, which is why seniors like it and probably why the administration hates it.
    As noted here…

    Under the Medicare Advantage program, created by a Republican-led Congress in 2003, the government buys private insurance coverage for Medicare patients in lieu of paying for health services directly. Supporters say MA plans have the advantage of delivering additional care to Medicare patients, including dental and eye services not covered under the traditional program. Those additional benefits, combined with a heavy dose of marketing, have made the program enormously popular. This year, a record-high 10.5 million seniors — or 23 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries — are enrolled in MA plans, according to a June report from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, or MedPAC, an independent panel that recommends Medicare reforms to Washington policymakers.

    But the extra care doesn’t come cheap. Despite promises that private plans operating under MA could eventually save money, the cost to treat the average patient in the MA program is 14 percent higher than the cost to treat the average senior under traditional Medicare. A part of that additional cost, MedPAC noted, “consists of funds used for plan administration and profits and not direct health care services for beneficiaries.”

    The argument that private plans are necessary to keep Medicare sustainable, Berenson said, “is belied by the fact that private plans always seem to require more money.”

    “It’s hard to make the case,” Berenson added, “that these overpayments are justified.”
    And as firedoglake notes here…

    Humana, Inc. (HUM) reported its earnings Monday, and they really love that government money. HUM reports in two segments: government and commercial. The government segment is really profitable: profits up 62.5%, membership up 12%. The increase in profits was the result of the membership increase and the company’s decision last year to charge its Medicare Advantage customers premiums on top of the lovely government subsidy.
    Can’t wait to see how you look in that orange jumpsuit, Karl.

  • This post from Slate’s John Dickerson reminds us of the “summer Obama reading list” thing once again. And I really don’t have much to add; I only wanted to point out that I thought it was cool that a president of the United States would include Lush Life by Richard Price on his reading list.

    As Dickerson says, it’s "a story of race and class on New York’s Lower East Side."

    And the Amazon description tells us the following…

    Set in a post 9/11, post Giuliani, rapidly gentrifying Lower East Side, the story revolves around a mugging turned murder, and how it affects everyone invovled.

    Price is widely regarded as a master of dialogue, and a master of capturing how people walk it and talk it in the real world. And he certainly does that here, conveying almost everything important via dialogue, which is often heavily spiced with street slang or on the job jargon (which some readers may find offputting). Moreover s a fan of procedurals, I was hooked from the get go by Price's ability to set up the situation, show it go down, and then maintain the separate threads. Indeed, for the first third of the book, I was completely engrossed.

    Of course, Price is trying to do more than write a crime procedural, and (his) subplots all feed into the broader themes he's trying to explore. These are pretty fundamental at their core: what happens to us/how do we feel when we realize that our lives aren't what we had planned, or that we've somehow failed ourselves.

    Is there meaning, is there redemption? Check out the last stanza of Billy Strayhorn's incredible lyrics to the Duke Ellington tune, Lush Life:

    "Romance is mush/stifling those who strive/so I'll live a lush life in some small dive/And there I'll be/While I rot with the rest/of those whose lives are lonely too..."
    Nice to see that at least one of our leaders has an interest in a story of how everyday people live and interact, warts and all.

    A pretty “fly” book selection, Mr. President…

  • And transitioning from one musically themed note to another, I give you this (and no, I suspect hell will not be freezing over)…

    LOS ANGELES (AFP) – You're never too old for something new, they say, and veteran rocker Bob Dylan is set to release his first Christmas album, he announced on his website Thursday.

    At the ripe young age of 68, Dylan will release "Christmas in the Heart" on October 13, with profits going to charity group Feeding America.
    I can just imagine the track selection list in my mind…

  • It Take A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Sleigh To Cry

  • Visions Of Ol’ Santa

  • Snow (Not Gospel) Plow

  • Love Minus Below Zero/No Limit

  • It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Frostbitten)

  • Tangled Up In Christmas Lights

  • Just Like Hermie The Elf’s Blues

  • Ballad Of A Fat, Jolly Man (But Not Quinn The Eskimo)
  • No word yet on whether or not Bob would be a “man of constant sorrow” for the occasion – hope not (ho, ho, ho).
  • Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Wednesday Ted Kennedy Stuff

    Keith Olbermann recalls the life and career of Sen. Ted Kennedy, with Brian Williams...

    ...this is a documentary by Katie Couric of CBS News, which is probably a bit much for one of these videos, but it contains a lot of archival stuff (nice touch by the Sox here)...

    Watch CBS Videos Online

    ...and there are people who say that Joe Biden is long-winded, and in response I say, "yeah - what of it?" (h/t The Daily Kos - a brief clip of this appears in the Olbermann/Williams remembrance).

    Wednesday Mashup (8/26/09)

    (And I also posted here).

  • Boy, it sounds like the New Jersey Republican “sistahs” are all in a snit over this story (a follow-up from an update to this post)…

    Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie kept gubernatorial politics out of his initial statement on the resignation of First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown, leaving the task to his running mate for lieutenant governor, Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno.

    Brown resigned a week after her ongoing repayment of a $46,000 loan Christie gave her two years ago was first reported.
    Cue the obligatory umbrage over the rough-and-tumble political stuff…

    It was Guadagno who blamed Governor Corzine for impugning Brown and forcing her to end "an acclaimed career."

    "It is despicable that Jon Corzine has stooped so low to try to win re-election that he's aimed the negative attacks of his hired guns on a dedicated public servant who made it her life's mission to serve the people of New Jersey as a corruption-fighter," she said.

    State Sen. Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park, pictured), who was a finalist to be Christie's running mate, furthered Guadagno's message.

    "Jon Corzine earned a reputation that he was willing to spend millions on negative attacks and play down and dirty in order to win. He has certainly lived up to that reputation with his most recent target - a career prosecutor who has made it her life's work to end New Jersey's culture of corruption," she said. "Apparently a nearly 20 year commitment serving the public doesn't matter to Jon Corzine if you are a means to his political end. It's shameful that a female prosecutor who has clearly proven her talent and ability to get the job done is no longer able to do the job she has done so well for nearly two decades."
    Well well, it seems that Diane Allen, after lo these many years, has finally realized that any path to national Repug electoral success lies in partisanship and demagoguery.

    And that’s a shame, really, because she has cast generally moderate votes, though Blue Jersey noted a lip-flop here where Allen was in favor of leasing the NJ Turnpike before she was against it, and here, where Allen voted against a needle exchange program in her state (as of the post date, New Jersey was the only state in the country without a needle exchange program).

    And in terms of national politics, Allen has been a “bridesmaid, but never a bride,” even though Repug strategist Bill Pascoe noted here that Allen was “knocking the snot” out of Doug Forrester in the Repug primary during the ’02 Senate race before Forrester ended up outspending Allen and winning the nomination to run against Dem Bob “The Torch” Torricelli, who of course bailed over some rather tawdry office-selling in favor of Frank Lautenberg, the eventual winner.

    So we’ll see if the Jersey statehouse goes “red” in the fall (hope not), and if it does, don’t be surprised if Diane Allen emerges with a key role in a Christie administration as a reward for speaking out on behalf of her would-be boss (feigning offense while trying to mask a rather startling financial misjudgment by “Mr. Repug Law and Order”).

  • Returning to national politics, I give you the following here from Armstrong Williams (here)…

    Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision late yesterday to launch a potential criminal investigation of how terror suspects were treated by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration couldn’t have come at a better time for the White House. As the president’s health reform initiative continues to take a shellacking throughout the country, followed by more bad news today of a swelling national deficit and debt, and seemingly no end in sight for the slow, plodding economic recovery, Barack Obama desperately needs a game-changer.

    So what does he do? He turned to page one of the Democratic playbook: “When in trouble, blame Bush.” It’s the eternal M.O. of this administration. Can’t turn the economy around? Bush put us in this ditch. Deficit even larger than you expected? Don’t look at my spending habits, Bush was just as bad. Kids having trouble at school? It’s that damned No Child Left Behind!
    As far as I’m concerned, Williams is afflicted with either willful arrogance, invincible stupidity or both for invoking No Child Left Behind, given his own shilling for this underfunded Bush mandate here (and on the matter of approval numbers for health care, this, as an FYI, is ancient history...and the numbers for Obama have slipped since this poll, but not by much).

    However, I wanted to point out that, in the matter of the Holder interrogation investigation (with "harsh methods" such as waterboarding depicted above), it turns out that loyal Bushie Frances Townsend (here), while not endorsing the investigation, also would not lie corroborate the opinion of former veep “Deadeye Dick” Cheney that the unlawful interrogation techniques “worked.”

    Welcome to the warm, fuzzy glow of the reality-based community, Fran.

  • Finally, this story tells us the following…

    MEXICO CITY – Mexico now has one of the world's most liberal laws for drug users after eliminating jail time for small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and even heroin, LSD and methamphetamine.

    "All right!" said a grinning Ivan Rojas, a rail-thin 20-year-old addict who endured police harassment during the decade he has spent sleeping in Mexico City's gritty streets and subway stations.

    But stunned police on the U.S. side of the border say the law contradicts President Felipe Calderon's drug war, and some fear it could make Mexico a destination for drug-fueled spring breaks and tourism.

    Tens of thousands of American college students flock to Cancun and Acapulco each year to party at beachside discos offering wet T-shirt contests and all-you-can-drink deals.

    "Now they will go because they can get drugs," said San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne. "For a country that has experienced thousands of deaths from warring drug cartels for many years, it defies logic why they would pass a law that will clearly encourage drug use."

    "It provides an officially sanctioned market for the consumption of the world's most dangerous drugs," San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said. "For the people of San Diego the risk is direct and lethal. There are those who will drive to Mexico to use drugs and return to the U.S. under their influence."
    Let me ask you what poses a more lethal threat to the people of this country – guns or drugs?

    If your answer, like mine, is guns, then why on earth aren’t they regulated as least as much as drugs, particularly when, as noted here, Mexican president Felipe Calderon has called for an assault weapons ban?

    As noted here…

    The US bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) estimates that 90% of firearms seized in Mexico come from north of the border. Of the 2,400 weapons traced back to the US, 1,800 came from dealers in the four US border states, where more than 6,500 gun dealers operate.

    The scale of the arms trade can be shocking. On 7 November last year, Jaime González Durán - known as El Hummer - a leading member of a Mexican drug cartel, was arrested in Reynosa. A day earlier, police raided a safe house belonging to El Hummer and made the largest weapons seizure in Mexican history.

    Homeland security and the ATF say that the Mexican cartels bypass gun control laws in Mexico by paying US citizens to buy guns for them.
    I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to get scared about an illegal element from “south of the border,” it’s much more likely to be a drug trafficker armed with an assault rifle than a college student who’s had one too many bong hits.

    (By the way, the above pic shows federal versus local Mexican law enforcement combating each other, with the "feds" trying to locate and bust "local officers and politicians accused of collaborating with brutal drug cartels.")

    Decriminalizing the consumption of drugs (as opposed to the trafficking of same) makes so much sense in this day and age that it’s almost too obvious to be pointed out. And while we engage in “values voter” shouting matches on the subject, kudos to Mexico for acting with the common sense that we apparently do not possess.
  • RIP Teddy

    I always thought that, though Ted Kennedy gave this eulogy for his brother Bobby 41 years ago of course, a lot of it applied to him as well.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    And now, the nominees for Best Right-Wing Media Shill Propagating Health Care Lies: Faux News humanoids Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly, and the "Doughy Pantload" himself (once more, I got into this here today)...

    (And by the way, here is a consequence of this idiocy - at least it was property and not people...update 8/26/09: OK, maybe I was a bit premature based on this - we'll see.)

    ...and talk about turning over some big-time rocks; that's what "Countdown" does here with United Health Group...

    ..."Worst Persons" (Glenn Beck goes after Van Jones, and the fact that Jones was associated with Color of Change, the group sponsoring the campaign to get Beck's advertisers to boycott the show - hmmm, up to 36 now, huh? Will the last one to leave please turn out the lights? - has nothing to do with it...sure; Gretchen Carlson talks about unconfirmed Obama Administration appointees including Army Secretary - and Republican - John McHugh, not noting of course that a "hold" has been place on McHugh's nomination by Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback of Kansas...the utterly idiotic reason why is noted here; but spokesman Matt Lavoie for Repug Congressman Wally Herger of California...yesterday's "Worst"...gets it for claiming that Herger was trying to make a joke out of a guy named Bert Stead, who proclaimed that he is a "right-wing terrorist"...I would say that the "joke" has already made its presence known, though there are at least three involved in this sorry episode - and I didn't know lefties were showing up anywhere with guns too - ???)...

    ...and once more, I'm giving "mellow" the night off.

    Tuesday Mashup (8/25/09)

    (And I also posted here.)

  • In an otherwise commendable New York Times Magazine on Sunday focusing on issues pertaining to women’s rights, Virginia Heffernan tells us here of “feminist hawks” such as David Horowitz and the right-wing site Little Green Footballs (I was wondering what Horowitz was up to, since I haven’t heard him screech about “liberal bias” on college campuses for a little while now, as noted here).

    Heffernan tells us the following…

    Horowitz may not be an obvious feminist, but as someone who has dedicated his life to political media (producing or contributing to magazines, books, political ads, cable news, talk radio, blogs, video podcasts, even a pamphlet), he’s adroit at adapting ideologies for media platforms. Right now, this one is working for him.

    Like many conservatives, Horowitz appears to have come to feminist-hawkism after 9/11. But in his hands, the ideology has fast became a tenacious memebrid — as Tim Hwang, a sociologist and the director of the Web Ecology Project, calls memes that unite two or more cultural phenomena.

    “The neat marriage of hawkish tendencies and feminist framing of issues does this quite effectively,” Hwang explained to me in an e-mail message. Borrowing left-wing shibboleths is one way that “conservative ideas can make it big in a generally more liberal online social sphere,” he wrote. Furthermore, to depict Islamic regimes less as terrorists than as repressors of civil liberties may appeal even to traditional isolationists, as it “plays off of the strong communities of libertarians that dominate some prominent spaces.”
    As Katha Pollitt of The Nation notes here…

    "The Islamofascist Awareness people aren't interested in what's actually going on in the Muslim world," Columbia anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod told me by phone. "They just use the woman question as an easy way to target Muslims." Abu-Lughod reminded me, for example, that genital mutilation is basically a regional African custom that has acquired religious overtones--most Muslim societies don't practice it, and many non-Muslims do. She also pointed out that this semester, contrary to Horowitz's claims, women's studies is offering or cross-listing no fewer than three courses about women in the Muslim world, none of which paints a rosy picture.

    The oppression of women in the Muslim world is a major theme among the Islamofascistly aware. And here the story gets a bit tricky. An awful lot of those associated with the Week are antifeminist conservatives--I mean, come on--Rick Santorum? Ann Coulter? Sean Hannity? These are people who've made careers out of attacking the mildest updates on American women's roles, whether it's working mothers, birth control or even, in the case of Coulter, the right to vote! In the zillions of words for which Horowitz is responsible--as writer, activist, speechifier and editor of is virtually no evidence of concern for the rights, liberties, opportunities or well-being of any women on earth, except for Muslims. Leaving aside the industrialized West for a moment, it's not as if life is a picnic for women in China, India, Africa, Latin America. Why no interest in them?
    And including Little Green Footballs as a site that promotes feminism is laughable when you consider this.

    But Heffernan’s piece truly descends into absurdity here…

    As a fan of intensely specific forms of communication — blogs, memoirs, reality TV — I don’t believe that any idea exists apart from its mode of dissemination. But I also know that ideas that seem especially big and irresistible are usually so elegantly integrated with particular communication technologies that it’s hard to conceive of them separately. Could Rush Limbaugh’s patriotic anti-elitism have coalesced anywhere but on AM radio? Could “family values” have emerged without Christian TV?
    There is nothing "patriotic" about Flush Limbore – to get an idea of his “patriotism,” click here and read some of the linked content (keep an antacid handy, along with some Ibuprofen).

    And given the way Flush feels about the Times in particular, I would say that Heffernan is displaying a textbook case of “Stockholm Syndrome.”

  • Today’s dreck by Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal here brings us a disgusting attempt at equivalency between the outing of Valerie Plame and the well-deserved move by Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate interrogators who, as noted herethreatened to kill the children and sexually assault the mother of a key terror suspect,” among other likely violations.

    Didn’t we used to work up some measure of outrage against countries that perpetrated this kind of stuff? Or is that “so pre-9/11” of me?

    Also, am I the only one who is a little amused by how our right-wing media-industrial complex now basically admits that Plame was victimized by our former ruling cabal, doing so only because, as the Washington Post tells us here…

    The Justice Department recently questioned military defense attorneys at Guantanamo Bay about whether photographs of CIA personnel, including covert officers, were unlawfully provided to detainees charged with organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

    Investigators are looking into allegations that laws protecting classified information were breached when three lawyers showed their clients the photographs, the sources said. The lawyers were apparently attempting to identify CIA officers and contractors involved in the agency's interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects in facilities outside the United States, where the agency employed harsh techniques.

    …government investigators are now looking into whether the defense team went too far by allegedly showing the detainees the photos of CIA officers, in some cases surreptitiously taken outside their homes.
    To me, this is a story about a bunch of allegations. Yes, the allegations are awful, but the only thing we know for sure is that photos were taken by “The John Adams Project” (probably of “CIA personnel, including covert officers,” but the story leaves that in question even if the headline does not – ugh…”Journamalism” at its finest, as Atrios would say).

    And that of course gives Stephens (taking his cue from Drudge/Malkin) the opportunity to wax indignant about photos taken of CIA personnel outside their homes, when we don’t know for sure at the moment whether or not that actually happened (and it’s not like Malkin and co. have such a reliable track record on this stuff either).

    However, I wanted to focus on something else that Stephens alleges here that ticked me off (in the event that all of these suppositions turn into facts)…

    In that case, more CIA agents will be gunned down—and the John Adamses of our day will have given demonstrably material support to terrorists.
    Stephens apparently needs to be reminded that John Adams, in addition to being our second president, was a patriot. Along with every other signer of the Declaration of Independence, he pledged his “life, fortune, and sacred honor” on behalf of our country. When has Stephens ever done that, or would he ever (and I can only imagine the guts it took to defend the British soldiers who fired upon unarmed civilians in The Boston Massacre, but he did it and won acquittals for four of the six...the other two who fired on the crowd were convicted of manslaughter).

    Perhaps, though, Stephens could find a bit of a kindred spirit in the John Adams who, as president, passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, whereby criticism of the federal government could be punished by 2-5 years in prison and the president was “ deport any foreigner that he thought was dangerous to the country,” as Wikipedia tells us (I’ll admit that our nation was a lot more fragile then than it was now, but bad precedent is bad precedent no matter how you slice it).

    And I had to laugh when I read the following from Stephens…

    Consistency, principled or foolish, has never been a hobgoblin of the liberal mind.
    This 2006 column from Stephens tells us that Plame was “an anti-Bush partisan,” but that is omitted in his column today, where he describes Plame correctly as “a covert CIA operative whose cover was blown by a vindictive Bush administration out to ruin its critics.”

    And Stephens is lecturing us on consistency?

  • Finally, I bring you “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction,” as James Wolcott referred to V.D. Hanson (here), who tells us the following (more liberal bashing, of course, and again referencing the Holder investigation)…

    Scotland, I think, assumed that the new administration was more therapeutic than in the past, and would not object too much to its release of a terrorist murderer, given that we are loudly pursuing our own interrogators rather than more terrorists — and mostly for reasons of partisan expediency. In the wake of the Bush success in stopping another 9/11, and breaking up numerous plots aimed at mass murder in the U.S., it was Eric Holder, after all, who once proclaimed to CNN that the Geneva accords did not apply to Guantanamo.*
    Let’s put aside for a moment the laughable notion that Magistrate Kenny MacAskill gave any consideration to our domestic politics when deciding to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi for the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, as noted here (and yes, I think Al Megrahi should have been left to rot in prison also, though I wasn’t the least bit surprised by the welcome he received when he returned to Libya).

    I will actually give Hanson an acknowledgement that Holder was a bit inconsistent on whether or not the Geneva accords applied to any Guantanamo inmates.

    However, I should point out that there’s a little matter that is often inconvenient to Bushco acolytes which they frequently overlook at moments such as these when they’re casting partisan aspersions.

    It’s called legal precedent.

    Specifically, I’m referring to the Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, noted by Glenn Greenwald here…

    In 2006, the position espoused by Holder, Rumsfeld and the Bush administration was rejected by the Supreme Court in Hamdan, when it ruled that even Al Qaeda detainees are entitled to the minimum protections afforded to all detainees by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. Ironically, the account of Holder's ACS speech that Digby cited (I haven't been able to find the full text of Holder's speech) claims that Holder said "it was disgraceful that the Supreme Court 'had to order the president to treat detainees in accord with the Geneva Convention'" -- a criticism that would also seem to apply to Holder's early view that detainees were not entitled to Geneva protections.

    I personally discount -- not entirely but somewhat -- what people said and did in the immediate aftermath of the trauma of 9/11, and I consider January, 2002 to be part of that period. Many people who have ended up as important advocates for the Constitution and the rule of law made some early statements and formed some positions, undoubtedly attributable to the emotional impact of 9/11, that they came to regret.

    Holder's remarks came before there were any reports of the extremism and abuse that the Bush administration was planning. As that became more apparent, and as the emotional impact of 9/11 receded, Holder clearly changed his views on these topics and reversed himself rather thoroughly. It's true that these early positions evinced some poor judgment and instincts, and everyone can decide for themselves how much weight to give that in light of his subsequent strong and eloquent advocacy on behalf of Constitutional protections and the rule of law.
    And speaking of “poor judgment and instincts,” I give you once more Gary Brecher’s epic takedown here on Hanson’s “A War Like No Other,” including Brecher’s hilarious observation (in the matter of Hanson trying to equate the Iraq debacle with ancient conflicts) that “Hanson’s got his fans convinced that Socrates himself would volunteer for duty in Fallujah, if only he didn’t have to drink that damn goblet of hemlock.”

    And all of this from a guy who never served.
  • Monday, August 24, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    "Worst Persons" (You know, in a way, it was good when K.O. ignored Bill Orally because it was nice that the aptly-named "contagion" was off wasting other people's time and calories instead, but he's back, claiming that the health care legislation is "confusing" and may "bankrupt the nation" Keith correctly adds, it's OK to "bankrupt the nation" for ridiculous tax cuts and war without end, but investing in the people of this country - jobs, health care - is "socialism" for this falafel-abusing idiot and way too many others like him; Glenn Beck is back - oooh, lost 33 sponsors, huh? And by the way, if you have to ship, always use UPS; and if anyone else wants to bail on him or Fix Noise, click here - seriously, I think Joe McCarthy sounded like this towards the end when he went completely "off his nut"; but California U. S. House Rep Wally Herger goes off at a town hall, saying "our democracy has never been threatened as it is today," and some single-brain-celled life form proclaims that he is a terrorist...not Herger, but the life form...and Herger announces "There is a great American," though I think the response from someone living in the world of reality would be "Are there any representatives here from law enforcement? If so, could you please attend to that gentleman?" But silly me for thinking a Repug would live in reality)...

    ...and I thought these people were pretty cool, so here they are.

    Monday Media Mashup (8/24/09)

    (And I also posted here.)

  • The following appeared in the print edition of the New York Times yesterday from “Kit” Seelye on the matter of health care reform:

    Any death watch for a health care overhaul may be premature. But with the White House on the defensive, and polls showing public support on the wane, advance obituaries are starting to be written.

    If the effort fails, here may be some of the commonly cited causes:

    - The absence of former Senator Tom Daschle, a Democrat deeply knowledgeable about health care and the Senate. (Remember that tax issues forced Mr. Daschle to withdraw in February from consideration as President Obama’s health czar.)

    - A fixation on avoiding the mistakes of the Clintons. Did President Obama go too far in the other direction, ceding control – and the message – by asking Congress to come up with a plan?

    - Pent-up anger on the right. Did the Obama team underestimate the rage building against the government, especially after multiple financial bailouts, and conservatives’ ability to channel that rage online and into town-hall style meetings?

    - Lack of a specific bill. With some drafts circulating and others still largely in the mind’s eye of Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who head the Finance Committee, opponents have defined the debate and befuddled the public.

    Whether a plan passes or fails, Mr. Obama has expended a great deal of political capital. This week, he will be vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard – and no doubt regrouping to try and keep his health plan off the obituary pages.
    By the way, I’ve searched multiple times on the New York Times site, and I cannot locate this column (on page 20 in the front section under “Prescriptions: Making Sense Of The Health Care Debate”).

    And that’s just as well, actually, since it represents everything that’s wrong with corporate media punditocracy.

    So the first reason that comes to Seelye’s mind for the health care dustup is the absence of Tom Daschle? Is she kidding?

    (And another thing – even before Daschle dropped out, I never understood exactly what it was that made him such a supposed health care expert. And considering this, maybe it’s just as well that he has remained out of the picture).

    Also, I’m past the point of being fed up over pundits like Seelye complaining that there’s no health care bill. Funny, but those in opposition don’t seem to have any trouble locating the draft of the health care bill from the House, for example (I’ve linked to it a bunch of times already – it’s available from the U.S. Congress' HELP committee web site).

    And the Clintons also? I don’t know how to describe how pathetic it is that Seelye and her ilk seemed to be trapped in this ‘90s time warp (and of course, we can forget about actual analysis of what’s going on with the health care town-hall disruptin’ teabaggers from Seelye also; fortunately, her colleagues Jim Rutenberg and Jackie Calmes did some commendable work on that subject here).

    I’ll tell you what – for some actual analysis on this issue, click here to read a thorough post from Media Matters (once again, a well-deserving blog does the “heavy lifting” of debunking BS and filling in the yawning reporting gaps on this story that our corporate media, once more, will not do).

    And if I were Seelye, I wouldn’t make too many remarks about the obituary pages; maybe the Times didn’t publish this online because they wanted it to die a merciful death also..??

  • Update 8/26/09: I see Seelye's at it again here (h/t Atrios).

  • I also came across this item in the New York Times yesterday (on the matter of Afghanistan becoming Obama’s “Vietnam,” as it were) from reporter Peter Baker…

    Richard N. Haass, a former Bush administration official turned critic, wrote in The New York Times last week that what he once considered a war of necessity has become a war of choice. While he still supports it, he argued that there are now alternatives to a large-scale troop presence, like drone attacks on suspected terrorists, more development aid and expanded training of Afghan police and soldiers.

    His former boss, George W. Bush, learned first-hand how political capital can slip away when an overseas war loses popular backing. With Iraq in flames, Mr. Bush found little support for his second-term domestic agenda of overhauling Social Security and liberalizing immigration laws. L.B.J. managed to create Medicare and enact landmark civil rights legislation but some historians have argued that the Great Society ultimately stalled because of Vietnam.
    As noted here…

    Part of the reason Bush’s push failed was that very few people actually believed he was trying to reform Social Security and instead thought he was trying to dismantle it. Even back in 2005, despite a lack of support for privatization, the Bush administration was insisting that their efforts were a “great success.”
    And as far as immigration reform is concerned, episodes such as the one noted here by Media Matters shows what I believe is the idiocy of the supposed debate on immigration reform. Then-senator Barack Obama proposed an end to a “points system” whereby would-be immigrants would have an easier time trying to obtain visas based on their education levels or work skills rather than on having close relatives already living in the United States." (Obama wanted it to terminate in five years, which to me makes a lot more sense - the bill itself set the point system to expire after 14 years.)

    Now I realize I’m just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but I ask you – who in their right mind is going to spend 14 years trying to enter this country as a legal citizen?

    And as far as I’m concerned, the headline of this post says it all as to why common-sense immigration reform went down the drain a couple of years ago, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the Iraq war (the same is true of Social Security).

    And in closing, on the matter of LBJ and The Great Society, it stalled because of the price tag and the white conservative backlash it spawned (to say nothing of the spite from some rather clueless liberals of the day who didn’t see the “tidal wave” from the “silent majority” also – maybe Vietnam killed it indirectly, but I think Baker’s attempt to draw corollaries between Obama and our two presidents from Texas falls utterly flat).

  • Finally, I give you the following from the blog of J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times on Friday (hold your nose)…

    The AP gives us a glimpse at the internal workings of health care, as run by the US government:

    "Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.

    "In scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.

    But our current spending on health care is unsustainable. We need a government-run program to control costs.
    As noted here (also pointed out by a commenter)…

    The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting "as if she was given a blank checkbook" as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008. In some cases the justification for the bonuses was inadequate or questionable, the IG said.

    The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and got $60,000 in bonuses herself, the IG said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Duncan's family members and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.
    And who did Duncan report to? Robert Howard (she was Howard's executive assistant). And who was Howard? According to linked story, he was "a political appointee who left the agency at the end of the Bush Administration."

    And when anyone can identify for me the universe in which this has anything whatsoever to do with health care, please let me know.