Thursday, December 31, 2009

GOP attorneys general threaten suit over Neb. health deal

USA Today: Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska's political deal from the federal health care overhaul bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday.

"We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed," South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster (pictured) and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"As chief legal officers of our states we are contemplating a legal challenge to this provision and we ask you to take action to render this challenge unnecessary by striking that provision," they wrote. ... (more)

LSB: So, 13 GOP States Attorneys General are going to do what 59 DEM U.S. Senators had no backbone to do - tell Sen. Ben Nelson to "shove it" with his Nebraska-only Medicare amendment. Nelson's poll numbers are way down even with this "pork," so he needs to get on board with the health care/insurance reform and quit being a part of the problem. Well played, GOP (Grand Obstructionist Party) - intentional or not!

Jonathan Turley Takes on Tom Ridge's Hackery

Heather, Crooks and Liars: From The Situation Room, Jonathan Turley calls out Tom Ridge's hackery from his appearance on Larry King. It was nice to see Turley point out that the term Malveaux used, enhanced interrogations -- that she tossed out there so lightly, -- is torture. Unfortunately we don't have enough like Turley to counter all the talking head torture-lovers like Ridge, King, Hoekstra and Cheney.

Click here for the full video. From the CNN Transcript:

... it's not really about the information that you get from special interrogations, which is a nice way of saying torture. It is also not about what rights he deserves. What is really the question is what rights we have to give people to maintain our credibility around the world.

That is, the way the world viewed the Bush administration was that, well, George Bush often looked almost Caesar-like, sending some people to federal courts, some people to military tribunal. Some people got no trial at all.

In this case, we had Richard Reid, who was virtually identical in his act. He went to federal court. Zacarias Moussaoui went to federal court. And I think that it's a problem if we treat a legal system as sort of improvisational, that we simply go by case by case of what we feel someone should have in terms of rights.

The credibility of a legal system is its consistency. Without consistency, it lacks coherence. And I think what Mr. Ridge is saying that, when we really don't like you or we think that we might get some information out of you, then we won't give you the rights under our system.

And that creates the type of anger and, frankly, the view of hypocrisy that the United States has faced. But I think it's very unlikely. A military tribunal doesn't -- doesn't generate intelligence. It's not a way to generate any more intelligence than a federal trial is. ...

I think part of the problem is that we're also dealing with people who have never been given a trial. And we no that many of the people in Guantanamo Bay were not terrorists. At one time, we were offering thousands of dollars for anyone that could give us someone they said was a terrorist, and many of them ended up at Guantanamo Bay.

And so we need to be cognizant of the fact that a nation like ours can't hold people without a trial and retain our credibility. So, if we don't want to give them to Yemen -- there might be good reasons not to -- then we have got to try them. If we have evidence against them, then we need to try them, but we can't leave them in this place that no rights can penetrate.

Rove, wife divorce

Alex Koppelman, The War Room: Karl Rove's marriage to his wife, Darby, lasted almost 24 years. The pair wed in January 1986 and were granted a divorce last week.

In a statement announcing the divorce, spokeswoman Dana Perino said, "The couple came to the decision mutually and amicably, and they maintain a close relationship and a strong friendship. There will be no further comment, and the family requests that its privacy be respected."

Additionally, Politico quotes an unnamed "family friend" as saying, "They did spend Christmas together with their son, and they plan to spend time together in the future. They maintain a strong friendship and they both feel that that friendship is a source of comfort and inspiration for their friends and family."

David Mixner: Here is another blow for those who preach for the sanctity of marriage: Karl Rove just ended his second marriage. And these people can lecture to us about marriage?

Limbaugh Rushed To Honolulu Hospital That Gave Rise To ‘Birther’ Conspiracy

ThinkProgress.org: Conservative radio shock jock Rush Limbaugh was rushed to a Honolulu hospital yesterday with chest pains. After paramedics arrived and treated him at the Kahala Hotel and Resort, Limbaugh was transferred to Queen’s Medical Center where he reportedly arrived in “serious condition.”

KHON2 reports:

Sources say the 58 year old [Limbaugh was suffering chest pains before an ambulance arrived at the hotel.

Honolulu’s Emergency Services Department confirmed a male fitting Limbaugh’s description was taken from the hotel in serious condition.

As an avid golfer Limbaugh travels to Hawaii just about every year and earlier this week was seen in Kona on the Big Island and at the Waialae Country Club on Oahu.

While unfortunate, Limbaugh’s hospital visit is rife with irony. The ailing radio show host was sent to the same medical center that a United Press International reporter misidentified in an article published in 2008 as the facility in which President Obama was born. Though the error was corrected to accurately indicate that Obama was born in the Kapi’olani Medical Center, the mistake fueled “birther” conspiracy theories that Limbaugh then dedicated significant airtime to promoting. Since then, Limbaugh has gone as far to state that Hawaii “morphed into Kenya one day in 1961 [the year Obama was born] and reverted back to Hawaii the next day.”

Meanwhile, some of Limbaugh’s right-wing colleagues have spent the past week slamming Obama for vacationing in Hawaii over the holidays, which “to many Americans seems like a foreign place.” Last month, Limbaugh was voted the nation’s “most influential conservative voice.”

From the Left adds to Limbaugh’s bio: “The 400lbs. junkie and pedophile recently dropped at least 100lbs., fueling speculation that he’s back on dope in a desperate effort to shed unsightly pounds and look more attractive to the teenage rent boys he frequently visits at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic [LSB added link] — a popular destination for American and Canadian pedophiles. In 2003, Limbaugh managed to avoid prison time for illegally obtaining a wide variety of prescription painkillers, including Lorcet, Norco and hydrocodone, from the boyfriend of his former housekeeper. Limbaugh underwent drug addiction treatment as part of a settlement agreement he reached with the state of Florida.”

LSB: Would it be wrong to emulate Republican Sen. Tom Coburn and pray that Limbaugh won't be making his assinine comments anytime in the future?

Maddow: Shameless Cheney Ignores His Own Record to Cast Stones

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Dumbest Quotes Of The 2000s

Dan Abramson, Huffington Post: The 2000s (or the 'naughties' as the kids are calling them) are coming to a close. And to celebrate, we've been counting down the funniest movies, sketches, and people of the past ten years. Next up, quotes. But not just funny quotes - DUMB quotes, which as we know are the best kind.

  • “I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • "This is an earthquake issue. This will change our state forever. Because the immediate consequence, if gay marriage goes through, is that K-12 little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal, natural and perhaps they should try it." – Michele Bachmann
  • "I get to go to lots of overseas places, like Canada." – Britney Spears
  • "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." – George W. Bush
  • "Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization... And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did. That's what Al Gore, the U.N., and everybody on the global warming bandwagon [are doing]." – Glenn Beck
  • "Is this chicken what I have or is this fish? I know it's tuna, but it says chicken." – Jessica Simpson
  • "Uh, uh, Chuck Graham, state senator, is here. Stand up, Chuck, let ‘em see you. Oh, God love you. What am I talking about." – Joe Biden to wheelchair-bound Missouri state senator, Charles Graham
  • "It may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: 'Sit down and shut up,' but that's the worthless, easy path; that's a quitter's way out." – Sarah Palin announcing her resignation as governor
  • "I'm so smart now. Everyone is always like, 'Take your top off.' Sorry, no! They always want to get that money shot. I'm not stupid." – Paris Hilton
  • "All of a sudden, you're like the Bin Laden of America. Osama Bin Laden is the only one who knows exactly what I'm going through." – R. Kelly
  • "Exercise freaks ... are the ones putting stress on the health care system." – Rush Limbaugh
  • "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." – George W. Bush (again)
  • “People all over the world recognize me as a spiritual leader.” – Steven Seagal
  • "Where's the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?" – Christina Aguilera
  • “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade. I will be the loudest voice.” – Kanye West
  • "The Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes.” – Ted Stevens
  • "I've never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don't like eating fish. And I know that's very popular out there in Africa." – Britney Spears (again)
  • "I've got taste. It's inbred in me." – David Hasselhoff
  • “They misunderestimated me.” – George W. Bush (yet again)
  • "All of 'em, any of 'em that have been in front of me over all these years." – Sarah Palin (again) unable to name a single newspaper or magazine she reads, interview with Katie Couric
  • "I've been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No. No." – Craig T. Nelson on the lack of fiscal responsibility
  • When asked, "Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?" She answered: "I personally believe, that US Americans are unable to do so, because some people out there, in our nation, don't have that, and eh I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa, and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, our education over here, in the US, should help the US, or should help South Africa, and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future... for our children." – Ms. Teen South Carolina 2007

LSB: I assume this is just a partial list, given the space limitations of the WWW.

Who's running the TSA? No one, thanks to Sen. Jim DeMint

Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers: An attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration — if there were one.

The post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up President Barack Obama's nominee in opposition to the prospect of TSA workers joining a labor union.

As al Qaida claimed responsibility Monday for the thwarted attack and President Barack Obama made a public statement about it, Democrats urged DeMint to drop his objection and allow quick confirmation of nominee Erroll Southers, a counterterrorism expert, when the Senate reconvenes in three weeks. ...

Southers, a former FBI special agent, is the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence. He also is the associate director of the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, and he served as a deputy director of homeland security for California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Two Senate committees have given Southers their bipartisan blessing. An acting administrator is in place pending his confirmation.

Marshall McClain, the president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, said that the Senate should have acted sooner to confirm Southers. "Friday's terrorist attack on U.S. aviation makes it all the more imperative that there be no further delays in filling this crucial position," he said.

DeMint said in a statement that the attempted attack "is a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA." He wants Southers to clarify his stand on unionizing the TSA, a shift that Democrats support.

Without collective bargaining, DeMint said, the TSA has "flexibility to make real-time decisions that allowed it to quickly improve security measures in response to this attempted attack." If organized labor got involved, DeMint said, union bosses would have the power "to veto or delay future security improvements at our airports."

He urged Obama to "re-think" supporting unionizing the TSA "and put the interests of American travelers ahead of organized labor." (more)

LSB: Emphasis added. This boils down to politics: Dems have a cozy relationship with unions, so Rep obstructionist delays safety of American airports until he gets his way. FUCK JIM DEMINT. No Mercy - bring down this failure on his head! Let him try to crawl away from this failure. Make it his fault. That's how the Reps would do it if the situation were reversed.

UPDATE: Major 9/11 Commission Recommendations Still Not In Place

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mary Matalin: Bush 'Inherited' 9/11 Attacks

HuffingtonPost.com: On CNN Sunday, GOP strategist Mary Matalin repeated a strange new Republican talking point -- the idea that the September 11th attacks didn't happen on President Bush's watch.

Arguing that President Obama was complaining too much about the problems he inherited from his predecessor, Matalin (who worked for former Vice President Dick Cheney) said her White House was saddled with problems too. "We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history," she told host John King on "State of the Union."

Last month, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino proclaimed that there were no terror attacks under President Bush.

As for Matalin's economic claim, Bush did say that he inherited a recession -- but he got his dates wrong about when that recession began. The National Bureau of Economic Research's Business Cycle Dating Committee says it started in March of 2001, during Bush's first term.

LSB: This woman gets crazier by the day. Revisionist history - here we come!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Drag Queens, Communists Take Over White House Christmas Tree

TowleRoad.com: This is what you get when one of those unpredictable, radical gay men is brought in to decorate the White House for Christmas! Hedda Lettuce and Chairman Mao adorning the Tree. The horror!

UPDATE: FOX News is already salivating over the "inclusive" tree:

LSB: LOL! Healthcare/Insurance reform... global warming... wars in Iraq and Afghanistan... high unemployment... and this is what has Rupert Murdock's panties in a bunch? Some kid in an after-school program deco paging a Christmas (or is it "holiday") ornament with a Chinese face s/he probably didn't even recognize... I'll admit I never gave Bush much slack, but even I know that fucker didn't decorate every tree in the White House, so let's give Obama the benefit of the doubt as well. Jeesh!

Congress Pressures Pentagon on Eve of DADT Debate

Palm Center, UCSB: [On December 22], ninety-six members of Congress sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates requesting all 2009 “don't ask, don't tell” discharge data in an effort to ready their arguments for the impending 2010 debate on the gay ban. The letter was authored by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), a member of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee and was signed by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), lead sponsor of the bill to repeal “don't ask, don't tell.” Members are requesting up-to-date information on the number of service members discharged in 2009 under the Obama Administration as well as information about their job specialties, years of service and branch in which they served.

This request comes as supporters of repeal in Congress are collecting information to prepare for the upcoming House and Senate debate on repeal in 2010. On December 2nd Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) introduced legislation, which currently has 32 co-sponsors, to allow openly gay service members to testify in upcoming hearings without being discharged under “don't ask, don't tell.” Hearings are expected in the Senate in January or February and in the House in March.

Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin stated, "It's clear that some in Washington are looking for ways to avoid discussing DADT in 2010. This letter from 96 Congressional offices keeps the pressure on the White House, Pentagon and Congress by illustrating the costs of discrimination with concrete data."

In 2001, there were 1,273 discharges under “don't ask, don't tell” and in 2008 there were 633, the third lowest number of discharges since the law took effect. The letter from Congressman Moran also requests that the Pentagon provide monthly updates on “don't ask, don't tell” discharges in 2010 to inform debates over repeal in the House and Senate.

LSB: Newsweek has predicted that Obama will do "nada" for gay rights in 2010; maybe Congress didn't get the memo.

Miss Lindsey Graham Says S.C.’s Growing Black Population is a “Problem”

From the Left: The fabulous Miss Lindsey Graham has outdone himself this time.

Graham, the Republican U.S senator from South Carolina revealed his racist spine today on the Senate floor when he criticized the extra Medicaid funding for Nebraska in the healthcare bill by noting that his state is also facing multiple problems. Graham inexplicably sites that South Carolina is faced with grinding unemployment and a “31 percent African American population.”

Crazy of the Year!

Joan Walsh, Salon.Com: News came so fast in 2009 it made us dizzy: A brand-new Democratic White House team (led by our first African-American president); economic catastrophe and, maybe, tiny green shoots of recovery; legislative milestones -- a historic stimulus -- and legislative gridlock (most everything else); one war winding down but another one expanded; grass-roots anger on the right and left about a Wall Street crash that turned out fine for much of Wall Street but kept crashing for the rest of us. We had big celebrity deaths (Ed McMahon, Walter Cronkite, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, all in four weeks); big celebrity scandals (Tiger Woods, Mark Sanford) plus big celebrity death scandals (thanks to Jackson, his wacky family and his phalanx of physician-toadies). All of it was enlivened by an explosion of high-decibel right-wing paranoia and hatred that made our problems seem increasingly surreal and intractable.

But if 2009 was a year of big news, it also was most notably the year of Big Crazy. From Birthers to death panels, 9/11 Truthers to evolution deniers, it was hard to get through a week without stepping in a steaming pile of just-plain-nuts. So let Time magazine come up with its dutiful "Person of the Year," working harder each December to delight, confound, disgust or simply bore us. Salon decided to live up to the news environment of 2009 and to round up the Year in Crazy -- -- documenting the people responsible for the craziest behavior of the year.

It was very hard (in fact, we're still mulling our top pick). There's so much crazy to choose from. Then there's a whole lot of shiny, vexing and perplexing faux-crazy. Bill O'Reilly certainly went loony during his tête-à-tête with me in June, but a certain kind of authoritarian, bad-daddy nuttiness is O'Reilly's reliable shtick; none of us knows what the Fox host really believes, except that he loves his big paycheck and getting to humiliate people. We think O'Reilly is vile, but overheated as he sometimes gets, we don't think he's crazy. Same with Rush Limbaugh. His "anal poisoning" obsession aside, Limbaugh is sane enough to keep making millions and to stay in the right-wing "telling it like it is" media mainstream.

Similarly, someone like Liz Cheney -- awful but not crazy -- could casually suggest that insane Birther theories made sense because "people are uncomfortable with having, for the first time ever ... a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas." Sarah Palin, who's wacky and destructive but not crazy, except like a fox, went a little bit crazy on Facebook, warning that Obama's healthcare reform would create "death panels" to kill her elderly parents and her child with Down syndrome. O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Cheney and Palin all display behavior that's better described as brazenly opportunistic than crazy.

It went over so well that folks like Chuck Grassley and Newt Gingrich rode the crazy train for a while, defending Palin's lies. Crazy became so influential this year that the New York Times finally assigned someone to the Right-Wing Crazy beat, asking reporters and editors to watch Fox News and track the mutterings of O'Reilly and Glenn Beck and Limbaugh and the echo chamber of crazy, after the paper of record was taken by surprise by the epidemic of lethal lunacy in the Birther controversies and "town hells" this summer, and failed to cover Fox's crusade to topple White House "green jobs" czar Van Jones. (The New York Times is crazy to listen to right-wing bullies, but we're only talking about individual crazy behavior here.)

We're not sure what explains the sudden explosion of crazy. Is it deep, destabilizing economic insecurity? The looming 2012 apocalypse? Having a black president? No one knows for sure. All we know is that within the GOP's base, and on certain frontiers of the left, as well as the wacky-science crowd, crazy is hot this year. Crazy sells. It's the year of crazy liberation! Say it loud, I'm nuts and proud. ...

Let Time magazine come up with its dutiful "Person of the Year," working harder each December to delight, confound, disgust or simply bore us. Salon is living up to the news environment of 2009, and choosing the people responsible for the craziest behavior of the year.

  1. Glenn Beck Crazy of the Year! [LSB: Beck's second nom for Craziest Person of the Year!]

Glenn Beck: Media Matters' 2009 Misinformer of the Year

Media Matters: Glenn Beck's well of ridiculous was deep and poisonous before he launched his Fox News show, but the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States -- and the permissive cheerleading of his Fox News honchos -- uncorked the former Morning Zoo shock jock's unique brand of vitriol, stage theatrics, and hyperbolic fright, making him an easy choice for Media Matters' 2009 Misinformer of the Year.

When he wasn't calling the president a racist, portraying progressive leaders as vampires who can only be stopped by "driv[ing] a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers," or pushing the legitimacy of seceding from the country, Beck obsessively compared Democrats in Washington to Nazis and fascists and "the early days of Adolf Hitler." He wondered, "Is this where we're headed," while showing images of Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin; decoded the secret language of Marxists; and compared the government to "heroin pushers" who were "using smiley-faced fascism to grow the nanny state."

Like his predecessor, Beck spat on scruples, frequently announcing his goal to get administration officials fired. He increasingly acted not as a media figure, but as the head of a political movement, while helping to bring fringe conspiracies of a one-world government into the national discourse.

And he all too frequently helped to set the mainstream media's agenda. (more)


Tidings of Comfort

PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times: Indulge me while I tell you a story — a near-future version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” It begins with sad news: young Timothy Cratchit, a k a Tiny Tim, is sick. And his treatment will cost far more than his parents can pay out of pocket.

Fortunately, our story is set in 2014, and the Cratchits have health insurance. Not from their employer: Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t do employee benefits. And just a few years earlier they wouldn’t have been able to buy insurance on their own because Tiny Tim has a pre-existing condition, and, anyway, the premiums would have been out of their reach.

But reform legislation enacted in 2010 banned insurance discrimination on the basis of medical history and also created a system of subsidies to help families pay for coverage. Even so, insurance doesn’t come cheap — but the Cratchits do have it, and they’re grateful. God bless us, everyone.

O.K., that was fiction, but there will be millions of real stories like that in the years to come. Imperfect as it is, the legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday and will probably, in a slightly modified version, soon become law will make America a much better country.

So why are so many people complaining? There are three main groups of critics.

First, there’s the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people — a lunatic fringe that is no longer a fringe but has moved into the heart of the Republican Party. In the past, there was a general understanding, a sort of implicit clause in the rules of American politics, that major parties would at least pretend to distance themselves from irrational extremists. But those rules are no longer operative. No, Virginia, at this point there is no sanity clause.

A second strand of opposition comes from what I think of as the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit, and which — in the judgment of leading health economists — does far more to control costs than anyone has attempted in the past.

But, with few exceptions, the fiscal scolds have had nothing good to say about the bill. And in the process they have revealed that their alleged concern about deficits is, well, humbug. As Slate’s Daniel Gross says, what really motivates them is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is receiving social insurance.”

Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill’s limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

The truth is that there isn’t a Congressional majority in favor of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan. But given the way the Senate rules work, it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that fact, combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.

If progressives want more, they’ll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They’ll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks — I’d especially like to move the start date up from 2014, if that’s at all possible — is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.

And for all its flaws and limitations, it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.

Many people deserve credit for this moment. What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal health care as a core principle during the Democratic primaries of 2007-2008 — an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. (For what it’s worth, the reform that’s being passed is closer to Hillary Clinton’s plan than to President Obama’s). This made health reform a must-win for the next president. And it’s actually happening.

So progressives shouldn’t stop complaining, but they should congratulate themselves on what is, in the end, a big win for them — and for America.

Oh, No! Kevin’s Back!

MAUREEN DOWD, The New York Times: As my brother Kevin headed off to Christmas Eve Mass in the Maryland suburbs, I asked him how he thought the first year of Barack Obama had gone.

He didn’t have to pray long over that one. “Fine,” he replied, “if you like unmitigated disasters like the Hindenburg and the Redskins season.”

If it’s Christmas, it must be time for my conservative brother to take over my column and turn it a blazing shade of red.

So without further ado, here is Kevin unplugged, offering a perspective from “the real America,” as one of his favorite Republican philosophers, Sarah Palin, likes to put it:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Who could have guessed on Nov. 4, 2008, that the mood this Christmas would be so festive? Yet a feeling of optimism pervades as we watch the old Christmas movies and marvel at the winter wonderland on the Mall illuminated by our national Christmas tree. (No offense to that ardent Catholic Nancy Pelosi, who would prefer “holiday tree.”)

The Republicans, of course, got exactly what they deserved in 2006 and 2008 mainly because they acted like Democrats. Deficit spending and sex scandals are not a good recipe for success.
But by forcing through a government takeover of health care, the auto industry and the banks, the president and his Congressional henchmen have brought us in a time machine to Russia 1917. These massive changes have been done in secret and along bullying, straight party-line votes.

It is stunning to watch rich lawmakers driving their own expensive cars off the cliff and signing on to such a socialist agenda. In dismissing the tea parties and pushing through plans the American people obviously don’t want, they have made the fatal disconnect between the representatives and the represented.

President Obama continues life in the H.O.V. lane, fawned over by the press and the crowned heads of Europe. In between apologies, the president should have reminded those pompous blowhards that without our interference, they would all be speaking German.

My dad was a D.C. policeman, and I would like to apologize (not “recalibrate”) to the Cambridge police for the president’s assumption that they “acted stupidly.” You would think that Mr. Obama would have afforded the police the same consideration he gave to the mass-murdering Muslim Army major when he said: “I would caution against jumping to conclusions.”

The Fort Hood massacre was a direct result of Army policy too concerned with political correctness and “celebrating diversity.” It was a terrorist attack by any definition and the government still cannot say it.

President Obama should remember that Icarus tried to fly to the sun because, as he said, “it is the only thing in the universe that can match my brilliance.” How did that work out?
Here are some reflections for 2009:
  • To President Obama: Thank you for saving the Republican Party and for teaching all of us that too much of anything is a bad thing.
  • To Bill Clinton: You did too much work on Northern Ireland for the Nobel committee. Next time, do nothing.
  • To Harry and Nancy: “The Twilight Zone” once had an episode where the town got the exact opposite of what it wanted. Farewell, Harry!
  • To John McCain: Thank you for your chivalry in banning Palin attack dogs — including my sister — from the campaign plane.
  • To Sarah Palin: Keep up the good work. Anyone who annoys Keith Olbermann that much is a friend to all of us.
  • To Glenn Beck: Thanks for being the only journalist interested in stories that used to win Pulitzer Prizes.
  • To Al Franken: So, 250 years of Senate tradition trashed. Stuart Smalley would have done better.
  • To Desirée Rogers: Get back to the gate. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson can’t get in.
    To the Salahis: Thank you for showing us that shame has no bottom.
  • To Valerie Jarrett: So much for the Olympic Village in Chicago. Whoops.
  • To Chris Dodd: The only thing lower than your polls is your mortgage interest rate.
  • To Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen: The military should be more interested in the men and women who serve than in celebrating diversity.
  • To the Democratic senators: Go last next time; the bribes are much bigger.
  • To Sheldon Whitehouse: You, senator, are an idiot.
  • To Dick Cheney: You, sir, are a patriot. Thanks for firing back.
  • To President Bush: Thank you for your dignity. Did you really start the plague in the 14th century? Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • To Hillary: Who knew how much you would be missed?
  • To Al Gore: A global warming conference in the middle of a Copenhagen blizzard is not a good visual.
  • To Max Baucus, Eliot Spitzer and John Edwards: Party on, dudes.
  • To John Ensign, Mark Sanford and David Vitter: Don’t party on, dudes.



LSB: This asswipe (Kevin, NOT Maureen) sounds regretfully like the majority of my relatives.

ACORN Cleared YET AGAIN of Wrongdoing...

Brad Friedman, BradBlog.com: Earlier this month, a two-month independent investigation of ACORN, by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, found incidents of mismanagement, but no criminal wrongdoing by ACORN, the favorite whipping boy of Republican scammers such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox "News" and the GOP itself. That investigation also found that the "sting videos" used recently against ACORN were doctored and manipulated.

Of course, readers of The BRAD BLOG know the Republicans' entire, long, sad, anti-democratic (small "d" and large "d" both) campaign is based on little more than the fact that ACORN registers millions of legal low and middle income voters who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic (large "d") rather than Republican, and the GOP and their democracy-hating proxies will go to any lengths to keep those legal voters from exercising their legal franchise.

And today, once again, ACORN is cleared of wrongdoing vis a vis yet another independent investigation, this one by the Congressional Research Service [PDF], as noted in a press release from U.S. House Judiciary Chair John Conyers this afternoon (posted in full below).

Of most note to our readers, Conyers' statement points out what we've been pointing out - over and over and over again for years: "There were no instances of individuals who were allegedly registered to vote improperly by ACORN or its employees and who were reported 'attempting to vote at the polls.'" Who knew?! What a surprise! (At least to Fox "News" viewers, who probably won't hear about this report either.)

Also: "No instances were identified in which ACORN 'violated the terms of federal funding in the last five years.'"

And: "Recently enacted federal legislation to prohibit funding to ACORN raises significant constitutional concerns. The courts 'may have a sufficient basis' to conclude that the legislation 'violates the prohibition against bills of attainder.'" That finding is one that a federal judge also recently concurred with, when she issued an injunction earlier this month to keep the law from taking affect since ACORN had "been singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or even administrative, process of adjudicating guilt."

Finally, according to today's report, Andrew "Drudge's Poodle" Breitbart's phony video-taped "sting operation" against ACORN may, itself, have violated the law in both California and Maryland, about which we might ironically recommend to prosecutors: "Capital punishment" for Andrew Breitbart!

Deep Tweet

Brad Friedman , BradBlog.com: To help discourage terrorism, let's give as much attention as possible to the Detroit plane bomber. Wall-to-wall coverage on Fox should teach those terrorists a thing or two. Let's put his face on the cover of TIME and Newsweek while we're at it. I'm sure it's the last thing he'd want.

Disinformed Hostage-Taker in VA Was Angry at 'Loss' of Right to Bear Arms, 'Over-Taxing'

Brad Friedman, BradBlog.com: From AP [Thursday] on the hostage stand-off that took place yesterday at a VA post office [emphasis added]:
"He was really down on the government," [Hostage Jimmy] Oliver told The Associated Press [about hostage-taker Warren "Gator" Taylor] on Thursday in an interview at his mother's floral shop. "About the government taking over the right to bear arms ... he was angry at the government over taxing us."

Now I wonder where Taylor could have gotten those completely-misinformed ideas?

Of course, as non-disinformed folks know, there have been no moves --- zero, not even a peep --- by the Democratic-controlled Congress or White House about taking away anybody's "right to bear arms," and taxes have been lowered, not raised, since Obama took office, for 95% of working families. Though you'd be hard-pressed to know that if you did nothing more than watch Fox "News" or listen to talk radio on the public airwaves.

In one sadly ironic note, the AP article adds...

Taylor, who is being represented by a federal public defender, was ordered to be evaluated at a federal prison medical facility to determine whether he is mentally fit for the criminal proceedings.

Thankfully, though Taylor fired shots, he didn't kill or injure anybody. All hostages were eventually released peacefully after the eight hour standoff.

Not so lucky, however, were the 3 cops killed by Richard Paplowski, who was led to believe Obama would be taking away his guns; the 2 killed and 7 injured by Jim David Adkisson at a Knoxville, TN, church shooting because he "wanted to kill...every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in [regular Bill O'Reilly guest] Bernard Goldberg's book" of 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is #37); and Dr. George Tiller, who was shot in the head in church after Bill O'Reilly spent some 29 episodes of his top-rated "news" program describing him as "Tiller the Baby Killer" and someone who would "kill your baby for any reason."

Friday, December 25, 2009

55 missed TARP payments in October?

Chris in Paris, AmericaBlog.com: Just imagine how pleasant these financial companies would be if you did the same to them. That's OK though, because these businesses are more important than common people and get special privileges. Reuters:
Fifty-five financial companies failed to pay dividends in November on money they borrowed from the U.S. government, bank research firm SNL said on Wednesday. That number swelled from 33 companies that missed an August payment on government funds, according to an SNL analysis of government data.

For the Boys -- and Girls

Kenneth Walsh, Kenneth in the 212: This clip, "War on Christmas Day," is a tribute to our troops in the Middle East -- and their families -- that was written by Carol Hall ("The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas") and Robert Burke. It's sung by Tom Andersen, Scott Coulter and Tim Di Pasqua, and is a nice reminder of the sacrifices our men and women in uniform are making while most of spend the holidays safe at home with our loved ones. Enjoy, and share with someone you care about.

LSB: R.I.P. Jonathan, beloved nephew and my hero!

Sidenote: Christmas Eve marks the 3,000th day of the war in Afghanistan, the 30th anniversary of the Soviet invasion.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"You’re the last person who can give us the president, and you’re going to give him to us."

Dan Savage, SLOG: I thought I'd lost my capacity to be outraged by the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. Nope.
A former director of the Secret Service said Friday that the F.B.I. had engaged in an “abuse of power” by trying to pressure him to “give us the president” during the investigation of President Bill Clinton’s interactions with Monica Lewinsky a decade ago. The official, Lewis C. Merletti, who headed the former president’s protective detail and later became the agency’s director, said in an interview that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had grilled him just days before Mr. Clinton left office in a last-ditch effort to prove that his agents had covered up and even facilitated extramarital flings.... “They said to me, ‘You’re the last person who can give us the president, and you’re going to give him to us,’ ” Mr. Merletti recalled. He called it “disgraceful” and said of the F.B.I., “They became involved in a political game, and in the end they tarnished themselves beyond belief.” ... The F.B.I. special agent who interrogated him, Jennifer Gant, could not be reached Friday but was quoted in the book saying she could not recall making the accusations Mr. Merletti recounted.

"Could not recall" = "That's exactly what happened otherwise I would deny it, right? But I can't because I could wind up being subpoenaed and having to testify about this shit and there are probably documents out there somewhere that prove I said exactly what this guy says I said—because that is what I said—and I don't want to go to jail."

The investigation and impeachment of Bill Clinton was a coup attempt that failed and the plotters were so infuriated by their failure to remove Clinton from office that they wanted to jail him after he left office. (Read the story.) I wish I could say, "Shit, that was a crazy time!" and turn the page. But the batshit right is attempting to do the same thing to Barack Obama that it did to Bill Clinton. Only this time instead of runaway special prosecutors and conspiracy theories about ancient land deals we've got batshit cable news hosts and conspiracy theories about Kenyan birth certificates. The goal is the same: delegitimize the sitting Democratic president and remove him from office. Only this time they're not going to go the impeachment route—because, hey, that didn't work last time, right? So this time they're cranking up the lunatics on the far-right fringe with bullshit about death panels, pulling the plug on granny, killing Republicans, and creeping socialism in the hopes that some sufficiently outraged/deranged "patriot" will take it upon himself to murder the president.

And if the right succeeds in "removing" the current president from office:

Let's pause to contemplate the riots that will break out all across the country if these hateful douchebags succeed in getting the president killed. Most of the riots will take place in urban areas—in areas that support the president—and most of the people who get hurt or killed are going to be liberals and Democrats and progressives and people of color. That's probably part of the plan. None of the suburban mega-churches or shithole exurbs from which most of this dangerous rhetoric emanates will be put to the torch. But if the can-no-longer-be-described-as-unthinkable actually happens—if they succeed in getting the president killed—rioters in New York City will find that Fox News HQ is rather conveniently located. Please make a note of it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

One of These Twins is Gay

TowleRoad.com: NatGeo TV takes a look at gay twins and nature vs nurture in homosexuality.

Defying Judge's Order, White House Instructs Personnel Agency to Obstruct Health Benefits to Spouse of Lesbian Employee

TowleRoad.com: Back in February I posted about a ruling by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge regarding the offering of health benefits to the spouse of a lesbian employee in a decision it appeared would directly challenge DOMA.

Michelangelo Signorile points out some troubling activity on this case which was just written up in TIME:

"...it was actually going to happen until the White House, through the Office of Personnel Management -- headed by openly gay appointee, John Berry -- refused to comply and directed the health insurance carrier of the employee not to proceed [all bold below is mine]:

The order was not published, and garnered little or no notice at the time. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts moved to comply with the judge's ruling, submitting [federal employee] Golinski's insurance form to Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the case would have probably gone away — had the Obama Administration not stepped in. "After the AO submitted Ms. Golinski's form, I thought this matter had concluded," [Judge] Kozinski wrote.

"The Executive Branch, acting through the Office of Personnel Management, thought otherwise. It directed the insurance carrier not to process Ms. Golinski's form 2809, thwarting the relief I had ordered. I must now decide what further steps are necessary to protect Ms. Golinski and the integrity of the Judiciary's EDR [employee dispute resolution] plans."

Now Judge Kozinkski has ordered that OPM stop interfering, demanding last week that the Obama administration comply with his order.

The White House has a month to respond: "[Judge Kozinski's] order last week demanded that the executive branch reverse course, and gave the Administration 30 days to enroll Golinski's wife as her health-insurance beneficiary. He made clear that if it doesn't, he's ready to use the powers of his court to enforce his decree."

And the sadder "personnel" irony here, Signorile notes, is that the OPM is headed by John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the Obama administration:
"...the Office of Personnel Management was ordered by the White House to refuse to give a lesbian federal employees her court-ordered rights. John Berry, as head of that office, was thus apparently forced as an openly gay man to deny another gay person, and the LGBT movement itself, of rights, even in the face or a court order. Is this how openly gay appointees must operate within the Obama administration -- not as advocates on behalf of civil rights but rather as lackeys charged with blocking equal rights for their own kind?"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Stupid Virus (VIDEO)

HuffingtonPost.com: "SuperNews!"--aka the guys that brought you the Twouble with Twitters, Larry King interviewing the Large Hadron Collider and Emoticon Wars--have returned this week to bring you the answer to this question: Why are people so stupid? Turns out it's a virus spread by an Obama-hating monkey. He's responsible for birthers, the people who equate health care reform to the Holocaust, and Rush Limbaugh.

The First Ten Lies from Going Rogue

Geoffrey Dunn, HuffingtonPost.com: Excerpts from Sarah Palin's Going Rogue have been released by several news agencies and other sources who have received advanced copies. Here are the first ten lies from Palin's memoirs:
  1. The Cover Byline: Palin didn't write the book by herself. Most books with known ghostwriters list their co-author's name on the cover. In this case it was Lynn Vincent (a well-known homophobe). Going Rogue does not.
  2. The Subtitle: An American Life. Aside from her infancy, Palin has really spent very little time outside of Alaska, and according to John McCain's campaign advisors, was shockingly unfamiliar with American geography and American history. "Alaska," as John McPhee noted in his resplendent Coming Into the Country, "is a foreign country...Its nature is its own."
  3. Going Rogue features Palin's obsession with Katie Couric and characterizes the CBS anchor as "badgering." Palin refused to prep for the Couric interview because she was more concerned about her popularity in Alaska than about what was best for the campaign. Was it really badgering to ask what books or periodicals Palin read? Palin further claims that Couric suffered from low self-esteem. In fact, according to those close to Palin, it's the former governor who suffers from low self-esteem and frequently projects that onto other women.
  4. Palin asserts that there was a "jaded aura" around McCain's political advisors once she entered the campaign. In fact, McCain's aides bent over backwards to protect Palin and to try to get her up to speed on international affairs. In addition to not knowing whether or not Africa was a continent, according to sources in the McCain campaign, Palin also didn't understand the difference between England and Great Britain. And much, much more.
  5. Palin contends to have been saddled with legal bills of more than $500,000 resulting from what she calls "frivolous" ethics complaints filed against her. The lion's share of those bills resulted from the ethics complaint she filed against herself in a legal maneuver to sidestep the Troopergate charges being brought against her by the bipartisan Alaska Legislative Council.
  6. Palin rather astonishingly claims that she was saddled with $50,000 in bills for the legal fees associated with her vice-presidential vetting. A) She was not vetted; B) A McCain campaign advisor says this is "categorically untrue."
  7. Palin states that she found out only "minutes" before John McCain's concession speech that she would not be allowed to make remarks of her own introducing McCain. In fact, she had been told at least three times that she would not be allowed to give the speech and kept lying about it in the hopes of creating some last-minute chaos that would allow her to assume the dais.
  8. Palin asserts that her effort to award a license for a natural gas transmission line was turning a "pipe dream" into a pipeline. Although she claimed otherwise in her speech at the GOP convention, there is no pipeline. It remains a pipe dream.
  9. Palin implies that the McCain campaign intentionally bungled the release of information regarding her daughter Bristol's pregnancy and refused to let her rewrite it. In fact, the McCain campaign allowed her to rework the draft, but the original version went out accidentally. Palin reportedly accepted the recalcitrant staff member's apology for the mistake, then when she left, ordered her immediately dismissed of her duties.
  10. Palin complains that McCain's senior advisors, most notably Steve Schmidt, forced her to "stick with the script" they provided her. In fact, Schmidt & Co. were encumbered with the task of keeping Palin from lying and misleading people throughout the campaign, from her well-documented lies about the "Bridge to Nowhere" to her duplicities about her husband Todd's assocation with the Alaska Independence Party. Palin's lying to those in the McCain campaign was so troubling to them that they cringed every time she went "off script."
And that's just for starters.

FROM LOBBYISTS' PENS TO THEIR LIPS

ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES: In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident.

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.

The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.

Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche, estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points — 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists.

In an interview, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, said: “I regret that the language was the same. I did not know it was.” He said he got his statement from his staff and “did not know where they got the information from.”

Members of Congress submit statements for publication in the Congressional Record all the time, often with a decorous request to “revise and extend my remarks.” It is unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists.

The e-mail messages and their attached documents indicate that the statements were based on information supplied by Genentech employees to one of its lobbyists, Matthew L. Berzok, a lawyer at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli & Berzok who is identified as the “author” of the documents. The statements were disseminated by lobbyists at a big law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. (More)

David Broder would be happy with the wrong decision on Afghanistan

Joe Sudbay (DC), AmericaBlog.com: David Broder's column on Afghanistan and Obama today is absurd:
It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision -- whether or not it is right.
So, a wrong decision works for Broder. That's good to know. Broder is the so-called "Dean of the Washington press corps." That press corps willingly let Bush lead us into the Iraq war without question.
That's an example of a wrong decision. Read Steve Benen's critique of Broder:

The premise of the piece is that a decision is needed immediately. Where did this arbitrary deadline come from? Broder doesn't say; he just warns of the Taliban "coming back in Afghanistan," as if the Taliban hasn't already reclaimed much of the country.Thinking back, I don't recall Broder ever showing this kind of Afghanistan-related antagonism towards the Bush administration -- which was, not incidentally, the team that allowed Afghanistan to deteriorate, watched as hard-earned gains slipped away, and never bothered to craft a strategy for the future of U.S. policy in the country.

Indeed, reading today's Broder piece I get the distinct impression that the columnist had lunch with John McCain at some point this week, and then rushed back to his desk to jot down the senator's criticism. That's a shame. Given the reality, Broder was facing an editorial deadline, and he decided the urgent necessity was to write a column -- whether or not it was right.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Does Focus on the Family Fund Abortions?

Amy Sullivan, TIME: It does if you hold the organization to the same standard it uses to insist that health reform would result in publicly funded abortions.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fungibility argument that many pro-life groups and politicians have employed to oppose health reform. The problem, they say, is that if any insurance plan that covers abortion is allowed to participate in a public exchange, then premiums paid to that plan in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies help support that abortion coverage even if individual abortion procedures are paid for out of a separate pool of privately-paid premium dollars. You can debate about whether it makes sense to use this strict standard, but that's the argument.

But are those pro-life organizations holding themselves to the same strict standard? As it happens, Focus on the Family provides its employees health insurance through Principal, an insurance company that covers "abortion services." A Focus spokeswoman confirmed the fact that the organization pays premiums to Principal, but declined to comment on whether that amounts to an indirect funding of abortion.

Even if the specific plan Focus uses for its employees doesn't include abortion coverage--and I'm assuming it doesn't--the organization and its employees still pay premiums to a company that funds abortions. If health reform proposals have a fungibility problem, then Focus does as well. And if they don't think they do have a fungibility problem, then it would be interesting to hear why they think the set-up proposed in health reform legislation is so untenable.

(By the way, I'm not trying to pick on Focus on the Family, which has opposed congressional health reform proposals but certainly hasn't been the only or leading organization involved. I suspect many of the groups denouncing health reform as funding abortion have the same issue with their own insurance plans. Focus was just the only group willing to call me back and confirm its insurance coverage. Read more.)

Saturday Morning Cartoon



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sen. David Vitter (R-Formaldehyde)

Andy Kroll, Mother Jones: In May, President Obama nominated a renowned scientist known as the "father of green chemistry" to head the EPA's Office of Research and Development. For an administration that supports ambitious climate change legislation and stresses the importance of sustainability, the nomination of Paul Anastas, director of Yale's Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering and a former White House environment director, was very much in keeping with its broader agenda. Anastas' nomination was unanimously approved in committee in July, and his confirmation seemed all but assured. Yet six months later Anastas still isn't confirmed. Standing in his way is Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), whose block on Anastas' nomination raises questions about Vitter's close ties to the formaldehyde industry.

Today, the future of the formaldehyde industry is very much in jeopardy. A few years back, the International Agency for Research on Cancer definitively announced that the chemical, used in building materials and household products, causes cancer in humans. The EPA, which has studied formaldehyde's risks for more than a decade, doesn't go quite so far, saying it's a "probable human carcinogen." But that could soon change. The EPA has recently signaled that it plans to definitively assess formaldehyde's health effects. "This is not the time for more delay," an EPA spokeswoman told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in September. As the agency's research director, Anastas would surely have a role in this assessment. Given that one of Anastas' specialties is researching "the design of safer chemicals and chemical processes to replace hazardous substances," the formaldehyde industry is predictably concerned about his nomination.

Here's where Vitter comes in. Instead of the EPA ruling on formaldehyde now, Vitter wants the agency to let the National Academy of Sciences review formaldehyde's risk, a process that could take a year or more and that might favor industry supporters, environmentalists say, because the NAS review would use industry-based reports. Likewise, blocking Anastas' nomination is another way of slowing the EPA's movement on formaldehyde. (An EPA official told Mother Jones that agency head Lisa Jackson met with Vitter to ask him to let the nomination go through, which didn't happen.) And though a Vitter spokesman's recent comments that the FEMA-trailer debacle, which exposed thousands of displaced Gulf Coast victims living in government-issued trailers to high formaldehyde levels, demonstrated the need "to get absolutely reliable information to the public about formaldehyde risk as soon as possible," Vitter's position ensures the EPA won't be rolling out formaldehyde guidelines anytime soon.

So why is Vitter so sympathetic to the formaldehyde industry? Campaign finance records show that many of Louisiana's big formaldehyde polluters happen to be—you guessed it—Vitter campaign donors. He's received $9,000 from Dow Chemical's PAC, $5,000 from Monsanto's, $5,000 from ExxonMobil's, and $2,500 from the American Forest and Paper Association's. The American Forest and Paper Association is also a member of the Formaldehyde Council, an industry group whose views align with Vitter's (it's lobbied for an NAS review, too).

Anastas is under no illusions as to the obstacles in the way, telling Chemistry World in October that "we face tremendous challenges in ensuring the best science is brought to bear on issues like arsenic and formaldehyde." Reached at his office Wednesday, he remained sanguine about his nomination, saying he was "extremely enthusiastic about assuming my duties at the EPA when the Senate finalizes its process and if they confirm me." An environmentalist with the Sierra Club summed up the situation best to the Times-Picayune: "It's just disappointing that anybody would try to get in the way of us finally adopting the kind of formaldehyde standards that exist in other [countries] that protect people. It's ironic that this could come from somebody from Katrinaland, who has thousands of constituents who were exposed to excess formaldehyde level after being placed in government housing."

LSB: Another obstructionist senator... Coburn obstructing the veteran's bill, GOP Senators on the Judiciary Committee with Obama's judicial appointments, and now Vitter and this EPA appointment. Guess the GOP senators are all all channeling their inner Nancy Reagan - "Just say no!"

Catholic Church Threatens To Stop Feeding Homeless Over Gay Marriage

Allison Kilkenny, HuffingtonPost.com: A few days ago, I wrote about Goldman Sachs's transition from a bank holding company into a public relations disaster machine. I argued that Goldman's CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, has been behaving like he wants to be attacked by a ferocious mob.

Now, it appears the Catholic church is determined to unseat Blankfein in the "Inexplicably Evil Organization Most Disconnected From Real People" category.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.
Yup, that's right. If gay folk can marry, the Catholic church refuses to feed the homeless.

Well, that all seems very reasonable. After all, the state would force the Catholic church to perform gay marriages, and celebrate the beastly unions, right?

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.
Oh. So this "Please Stop Being An Asshole, You Guys" law is really the thing that has sent the Archdiocese flying off a cliff. The child molestations, and filing sticky-fingered priests from diocese to diocese is all part of God's grand plan, but showing the slightest bit of consideration for gay couples is just too much.

Beyond being simply mean and intolerant, this is just a stupid strategy for the Catholic church to employ. It may be a symbol of religion, but the church is also a business that needs to expand its customer base, or it will become extinct like Greek polytheism or New Coke.

Young people, i.e. potential future Catholics, are very tolerant -- some might say accepting and supportive -- of gays and gay marriage:

2009-11-12-age1.jpg

And don't give me that "It's in the Bible so we can't change our beliefs!" crap. Religions stray from the Bible's teachings all the time the second people realize they're being unspeakably cruel to a society's sect. The Bible was used to legitimize slavery, and yet we don't do that anymore, so surely Catholics can make the same jump when it comes to gay marriage.

Yes, the Bible said something that one time about "if a many lieth with a man, he be in really big trouble," or something, but the Bible also says you'll burn in hell for eating shellfish, and I guarantee lobster-eaters crowd the pews every Sunday all across this great land.

Second, non-Catholic Christians are the largest group in the country today:

2009-11-12-ryrdravoce2wmnomyttyqa.jpg

Less than a quarter of all American adults identified as Catholic between January and June of this year.

The Catholic church got so desperate to expand its ranks that it recently offered Anglicans sanctuary under the Virgin Mary's skirt, supposedly to hide from all of the icky gays and lesbians the Anglican church has embraced (in a Christ-like fashion, some might say).

Anglicans passed on the offer. This includes "heads of churches in Africa and the developing world, where anti-gay sentiment is especially strong, as well as in Canada and the United States." The message being: we hate gays, but we still prefer to avoid you guys.

As the Catholic church continues its march toward antiquity, I won't be shedding any tears. In addition to preying on the fears and prejudices of the unenlightened masses, I have no tolerance for tax-exempt pyramid schemes that take money from poor people to build golden houses in Italy for a decrepit former Nazi youth, who now wears a funny hat and occasionally blathers in a dead language about hating gay people, suppressing women, and always -- always -- refusing to wear condoms.

What's so strange is that the Catholic church itself seems determined to perish. Attitudes toward gay people are dramatically changing in this country, and yet the church remains stuck in its corner, fingers in ears, eyes shut, refusing to accept that the tide is turning.

Update: In the original article, I wrote that Jesus condemned homosexuality. However, that's not true. The condemning homosexuality bit is written in Leviticus. Sorry, Jesus.

10-Year-Old Won't Pledge Allegiance To A Country That Discriminates Against Gays

Via Queerty comes a story from the Arkansas Times about Will Phillips, an elementary school student who refuses to say the pledge of allegiance in school because of discrimination against gay people:
"I've always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer," Will said. "I really don't feel that there's currently liberty and justice for all."

After asking his parents whether it was against the law not to stand for the pledge, Will decided to do something. On Monday, Oct. 5, when the other kids in his class stood up to recite the pledge of allegiance, he remained sitting down. The class had a substitute teacher that week, a retired educator from the district, who knew Will's mother and grandmother. Though the substitute tried to make him stand up, he respectfully refused. He did it again the next day, and the next day.

A columnist for the Arkansas News has stood up for Phillips against his angry substitute teacher. Predictably, fellow students have taunted the kid and called him a "gaywad," but he says he doesn't see his quiet act of protest ending any time soon.

RNC insurance plan covers abortion

Jonathan Allen and Meredith Shiner, Politico: The Republican National Committee’s health insurance plan covers elective abortion – a procedure the party’s own platform calls “a fundamental assault on innocent human life.”

Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC’s policy covers elective abortion.

Informed of the coverage, RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told POLITICO that the policy pre-dates the tenure of current RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

“The current policy has been in effect since 1991, and we are taking steps to address the issue,” Gitcho said.

Leading up to passage of the House health care reform bill last week, 176 House Republicans joined 64 Democrats in voting for the so-called Stupak amendment, a measure that prohibits federal funds from being used to buy health insurance that covers elective abortions.

A spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee – the campaign arm for the House Republicans – said it does not include coverage for elective abortions in its employee insurance policy.

“The policy does not cover abortions unless the life of the mother is in danger,” the NRCC spokeswoman said.

According to several Cigna employees, the insurer offers its customers the opportunity to opt out of abortion coverage – and the RNC did not choose to opt out. (More)

LSB: Same Old Hypocrites!