2010/12/17

Jon Stewart is outraged


And he's got every right to be. The usually mild-mannered comedian puts the funny stuff aside so that he can talk about the fact that 9/11 first responders are being denied a bill that will give them medical care. Republicans are filibustering the bill because, well, they're just filibustering everything because Rush Limbaugh told them all two years ago I Hope Obama Fails,” so like obedient little drones, they've striven to obey. Here's the link to The Daily Show. As of midnight, the December 16th show isn't posted yet.

The true outrage here though, is not just that Republicans are filibustering what should be a no-brainer, unanimous “good thing” that everybody should agree on without hesitation, the true outrage is that hardly anyone is covering this vote! Media Matters agreed with Stewart on the night of the 13th, that 

On the night of the 9/11 first responder bill vote, neither ABC, CBS, nor NBC mentioned the story on the evening news. Cable news channels seemed equally uninterested. 

And again, Stewart pointed out tonight, that all of the major news stations demonstrated a complete lack of interest in the vote. Well actually, one TV station did cover the vote with a full 22-minute report, Al Jazeera! Yup, the first responders have had their plight documented by the station that also featured Usama bin Laden. But the US major networks can't bring themselves to mention that Republicans are making complete hash of their supposed reputation for supporting the heroes of 9/11. As Stewart pointed out, Fox News has absolutely zero problems cranking up the outrage when they want to. Why haven't they wanted to in this case? Seems pretty obvious to me that, first and foremost, they're a Republican station. 

What explains the rest of the media? Why is everybody else so quiet about such a no-brainer issue? The problem with the media, I think, goes to the love that journalists these days have for balance. Personally, I think the Fox News slogan “Fair and Balanced” is fine as far as fairness goes. Fairness is always good, is always appropriate and should just be a habit for journalists to engage in. Balance? Eh, not so much. Not much point in balancing the science of evolution with the religious beliefs of Intelligent Design / Creationism / Biblical Literalism because that stuff simply isn't science. But to present a one-sided issue, where the Republican Party is solely and exclusively to blame, journalist would have to sacrifice their beloved balance and to say “One side is to blame.” That, I believe, is something journalists simply don't want to do. In an attempt to be fair to both sides, networks are shortchanging the viewers by refusing to let them in on a serious story.

Update: Here are the videos.

Further update:
The utter moral degeneracy of the opponents of the 9/11 First Responders bill just absolutely astonishes me. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) complained bitterly about Democrats trying to set a time limit for debating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"To have a time agreement after all of the fooling around that we've been doing on [the] Dream Act, on New York City ... we will not have a time agreement from this side," he insisted angrily.
Oh, and it turns out that it's the national Chamber of Commerce that has persuaded Republicans not to support the bill "because it's financed by closing tax loopholes for foreign businesses that do business in the United States."


2010/12/16

"If we keep taxes low on America's high earners, the terrorists win. "

I wrote the following in response to Did someone say we're at war? The writer of this argued that the burden of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is being unfairly borne by a very small portion of our population. What's truly amazing is that people are actually arguing that taxes should be kept low, as though there wasn't a war going on!
I completely agree with this, but I would point out that G.W. Bush tried to get Americans interested in what I call a "Colonial Corps," a group of people who would take over the administration of cities, towns and villages. Most importantly, they'd assess what these people needed and then request money and material from the US Government. The military was drafted into doing this to a degree, but that's really not a military function. That requires a separate organization. So, when Bush suggested ideas along those lines, did the country respond? Nope. They remained sitting on their comfortable couches and in their nice climate-controlled homes and with their loving families. During the Spanish Civil war, left-wingers ran off to join the Lincoln Brigade. But occupying Iraq was not a left wing project. During the Iraq War, right-wingers stayed home.

2010/12/09

We appear to be on the road to imperial decline

Alfred W. McCoy, author of the 1972 The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, has written a very depressing, but probably quite accurate view of the near-future collapse of the American empire (Probably by 2020 or 2025). With two active wars, around 800 military bases arounthe globe, but a declining economy accelerated by the Republican/Blue Dog Democrat/Tea Party refusal to allow government stimulus measures to pull America's non-wealthy out of the sharp economic downturn that began in late 2007 with the collapse of the housing bubble (The wealthy are doing splendidly, thank you very much), America appears to be very solidly set upon a path to national decline and "imperial overstretch."


McCoy considers the invasion of Iraq to be the crucial event that future historians will compare to the Athenian attack on Sicily and the joint British-French-Israeli attack on the Suez Canal. These were the events that sounded the death knell for their respective empires. Of course, Athens and Britain continued long after their empires disintegrated, so naturally, the US wil survivie any approaching cataclysm. The anti-war left in the US considers the beginning of the Iraq War to be a good, universally-agreed-upon time to protest the Iraq War at least once a year. That date may one day be regarded as the beginning of the end of American supremacy over the rest of the world.


What's curious is to see all the yelling and screeching and beating of chests over the US budget deficit, with no thought of, perhaps, reducing America's military commitments. Very bizarrely, with states struggling to make ends meet and to keep citizens from falling into poverty and starving, the President and Republican opponents have agreed to extend tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Unfortunately, as with the political fight over the public option in the Affordable Care Act, it's pretty clear that the President isn't really on the progressive
side, despite his many earnest-seeming protestations.

2010/12/05

An interesting turn of phrase

The WaPo uses an interesting phrase that I'm not sure actually means anything in the context in which it's used. In talking about the WaPo's reaction to the movie "Fair Game," they say:

The movie portrays Mr. Wilson as a whistle-blower who debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country of Niger. In fact, an investigation by the Senate intelligence committee found that Mr. Wilson's reporting did not affect the intelligence community's view on the matter, and an official British investigation found that President George W. Bush's statement in a State of the Union address that Britain believed that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger was well-founded. [emphasis added]

The sentence that I added the emphasis to, the assertion that Wilson's review did not change the intelligence community's view of the question "Did Iraq buy yellowcake uranium from Niger?" appears to be indisputable true. The intel community was highly skeptical that Iraq has made any such purchase.

Also in early October 2002, an Italian journalist, Elisabetta Burba, received copies of documents from Rocco Martino that indicated the Iraqi government had arranged the purchase of 500 tons of "yellowcake" uranium from Niger in 1999 and 2000. The documents were signed by officials of the government of Niger and appeared to be on official letterhead. Under instructions from her magazine's editor, Burba gave copies of the letters to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, and then left for Niger to investigate the situation herself.

It quickly became obvious to Burba that the story was unsubstantiated and she quickly dropped it. Seems pretty clear that if a reporter could quickly discover that the story was baseless, then US intel services could, too. So did Wilson tell US intel services anything they didn't already know? Probably not, but the important point was, what was President G.W. Bush telling the rest of the world? What were those famous "16 words"? Oh yeah:

“The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Bush very obviously had no intention of ever re-visiting the issue or of ever clarifying that the British claim was quickly found to be without substance. In 2006, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reported that:

On February 27, 2003, the CIA responded to a January 29, 2003, letter from Senator Carl Levin which asked the CIA to detail "what the U.S. IC [intelligence community] knows about Saddam Hussein seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The CIA's response was almost identical to the points passed to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] in early February, saying "two streams of reporting suggest Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Niger." The response said the CIA believes the government of Niger's assurances that it did not contract with Iraq but said, "nonetheless, we question, based on a second source, whether Baghdad may have been probing Niger for access to yellowcake in the 1999 time frame." The CIA's response left out the sentence, "we cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims," that had been included in the U.S. government's IAEA brief.

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments (United States Senate, 2006), pages 16–17.

Both a US Senator and the International Atomic Energy Agency were told that Iraq most likely tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Keep in mind that Jaques Baute, the IAEA Chief for Iraqi Nuclear Matters, did a single day's research on the allegation (Hubris, p. 203) and quickly concluded that the documents that were supplied to him had a number of extremely serious flaws.

Within a couple of hours, he discovered about fifteen significant anomalies in the papers. The letterhead, the signatures, the dates, the format of the document—none of them matched up.

Okay, "an official British investigation found that [the Niger story] was well-founded." But if any such evidence for such a conclusion existed, why did the US forward such preposterously flawed documents to make their case to Baute? If either the US or Britain had better evidence, why didn't they transmit that better evidence to the IAEA?

Joe Wilson did Americans an enormous favor by informing them that Bush was knowingly, consciously and deliberately lying to them.

The important question was not what the intel community knew. Bush's people, if not Bush himself, already knew for a fact that the intel community knew full well that the report was baseless. The important question is what was Bush telling the American people? On that, the WaPo had nothing to say.

2010/11/29

Libelous Lapse


A recent BBC Editorial Complaint Unit ruling has led to the BBC publishing an apology to pop musician Bob Geldof over claims made in several recent reports about the use of Live Aid benefit money and how it was used in Ethiopia.


The pieces that prompted the apology were a BBC World Service program called Assignment broadcast on March 4, 2010, in which a reporter investigated whether or not money raised by Bob Geldof's Band Aid Trust had gotten into the hands of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front and was used to purchase weapons and further politics, rather than provide famine relief. This prompted Geldof's organization to complain, given the damage done and the lack of evidence necessary in order to make such a claim, as well as the fact that the organization did not get to respond.


The apology later goes on to mention pieces run on bbc.co.uk that mention exact amounts of money raised and hypothetically spent on weapons with insubstantial evidence, with claims that upwards of $95 million was raised by western organizations and then used to further rebel warfare in Ethiopia.

The BBC's apology then consists of a list of findings for each of the programs and pieces either broadcast or published online, with many of them pointing out the fact that the BBC's investigators used certain pieces of evidence to tie Band Aid towards funding rebel activity when it was a blatant stretch to do so. It also points out the fact that the report provided insufficient reason to the Band Aid Trust to provide a response before the piece ran given the nature of its allegations.

The apology further picks apart a number of pieces, pointing out places where similar moves were used to tie the Band Aid Trust towards rebel fighting and emphasize Geldof's unwillingness to discuss the issue, with each piece's complaints either being listed as "Upheld," "Partially upheld," or "Not upheld" (with complaints concerning PM, The Andrew Marr Show, and The Media Show) all being dropped.

As a resolution, the BBC published and broadcast apologies to the Band Aid Trust on BBC One, the News Channel, Radio 4 and BBC World Service. The organization also made edits to online pieces in order to ensure that readers know that complaints have been made and upheld about the articles before they view them and pointed out several more instances in which the piece that aired on Assignment was either "inaccurate or potentially misleading" about the success of Band Aid Trust fundraising towards Ethiopia.

In essence, the BBC faced consequences more than anything else for sensationalizing what would otherwise be a fairly normal piece of reporting, using insubstantial evidence when making rather lofty claims about how large sums of money were spent and the consequences. Geldof and his organization were understandably angry, especially if they have the proof that 95% of relief money was not, in fact, used to fund rebel warfare in Ethiopia, which the ECU's investigation seems to have pointed out.


Andrew Hall is a blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on Accredited Online Colleges for Guide to Online Schools.

2010/11/28

This year's Unity08


Kathleen Parker of the WaPo is excited about a group that calls itself No Labels. Problem is, there's no obvious difference between No Labels and early 2007's Unity08, a group that was being touted by David Broder, that centrist "Dean of the Press Corps." The problem that both Parker and Broder cite is that neither group has/had a leader who had anywhere near the popularity of Jesse Jackson or Ross Perot. But the real problem that both pundits ignored was that the centrist voters who don't like either party, but who will vote for a mushy compromise party is a real group, but it's a very, very small one that will only have clout in a closely-divided electoral contest.

Parker's thesis is that both of the major parties are just so awful. Her evidence that the Democrats are now extremists consists of Speaker Pelosi's opposition to the absolutely awful group led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Yes, one is a Democrat and the other is a Republican, but they've both richly earned their group the name of the "Cat Food Commission" as both persons obviously despise Social Security recipients and clearly want to see grandma and grandpa living on scraps retrieved from the garbage dump.

Her charge that Republicans are extremists has a good deal more substance to it because Republicans really are extremists who really have put the squeeze on moderates in their party. Remember, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) said: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Dunno about you, but that sounds like an awfully extremist statement to me. The Senate minority is even opposing the ratification of the START Treaty. This is quite serious as the treaty is what allows the US to inspect Russian nuclear armaments. With the treaty being allowed to lapse, inspections have ceased and they will not begin again until and unless the treaty is ratified. Yet, Republicans appear perfectly content to allow the treaty to remain a dead letter. Again, that sounds pretty darned extremist to me.

No, America doesn't need a centrist party. What it needs to do is to see to it that Democrats get a spine-stiffener and to toss Republicans out on their keisters.

2010/11/27

Reviewing "Decision Points" - G.W. Bush's memoir


Dan Froomkin, one of the better critics of G.W. Bush during those dark years when he was in office, focuses on two particular items that Bush addresses in his memoir: The "decision" to go to war against Iraq and the decision to torture detainees. I was especially amused by one part of the decision on torture from another Froomkin piece on June 2009:
Comey describes how he and some of his colleagues had "grave reservations" about the legal analyses being concocted for Cheney. And he accurately predicts that Cheney and other White House officials would later point the finger at the Justice Department during the investigations that would inevitably ensue once the administration's actions were made public.

Indeed, in one e-mail, Comey describes an exchange with Ted Ullyot, then Gonzales's chief of staff: "I told him that the people who were applying pressure now would not be there when the s--- hit the fan. Rather, they would simply say they had only asked for an opinion."

And in Bush's justification for ordering torture:
"Because the lawyer said it was legal," Bush replied. "He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do."

Following illegal orders is not just a bad thing in itself, there's a high probability that you'll get tossed to the sharks or thrown under the bus if the people you're carrying out illegal acts for find that they're feeling the heat for the acts that you performed for them. Froomkin goes over the many Bush and Cheney assertions that torture "worked" (That is, that acts of torture resulted in the obtaining of useful information) and finds each and every time that, well, they're simply assertions that after all this time, remain completely unsubstantiated.

The only clear benefit that Froomkin can find for torture under Bush is that it provided clear (even if obviously coerced) "confessions" that helped to make the case for launching the Iraq War. As he points out, both Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell used the "confession" coerced out of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi by Egyptian authorities to make speeches in which they declared that they had "proof" of the danger that Iraq posed. Of course, neither man saw fit to inform the public as to where exactly this information came from and, as a consequence, how reliable this "confession" truly was.

Did Bush make a "decision" to go to war against Iraq? Froomkin points out that in order for there to have been a real decision, there needed to be an alternative course of action that might have been chosen in preference to what actually happened.
Prados wrote that the cumulative record clearly "demonstrates that the Bush administration swiftly abandoned plans for diplomacy to curb fancied Iraqi adventurism by means of sanctions, never had a plan subsequent to that except for a military solution, and enmeshed British allies in a manipulation of public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic designed to generate support for a war."
That's right: There never was another plan. And therefore -- ironically enough, considering the title of Bush's book -- there never was an actual "decision point" either. There were some debates about how to invade Iraq, and when, but not if.
I took part in what I believe was the first anti-Iraq War demonstration. It was in September 2002, in the same month when Bush made his "We gotta git Saddam afore he gits us" speech at the UN. I very clearly remember that none of the speakers at the march nor any of the people carrying signs made or even suggested anybody else make, any attempt to communicate with the President and to try and convince him to change his mind. I believe we all reached the same conclusion, that Bush had absolutely and unequivocally made up his mind and that he was going to invade Iraq, period.
As another reviewer points out:
The structure of “Decision Points,” with each chapter centered on a key issue—stem-cell research, interrogation and wiretapping, the invasion of Iraq, the fight against AIDS in Africa, the surge, the “freedom agenda,” the financial crisis—reveals the essential qualities of the Decider. There are hardly any decision points at all. The path to each decision is so short and irresistible, more like an electric pulse than like a weighing of options, that the reader is hard-pressed to explain what happened. Suddenly, it’s over, and there’s no looking back.

Also, I found this description to be all-too-accurate:
Here is another feature of the non-decision: once his own belief became known to him, Bush immediately caricatured opposing views and impugned the motives of those who held them. If there was an honest and legitimate argument on the other side, then the President would have to defend his non-decision, taking it out of the redoubt of personal belief and into the messy empirical realm of contingency and uncertainty.

Yep, I remember the pieces about "Some say...", the phrase that signaled to readers and listeners that Bush was about to drag out the rhetorical device of a straw man to make his argument of the moment.
Campaigning for Republican candidates in the 2002 midterm elections, the president sought to use the congressional debate over a new Homeland Security Department against Democrats.

He told at least two audiences that some senators opposing him were "not interested in the security of the American people." In reality, Democrats balked not at creating the department, which Mr. Bush himself first opposed, but at letting agency workers go without the usual civil service protections.

And it's almost amusing to run across this statement about trying to decide whether to go to war against Iraq:
During this period, Bush relates, “I sought opinions on Iraq from a variety of sources.” By coincidence, every one of them urged him to do it.

Yeah, funny how that happens when you've absolutely made up your mind to do something and when you have a limited circle of advisers, everyone you speak with just
happens to have reached the same conclusion! One of the Bush vacations that really stuck me as wildly irresponsible was in August 2003. It was becoming clear that the Iraq War was transitioning from a straightforward military-to-military battle followed by a more-or-less peaceful occupation regime and turning into a situation more like what Mao Zedong described as "protracted war" where the objective is to outlast a technologically-superior foe. Had Bush drawn around him a more heterogeneous set of advisers, had he been listening to something other than a bunch of "yes-men" or "loyal Bushies," he would have spent that August hunkered down in the map rooms and consulting with people who knew something about guerrilla wars. Instead, he just treated that month as simply another vacation and twiddled his thumbs on his Texas ranch for a month while the Iraq situation deteriorated.

More on Bush's dodgy language:
Bush writes in the memoir: "No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find weapons of mass destruction. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do."
[...]
And Bush of course never actually tells us who he's angry at, or what exactly sickened him. He's certainly not willing to say that he was angry at himself, or that going to war was a sickening mistake.
It's most curious that the Republican Party constantly speaks of personal responsibility and how important it is and how Democrats don't observe it, but for Bush, just about everything that went wrong appears to have been somebody else's fault. He says "My bad" for purely rhetorical mistakes, things like the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) or for saying "bring 'em on" in response to a question about the emerging Iraqi insurgency. But when it came to really serious misconduct on his part:
In fact, Dubya and his ghostwriters’ version of the Plame-CIA outing is even more curiously incurious than Packer suggests. Condensing the lengthy investigation and Libby’s trial to roughly a paragraph, Bush faithfully cites the GOP talking point that Richard Armitage was Robert Novak’s source in exposing Plame, so special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald shouldn’t have bothered investigating anything or anyone else… and then blithely notes that he refused to pardon the convicted Libby because his lawyers unanimously agreed the verdicts were justified. [emphasis in original]
Bush's book just came out a little while ago, but as Froomkin points out, the traditional press corps, "The Village" as the blogger Digby calls them (The Village and how they're responding to Sarah Palin), is doing its collective best to ignore, downplay and paper over Bush's crimes and the immense damage that he did to this country and to the rest of the world. They shouldn't be allowedto get away with that. If the US doesn't place Bush on trial and then imprison him, we risk a reprise of the temporary imprisonment and national embarrassment of Augusto Pinochet in 1998. From a piece on Bush and torture:
Tom Porteous, the UK Director of Human Rights Watch said, “There is no point having international justice for petty African dictators if you can’t apply it to the leaders of powerful countries like the US."

Porteous is right. For justice to not simply be "victor's justice," something that the winners get to apply to the losers, it has to apply to the "Leader of the Free World" as well.

2010/11/19

Bit of an adventure

Tried starting up the car this afternoon. Lights went on, but began fading, suggesting that the battery had gone bad. I was without a car for the first year I was in Pennsylvania, so I remembered how to do a lot of stuff. I determined that I was going to see "Fair Game," so I walked about a half an hour to get to the nearest spot where the local bus picks passengers up. Fortunately, I didn't have long to wait. I got to the theater around 7:20, but unfortunately, the times the movie showed were 7:30 and 10:30. Hadn't had anything to eat since morning, so I knew I couldn't last through a movie and heck, it's just a little after 10:30 as I write this.
Went to a restaurant in the same shopping center that the movie theater was in. Hadn't eaten there for several years. Noticed that they now had wi-fi. Woo-hoo! Pulled out my laptop and had plenty to read for dinner. Had a nice long leisurely meal and again, caught the bus going back very shortly after I began waiting for it.
So, I have a computer society meeting tomorrow, I can get to a bus line going there by walking another half an hour in the opposite direction that I walked in tonight. After that, I guess I'll stop and pick up a car battery. At that point, it's probably better to just get a cab to get the rest of the way home where, hopefully, it's just a new battery that the car needs. Must remember to get the specs on the current battery before I take off.

2010/11/04

The 2010 Mid-terms: Is there a silver lining?

One would think that if progressives being too progressive was the problem with the Democratic Party, then the "fiscally conservative" Blue Dog Democrats would have done better than progressives. They didn't. Blue Dogs got absolutely hammered at the polls.

As far as The Democratic Party is concerned, there actually is a silver lining to the 2010 mid-term election. In 2006, Senator Joe Lieberman was a Democrat from Connecticut and not just some meaningless Joe Schmuckatelli, he was very recently (2004) the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate. So when Lieberman stepped all over Democratic messaging:

Lieberman claims to be a staunch supporter of affirmative action, when in fact he has always added the caveat, "but I oppose quotas"
[...]
Lieberman is also the strongest Democratic supporter of faith-based bribery in the Senate.

Democrats found that the Republican retort of "But Joe Lieberman, a Democrat in good standing, says..." was very difficult to refute or ignore. The inclusion of Lieberman in the Democratic Party did Democrats far more harm than good, so Democrats were well rid of him (Ned Lamont won the Democratic primary, but lost the general election, so Lieberman is still a Senator, but as an Independent).

Lieberman was a "Blue Dog Democrat," a group that was strongly favored by the President's former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel and is favored today by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Their message of "fiscal discipline" was one that was problematic for Democrats in the best of times, but during an economic crisis like the present one, is downright destructive. The identification of Democrats as free spenders compared to the Republicans as being tight with a dollar is one that is challenged by the Republican desire to keep the younger George Bush's tax cuts going for those making over $250,000 annually, but has been a reasonably good shorthand description of how Democrats manage the economy versus how Republicans manage it.

So the good news from the mid-term election of 2010? The Blue Dogs took it on the chin! Blue Dog losses far outnumbered Progressive losses.

23 of the 46 Blue Dogs up for re-election went down on Tuesday.
[...]
Half of the Blue Dog incumbents were defeated, and by themselves accounted for close to half of the Democratic losses. [emphasis in original]
[...]
the worst possible choice Democrats can make is to run as GOP-replicating corporatists devoted above all else to serving corporate interests in order to perpetuate their own power: what Washington calls "centrists" and "conservative Democrats." That is who bore the bulk of the brunt of last night's Democratic bloodbath -- not liberals.

One thing I'm very cheerful about is that Blue Dogs who ran against the Speaker of the House fared particularly poorly. And obviously, if the "Cat Food Commission" takes a meat-ax to Social Security as progressives suspect they will, the Blue Dogs will be playing a major role in lending the credibility of the Democratic Party to such a destructive project. That's why it's particularly important to diminish the role of Blue Dogs immediately and not to approach that project in a casual manner.

Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) may have lost his seat, he was a particularly energetic progressive who caused many members of the traditional press corps to grab at their hearts and retire to the fainting couch, but the Democratic next-door-neighbor of Grayson lost too.

Regarding Grayson,well we have a little controlled experiment. His neighboring first term Democratic congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, in a very similar district, took the opposite approach to Grayson. She ran as hard to the right as she could get away with, never had a controversial thought much less uttered one, was rewarded with big money and support from the DCCC --- and she lost too. This race was bigger than both of them. Florida is turning hard right.

So it's far from clear that Grayson's aggressiveness and ill manners explain much of anything.

So the lesson on how progressives should proceed seems pretty obvious to me. Get rid of the danged Blue Dogs even if it means losing the Democratic majority. Let Democrats earn majority status the hard way, by campaigning as unapologetic progressives who have no problems with the label of being free spenders and who oppose unnecessary wars and racial hatred (Both against American minorities at home and Muslims overseas) and excessive corporate power just because, well, just because that stuff is wrong.

Let Democrats stop making excuses for being Democrats!

2010/10/25

Latest right-wing talking point: Iraq DID have WMDs!

No, actually they didn't, but the Wikileaks release of nearly 400,000 documents from the Iraq War shows that there were indeed many cases of American troops discovering biological and chemical warfare shells. Only problem of course, is that all of the shells discovered were old, in small numbers and in poor repair, suggesting that the Saddam Hussein regime was sloppy about disposing of weapons that the UN had ordered them to dispose of. What the shells do not suggest is that there was a working program to launch chemical or biological warfare against even close neighbors, let alone against the US.

Britain's The Guardian publishes extensive sets of documents concerning the Wikileaks release

Huffington Post summarizes many finding

Al Jazeera's nearly hour-long video includes a Pentagon spokesperson and Wikileaks' Julian Assange

OpEd News summarizes highlights

2010/10/19

Where was the editor?

To review why Richard Cohen lost all credibility as a liberal spokesperson, after the infamous Colin Powell speech in early 2003 about Iraq being such an incredibly deadly threat to the entire world that an immediate invasion was an urgently necessity, WaPo columnist Richard Cohen was moved to declare that the evidence presented was so utterly conclusive that "Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise" that Iraq was indeed a deadly menace that had to be crushed with the greatest of haste. Howard Dean had a far more sensible take on the same speech "I was impressed not by the vastness of evidence presented by the Secretary, but rather by its sketchiness. He said there would be no smoking gun, and there was none." Cohen has never regained his liberal credentials.

Wikipedia defines "hate crimes" in America as being:

Defined in the 1999 National Crime Victim Survey, "A hate crime is a criminal offense. In the United States federal prosecution is possible for hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity." In 2009, the Matthew Shepard Act added perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the federal definition, and dropped the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity.

It also presents a host of specific examples:

During the past two centuries, some of the more typical examples of hate crimes in the U.S. include lynchings of African Americans, cross burnings to drive black families from predominantly white neighborhoods, assaults on white people traveling in predominantly black neighborhoods, assaults on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the painting of swastikas on Jewish synagogue and xenophobic responses to a variety of minority ethnic groups.

So how does Cohen, in an editorial this week, present the concept of a hate crime? At the end of his second paragraph, Cohen summarizes correctly:

It is not the criminal act alone that matters anymore but the belief that might have triggered the act. For this, you can get an extra five years or so in the clink.

In other words, one must first be convicted of committing a crime and only after that can one be convicted of committing the crime due to hatred for the victims' ethnicity, sexual preference, etc.

Media Matters really hammers his previous statement, though:
Almost as bad as hate crimes themselves is the designation. It is a little piece of totalitarian nonsense, a way for prosecutors to punish miscreants for their thoughts or speech, both of which used to be protected by the Constitution (I am an originalist in this regard).
Really? Calling the torture of three gay men a "hate crime" is almost as bad as torturing three gay men? That the Washington Post would publish such warped anti-gay moral equivalence doesn't really surprise me; that it would come from the paper's purportedly liberal columnist is, however, quite disappointing. [emphasis in original]

Cohen's following statement is truly puzzling:

...the liberal belief that when it comes to particular groups, basic rights may be suspended. Thus we get affirmative action in which certain people are advantaged at the expense of other people based entirely on race or ethnicity. This tender feeling toward minorities must account for why civil liberties groups have remained so appallingly silent about hate-crimes legislation.

Erm, where are rights being suspended? Convicted criminals are being given extra punishment. How on Earth does that mean that any group is being "advantaged"? Remember, people are not being convicted simply because of their bigotry, the hate crime conviction comes after they've been convicted of committing a crime in the first place. Why have civil liberties groups not been condemning hate crimes laws? Well, I'm not sure why this even has to be explained, but if society does not express any sort of official opinion about a crime that targets specific minorities, then it's far too easy for bigots to conclude that there's no real problem in targeting such minorities. To pile on extra punishment for a hate crime expresses society's abhorrence of such crimes and makes a symbolic statement. I think such symbolism is a highly appropriate thing.

I'm not quite sure that Cohen's primary example, that of "the sad case of Tyler Clementi," the young man who was spied upon using a webcam making love to another young man, is accurately described. Cohen claims that "Immediately, the cry of 'hate crime' was heard throughout the land." A Google search on "tyler clementi video" turned up only one reference containing the phrase "hate crime" in the first seven pages of results. The gay talk show host Ellen Degeneres did not use the phrase at all. She spoke instead of "cyber bullying," a still-bad, but far less serious charge. Cohen of course, does not provide any specific examples of anyone using the "hate crime" phrasing. The phrase was clearly used by a few individuals, but Cohen's description of it as it being "heard throughout the land" seems seriously overblown.

So, does Cohen deserve to regain his liberal credentials? Obviously not. But what really gets to me on this piece is ...where was the editor? Who the heck was in charge of reviewing this piece? Who ignored how shaky this piece was, how tone-deaf it was, how insensitive it was to those who favor hate crimes legislation and approved it for release anyway? What are the standards in use nowadays at the WaPo? Why didn't anyone at the WaPo direct Cohen to speak with someone who approved of hate crimes legislation and get their input on the issue? Is the attitude one of "Aw, he's a good ol' boy. We'll take his word for it."?

2010/10/14

Taking triangulation too far

In 1992, Bill Clinton picked a fight with Sister Souljah, a little-known rap singer. Clinton was deliberately throwing the community of African-American activists under the bus in order to ingratiate himself with wealthier and more powerful constituencies. Clinton continued to triangulate against one group or another. It's far from clear that this practice strengthened the Democratic brand. I and many other progressives noticed at the time that the Republicans never did this. It really bothered me and many others that there were, according to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), "good" and "bad" Democrats. In fact, the Democratic brand was so weak by 2002 that the party actually lost seats in a mid-term election. Normally, the party out of power picks up seats in a mid-term.

Democratic fortunes began changing in 2004 when unapologetic progressives began muscling the triangulators of the DLC aside and spoke of their fellow Democrats as trusted and honored partners. 2006 and 2008 were very good years for Democrats as progressives were firmly in the drivers' seat and triangulation was a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, triangulation appears to be making a comeback. It's far worse now than it ever was under Clinton as now, conservative Democrats are openly disrespecting the Speaker of the House. This strikes me as a really, REALLY bad idea! It was really bad when Clinton disrespected powerless groups as that strategy hurt Democratic unity and muddled any message Democrats might have had, but when regular Representatives advertise how independent from the Speaker they are, WTF!?!?!?! This just sounds like the most horribly anti-unity and anti-common cause strategy I ever heard of.

Far better, in my humble opinion, to have a smaller party of people who are actually together on the issues and who are truly together because they have many beliefs in common rather than to have people who band together merely because they can pursue their own separate agendas more effectively with a "D" after their name than with an "R."

2010/10/09

Hmm, a little ticked off, are we?

A bit of background on Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher. During Campaign 2008, Wurzelbacher challenged presidential candidate Barack Obama on his plan to not renew Bush's tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year. Slight truth and honesty problem arose. Did Wurzelbacher make $250,000? No, he hoped to buy the company he worked for for that price. That would cost him a one-time payment of $250,000. He himself most likely made about $60,000 to $70,000, $80,000 at the most. So the question that made him famous and which was used in the presidential debates was one that simply didn't apply to “Joe” (Actually named Samuel) in the first place.

Did Wurzelbacher do the slightest bit of research before delivering his opinions on puppy farms? There's no indication of that in the quotations reproduced by the World 'O Crap blogger S.Z. Reads instead like he read perhaps one piece on them and then committed his thoughts to the screen. S.Z. gets a bit hot under the collar as she obviously knows a bit about the puppy farms, but because Wurzelbacher has a much bigger megaphone than she ever will have, his audience is probably ten times bigger than hers ever will be.

S.Z. explains:

And why are national groups getting involved in trying to pass this legislation in MO? Well, MO is Puppy Mill Central — approximately 40% of all pet store puppies nationwide are bred in Missouri, where almost 200,000 breeding dogs produce up to a million puppies a year. Go here for more info.

But Wurzelbacher sees that America's liberties are at stake!

This would almost be comical if it weren’t for the OTHER, more insidious parts of this bill that hit at the very core of our liberties.


To which S.Z. responds:

The framers of the constitution would be rolling in their graves if they heard that your right to own more than 50 breeder dogs (and their attendant puppies, which could number in the 100-200 range at any given time) is in peril. Because the freedom to cruelly exploit puppies for profit is what our country was founded on!


Wurzelbacher:

This bill forces breeders to limit the number of dogs they can own – regardless of care. Think about this a minute . . . . Should the government have the right to limit the number of houses a realtor can sell?

S.Z. (This is a point that even needs to be made? This isn't obvious!?!?!)

If houses were living, breathing creatures that required adequate care,
facilities, and attention to be happy and healthy, then yeah, maybe the
government should have the right to limit the number of houses that a realtor could breed for sale.

The guy then goes on for a few more paragraphs about how terrible it is that those gosh-darn liberals are so mean to the poor, put-upon entrepreneur/puppy-mill owners who are, golly-gee, just tryin' to make a profit! Yep, sure enough is a sad tale of woe that Wurzelbacher tells us.

2010/10/07

Got my letter published in the Inky today


It's the first one of the day!

A balanced budget will have to wait

Hate to admit it, but I completely agree with the tea-party folks about the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. It's an absolutely worthless waste of time, taxpayer money, and our attention.
Dana Milbank concedes Republicans on the commission will never agree to any sort of tax increase under any circumstances ("A sober effort to tame debt," Tuesday). Even if Republicans on the commission agree to anything, the rest of their party will never go along.
The first priority of policymakers should be to get Americans back to work. To do that, the government needs to engage in heavy stimulus spending. The budget should, eventually, be in some sort of balance. But there is no urgent need to do that anytime soon.
Richmond L. Gardner


Naturally, the statement that I agreed with the teabaggers should be read as "Yeesh, the Cat Food Commission is so unbearably awful, I even agree with these guys!"
Got stuck on what a commenter said, though. And yes, in the comments, I'm rich2506.

Posted 07:24 AM, 10/07/2010
taxmancometh
"The first priority of policymakers should be to get Americans back to work. To do that, the government needs to engage in heavy stimulus spending. The budget should, eventually, be in some sort of balance. But there is no urgent need to do that anytime soon.--Richmond L. Gardner" ---It's now official folks. We may as well turn out the lights. We have had nothing BUT government 'stimulus' since 'The New Deal'. Trillions upon trillions upon trillions. We have destroyed our currency. (Our 'dollar', which is actually a Federal Reserve Note, has lost 95% of its value since the creation of the non-federal, Federal Reserve in 1913). We have destroyed our industrial infrastructure in the name of 'environmentalism', we have spent (stimulated) over 7 TRILLION since the enactment of Johnson's phony 'war on poverty', yet we have more people living in poverty today since the great depression. We have 41.8 MILLION people on Food stamps. Another Obama record! That's one in 7 Americans. We don't need any more government 'stimulus' and debt creation. We need to balance the budget by cutting spending. It is just that simple. We need to return wealth to the private sector and drain that swamp called Washington, DC. The time for action is NOW! The decades of 'stimulus' have left us all BANKRUPT, morally and fiscally.


Posted 07:28 AM, 10/07/2010
taxmancometh
Mr. Gardner, please PLEASE watch this video if you do not believe me. PLEASE. It's seven minutes long and is NOT partisan, and THEN come back and talk to me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MQ2pk7kkm4


Posted 07:54 AM, 10/07/2010
rich2506
@taxmancometh Yep, sho enuff is a sca-a-a-areee videeeo! Pfft. Not. Look, the problem is that private enterprise does a lot of things and does them well, but it doesn't do everything. Never has, never will. The income of all US citizens has risen at the usual rates for the last 40 years, but the income of the bottom 90% of taxpayers has been flat. President Reagan didn't begin that problem, but his policies certainly contributed to it and have maintained that. Reaganomics, not overspending, is the REAL problem here.


Posted 08:39 AM, 10/07/2010
taxmancometh
Well Rich, have fun in the bread line. And I didn't say anything about private enterprise. Your comment about the bottom 90% flat lining was not true from the period of 2002 to 2007. During that period ALL incomes rose between 3 and 4%. But those gains were the result of inflation caused by the printing of massive amounts of worthless paper fiat currency, which is what I pointed out in my first post. But we are now entering the end game phase, where Congress has overspent the ability of Maericans to produce enough wealth to correct the problem. It is happening all over Europe as we speak. Even England is starting to cut welfare benefits as they are out of money. Cuba is laying off 500,000 government workers because Castro's own brother admitted their economic model is a failure. There is a somewhat humorous video from two Australian comedians that is a great watch! It discusses the fiscal problems in Europe and the debt incurred to finance ever enlarging social 'entitlements'. It runs about 2:36 -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5D0VhS8qXT0


Posted 08:42 AM, 10/07/2010
taxmancometh
For more research on American taxation as it relates to income levels, please visit this IRS page, http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/indtaxstats/article/0,,id=96679,00.html#_grp9 --- and scroll down to the section marked, 'Individual Income Tax Returns with Positive "1979 Income Concept" Income'. There you can pull up the totals from IRS tax returns and determine who paid what percentage taxes, which income bracket grew (all of them) and you will see that the bottom 50% of wage earners saw their tax burden fall, which means the tax cuts were not just 'for the rich'. Enjoy the read.

The video simply made the point that government costs money. Duh! Next thing ya know, he'll tell me that the sun rises in the East. Now, the idea that everyone's income rose a bit during the Bush Administration is one that I have a hard time with as Bush's term was generally a complete flop in just about everything connected to economics and the failure to create enough jobs to keep up with population growth was a continual problem.

Now, I would think that the IRS table that taxman refers to, when it says "top 50%," would mean that it would include all the other groups above the 50% line, I found the definition of "1979 Income Concept" and it's not helpful at all. If there had been a table of "quintiles," that would have been meaningful as quintile means five separate groups. To compare the bottom four quintiles to the top one would tell us whether everyone advanced during Bush's term or whether, as I strongly suspect, the top quintile advanced, the second quintile did well, but not as well, and the bottom three remained static or lost ground. I suspect the way the statistics are defined, it just looks like everyone's income advanced.

My web searching uncovered lots of quintile data, but it usually just goes up as far as 2000 or 2003. Can't find anything up to the present. Anyway, that's why I only have one comment up there today.

2010/10/06

Oh, good grief!


This has gotta take the cake for the most moronic exchange I've seen in a while. MMFA wrote a piece detailing how Dinesh D'Souza flagrantly and obviously lied in his book "The Roots of Obama's Rage" (Obama has to be the least "enraged" person on the national scene. In his 2008 debates with McCain, Obama was the very essence of cool), going so far as to claim that "when the story regarding Rev. Jeremiah Wright's inflammatory sermons broke, 'the networks and major newspapers pretended not to notice.' " Erm, I seem to remember that when the Rev. Wright made a single inflammatory sermon (Obama claimed he wasn't present for that particular one, no one could prove he was there), that resulted in an absolute firestorm that spread all over the media landscape. Obama quickly denounced Wright and has yet to settle on another church. Many other lies and distortions are detailed in the piece.

So we get a comment:
Author by follow_me_on_twitter@[deleted] (October 05, 2010 1:27 am ET)
Why is it when someone doesn't agree with the POTUS, they're labeled as an RACIST?



This has nothing to do with "agreeing" with the POTUS. This has to do with MAKING STUFF UP to attack the president. Much of the MADE UP STUFF has a racist tone to it.

Learn to read.


Like what? What makes this guy a racist according to you liberal
[HTML code] crickets [code]


The crickets don't work unless you give responders more then a few minutes to respond, as the times denoted between your posts indicate.
...

Cool-- The crickets don't work unless you give responders more then a few minutes to respond, as the times denoted between your posts indicate.

Yeah, I kinda figured that. But, I had to go to work and didn't want to wait until tomorrow to get it in. Gotta have some fun sometimes ;)
...

It's pretty hard to overstate how completely and utterly moronic Floyd is being here. He quite obviously makes the (completely unwarranted) assumption that his question is so blindingly good and so awesomely intelligent and unanswerable that we liberals will be staggered and flummoxed and speechless in response.

Yeah, right, whatevuh.

2010/10/01

Test on happiness

Found an interesting Internet test on happiness and decided to see how I scored.



You were a smiley student

Passed on this as actually, I remember being annoyed at looking at my old pictures because I had kind of a dippy-looking smile. In later years, I learned to make my smile more presentable for photographs.



You have a sister

Heck, I had (And still have) two sisters! Passed on that.



You're not glued to the TV


Yee-haw on that! I watch what's called "Appointment TV." When I watch Jon Stewart's Daily Show at 11:00pm, I get up from what I'm doing at 10:57, get snacks and/or drinks, sit down and watch it, then at 11:31, the TV goes dark unless I turn it to a music channel. I record lots of shows, but watch those mostly as I dress.



You keep souvenirs on display

Aye! In the Navy, a lot of us had what we referred to as an "I love me wall" that has our
memorabilia, our awards, etc. I've got collections of family pictures, shotglasses, buttons, pictures of sailing vessels, various documents, etc.



You make exercise a priority

Yeah. I tried to exercise in gyms for a bit and found that I have the necessary self-discipline to exercise once I'm there, but getting there was a bit tough, so I just make exercise part of my daily routines. I try to walk to places, etc.



You have a healthy love life

Complete failure on this. The official term is "Maslow's hierarchy of needs," which just basically means that while I'm living "hand to mouth," when I'm always scraping to get by, it's very difficult to concentrate on building any sort of love life. Not that I've ever been a particularly smooth or suave fellow anyway, which means that even if I got a really awesome job tomorrow and started making lots of money, it'd then still be quite some time before I got anywhere in that area.



You hang out with happy people

Mmm. Yeah, more or less. I hang out with people who are generally busy, people who have projects going on, people who feel a sense of purpose in their lives. Yeah, I'd say I pass on this one.



You stay warm with hot cocoa

I read a cautionary tale on alcohol when I was a teenager, that a fellow was a heavy drinker, but was okay as long as he enjoyed it. As soon as he no longer enjoyed it, but kept drinking anyway, that's when he ran into real problems. I developed real weight problems and folks tell me I looked pale and sallow, but when I more or less completely stopped (I still drink socially), I stopped without feeling any compulsion to continue. I also stopped all my consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, so yeah, it's tea, coffee and seltzer for me.




You have two best friends

Nope. I've very rarely kept in touch with people after we've stopped working together and I've never really been in a social environment in which to make non-work friends. Again, living hand to mouth all the time makes it difficult to concentrate on this aspect of life.



So, I guess I'd give myself a score of seven out of nine. Eh, not too bad.

2010/09/30

James O'Keefe and "punking"

I don't agree that James O'Keefe's ACORN videos proved that ACORN was corrupt, but otherwise, this post from the right-wing blog RedState sums up the latest O'Keefe cluster**** very nicely:
If an enterprising citizen can expose media bias with a video camera and good idea, that’s a good thing. But I fail to see how luring a lone female reporter to a remote location and isolating her on a boat, surrounding her with sex toys and pornography, and trying to convince her that the virtual stranger sitting next to her is coming on to her, possibly in front of a “sex tape machine,” does that. That’s not a recipe for a gotcha video, it’s more like a step-by-step instruction on how to cause discomfort and fear. What an ugly and potentially traumatic situation to create on purpose. It’s not clever or funny, it’s sick.
There will no doubt be more details and, one assumes from the reporting, emails, that will fully establish who wrote what and whether O’Keefe was going to go through with the plan or not. Those details will probably be reported by Boudreau, an actual journalist.
So no, I don’t think “stunt” or “prank” are the right words. I think the one I would use is “despicable.”
Media Matters looks at the praise O'Keefe previously received.

2010/09/18

I get comments

Got my letter published in the Inky on Sep 16th

Can't blame all Muslims for 9/11

Re: "Imam: Mosque not on hallowed ground," Tuesday:
I fully appreciate the feelings of former New York Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches, who in discussing the Islamic community center planned for a location close to the 9/11 site, which already has an exotic-dance club nearby, said: "The strip club didn't murder my son." Well, yes, but neither did all Muslims collaborate in murdering Riches' son.
It's entirely reasonable to say that Japan, meaning the entire Japanese nation, was responsible for the 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese emperor approved the attack, and the Japanese navy carried it out. It's entirely reasonable to say that Germany carried out the Holocaust. Germany's dictator ordered it in his position as head of state, and German officials committed to obeying the dictator carried it out.
There is no way to assign blame for 9/11 to any part of the Muslim world except al-Qaeda. How many people does al-Qaeda represent? It was being sheltered in Afghanistan at the time of the attacks, but it didn't control Afghanistan.

2010/09/12

Blue Dog Democrats bite Democratic Party

This is a very serious reason why progressives never liked Rahm Emanuel, the President's Chief Of Staff. Emanuel likes to recruit DINO's (Democrats In Name Only) to run against Republicans. This strategy results in not giving voters much of a choice. They can take the real Republican supplied by the Republican Party or they can take one of Rahm's pseudo-Republicans. In the video on this blog post, Fox News (I don't blame Fox News in the slightest for re-running this Democratic ad as they're simply pointing out Emanuel's stupidity) runs the ad of a Democrat who positions himself as an independent by trashing both Republicans and Speaker Pelosi.

Not only is this a complete failure of Democratic Party messaging ("Our guy is smarter/more moral/better than the Democratic Speaker of the House") and not only does it severely weaken the Democratic brand as a whole, but it doesn't even result in Senators or Representatives who toe the party line when they're called upon to do so.

We can see in this table that some Democratic Congresspeople who voted against the Affordable Care Act in early November 2009 had good reason to do so. Democratic Representative Chet Edwards (TX-District 17) won his last election by only eight points, but McCain won that district by 35 points. Walt Minnick (ID-District 1) squeezed into office by one point, but McCain won his district by 26 percent. Others are less explicable. Larry Kissell (NC-District 8) won by a comfortable eight points and Obama won his district by five points. John Barrow (GA-District 12) won by 32 points and Obama by 11. Why aren't these people loyal to the Democratic Party platform? Why can't they put their votes with the party that put them into office? In all, there are 30 Democrats who won their races by over 10 points, but who nevertheless sided against the Democratic Party on a major issue.

Seven Democratic Senators and one Independent tossed up a temporary roadblock to the ACA, all of whom fall into the Blue Dog category. Eventually, all eight Senators voted for the bill, but:


The idea of a full-blown government-run insurance option, heatedly debated for months, would be jettisoned under the tentative agreement reached by Senate Democratic liberals and moderates and announced Tuesday night. In its place would be the expansion of Medicare, as well as new nationwide private plans to be run by the same agency that oversees the system that lawmakers use for themselves and their families.

As we now know, the Medicare buy-in plan was also jettisoned. It's really far from clear what the Democratic Party gains by getting Blue Dog Democrats into office. I mean, yeah great, they get to say that they're in the majority (Which does indeed have some worthwhile perks) and some bills get passed, but those bills get through the process all chopped and sliced and cut up.

Emanuel's strategy just looks to me like an extremely flawed strategy that includes some serious drawbacks. When Blue Dog Democrats win races, it's far from clear that the Democratic Party can really say that it's come out ahead. There's simply no assurance that the Democratic party has gained a reliably Democratic vote. And as we can see in the ad that was re-run by Fox News, neither is there any assurance that a Blue Dog Democrat won't disrespect the Democratic Party leadership in the process of ensuring their own political survival.

2010/08/30

People I have very little use for

Sometimes, there are so many awful people in the world, ya just can' write just one piece on them.
David Broder commends Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for winning a fifth term as Senator. This sentence of Broder's was especially disturbing:

Nor was I bothered by the doctrinal compromises the senator made in order to convince Arizona voters that he was, in fact, a conservative.
This brings to mind the declaration of Thomas Paine in 1776:

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
Broder had said earlier in the piece:

Now that John McCain has taken care of his political business in Arizona, it is time for him to return to Washington and the responsibilities he bears...
No, it isn't. You see, to my mind, a "leader" who only leads when the grubby business of getting re-elected has been safely taken care of isn't a leader at all, but a mercenary and an opportunist. A true leader doesn't wait until "political business" is all taken care of, a true leader acts anyway and shrugs his shoulders at the possible consequences.

Broder indicts the traditional press corps far more than he realizes here:

McCain is one of the few names that does not draw instant contempt from the voters.
Gee, that wouldn't have anything to do with the mad man-love that the traditional media press corps showed for McCain during the 2008 election, would it? Could it be that McCain doesn't really deserve adulation, but because the media insisted on painting him in such a flattering colors, that he gets it anyway?

Broder finishes up with:

In Arizona, he successfully steered the GOP away from an experiment in extremism.
Erm, no he didn't. McCain unreservedly backed the "Show me your papers" law that promised to secure Arizona's Southern border by authorizing their police to stop all brown people on sight. Fortunately, and no thanks whatsoever to McCain, the law has not been implemented yet. My experience is that with people who actually have principles, true principle is an all-the-time thing. True principle is not something that someone occasionally or every now and then upholds, it's something that someone upholds all the time and under all circumstances. I'm not saying that the "summer soldier and the sunshine patriot" don't have their uses or that they're always worthless, just that they don't deserve to be lionized as heroes. McCain is a survivor, nothing more. He deserves nothing in the way of respect and Broder deserves far less for handing out unwarranted praise.

------------

David Paterson, Governor of New York, has attempted to find a possible compromise on the Burlington Coat factory that some New York City Muslms want to turn into a community center and that will include a prayer room. 60% of the American public opposes building it, at least where it will be located. Folks are calling it the "Ground Zero Mosque" even though it's two blocks and a corner away from Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center that was attacked on 11 September 2001 and where nearly 2,700 lives were lost. Problem: Paterson has suggested moving the site of the community center. Not only would this constitute surrendering to bigotry, but the people there chose that site for a reason, i.e., there's a community in the vicinity that will use it. If we look at the comments from Sister Toldjah, various right-wing commenters on Free Republic and a piece from Front Page Magazine, it's pretty clear there's not much appetite on the right wing for compromise. So why is Paterson willing to surrender the principle at stake? Why is he willing to give in to opponents, especially when it's far from clear how far is far enough and how close is too close? I've seen plenty of vague, general statements on the community center being "too close," but nothing saying "At least three blocks" or anything specific of that nature. Also, as a 9/11 Widow puts it, "politicians are using the issue for political gain." She states several good reasons to fight the bigotry and build the center. Why does Paterson want to start haggling over distance when the issue is very clearly a lot larger than that?

----------------

Alan Simpson, the Co-Chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Known by progressives as the "Cat Food Commission" because it's been pretty obvious to progressives that all of the membes would like to see Social Security recipiets living on nothing better than cat food) made a real howler of a statement:

Yes, I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know 'em too. It's the same with any system in America. We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits!
A very serious problem was that the statement was reported on August 25th. By the 26th "The White House accepted Alan Simpson’s apology regarding the sexist, demeaning comments..." which, along with Simpson's status on the Cat Food Commission, indicates that portraying Social Security recipients as baby calves greedily sucking away at a government program to the point where they endanger the "milk cows" health is perfectly acceptable. As Jane Hamsher of FDL points out, Simpson is hardly some "rogue operator" who just makes crazy statements which then indicate that he, personally, is crazy. No, Simpson's crazy statements are extremely important because in one instance "he had just come from the closed door meeting and was clearly saying what everyone in the room was thinking but wouldn’t say publicly."

The extremely good question here is that the Cat Food Commission is trying to solve the not-very-urgent problem of the deficit, but it's far from clear that attacking Social Security has anything to do with the deficit, so why are they making so much noise about Social Security? James Galbraith's piece (PDF) on Social Security shows that Social Security and Medicare “solvency” is not part of the Commission’s mandate to begin with and that as a transfer program, Social Security is irrelevant to deficit economics in any event.

Yeah, Simpson needs to be fired, but far more importantly, the entire Cat Food Commission needs to be dissolved, immediately!

2010/08/23

Gays in the Navy

[I wrote a comment on a FireDogLake piece about my experience with gays in the Navy and got the following reply:

This is another comment, rich in personal history, which would make a wonderful standalone diary at The Seminal. Please consider sharing your experience there — I think people have a hard time understanding the historical inanity of this debate: there have always been gays in the military and people have never cared more than right now, it seems.]

Back when I was in "A" School (School you take between Boot Camp and the fleet), I was joking around with a few buddies. "Yes sir, I knew that I shouldn't have pushed that button and blown up that city, but I just didn't care. I just couldn't summon up the emotional energy to really give a damn, so yeah, sorry, I pushed that button."

That, to me, summed up my attitude towards gays while I was in the Navy. I served as a Personnelman and got up to the rank of 3rd Class (PN3, equivalent to an Army Corporal) from May 1991 until January 2001. When I was overseas from November 1996 to November 1998, my ship had 400 people on it. So we all knew each other, some of course better than others, depending on how closely we worked together.

There was a fellow that I sorta, kinda had my suspicions about. He seemed to be a little awkward socially and we talked about fitting in with the group. He once complained that "I wish people would invite me to go out on liberty with them." We had to use a buddy system where when we hit liberty ports, we had to have at least one other person from the ship with us, which meant that sometimes a shipmate had to wait on the Quarterdeck until one or more other people wanted to go out on liberty and then the whole group could take off together. I cheerfully explained to him that no one was ever going to think of inviting him to be their liberty buddy, he had to wait on the Quarterdeck and invite himself to join a person or a group that was going off into town. I had to explain that being socially popular involved some measure of just jumping in and joining the group.

His chain of command decided to send him back to the States to learn some more stuff about how to do his job. We talked about how the Navy would pay for his TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) and we went through a pantomime about how he would take money from one purse, then from another purse, he'd add everything up and then he'd get paid for the whole thing upon completion of the whole evolution. Well, a few days after he'd taken off for the States, I heard that he'd gotten busted for being gay. I thought back about how we had related to each other and what I'd heard about him and thought "O-o-o-oh yeah-h-h! Yeah, that would explain why..." and various small things I hadn't noticed at the time occurred to me and now they made sense.

I didn't have any strong opinions either way about gays. To a sailor, a shipmate is more than just a mere co-worker. A shipmate is someone you live with as well as work with. You clean up your workspaces and berthings together, you perform fire drills together where get all suited up and you pretend to fight fires, you eat meals together where you just see an empty spot, sit down and start chattering with whoever's sitting there. But the off-duty habits of my shipmates just didn't concern me much. As I said in the first paragraph here, I just didn't care. It didn't make any big difference to me that one of my shipmates turned out to be gay. It made a big difference to the ship that we now had one less qualified sailor who had previously done a satisfactory job. Y'know, he may not have done a super-brilliant job, but he certainly wasn't known for doing a poor job and so much in the Navy just requires being steady, being reliable, getting jobs completed and reports filed on schedule and within parameters.

One time, on an earlier ship, we were about to leave on a voyage and a low-ranking sailor cleaned off a pipe down in the engine room. He came back a short while later and the pipe was covered with oil again. He recognized that this was not a good sign and reported that to his supervisor. Turned out the voyage had to be postponed for a day so that the pipe could be replaced. It had worn away so badly that it was now so thin that oil was just plain leaking through the pipe itself. If our sailor had not been observant and had not reported the problem..brr...I hate to think of what could have happened out there on the open sea. The point is, the ship was saved from a potential catastrophe by a shipmate who just plain did his job. He paid attention to detail. He did his job in a manner where he was aware and alert and that made all the difference in the world.

One time, I had a shipmate fill out an ID Card application with incorrect information. He thought he was being clever and was finding a way around a problem. We had to have a series of discussions, my supervisor was brought into it, the problem was fixed, the shipmate was scolded and we got on with our day, but that wasted an hour that wouldn't have been wasted if he had just done his job correctly the first time. Several years earlier, I applied for another job within the Navy. The fellow who was advising me on how to apply neglected to fill me in on all of the necessary details. I think maybe he considered it a learning experience for me, but the result was that my application was a mess and the Bureau of Naval Personnel had to get back to me several times and tell me that yet another piece of the application was missing.

In the military, attention to detail is very, very important. People need to know what they're doing, they need to keep their minds on their jobs. And y'know? We all need to get along with each other. The male sailors need to be aware of how they're dealing with the female sailors so that our language never crosses over from the "yellow" into the "red." White sailors have to be aware of how they're talking with black sailors so as to make sure that language never gets offensive. It's perfectly okay to suggest that an African-American sailor is doing a lousy job, but it's not okay to suggest he's doing a lousy job because he's African-American. We can joke around and have a good time, but we have to pay attention to our language.

Do we ask questions of our shipmates about their off-duty sexual habits? No, of course not. That kind of question could very easily be construed as a "red zone" sexual harassment-type of question. When we were in our home port and left the ship and went off into town, where we went and who we saw was our concern. I guess the really bottom-line concern of mine as a sailor was, "Is my shipmate doing a satisfactory job?" If he or she was doing their job and paying attention to detail and the instruction manuals were being followed, why is it going to concern me that he might be sleeping with another he or she with a she?

If I had been asked to make a list of my top ten concerns, the sexuality of my shipmates would either have not made the list at all, or I would have listed at least eight or nine concerns prior to that. As I said, I just didn't care.