30 April, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.


Recently, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) released his budget for next year, calling for cuts in higher education and health care for the uninsured and disabled in order to plug a $1.3 billion shortfall in revenue. Already, hospitals are laying off workers. Yet Jindal is managing to spare some funds for his favorite football team:

The Jindal administration wants to use $85 million of a state surplus as well as pay up to $6 million a year to keep the Saints football team in Louisiana, lawmakers said Wednesday. The deal, described by legislators briefed on the offer, would require the state to pay far less than the $23.5 million the team is receiving in annual cash inducements. ... Several lawmakers were critical of the proposal, which coincides with a budget crunch threatening health care and higher education with substantial reduction.

Well, kids won't get educated and people will die, but at least they'll all be able to root for their football team. Way to prioritize, there, Bobby.

Meanwhile, in the face of falling poll numbers and rampant public disgust, the Cons are falling back on fear:
While Republicans try to reconsider their relevance in American politics, there's talk of GOP leaders "rebranding" and reevaluating where the party wants to go in the future.
But some habits -- such as the Republicans' twisted demagoguery and fear mongering -- are hard to break.

House Republicans want to know: Do you feel safer?

In a remarkable video just released by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and ranking intelligence committee member Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), images of Obama "bowing" to Saudi officials and shaking hands with Hugo Chavez are interspersed with footage of the Pentagon exploding and terrorists doing bad things. All of it is back-dropped by frightening music.

Eek! Obama is keeping his promises and closing Gitmo! He's honoring the rule of law and forbidding torture! 9/11, 9/11, 9/11! Run for your lives!

Honestly, the video is genuinely pathetic. It's not the kind of clip that comes from a party anxious to become a national force; it's the kind of clip a desperate campaign runs with five days to go before the election, down by 25 points in the polls.

The irony is, the Republican video is intended to make Americans afraid. What the video shows, however, is a Republican Party that's panicking.

As well they should. After all, their tent is shrinking to the size of a dime-store umbrella, they've lost control of House, Senate and White House, and no one's impressed by their ideas except for the handful of folks inclined to wave teabags around while screaming about socialism. The problem with their fear strategy, however, is that people become desensitized to fear. All but the most fear-prone of Americans have lost the capacity to experience an adrenaline rush when a Con screams "The terrorists are coming!"

So they have to fall back on old new tricks, like linking illegal immigrants to new threats like swine flu in a pathetic attempt to foist their paranoia on the rest of us:

Yesterday, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) was on C-SPAN's Washington Journal and talked about the outbreak of the H1N1 virus. When discussing the first death in the United States from the disease, Broun used the tragedy to rail against "illegal aliens":

Q: What do you think happens next here? Or should happen?

BROUN: Of course, it’s sad to see a 23-month-old child die from this disease. We don’t have any specifics. I tried to find out this morning specifics about this child that has died -- whether it was someone who is from Mexico, possibly an illegal alien who has been brought into this country.


In fact, the child was a Mexican citizen whose family was visiting relatives in the United States. "The family had traveled to South Texas. The child became ill and they transported the child to Houston for medical care," said a Houston health department official. This case had absolutely nothing to do with undocumented immigration. Most of the U.S. cases are arising in people who legally traveled to Mexico for various reasons.

It's probably not much help to the Cons when former Bush fuck-ups whine about the Obama Administration's response to the swine flu:

Yesterday, former FEMA chief Michael Brown went on Fox Business to talk about the response of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Obama administration to the H1N1 flu virus. Brownie, who gained infamy for his incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina, launched into a tirade accusing the WHO for addressing the H1NI virus in a selfish bid to gain "more attention" and said the Obama administration is recklessly overreacting:

BROWN: Well I think there’s one thing they’re legitimately worried about and that is this H1N1 is a new strain we haven’t seen before so we’re not sure how Tamiflu and everything will work against it. Here’s what I really think is going on. I think they want to raise this level because that gives them more attention, it gives them more, you know, more legitimacy, and allows them to get out there and say ‘oh look at us, we’re in control we've got this thing taken care of.’ It legitimizes what they’re doing. We shouldn’t be scaring the public. [...]

Hey, Brownie? You fucked up the response to Katrina in a huge way. I don't think many people consider your criticism of any emergency response valid. Just sayin'.

All the Cons are offering is outdated fear-mongering and absolute morons as spokespeople. That's why this nugget Steve found rings so very, very true:
Robert Farley had a good item on this last night: "[P]olitical parties do die. They don't die often, but even in the United States they sometimes go belly up. I think that the Republican Party has become stuck in an ideological and demographic trap of its own making, and I'm not sure that it understands the seriousness of the situation."

They surely don't.

Poem o' the Day

I love haiku. I especially love haiku translations that capture the sense of the original: short, sweet and to the point.


Summer grasses:
all that remains of great soldiers’
imperial dreams
Traveling this high
mountain trail, delighted
by violets
The old pond,
A frog jumps in:


A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

Cherry blossom shade
no one an utter

Spring breeze–
a mouse licking up
Sumida River

Swine Flu: The Terrarists Diddit

Newest wingnut theory: the swine flu is a terrorist attack:

Larry Klayman and the Worldnutdaily are a perfect match. If Michelle Bachmann is the prom queen at Wingnuttia High School, Klayman is her king. His latest bit of lunacy is in claiming that the outbreak of swine flu is an act of biological warfare. And the Worldnutdaily calls him an "anti-terrorism expert." No, seriously.

With 40 confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S., an anti-terrorism expert is questioning whether the outbreak is an act of biological warfare.

Freedom Watch, a public interest watchdog, believes that there is a very good possibility that the precipitous outbreak of the virus in Mexico, which has now spread to the United States and other western countries, is not the result of happenstance - but terrorism.

Anti-terrorism expert? Klayman knows as much about anti-terrorism as I know about the art of Origami. He's a lawyer. A really bad lawyer who loves filing silly lawsuits. He's what Larry Fafarman would be if he could get the dosages right. And you're going to love his "evidence" that swine flu is spreading as an act of terrorism:

"What could be more clever than planting the seed in neighboring Mexico and allowing it to spread to the United States?" Freedom Watch asked.
This is the kind of shit that third-rate hack writers dream up, not terrorists. Guess what the Worldnut Daily's made up of?

So's the HuffPo's "health" section. And the swine flu's got the woo-meisters swarming like starving cockroaches on a dropped dinner:

Take "Dr" Wegmann at that execrable waste of bytes, the Huffington Post. This guy can't even write a title without lying: 3 Sure-Fire Strategies to Prevent the Swine Flu.

Hey, fuck face: we don't know enough about this thing yet to use the hack phrase "sure-fire". Of course, that doesn't really matter to you, you lying sack of excrement-filled kishkes. The lies pour out of you like pus from a diabetic foot wound (but less bonum et laudum). You actually go on to recommend fucking glorified massage therapy to prevent the fucking flu! That's not even wrong! You reason that since chiropractic enhances the immune system (according to some dude--what, did you hear that at the bar?), that it is a "sure-fire" way to prevent the flu.

Now, ignoring (if that is humanly possible) the fact that rubbing someone's back cannot prevent an infectious disease, and ignoring the vacuously meaningless statement of "boosting immunity", even if we could "boost immunity", who's to say that's a good thing? One theory for why the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 killed so many young people and spared the very young and elderly (unlike the usual flu) is that their relatively more robust immune systems killed them by over-reacting.

I love watching PalMD beat the woo-meisters to death. It's awesome. And I'm sure plenty of beatings will follow.

Terrorist plots. Massage for swine flu. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next.

Pathological Purity

Purity can be pathological. It can also ensure your party is reduced to a pathetic, irrelevant remnant, which seems to be exactly where the frothing fundies now in control of the Cons want to take the GOP:
The 2012 elections are obviously very far away, but Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman certainly seems to be running for president. This week, he's making campaign stops appearances in three key Michigan counties over five days.

It would have been four counties, but one of them refuses to listen to what Huntsman has to say. He'd already been invited to speak in Kent County, but then local GOP activists learned Huntsman supports civil unions.

Utah Gov. John Huntsman (R), seen by many as a potential top-tier presidential candidate in 2012, has been uninvited from a local Michigan Republican club after announcing his support for civil unions between gay couples.


Keep in mind, we're not talking about an event to deliver an endorsement. Huntsman -- a conservative Republican governor from a conservative Republican state -- just wanted to stop by and talk to these folks. But since he supports civil unions -- not marriage equality, just civil unions -- they don't even want Huntsman to walk in the door.

This really isn't healthy.

Noper. Let's just have a look at what that ideological purity's likely to gain them:

Seems like the vast majority of the country isn't at all worried about icky gays getting married, or at least having the same legal rights and benefits as married couples. Bigotry aside, if the GOP plans to ever win a national election ever again, looks like they're going to have to get the rabid right wing under control.

Otherwise, the recent polls showing support for the Cons at 20% might've been a tad optimistic, and they'd best get used to being the boil on the ass of America.

Parallel Universe or Time Travel?

Two theories on Michele Bachmann's dramatic ignorance. Eric Kleefeld thinks she's reciting history from an alternate Earth:

Make no mistake: When it comes to economics, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) knows her history -- even if that history is from another planet.

On Monday night, our friends at Dump Bachmann reported, Bachmann took to the House floor and paid tribute to the economic policies of Calvin Coolidge and the "Roaring 20s" (the era that ended with a massive monetary contraction and the Great Depression). One particular line really does stand out, though -- saying Franklin Roosevelt turned a recession into a depression through the "Hoot-Smalley" tariffs:

Here's what really happened: When Franklin Roosevelt took office, unemployment was already about 25%. And the tariff referred to here was actually the Smoot-Hawley bill, co-authored by Republicans Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah and Rep. Willis Hawley of Oregon, and signed into law by President Herbert Hoover.

So, in Michele Bachmann's parallel universe, FDR became president much earlier, and some buggers named Hoot and Smalley tariffed the country to death. Oooo-kay. Makes for a lame-ass story, though.

Matt Yglesias thinks it's time travel:
Kleefeld needs to read Michael Dummett on reverse causation. It’s true that Bachmann is making an unfortunate error about the names of Messrs. Smoot and Hawley. But her contention is simply that Roosevelt, though he took office in March 1933, was actually able to cause events in the past precipitating the very years-long Depression that led to his election. It’s a bit confusing, yes. And somewhat metaphysically controversial. But not at all something she deserves to be mocked for.
(Don't try this kind of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm at home, kiddies. Poor Matt ended up hospitalized with a severe tongue dislocation.)

Cons seem to be working off of both theories. Hopefully, this will help you understand why they don't believe they're just ginormous fucking ignoramuses.

29 April, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

When the going gets tough, the wingnuts get rabid:

Keith Olbermann, on Countdown last night, brought the whammy down on the wingnut talking heads at Fox (and the rest of the conservative media as well) for their ongoing attempts to blame immigrants for the spread of the swine flu from Mexico:

Well, yes, you are a racist. Exactly how does that apply, though, to the people who the Centers for Disease Control confirmed actually carried the Swine Flu from Mexico to the U.S., a group of Catholic school students from New York City, who spent Spring Break in Cancun. Uncontrolled Catholic immigration, open borders for private school kids reckless?

Anyway, unswayed by the facts, the Republican echo chamber tried to stir the American melting pot with a classic recipe of hate and fear.


Tom Allison at Media Matters put together a first-round look at some of the ugliness:

-- Savage declaring that Mexicans "are a perfect mule -- perfect mules for bringing this virus into America."

-- Michelle Malkin warning that the pandemic was the product of "uncontrolled immigration."

-- Beck warning that the pandemic will create a crush of people trying to flee north across our border.

And that's just scratching the surface. As Eric Ward at Imagine 2050 observes, some of the nativist right's more inflammatory figures were saying even uglier things.

I'm sure they are. Their minds just aren't equipped to treat other people as human beings, or deal with facts vs. their frothing fanatic fantasies.

In case you think they're just running scared because of the swine flu, and feel moved to give them the benefit of the doubt, you might want to observe that this is merely standard operating procedure:

I've read quite a few columns from Byron York over the years, first during his tenure at the National Review, and more recently as the chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner. I've seen plenty of commentary I strongly disagree with, but none has offended me quite as much as his latest column.

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are. [emphasis added]


The problem, of course, is that damn phrase "than they actually are." York argues that we can see polls gauging public opinion, but if we want to really understand the popularity of the president's positions, and not be fooled by "appearances," then we have to exclude black people.

There's really no other credible way to read this. York effectively argues that black people shouldn't count. We can look at polls measuring the attitudes of Americans, but if we want to see the truth -- appreciate the numbers as "they actually are" -- then it's best if we focus our attention on white people, and only white people.

See, nothing to do with swine flu. Just the usual knee-jerk racism, xenophobia, and inflated sense of their own worth.

And in another example, check out our Con lawmakers, incensed over the idea that gay people might be worthy of protection from hate crimes:

The right wing, unsurprisingly, is up in arms over extending protection to victims of anti-gay crimes. Led by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), House Republicans took to the floor last night to warn that the bill would impose "tyranny," create a "Big Brother" government, and end religious freedom:

REP MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): I feel that this hate crime legislation could be considered the very definition of tyranny.

REP. GRESHMAN BARRET (R-SC): This bill would inhibit religious freedom in our society -- a scary thought.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): You think a pregnant mother does not deserve the protection of a homosexual? You think a military member doesn't deserve the protection of a transvestite?

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): I, Mr. Speaker, oppose and I defy the logic of the people that would advocate for such legislation the very idea we could divine what goes on in the heads of people when they commit crimes.


Apparently unbeknownst to House Republicans, a federal hate crimes law already exists: Passed in 1968, it allowed federal investigation and prosecution of hate crimes based on race, religion, and national origin. The new law would simply add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected groups, and allow local governments to get needed resources from the federal government for investigations and prosecutions.
It got so bad that one Rep. Virginia Foxx, actually called Matthew Shepard's murder a hoax:

As the House of Representatives debates an expansion of hate crimes legislation, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has taken the rhetoric to a new level, claiming that those who say Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming for being gay are perpetrating a "hoax" on the American people.

"I also would like to point out that there was a bill -- the hate crimes bill that's called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay. This -- the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills," said Foxx.

A Foxx spokesman didn't immediately return a call. The Matthew Shepard "hoax" notion is a popular meme on right-wing blogs.

There's disgusting, and then there's despicable. They've crossed the threshhold on both.

Carnival of the Elitist Bastards XII: In Hot Pursuit of the Faux Nouvelle

Captain Cujo's launched us on a rousing adventure on the high seas for COTEB XII, me hearties. It be one o' the most exciting sailings we've had yet. Pour yerselves some grog and raise yer glasses in a rousing HUZZAH!

Poem o' the Day

Tomorrow's Poem in Your Pocket Day, don't forget. I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

It struck me today that I've been a little heavy on the male poets. It's not that I don't like female poets. It's just that I don't know many. So I took a stroll through Wikipedia's List of Female Poets. I clicked on Erinna because the name leaped out. Contemporary of Sappho, lovely. Died young. Wrote one of the most beautiful epitaphs for a friend in existence, of which only fragments survive. Yeah. We're highlighting her.

I love her poems for a few reasons. First, she didn't load her poetry down with ten trillion references to the gods, which was the failing of too many ancient Greek poets. Secondly, she's expressing a friendship and grief that remind us just how timeless those human emotions are. Thirdly, through her, I now know a lot more about what it was like to be a woman in ancient Greece, and it's fascinating.

Finally, most importantly, she's one hell of a wordsmith. Even in translation.
The Distaff and Other Poems

...into the deep wave
you jumped from the white horses with a crazy step.
"I've got you," I cried, "my friend." And when you were the tortoise
jumping out you ran through the great hall's court.
Unhappy Baucis, these are my laments as I cry for you deeply,
these are your footprints resting in my heart, dear girl,
still warm; but what we once loved is already ashes.
Young girls, we held our dolls in our bedrooms
like new wives, hearts unbroken. Near dawn your mother,
who handed out wool to her workers in attendance,
came in and called you to help with salted meat.
What terror the monster Mormo brought when we were both little girls:
on her head were massive ears and she walked
on four legs and kept changing her face.
But when you went to the bed of a man
you forgot all you heard from your mother while still a child,
my dear Baucis. Aphrodite filled your thoughts with forgetting.
As I weep for you now I desert your last rites,
for my feet may not leave the house and become unclean
nor is it right for me to look upon your corpse,
nor cry with my hair uncovered; but a red shame
divides me...
Nineteen...Erinna...the distaff...
From here an empty echo reaches into Hades.
But there is silence amongst the dead, and darkness closes their eyes.
My gravestone, my Sirens, and mourning urn,
who holds Hades' meagre ashes,
say to those who pass by my tomb "farewell,"
both those from my town and those from other states.
Also, that this grave holds me, a bride. Say also this,
that my father called me Baucis, and that my family
was from Tenos, so that they may know, and that my friend
Erinna engraved this epitaph on my tomb.
I am the tomb of Baucis, a young bride, and as you pass
the much lamented grave-stone you may say to Hades:
"Hades, you are malicious." When you look, the beautiful letters
will tell of the most cruel fate of Baucis,
how her father-in-law lit the girl's funeral pyre
with the pine-torches over which Hymen sang.
And you, Hymen, changed the tuneful song of weddings
into the mournful sound of lamentation.

Christian "Science"

I'm sorry. I know this is probably going to make you wince, or possibly land in the hospital with a severe overdose of stupidity, but this is just too funny to pass up.

The Association of Christian Schools International is trying to sue the snot out of the University of California because U of C doesn't think the "science" classes taught by some Christian schools are quite up to snuff, and therefore refuse to award credit for those classes. Ed Brayton has the brief filed by attorneys made famous by the Kitzmiller trial, and highlights a possible reason U of C is being such a big meanie:

This brief deals primarily with the science classes that were rejected, classes that used one of two books: Biology for Christian Schools and Biology: God's Living Creation. These books are both virulently anti-science, teaching that anything that contradicts a literal interpretation of the Bible must be false.

Beginning with the first page of its introduction, the third edition of Biology for Christian Schools makes absolutely clear that its perspective on the nature of science is irreconcilably at odds with that of the NAS and the scientific community in general. From the outset, the textbook instructs the student that everything in the Bible is literally true and that, therefore, any scientific observations or conclusions that conflict with the Bible are necessarily false "no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them."...Similar statements appear throughout the textbook, drumming home the message that, with respect to any "fact" contained in the Bible, empirical evidence is irrelevant. See, e.g., id. at 197 ("Because God is the source of all truth, all accurate scientific knowledge will fit into th[e Bible's] outline. Anything that contradicts God's Word is in error or has been misunderstood."); id. at 201 ("God's Word is the only true measuring stick of scientific accuracy."); id. at 204 ("All scientific facts and the interpretation of those facts, therefore, must fit into the model prescribed by the Word of God. A scientific 'fact' that does not fit into the worldview outlined in the Bible either is in error (and therefore not really a fact) or is being misinterpreted."); id. at 251 ("[T]he Bible is the source of all truth, and everything, not just science, must be evaluated based on Scripture. If a hypothesis or scientific model seems to make sense and all of the evidence points to an answer that is contrary to the Bible, then the evidence, not the Bible, must be reevaluated and the conclusions changed.").
Easy extra credit to any commentors who can hazard a guess as to why these "science" classes might be considered unacceptable to a university system that takes science seriously.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go seek medical attention for the side I just split...

In Judd Gregg's World, Corruption = Rousing Success

Sen. Judd Gregg sez Obama's plan to cut out the greedy private loan sharks and provide student loans directly won't work. Back in the '90s, see, there was this celebrity death match between publicly and privately administered loans, and look what happened, bitches:
"We agreed to level the playing field, put both plans on the playing field at an equal status and see who won. Well, private plans won. Big time."
Oh, yeah. Suck on that, Obama!

Or not:

I know a lot of political reporters tend to think of Gregg as one of the more serious Republican lawmakers when it comes to reality, but the guy simply doesn't know what he's talking about.

When Clinton compromised in the '90s and created a level playing field, colleges were allowed to choose between direct loans and guaranteed loans. Private plans lost, big time, for quite a while. Eventually, however, the tide turned, and colleges shifted away from the public plan.

Was it because the private sector was superior? No, it was because the private sector was bribing college-loan administrators.

[I]t now turns out that the private lenders' success came not through superior efficiency but through superior graft. The emerging college-loan kickback scandal is a vast scheme by private lenders to bribe colleges into foisting their services onto students. Lenders plied college-loan officers with meals, cruises, and other gifts. Some loan officers were given lucrative stock offers. Columbia's director of undergraduate financial aid purchased stock in Student Loan Xpress -- which became one of that school's preferred lenders -- for $1 per share and sold it two years later for $10 per share. Some lenders offered millions to the universities themselves to drop out of the direct-lending program.

So this whole scandal could have been avoided if Bill Clinton had just gotten his way.... Indeed, the very thing that drove conservatives to oppose Clinton's reform -- the vast private profits made available by guaranteed loans -- is what enabled the scandal.

We're quickly reaching the point at which we should effectively assume the opposite of whatever Gregg is saying is true.

When you have to bribe the ref, I don't think you can claim to've won "big time." Just sayin'.

Swine Flu Advice and Such

Hilzoy brings us a wonderful guest post by the Ruths Karron and Faden:

At this point, it is impossible to predict whether we are on the brink of an influenza pandemic. The threat is real, however, and governments across the globe are working hard to mitigate the potential impact of swine flu.

This is right and proper. Our government has an obligation to protect the public's health, which it exercised responsibly by declaring a national public health emergency on Sunday. This declaration is the public face of countless actions that federal, state, and local health authorities are now undertaking on our behalf. But these are not the only actions that will be needed. There are also actions that we as citizens must undertake to minimize the swine flu threat that will help us protect ourselves and our families. These actions are not only prudent; they are a matter of moral and civic responsibility. Just as our government has an obligation to protect the public's health, we too have an obligation to our country and to our fellow human beings to do our share to minimize the burdens of this influenza outbreak.

What can each of us do?

Their list is simple, sensible, and a perfect way to assuage any panic you might find creeping up on you and yelling "BOO!"

In other news, Michael Steele has shared his own infinite wisdom with us. I'm sorry, did I say wisdom? I meant whining:

Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele defended GOP opposition to pandemic preparedness funding in the stimulus bill in an interview with CNN Tuesday, saying the party had no way of knowing that such a threat might actually materialize. "Did we know this at the time of the vote?" Steele asked. "Don't come back and make this link six months after the fact ... we don't know what tomorrow holds."

Really, Michael? We had no way of knowing such a threat might materialize? Do you not know Google-fu?

Apparently not.

Quote o' the Day

Steve Benen, ladies and gentlemen:
There was some talk in Republican circles recently that the GOP is finally "back in the saddle." If that's true, the horse is looking pretty small.

It surely is.

28 April, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Hold on to your drinks, my darlings. The Cons have become so extreme they just turned Sen. Arlen Specter into a Democrat:

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, facing a primary challenge next year he's almost certain to lose, will switch parties today and become a Democrat. Seriously.

From a press statement issued by the senator's office about 25 minutes ago:

"I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

"Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans. [...]

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary."

Specter will become the 59th member of the Senate Democratic caucus, which will become 60 once Norm Coleman gives up in Minnesota.

Welcome to the party, Sen. Specter. Not that it's going to be a primrose path - once the excitement of sticking a thumb in the eye of the Republicons wears off, people are going to start to realize we've got a Republican in Dem's clothing, and happiness will not abound. But, for now, most of us are thoroughly enjoying this.

It's especially fun watching Cons react. Here's Michael Steele in a whining snit:
In response to Sen. Arlen Specter's switch out of the Republican party, RNC chairman Michael Steele put out a statement saying that the senator "left to further his personal political interests." Later in the day, however, Steele went on CNN and unleashed his grievances against Specter, who never alerted him to his decision. Angry at being left out of the loop and relegated to irrelevance, Steele invoked all sorts of schoolyard insults:
STEELE: Look, you can tweak my nose and you can step on my toes and you can pull my hair. At some point enough is going to be enough. ... Sen. Cornyn went out on the line for this man. For the senator to effectively flip the bird back to Sen. Cornyn and the Republican Senate leadership -- a team that has stood by him, who went to the bat for him in 2004 -- to save his hide, to me is not only disrespectful, but it's just downright rude. I'm sure his mama didn't raise him this way, and it's a shame that he's behaving this way today.

Aw, poor baby. And all because Sen. Specter didn't think you were worth informing.

Mitch McConnell thinks this is the end of the world as we know it:

Mitch McConnell, leader of a Republican minority that is now even smaller, suggested Tuesday that Sen. Arlen Specter's defection endangered not just the party, but the entire country.

"I think the threat to the country presented by this defection really relates to the issue of whether or not in the United States of America our people want the majority to have whatever it wants without restraint, without a check or a balance," McConnell said Tuesday.

Heh heh. Aren't they adorable when they're shit-scared? He hasn't got much to worry about. While Specter assured President Obama he supports his agenda, he hasn't changed anything more than the letter after his name. He's opposed to confirming Dawn Johnsen for OLC, refusing to back the EFCA, and you can imagine there'll be plenty of other items where his old Republican side will come out. But, again, it's not what kind of Dem that's of concern right at the moment, it's the fact he's become one that's so much fun.

There's good reason for him to jump ship. After all, moderates aren't treated kindly in GOP ranks:
The Politico has an item this afternoon with a headline that reads, "Moderates blame conservatives." It's about centrist Republicans who are most unhappy about colleagues like Arlen Specter no longer feeling welcome in the party.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) ... slammed right-wing interest groups for pushing moderates out of the party.

Specter switched parties Tuesday after a recent poll showed him badly losing a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year to Club for Growth founder Pat Toomey. Toomey's staunchly fiscally conservative political action committee backs only those Republicans who support a low-tax, limited-government agenda and comes down hard on those who break with party orthodoxy.

"I don't want to be a member of the Club for Growth," said Graham. "I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country -- and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective."

"As Republicans, we got a problem," he said.

That's probably true, but isn't the fact that Lindsay Graham considers himself a GOP moderate part of the problem?

You know, I do believe it is. And considering it's not likely to get better, we should probably keep an eye on Sen. Olympia Snowe - she may be next.

This news has kind of pushed everything else into the background, but let's not lose sight of the blazing stupidity still evinced by the (now smaller) Con party. Guess who they've chosen to join their little "energy solutions" club? Go on, guess:

Last month, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) announced the creation of the House GOP American Energy Solutions Group, meant to "work on crafting Republican solutions to lower energy prices for American families and small businesses." Helping lead the way toward finding those solutions? Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who yesterday announced her appointment to the group...


If Boehner and the House GOP were truly interested in promoting real solutions to America's energy and environmental crises, Bachmann should be their last pick for the group. After all, she has made a name for herself by constantly repeating the most nonsensical, misleading, radical untruths

about energy and the environment:

"[T]here isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. There isn’t one such study because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is part of Earth’s life cycle." [4/22/09]

"And the science indicates that human activity is not the cause of all this global warming. And that in fact, nature is the cause, with solar flares, etc." [3/22/09]


Bachmann is hardly the only member of Boehner's "solutions" group who is untethered to reality. Rep John Shimkus (R-IL) declared that capping CO2 would be "taking away plant food from the atmosphere," and called such caps "the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I've ever experienced." Rep. Mike Pence (R-IA) called cap and trade "an economic declaration of war on the Midwest."

Interesting picks for the group that's supposed to help Cons recover the lead on energy policy. Methinks this may not work out well at all. But it'll be hugely entertaining.

Almost as entertaining as Sen. Specter's new identity.

Poem o' the Day

There's a story behind Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan." You might have heard it:
At the time of its publication, Coleridge subtitled it “A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment” and added a prefatory note explaining its unusual origin. The poet remarked that after taking some opium for medication, he grew drowsy while reading a passage from Samuel Purchas's Pilgrimage. concerning the court of Kubla Khan. In his semi-conscious state, Coleridge composed a few hundred lines of poetry, and when he awoke, immediately began writing the verses down. Unfortunately, a visitor interrupted him, and when the poet had a chance to return to his writing, the images had fled, leaving him with only vague recollections and the remaining 54 lines of his unfinished poem.
Been there, done that. Well, aside from the opium and the few hundred lines of poetry... Anyway, the moral of the story is: don't interrupt the writer at work. Who knows what this poem may have been were it complete?
Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced;
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves:
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 't would win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

We Are Bound by the Convention We Signed

In 1984, Ronald Reagan made this country a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Since it appears that some people, our President included, think that prosecuting torturers is optional, it might be a good idea to have a peek at some articles of the Convention, with some particularly juicy bits emphasized:
Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.


Article 4

1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.

2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.

Article 5

1. Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following cases:

(a) When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;

(b) When the alleged offender is a national of that State;

(c) When the victim is a national of that State if that State considers it appropriate.

2. Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in paragraph I of this article.

3. This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law.

Article 6

1. Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.

2. Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.


Article 7

1. Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.

2. Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.

I'm no lawyer, but there would appear to be no wiggle room involved. Either we prosecute, or we extradite our war criminals so another nation can prosecute for us. We signed the Convention. We're bound by it.

Prosecutions. Now.

(Tip o' the shot glass to Ed Brayton)

That Old Christian Compassion

I know that not all Christians use their faith as an excuse to be total fucking assholes. I know not all of them are homicidal fucktards. But there's plenty who are, and it's disgusting watching them use their religion to cloak their hate in righteousness:

Uber-wingnut Gordon Klingenschmitt is now praying -- in Jesus' name, of course -- for God to strike down Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. You can listen to the prayer here. It's what they call an "imprecatory prayer," the same thing Southern Baptist Convention officer Wiley Drake did against Barry Lynn and others before. It's basically a curse, praying to God to kill those you pray against. Here's a transcript:

"One-Minute Prayer: Let us pray. Almighty God, today we pray imprecatory prayers from Psalm 109 against the enemies of religious liberty, including Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein, who issued press releases this week attacking me personally. God, do not remain silent, for wicked men surround us and tell lies about us. We bless them, but they curse us. Therefore find them guilty, not me. Let their days be few, and replace them with Godly people. Plunder their fields, and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants, and remember their sins, in Jesus' name. Amen."
Cute how he's asking God to find him not guilty. Seems like he's afraid someone might think he's guilty. I wonder if he wonders if his magic sky-daddy might be a little bit upset at him for wishing ill on another human being, eh?

The Incredible Shrinking GOP

Looks like 21 isn't just a winning hand in Blackjack anymore:

Yes, it's true: the Republican Party is leaderless except for Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney which hasn't worked out very well as new polling shows that Americans are turning away from the GOP in droves.

The new Washington Post/ABC news poll has all sorts of intriguing numbers in it but when you are looking for clues as to where the two parties stand politically there is only one number to remember: 21.

That's the percent of people in the Post/ABC survey who identified themselves as Republicans, down from 25 percent in a late March poll and at the lowest ebb in this poll since the fall of 1983(!).

It's a great thing to know that only 1/4 of my country is batshit fucking insane.

27 April, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

So, my stepmother emails me today to say I might want to reconsider that trip to Mexico I'm planning, WHO's issued a phase-4 alert, and swine flu's on everybody's mind. Let's check in on the Cons and see how they're reacting.

Of course, in their world, everything happens for a reason, and Dems are always to blame:

Revealing that her understanding of public health alerts has not evolved from the Bush-generated panics over color-coded terror alerts and anthrax attacks, the head of Concerned Women for America, Wendy Wright, says "some people" blame the Obama Administration for the political timing of the swine flu alert, since it happened one day before tomorrow's cloture vote on the nomination of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to head HHS, a critical department.

“Some people think that declaring a state of emergency about the flu was a political thing to push the Sebelius nomination through,” said Wright. She pointed to news stories that ask whether the slow-walking of the Sebelius choice will hurt the response to the flu. “If there’s even a hint that [Department of Homeland Security] is manipulating the health situation to push a political appointee through, well, it almost defies imagination that they’d be willing to that.”The GOP has allowed a critical department to remain without a leader, when they haven't the votes to stop the nomination and are simply making noise to appease their forced-birth base. But pointing out that fact as America confronts a possible flu pandemic is "political."
My, my. What a surprise. As Steven Benen notes:

The right is responding to the public health emergency about as you'd expect. Some are accusing the administration of deliberately overreacting. Others see an elaborate conspiracy to get Americans to "respond to government orders." Others still see a different conspiracy to get Kathleen Sebelius confirmed. Just another day in conservative political discourse.
It's pathetic that this is the expected reaction from the rabid right - and that the rabid right includes ostensibly mainstream conservatives.

And let's not forget, it's Cons who decided we didn't need no stinkin' funding for a pandemic:

On February 5, Karl Rove took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to argue against President Obama's Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act because, in his view, the spending was not targeted to create or preserve jobs. In particular, Rove complained about the fact that the bill included "$900 million for pandemic flu preparations." He contended that such spending was unnecessary because the health care sector "added jobs last year."

Rep. David Obey (D-WI) included the pandemic preparation funding in the package because he believed "that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse." But Rove was not concerned with the actual substance of the funding.


Indeed, like Rove, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was apparently unwilling to be seen as endorsing such "funny" sounding priorities as flu "preparedness" in an economic recovery package. Perhaps in an attempt to prove her fiscal conservative bona fides, Collins repeatedly insisted that Obey's pandemic preparedness funding did not belong in the bill:

COLLINS: There's funding to help improve our preparedness for a pandemic flu. There is funding to help improve cyber security. What does that have to do with an economic stimulus package? [CNN, 1/31/09]


After the funding was stripped, another moderate Republican attempting to appear tough on "unnecessary" spending in the recovery package, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), endorsed Collins' crusade against the pandemic preparedness funding on Fox News:

MS. KELLY: Okay. $780 million for pandemic flu preparedness, in or out?

SEN. SPECTER: Out. Very important projects, I took the lead along with Tom Harkin on some massive funding for pandemic flu, but it belongs in our regular appropriations bill.

Well, in retrospect, it seems that stripping that funding from the stimulus might not have been such a great idea after all. There's just this thing about massive pandemics - when everybody's sick, dying, or staying home, the economy sorta kinda takes a hit. And if the Cons hadn't spent the last eight years destroying the CDC, it might not have been so necessary to have that funding in the stimulus in the first place, because we would've already been prepared.


I think Paul Krugman said it best when he said:

So Bobby Jindal makes fun of “volcano monitoring”, and soon afterwards Mt. Redoubt erupts. Susan Collins makes sure that funds for pandemic protection are stripped from the stimulus bill, and the swine quickly attack.

What else did the right oppose recently? I just want enough information to take cover.

Ditto. They may be a bunch of outright fucking idiots, but it seems their record's very good on predicting disasters by refusing to fund them.

Of course, going back to our original point, these fucktards aren't going to see this as a wake-up call. After all, their prominent voices are already screeching about how Obama caused this whole outbreak, and their paranoid little minds probably will tie this neatly together with Erick Erickson's insane post:

It's always been impossible to take Erick Erickson, RedState's editor, seriously. When we last heard from the fairly prominent conservative blogger, he was writing about violence against elected public officials who were regulating chemicals in dishwasher detergent.

It gives one a sense of the guy's credibility and level of seriousness.

Today, Erickson was in rare form, accusing President Obama of taking active, deliberate steps to encourage a deadly terrorist attack against the United States. He wasn't kidding -- Erickson seriously seems to believe the president wants terrorists to kill Americans.

The best strategy would look something like taking a band-aid off quickly. Get the pain over fast. And if an attack happens quickly enough into the new administration, they can blame Bush.

So the Obama administration is working hard to release all the memos on interrogations, change all the policies Bush implemented, and clear out the old as fast as possible. Never mind that if it were done slowly over time, our terrorist enemies might not be so incited to attack.

If your working premise is that they are going to attack anyway, get them incited quickly, get it over with, and blame Bush. There is no other justification for so quickly making us less safe.

When this truly insane idea sparked some criticism, Erickson, apparently playing by junior-high-school rules, "Truth hurts I guess."

Let's also not forget that Erickson is not a fringe, obscure right-wing blogger, but a prominent conservative voice and a writer popular in the Bush White House.

Anyone taking bets on how soon we'll see prominent Cons spinning stories about some al Qaeda plot to give us all the swine flu at Obama's bidding? My money's on the next thirty seconds.

Poem o' the Day

You all know I buggered off to watch House last night. And that's the inspiration for today's poetry. I'm not a huge fan of William Butler Yeats, but I have to admit that hearing this one read aloud was delightful:
Her Praise

She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I have gone about the house, gone up and down
As a man does who has published a new book,
Or a young girl dressed out in her new gown,
And though I have turned the talk by hook or crook
Until her praise should be the uppermost theme,
A woman spoke of some new tale she had read,
A man confusedly in a half dream
As though some other name ran in his head.
She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I will talk no more of books or the long war
But walk by the dry thorn until I have found
Some beggar sheltering from the wind, and there
Manage the talk until her name come round.
If there be rags enough he will know her name
And be well pleased remembering it, for in the old days,
Though she had young men’s praise and old men’s blame,
Among the poor both old and young gave her praise.
That, of course, inspired me to read a few more poems. And I found one that I like very muchly:
On Being Asked for a War Poem

I think it better that in times like these
A poet's mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter's night.

Cujo Takes Obama to the Woodshed

Go. Read. Now:
If you want an example of how disconnected our federal government is from the world that the rest of us live in, you can't do much better than to contemplate the case of Alyssa Peterson and then contrast it with the behavior of the Congress, the Senate in particular, and the President over the last few days.
Read the rest. And then let Cujo know if you've got a massage therapist you can recommend - I'm sure his arm needs one after that energetic session with the Smack-o-Matic.

And To Think We Lost Eight Years

While America's been incinerating discarded embryos rather than letting scientists find ways of helping the living with them, the Brits have had something of a breakthrough:

The London Times reports:

BRITISH scientists have developed the world's first stem cell therapy to cure the most common cause of blindness. Surgeons predict it will become a routine, one-hour procedure that will be generally available in six or seven years' time.

The treatment involves replacing a layer of degenerated cells with new ones created from embryonic stem cells. It was pioneered by scientists and surgeons from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields eye hospital.

I think that's all that needs to be said.


When The Colbert Report first started airing, Stephen almost hoodwinked me. He's such a good satirist I thought he might actually be conservative for an episode or so.

Turns out that, being a dirty flaming librul, I should've had no doubts:
The Irony of Satire

This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert's political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert's political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion.
I'm sorry, but that cracks me up. It's an awesome demonstration of cluelessness.

Oh, and in case you're worried the liberals are the ones seeing only what they want to see, you can rest easy:
Although by his own account he was not particularly political before joining the cast of The Daily Show, Colbert is a self-described Democrat.[70][71] In an interview at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard Institute of Politics, he stated that he has "no problems with Republicans, just Republican policies."[72]
(One of us! One of us! One of - ahem, sorry.)

All of this just goes to prove my point. Satire is currently impossible. But I'm glad that hasn't stopped Stephen.

Join me in an enthusiastic tip o' the shot glass to George, who sends me the most awesomest things.

Words and Music

When Simon & Garfunkel songs get lodged in my head, they're usually songs like "The Sound of Silence" or "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," possibly "Mrs. Robinson" or "The Boxer." They're one of the bands my dad and I used to listen to together. Stuff like this makes you realize the ol' dad is kinda cool after all. And excellent musical taste, when you ignore the country music.

"Richard Cory" is one of his favorites. It was one of my first hints that he actually liked poetry. It doesn't get lodged in my brain nearly often enough:

Inspired by NP.

26 April, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Ah, sweet hypocrisy:
Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who was last making headlines for suggesting that Texas may consider seceding from the Union, is requesting help from the federal government to deal with a possible swine flu pandemic:
Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu. Currently, three cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Texas.

You know what this reminds me of? The kid who screams at his parents how much he hates them, how he doesn't need them telling him what to do, how he can make it on his own, etc., and storms out, only to return the second he needs $20 bucks and someone to do his laundry.

In other news of suddenly loving what they formerly hated, Cons despise France, but now that they think we're ineligible to join the European Union, they're suddenly upset that we're not like the French:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) conceded to the New York Times that Republicans have not yet "found our voice" during Obama's presidency. To help prove the point, Alexander delivered the party's weekly multimedia address yesterday.

"We Americans always have had a love-hate relationship with the French. Which was why it was so galling last month when the Democratic Congress passed a budget with such big deficits that it makes the United States literally ineligible to join France in the European Union.

"Now of course we don't want to be in the European Union. We're the United States of America. But French deficits are lower than ours, and their president has been running around sounding like a Republican -- lecturing our president about spending so much."

Yes, we now have conservative Republicans citing the French as a source to criticize American leadership. Times sure have changed.

Aren't these the same assclowns who decided to rename fried potatos "Freedom Fries" because they thought the French were such pussies? Not to mention, we've still got a chance to join the EU - aside from that whole not being European thing. Once again, Cons have their facts wrong and their talking points all jumbled up.

On the torture front, the Cons are - what else? - blaming it all on the Dems:

The latest Republican parlor game on the torture issue is to pump up the talking point that torture is a Democratic problem, because Democrats have been in the majority in Congress since 2007, and therefore could have stopped the torture and didn't.


Yes, I'm pretty sure you instantly see the problem with that one. Republicans were in the majority in Congress for most of the duration of the Bush "administration's" torture program. But there's more to it than just that.

The new twist -- really a recycled Iraq war talking point -- is that since Democrats "knew about" the program thanks to the bare bones, no staff, top secret, we'll-prosecute-you-for-treason-if-you-mention-this briefing four of them received, they "could have stopped it if they had wanted to."

Here's the meme from FOX:

Defenders of the interrogation program note that if Congress had wanted to kill the program, all it had to do was withhold funding, which didn't happen.

Ah, yes. You'll recognize it as the "have the courage of your convictions" argument from 2007. That is, the GOP talking point that said that Democrats must really favor not only the Iraq war, but the way it was being prosecuted, because they refused to register their disagreement by cutting off the funding.


This was the context in which Republicans contend Congress had its fair shot at ending torture, but instead chose to give its backhanded endorsement to the practice. Congress could get no answers from the "administration" even on matters of routine domestic policy, and according to the "administration's" own legal theories couldn't even compel witnesses to appear to answer questions about what policies existed that they were supposedly empowered to terminate. And those high-ranking few who were privy to the briefings, such as they were, were under constant threat of accusations of having compromised national security if they had discussed with colleagues the very remedy Republicans say was so readily available.
Yepper, sure does look like those dirty Dems are just as guilty as the Bushies. Riiight.

But, of course, the torture program was, according to David Broder, "a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places -- the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department -- by the proper officials." So other than it being completely fucking immoral, illegal and just plain wrong, where's the problem?


Consider this jaw-dropping report that ran in the New York Times on Wednesday (presumably before Broder's deadline).

The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved -- not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees -- investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

These policies weren't the result of a "deliberate" and "internally well-debated" process, they were thrown together, without any thought to the techniques' history or even effectiveness. "Internally well-debated" makes it sound as if there a spirited discussion among administration officials. There wasn't -- as was too often the case in the Bush administration, decisions were made without dissenting voices.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective.

A former C.I.A. official told the NYT the process was "a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm."

Prosecutions. Now.