Monday, September 06, 2010
Saturday, August 07, 2010
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|How to Ruin Same-Sex Marriages|
AND JUST IN FROM THE WINGNUT FACTION (and not at all surprising or unexpected), Four Times Married Drug Addict [Limbaugh] Objects To Overturn Of Proposition 8 (via Joe.My.God.) and Thrice-Married Serial Adulterer Newt Gingrich Is OUTRAGED About Prop 8 (via Joe.My.God.)Restore some sanity, Jon!
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Less than 24 hours after a Federal judge overturned Proposition 8, California’s gay marriage ban, President Obama dispatched White House spokesman David Axelrod to reassure the president’s Christian-base that while Mr. Obama opposed Proposition 8 as “divisive and mean spirited,” and he will “continue to promote equality,” just not equality that includes marriage equality.
Axelrod told MSNBC today:
“The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples, and benefits and other issues, and that has been effectuated in Federal agencies under his control.”Got that?
Sadly, overturning Proposition 8 did not change the president’s narrow mindedness on same-sex marriage, and frankly, I didn’t think it would and, I don’t fault him.
So I hope President Obama won’t fault me in 2012 when he asks for my time, money and vote in his bid for reelection and I am forced to decline his request. I’m through with the president’s fence straddling on LGBT rights. Especially, on the fundamental right of marriage equality.
LSB: Sadly, Mr. President, you can't count on me anymore either. The hypocrisy is staggering and intolerable. I'll be searching for a new candidate for the White House job in 2012.
Wiesenthal center opposes building mosque near Ground Zero because 'it's a cemetery,' but ok with Jewish museum on top of Muslim cemetery
In a move one might call supremely ironic, the Wiesenthal Center opposes building the mosque near Ground Zero because, it now claims, the former site of the World Trade Center "is a cemetery." The irony comes from the fact that the Wiesenthal Center is currently building a new "Museum of Tolerance" in Jerusalem on top of an old Muslim cemetery, in spite of the complaints of Muslims who have family members buried there.
[F]ifteen of the oldest families in Jerusalem filed a case before the United Nations in Geneva and held news conferences there, also in Los Angeles and Jerusalem. Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University has members of his family buried there and calls it further desecration of a cemetry that they have been nibbling away at for over three decades, despite many protests. "the fact that it was desecrated in the ’60s doesn’t mean that it’s right to desecrate it further. What happened in the 1960s was that part of the cemetery was paved over for this parking lot. What they have now done is to dig down and disinter four layers, according to the chief archaeologist for the Israeli Archaeological Authority, four layers of graves."
Yes, a Jewish tolerance museum built on top of dead Muslims. Think that makes anyone uncomfortable?
Oh, and it's not like the museum is about promoting tolerance between Jews and Muslims. It's about promoting tolerance between Jews.
So, to summarize. Mosque near cemetery, bad. Jewish museum on top of cemetery, good.
Entire story, sick.
Navy imam Chaplain Abuhena M. Saifulislam lifted his voice to God as he called to prayer more than 100 Department of Defense employees Monday at a celebration of Ramadan at the Pentagon.When it comes to Muslims praying at Ground Zero, it doesn't get much Ground Zeroier than that! As Elliott observes:
God is most great, sang the lieutenant commander and Islamic leader, in Arabic, as iftar -- the end of the daily fast began.
Uniformed military personnel, civilians and family members faced Mecca and knelt on adorned prayer rugs chanting their prayers in quiet invocation to Allah.
Yes, Muslims have infiltrated the Pentagon for their nefarious, prayerful purposes -- daring to practice their religion inside the building where 184 people died on Sept. 11, 2001. They haven't even had the sensitivity to move two blocks, let alone a mile, away from that sacred site.
Oh, my stars and garters! These Muslims at the Pentagon probably even have security clearances! (Because they are Department of Defense employees who protect America from al Qaeda death cultists, I'm guessing.)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
LSB: Looks like somebody over at FAUX-News forgot to read the script... or maybe he's looking for the unemployment line! (Another lazy liberal look to suck off the teet of the working man? Because that $700/week can keep him in a lifestyle that... oh, who am I kidding?) Been saying these same things myself for years, but it is only a fantasy - a fantasy, that is, that doesn't keep your feet warm at night. Oh, well, it is still a nice fantasy.
Monday, July 12, 2010
So many Republicans have changed their ideas on so many major issues that it's hard to keep up. With the return of Congress this week, two of those issues – campaign finance disclosure and climate change – could play out in the Senate over the next month.
What accounts for the shifts? Evolving principles? Pressure from the right? Political Strategy 101, block Democrats and President Obama so they'll fail and look bad? Maybe a slightly more subtle approach -- find fatal flaws in a compromise that under other circumstances (say if a Republican president wanted it passed) you would support, on the theory that the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the halfway decent or the baby step forward? All of the above? Here are seven reversals that hold clues:
1. Financial disclosure. Prominent Republicans have often made the case that transparency – not limits on campaign spending or contributions -- is the best antidote to corruption. "Republicans are in favor of disclosure," said Sen. Mitch McConnell on NBC's Meet The Press in 2000. Seven years later, on the same program, House GOP leader John Boehner declared: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."
But Boehner voted no last month on the DISCLOSE Act, which requires corporations, unions and some other groups to disclose more information about their campaign activities. It also imposes new restrictions on campaign spending by foreign firms, large government contractors and companies that get taxpayer bailouts. Boehner has said the bill favors some groups over others and would "shred the Constitution." McConnell agrees.
"There clearly has been a change of heart," Ellen Miller, co-founder and executive director of The Sunlight Foundation, told me. She said Republicans are following the lead of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which has held that limits on spending are tantamount to limits on free speech. The result, she said, is a "knee-jerk political reaction to any attempts to disclose or regulate in any fashion the raising and spending of political money."
2. Cap-and-trade. Smithsonian magazine last year traced the history of cap-and-trade to a 1980s meeting of the minds between free-market conservatives and "renegade environmentalists." Their idea was to let companies buy and sell the right to pollute. The first Bush administration used such a system to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants, in order to reduce acid rain. Emissions trading, as it was called then, was seen from the start as a model for dealing with the larger problem of carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
But Republicans now tar cap-and-trade as a job-killing "cap-and-tax" system. Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, running for the Senate, renounced his vote in favor of cap-and-trade in the House last year. Sen. John McCain of Arizona co-authored a pioneering cap-and-trade bill and introduced it in 2003, 2005 and 2007, then did an about-face last year. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina stepped in to help write an ambitious economy-wide cap-and-trade bill, but he too has walked away. Some Democrats are now aiming to cap carbon emissions from utilities only, and even that could be a heavy lift.
3. Immigration. McCain, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy and President George W. Bush were the prime movers of comprehensive immigration reform in 2006. But Kennedy died, Bush left office and McCain has become a hard-liner as he fights a primary challenge from the right. The 2006 bill strengthened border security but also laid out a path to earned citizenship for some 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country. Obama said in a speech this month that "under the pressures of partisanship and election-year politics, many of the 11 Republican senators who voted for reform in the past have now backed away from their previous support."
The 11 Republicans who supported the 2006 bill and are still in the Senate are McCain, McConnell, Graham, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Bob Bennett of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Sam Brownback of Kansas and George Voinovich of Ohio. Obama had a message for them: "Without bipartisan support, as we had just a few years ago, we cannot solve this problem. Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality."
4. Deficit spending. Republicans in the Senate have been holding up passage of emergency unemployment benefits for weeks because they want to offset the spending with budget cuts elsewhere. They are also loath to help states cope with rising Medicaid costs or avert mass layoffs of teachers, police and other employees, unless the money to offset the costs is found somewhere else. This call for discipline is a stark contrast to GOP actions during the Bush administration, when two wars, $1.3 billion in tax cuts and a major expansion of Medicare were financed with deficit spending (aka borrowing money).
Many Republicans now say they were wrong. But their timing suggests a double standard (okay to pay for Bush's priorities with borrowed money, but not Obama's). And the battle they have chosen to fight is puzzling. Even deficit hawks say that with more than 15 million unemployed, they're not worried about spending $34 billion for a benefits extension that's temporary and badly needed. As Robert Bixby, president of the anti-deficit Concord Coalition, memorably told The Boston Globe, "I just feel like unemployment benefits wandered onto the wrong street corner at the wrong time, and now they are getting mugged."
5. Bipartisan deficit-reduction commission established by Congress. This reversal early this year involved six Republican co-sponsors of such a commission who voted against their own Senate bill. The six were McCain, Brownback, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma. McConnell had once supported the idea, but he too voted against it. The bill required an up-or-down vote on the commission recommendations. McConnell and others said they feared the panel might suggest raising taxes.
Obama quickly formed a bipartisan commission by using an executive order, and the hope is that Congress will adopt its consensus proposals. Co-chairman Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said it was "the saddest thing" to see "no" votes from senators who had fought for the congressional commission for years. "What was the purpose of that?" he asked at a bipartisan forum Sunday with several dozen governors. "As far as I can discern, it was to stick it to the president."
6. Individual insurance mandate. Conservatives and Republicans once favored a requirement that all or most people buy basic health insurance. Like cap-and-trade, it was conceived by free-market conservatives as a way to avoid harming the private sector. It also fit with conservative views of personal responsibility and the immorality of freeloading. In 1993, Republicans pushed it as an alternative to an employer mandate. Stuart Butler, a domestic policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, described the individual mandate in 2003 as a necessary part of a "social contract." Republican Mitt Romney signed a health law with a mandate in 2006, when he was governor of Massachusetts.
Now, however, Republican governors and attorneys general are suing the federal government over the individual mandate in the new health law, saying it is unconstitutional. Romney says the federal government has no right to impose such a plan on all states. Butler told me that experience in the last seven years with the federal employee health benefits system and with auto-enrollment (you're enrolled at work or school unless you opt out) suggests the requirement is not necessary to achieve a stable health insurance system with broadly shared risks. Obama's campaign position was similar, but health experts later changed his mind.
7. Medicare spending curbs. Democrats have financed their new health law in part by planning on nearly $500 billion in Medicare savings over the next 10 years. The proposal provoked months of attacks from Republicans. That was a dizzying role reversal from the days when Republicans used to recommend the same types of reductions in future Medicare spending (and had to play defense against attacks from Obama and other Democrats, now having their own role reversal).
In 1995, for instance, Republicans proposed cutting $270 billion over seven years. In 1997, McConnell and McCain were among the Republicans voting for a Balanced Budget Act that cut Medicare by $115 billion over five years. And in his 2008 presidential campaign, McCain proposed combined Medicare and Medicaid cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years. Yet last year, as he neared a re-election campaign in a state full of retirees, McCain led the fight against the Democrats' plans to trim Medicare.
Seven issues, scores of lawmakers, an epidemic of head-slapping and re-thinking that corresponds to Obama's tenure and the rise of the Tea Party movement. Coincidence? Doubtful. Principles are in the mix, for sure, but nobody should mistake where they are sitting in the car. That would be the back seat, with politics at the wheel.
"[Y]ou should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes," said the Arizona Senator during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. "Surely Congress has the authority, and it would be right to -- if we decide we want to cut taxes to spur the economy, not to have to raise taxes in order to offset those costs. You do need to offset the cost of increased spending, and that's what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans."
White House aides immediately seized on the comments. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wrote on Twitter, "Kyl says wealthy need big Bush tax cuts while middle class families are on their own to fend for themselves as a result of Bush economy."
In private, administration officials say that the framing of the argument couldn't be more advantageous: "It's cutting taxes for the wealthy and letting the unemployed to fend for themselves," said one White House ally.
"If all of this has a familiar ring to it, it's because unpaid for tax cuts for the rich at the expense of working people is the same backward policy Republicans used to put the nation in this hole, and it's the same policy they promise to return to if put in a position of power again," added Hari Sevugan, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee.
Asked to expand on his tweets, Gibbs declined comment, save to clarify that "the question [host Chris] Wallace specifically asked Kyl was [about] the upper end of the Bush tax cuts (above $250,000)."
But the politics already are fairly obvious. For the past few months, congressional Republicans have demanded that any additional spending be offset by budget cuts or revenue increases elsewhere. Also on Sunday, White House senior adviser David Axelrod blamed deficit concerns for the difficulty in finding a 60th vote in the Senate for unemployment benefits even though, as of Friday, 2.1 million people have not received checks that they were expecting in June.
And yet, Kyl is now suggesting that the same budget rules shouldn't apply with respect to tax cuts for the wealthy, which are set to expire unless Congress acts to renew them. As Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly notes:
It's quite a message to Americans: Republicans believe $30 billion for unemployment benefits don't even deserve a vote because the money would be added to the deficit, but Republicans also believe that adding the cost of $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy to the deficit is just fine.The chart below shows the deficit impact of the Bush tax cuts over the next decade.
Friday, July 09, 2010
Boehner's spokesman Michael "Not To Be Confused With The Other Michael Steele" Steel, shot back by pointing out how hard Boehner worked at partying hard, with mega-donors (and successfully so: raising $117,000 per event).
All of which raised the question as to how hard Boehner was willing to work to actually craft a policy agenda for the GOP to maybe run on, in 2010. Well, as it turns out, that's precisely the area where all the disengagement and lack of a work ethic comes into play. But never fear! Boehner has outsourced this responsibility to heroic lobbyists, who will create the agenda for him, just as they do for everybody!
Per Roll Call:
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) have invited senior Republican lobbyists and top officials from several large trade groups to the Capitol next week to provide their suggestions for a new GOP agenda.As ThinkProgress points out, this is all pretty much par for the course:
The meeting is part of the House leaders' initiative called America Speaking Out, which is intended to draw broad input to create a new policy agenda for the party to launch in the fall.
An e-mail invitation sent to more than 20 trade representatives and obtained by Roll Call summoned guests to Boehner's second-floor office on July 16 "to discuss House Republican efforts to produce a new policy agenda with a small group of trade association leaders."
As the Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo has documented, congressional Republicans have "organized a pow-wow with lobbyists in order to devise a strategy" for nearly every piece of major legislation over the past year, from health care reform, to Wall Street reform, to climate change, to a jobs bill.
LSB: SSDD. Isn't it this kind of bobble-headed thinking that got us into some of the financial troubles we're in already? Haven't we learned that a separate watchdog on some of these institutions is a good thing?
Thursday, July 08, 2010
U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro on Thursday ruled in favor of gay couples' rights in two separate challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.
The state had argued the law denied benefits such as Medicaid to gay married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004.
Tauro agreed, and said the act forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens.
"The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid," Tauro wrote in a ruling in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Ruling in a separate case filed by Gays & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Tauro found that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"We've maintained from the very beginning that there was absolutely no basis for this law treating one class of married Massachusetts couples different from everybody else and the court has recognized that," said Gary Buseck, GLAD's legal director.
The Justice Department argued the federal government has the right to set eligibility requirements for federal benefits – including requiring that those benefits only go to couples in marriages between a man and a woman.
The law was enacted by Congress in 1996 when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize such marriages. The lawsuit challenges only the portion of the law that prevents the federal government from affording pension and other benefits to same-sex couples.
Since then, five states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.
Joe Sudbay, AmericaBlog.com: Historic day for LGBT equality. Finally. We needed a win for a change.
A Federal District Court Judge in Massachusetts ruled in two DOMA cases today. In Gill v. OPM, brought by GLAD, the judge ruled:
In the wake of DOMA, it is only sexual orientation that differentiates a married couple entitled to federal marriage-based benefits from one not so entitled. And this court can conceive of no way in which such a difference might be relevant to the provision of the benefits at issue. By premising eligibility for these benefits on marital status in the first instance, the federal government signals to this court that the relevant distinction to be drawn is between married individuals and unmarried individuals. To further divide the class of married individuals into those with spouses of the same sex and those with spouses of the opposite sex is to create a distinction without meaning. And where, as here, “there is no reason to believe that the disadvantaged class is different, in relevant respects” from a similarly situated class, this court may conclude that it is only irrational prejudice that motivates the challenged classification. As irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest, this court must hold that Section 3 of DOMA as applied to Plaintiffs violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.In a case brought by the Attorney General of Massachusetts, the Judge found that Section 3 of DOMA violated the Tenth Amendment.
I've posted the decisions at AMERICAblogGay.com. In the Gill decision, the Judge concluded, "DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster even under the highly deferential rational basis test." That is a highly deferential test. So, there was no rational basis for the law.
The Judge included this explanation of Section 3 of DOMA:
At issue in this case is Section 3 of DOMA, which defines the terms “marriage” and “spouse,” for purposes of federal law, to include only the union of one man and one woman. In particular, it provides that:
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or
interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.
Today, we celebrate. But, this is only the beginning of the process. We'll have to find out if the Obama administration plans to appeal these rulings. (Note to Obama administration: Please don't.)
This much we know: ENDA is dead for this year and if you believe Congressman Jackie Spiers, it is dead for at least five years. The repeal of DOMA has seen almost no action. We were taken out of the healthcare legislation. Most likely we will be taken out of the Immigration Reform legislation in the name of 'a greater good.' DADT is increasingly looking grim with passage of even the compromise in question. The list of bad news can go on and on.
The only question that needs to be answered "Is this acceptable to us two years into the Obama term?" And if not, how do we change tactics or escalate our actions in order to not leave our freedom in the hands of those who have chosen not to battle for them? Here are some ideas to consider:
1. STOP ENABLING: Anyone who has been even near a recovery program knows that the worst action a friend can take to someone who can't seem to 'get it together' is to enable them by explaining away their actions. Tough love is required from the LGBT community toward the Democratic party. No more 'understanding' why they have put us on the back burner yet one more time. No more explaining by our national organizations why with 58 Democratic Senators, a Democratic House and a liberal Democratic President we have failed after all this time to move on the 'Big Three.' No more taking a tough line rhetorically and then telling them all is forgiven by giving them money, resources and praise. We have to stop giving them permission to hurt and disappoint us time and time again.
2. DEMAND STOP LOSS: The President has the power today to issue a 'stop-loss' order until a military report is issued and the process to officially end DADT is begun. After all, they all say it is a given that it is over so lets not destroy anyone else's lives or dreams because the political timing is not right.
3. JUSTICE AT JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: The Department of Justice has been a hostile place for the LGBT agenda. They have spent more time fighting our rights in court than defending them. While looking for ways to intervene in Arizona, they have not even attempted to be part of the Proposition 8 case. Surely, Attorney General Eric Holder can find ways to help with the vast organization he has at his disposal. His refusing to take a stand in Maine the week before the vote was unforgivable.
4. MAKE WAY FOR NEW WAYS: Clearly the 'pretty please lobbying' we have be doing is simply not working. Never will we have better margins in Congress than we have had the last two years and we are ending up with almost nothing. We need to embrace new groups, new ways, and new ideas. Failing institutions should be held accountable and those who are pushing for full equality should be celebrated and supported. Organizations like Get Equal and the new exciting Friend Factor offer alternative tactics to support our traditional ways of organizing and demanding full equality.
5. PRACTICE POLITICAL TOUGH LOVE: Every two years they throw the 'we are better than the other guys' and imply that if we don't support people in the Democratic party who haven't supported us then we will be the ones responsible for any conservative victory. Bull! It is their lack of courage, inability to lead and tepid inspiration that have created their own political fate. We must no longer support anyone who is not for full equality and that includes marriage equality. No longer support political committees that give money to those who vote against us. We must seek out those candidates who do support full equality (and there are a huge number these days) and give them our support. We also must be willing to support primaries in the future against those within the Democratic party who don't support us.
DADT troop survey a mess; asks about sharing showers. Lead gay group warns gay troops about participating in survey at all.
It's bad enough that the Commander in Chief is asking his subordinates what they think of his order to integrate the troops (imagine a Republican president asking the troops for permission to issue an order). But now we learn that the survey has been so botched by the Obama administration that the lead gay group on lifting the ban, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, is warning gay service members about taking the survey at all.
What's more, in contrast to repeated assurances from the White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the survey is not simply about "how" to implement the repeal of DADT, it is also about "whether" to repeal at all. A full one-third of the survey is devoted to the titillating, and irrelevant, issues of showers, bathrooms, sleeping arrangements, and whether repeal will hurt morale and cohesion.
And to top it off, the lead gay civil rights group working on the issue has been cut out of the process (again) by the Obama administration.
Late last week, SLDN asked the Department of Defense and the Pentagon Working Group for the text of the surveys, more information on possible certificates of confidentiality, and whether DOD or PWG could guarantee immunity from DADT and other armed services rules and regulations for service members who are inadvertently "outed" by the surveys. The Department of Defense was unable to satisfy our request.
One could understand why George Bush's Pentagon would want to cut a civil rights group out of the process, but Barack Obama's? A man who promised to be the gay community's fierce advocate, and a man who recently bragged at the G-20 summit about how he kept his promise to repeal DADT (when it hasn't been repealed, and the law currently being debated does not repeal it at all)? Why is President Obama cutting the lead gay civil rights group on this issue out of the process? And make no mistake, this is all about President Obama. He is after all the commander in chief of the US military. He issues the orders, the Pentagon works for him.
As a result of the Obama administration cutting SLDN out, the administration screwed up the survey. There is no guarantee for gay servicemembers taking the survey that the survey results won't be used to out them, thus destroying their careers. Kind of an obvious point.
While the surveys are apparently designed to protect the individual's privacy, there is no guarantee of privacy and DOD has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself. So if by taking the survey you out yourself, tough luck.This is no small point. If the survey that is the entire basis of the decision how (and now apparently if) to repeal DADT is screwed up, then the entire implementation of the repeal (if it even ever happens) is going to be screwed up. The Obama administration has just put the entire repeal of DADT in jeopardy.
What genius came up with this screwed up process? White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, or the self-appointed leader of the gay community, who has personally claimed credit for the entire DADT compromise, the Center for American Progress' Winnie Stachelberg? If this thing gets screwed up - and it already is - and we do not see a full 100% repeal of DADT next year, if we are still discussing separate-but-equal options about segregated showers and barracks in 2011 (while the Pentagon continues to discharge gay troops and the Dept of Justice continues to defend DADT in court), Messina and Stachelberg are going to have to explain to the President why his pissed off that he never seems to be able to keep his word.
We were promised a fierce advocate. This is bullshit.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
On Fox News today, Rove directly credited his group’s success to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which overturned the decades-old ban on corporate money in politics:
HOST: Some suggest that the money that goes to American Crossroads might otherwise go to an organization like the RNC.Watch it here.
ROVE: Well that’s not correct, because American Crossroads is collecting money in excess of the individual contribution limits the RNC has allowed to give. What we’ve essentially said, is if you’ve maxed out the to senatorial committee, the congressional committee or the RNC and would like to do more, under the Citizens United decisions, you can give money to the American Crossroads 527, or Crossroads GPS, so we’re not tapping the people who — if you’ve giving to American Crossroads, you’re fully capable, in all likelihood, of giving the maximum to one of the national committee organizations.
While some reports have downplayed the impact of Citizens United on this year’s election, Rove seems to be acknowledging that his high-profile group relies on the decision for its fundraising. If Crossroads and the other new conservative attack groups raise the tens of millions of dollars they plan to spend this year from corporate donors — as Crossroads has — then the impact of the decision could be huge.
Rove explained that his donors are those who have “maxed out” contributions to the RNC and other national committees, but the individual contribution limit to these groups is $30,400 per election cycle, so Rove is clearly focused on the wealthiest of donors. As Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson noted, “By building a war chest of unregulated campaign cash…Rove would be able to wage the midterm elections on his own terms: electing candidates loyal to the GOP’s wealthiest donors and corporate patrons. With the media’s attention diverted by the noisy revolt being waged by the Tea Party, the man known as ‘Bush’s brain’ was staging a stealthier but no less significant coup of the Republican Party.”
Ignored for decades, the oldest of these wells were abandoned in the late 1940s, raising the prospect that many deteriorating sealing jobs are already failing.
The AP investigation uncovered particular concern with 3,500 of the neglected wells — those characterized in Federal government records as “temporarily abandoned.”
Regulations for temporarily abandoned wells require oil companies to present plans to reuse or permanently plug such wells within a year, but the AP found that the rule is routinely circumvented, and that more than 1,000 wells have lingered in that unfinished condition for more than a decade. About three-quarters of temporarily abandoned wells have been left in that status for more than a year, and many since the 1950s and 1960s even though sealing procedures for temporary abandonment are not as stringent as those for permanent closures.
As a forceful reminder of the potential harm, the well beneath BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig was being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment when it exploded April 20th, killing eleven workers and leading to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
BP alone has abandoned about 600 such wells in the Gulf, according to government data.
Gaius Publius, AmericaBlog.com: From Robert Kennedy Jr, we learned that BP has huge economic dis-incentives to clean up the oil. Let's say that better — it has huge economic incentives to keep the seas dirty. That story is here.
Now, thanks to Keith Olbermann on Countdown, we learn that dehydrated peat moss is an excellent way to soak up oil:
[D]ehydrated peat moss [is] not only capable of soaking up crude, which does not leak out afterwards, but microbes inside the moss break down the oil as well.
But BP won't use this solution, which has been around for years:
The owner of the peat moss company [told the Toronto Globe and Mail that] BP has
informed him it cannot use peat moss because the oil giant would not then be able to retrieve the oil afterwards. And you may translate that as: the oil giant would not be able to sell the oil afterwards.
Money, folks. The beast wants only money.
Which leads to a larger question, and problem. So now, not only can you not say anything mean about conservatives and work for the major media, but you can no longer say anything mean and even be an unpaid guest on their shows. As if Scarborough, a far-right conservative, has never said anything mean? And none of MSNBC's other guests - conservative ones, to be exact - have ever said anything mean? Really?
I can't imagine MSNBC wants to go down this path, of having people scour the online, and offline, comments of every one of their conservative guests. But that's exactly what they've invited with this weird blacklisting policy that only seems to apply to liberals. And rather sane liberals, at that.
It looks as though MSNBC is a bit hyper-sensitive about its anti-conservative image, and may be trying to move more to the right. Which is a problem, since the network has done a pretty good job of being fair to both sides - 3 hours of conservatives in the morning, 3 hours of liberals at night. This move against Markos is troubling.
Following the launch of http://www.sharronsundergroundbunker.com/ by Reid's camp last week in effort to highlight now-erased controversial policy positions that were outlined on Angle's former site, a cease-and-desist letter was issued on behalf of the Tea Party-backed contender demanding the Nevada Democrat no longer republish the wiped campaign material.
Jerry Stacy, a spokesman for Angle, accused Reid of "breaking several laws and trying to deceive voters" by calling attention to content no longer touted on the Republican hopeful's site. "You're going to see a lot of dirty tricks like that from Reid in this campaign," she charged.
But "The Real Sharron Angle" website -- which attributes its creation to the Nevada State Democratic Party and notes that it has not been authorized by any candidate -- was only one in a string of attempts to question the curious disappearance of information outlining some of Angle's most eyebrow-raising views. HuffPost's Sam Stein reported last week on some of the positions advocated by Angle on her former site that have since disappeared from her web presence.
Upon the revamp of Angle's campaign website, Reid communications director Kelly Steele said in a statement, "Obviously, Sharron Angle's new handlers are as alarmed by the prospect of promoting Angle's extreme and dangerous agenda for Nevada as most mainstream voters will be when they learn her true views."
And now, even with Angle threatening Reid with legal action, the Senate Majority Leader's camp doesn't seem to be backing away from its initial reaction to the Republican challenger's website makeover.
"These are Sharron Angle's positions in Sharron's own words from Sharron's own website. What was good enough for Nevada voters to read during the primary should be good enough for them now," said Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers. "Sharron has long believed in killing Social Security, eliminating the Departments of Education and Energy and shipping nuclear waste to Nevada. We've always heard that Sharron Angle is an unapologetic conservative. It has to be embarrassing for her to have her handlers trying to hide who she really is."
The appointment was to be made Wednesday, with lawmakers out of town for their annual July Fourth break, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a post on the White House blog.
The decision means Berwick can assume the post of administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services without undergoing confirmation hearings in the Senate. Republicans have indicated they're prepared to oppose him over comments he's made on rationing of medical care and other matters. Democrats want to avoid a nasty confirmation fight that could reopen the health care debate. Berwick was nominated in April but no confirmation hearing had been scheduled.
"Many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points," Pfeiffer wrote. "But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors' care under the Affordable Care Act, there's no time to waste with Washington game-playing."
The decision to use a recess appointment to skirt the Senate is sure to draw fire from Republicans although the tool has been used frequently by presidents of both political parties. Obama last made a batch of recess appointments in March, and along with Berwick he was to make two other less prominent appointments Wednesday, one to a pension board and the other to a science post in the White House, the White House said. The recess appointment will allow Berwick to serve through next year without Senate confirmation.
"This recess appointment is an insult to the American people," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a statement. "Dr. Berwick is a self-professed supporter of rationing health care and he won't even have to explain his views to the American people in a congressional hearing. Once again, President Obama has made a mockery of his pledge to be accountable and transparent."
The Senate Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said "the fact that this administration won't allow the man charged with implementing the president's plan to cut $500 billion out of Medicare to testify about his plans for the care of our nation's seniors is truly outrageous."
Berwick, 63, is a pediatrician, Harvard University professor and leader of a health care nonprofit organization who's drawn support from many quarters, including the American Medical Association, since his nomination to oversee the enormous Medicare and Medicaid health insurance plans for the elderly, poor and disabled.
He's been criticized by Republicans for a number of comments, including telling an interviewer last year: "The decision is not whether or not we will ration care – the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly." (MORE)
The study published Wednesday by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center says "considerable uncertainty" surrounds the state ballot initiative. It would allow adults, 21 and over, to possess an ounce of marijuana and cities and counties to license and tax commercial pot sales.
The authors predict that retail marijuana prices could drop from $375 an ounce under the state's current medical marijuana law to as low as $38 per ounce.
According to the RAND analysis, consumers would pay more than that – about $91 an ounce – once taxes imposed by local governments are figured in.
LSB: Sure, some income to the state would be helpful, but the reduction in costs to adjudicate drug crimes and incarcerate petty criminals for offenses related to marijuana would be an even greater cost savings. Legalizing weed would free law enforcement to concentrate on more serious crimes, and let's not forget that consumers could be assured of purchasing weed without enhancements, making it a bit safer. Aren't we just going through the same societal angst that we went through with legalizing alcohol a century ago?
He railed: "Who is Obama? Why is he doing this? Why? Why is he doing it? Is he stupid? Is it an accident? Is he doing it on purpose or what have you? ... I think we face something we've never faced before in the country -- and that is, we're now governed by people who do not like the country, who do not have the same reverence for it that we do. Our greatest threat (and this is saying something) is internal."
Limbaugh went on to compare Obama to the Black Panthers:
"So in this interview with J. Christian Adams yesterday talking about [how] he and his line attorneys were told to just drop the case against the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation in Philadelphia, he said that there were people in the office, DOJ, who said, 'Well, you know, those people suffered the indignity of slavery, discrimination, segregation and so forth.'
He said somebody else said, 'This is payback,' meaning, 'All right, look. We don't care
if it's the New Black Panthers or whoever it is. Black people in this country have never, ever had a fair shake. This is payback. O.J. Simpson was payback. How does it feel?' That word 'payback' is not mine, [but] it is exactly how I think Obama looks at the country: It's payback time... There's no question that payback is what this administration is all about, presiding over the decline of the United States of America, and doing so happily."
Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law one of the more controversial bills from the recent legislative session, one allowing guns to be carried into houses of worship.I am only too sure that a law allowing mosque-goers to carry guns to service will not rile up Louisiana's paranoiacs at all!
[State Representative Henry] Burns' [R-Haughton] bill would authorize persons who qualified to carry concealed weapons having passed the training and background checks to bring them to churches, mosques, synagogues or other houses of worship as part of a security force.
Some restrictions apply. The "head of the religious institution" would have to "announce verbally or in weekly newsletters or bulletins that there will be individuals armed on the property as members of the security force," and those lucky individuals would have to receive "eight hours of tactical training each year."
So, why is all of this necessary? Basically, Representative Burns is concerned about a possible "First Sunday scenario":
Burns contended that religious institutions in crime-ridden or "declining neighborhoods" need the added protection to ward off thieves and muggers.The Times-Picayune notes that the same law permitting houses of worship to gun up also allows them "hire off-duty police or security guards to protect congregants" which, on balance, would seem to be the saner option.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
HuffingtonPost.com: Rachel Maddow was among the cable news hosts and pundits who were unsatisfied with President Obama's Oval Office address about the oil spill Tuesday night.
But instead of just complaining, Maddow offered a version of what she wished the President had said — and she did it from a fake Oval Office set on her show Wednesday night.
"You know how sometimes you get into an argument or confrontation with somebody, you can't help afterwards thinking of all the things you wished you'd said?" Maddow said. "Well, last night after the President's big Oval Office speech on the BP oil disaster, I had a version of that experience. I hadn't, of course, been in an argument with the President or anything. I just couldn't stop running tape in my head of what I wish that speech had been like, what I wish he'd said. An Oval Office address is a priceless chance to get the nation to stop what it's doing, to stop every other TV show in the country, to get us all to pay attention all at once to this crisis and to what the President has to say about it."
Maddow said she wished Obama had announced three major developments in the response to the disaster:
- "Never again, will any company, anyone, be allowed to drill in a location where they are incapable of dealing with the potential consequences of that drilling."
- "I'm announcing a new federal command specifically for containment and cleanup of oil that has already entered the Gulf of Mexico, with a priority on protecting shoreline that can still be saved; shoreline that is vulnerable to oil that has not yet been hit."
- "I no longer say that we must get off oil like every president before me has said too. I no longer say that we must get off oil. We will get off oil and here's how: The United States Senate will pass an energy bill. This year."
Brett Michael Dykes, Yahoo! News: Well, that was fast.
Barely 10 minutes into Thursday's landmark congressional testimony — where BP CEO Tony Hayward and other leading company executives are revisiting the Gulf Coast oil spill before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — the first controversial statement has entered the record.
And no, it didn't come from the gaffe-prone BP brass. Instead, GOP Rep. Joe Barton of Texas — the ranking member on the House Energy Committee — made a decisive splash in his opening remarks. A staunch conservative who has a long record of backing oil industry interests, Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the "shakedown" the Obama White House pulled on the company. (Barton has received more than $1.5 million in campaign donations from the oil industry, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan watchdog group.) You can watch the video here:
"I'm not speaking for anybody in the House of Representatives but myself," Barton explained, "but I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown. In this case a $20 billion shakedown."
Wrapping up, Barton said: "I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words — amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize."
Poorly regulated and maintained aging pipelines belonging to Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil, regularly burst, spewing black crude onto the mangroves and into the creeks for months at a time. Last month, soldiers guarding an Exxon Mobil site beat women who demonstrated against the spills.
“There is Shell oil on my body,” said Hannah Baage, emerging from Gio Creek with a machete to cut the cassava stalks balanced on her head.
The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster has transfixed a country and president they so admire is a matter of wonder for people who here, among the palm-fringed estuaries in conditions as abject as any in Nigeria. Though their region contributes nearly 80 percent of the government’s revenue, they have hardly benefit from it, and life expectancy is the lowest in Nigeria.
“President Obama is worried about that one,” Claytus Kanyie, a local official, said of the gulf spill, standing among dead mangroves in the soft oily muck outside Bodo. “Nobody is worried about this one. The aquatic life of our people is dying off. There used be shrimp. There are no longer any shrimp.”
With revised estimates that as many as 2.5 million gallons of oil could be spilling into the Gulf of Mexico each day, the Niger Delta has suddenly become a cautionary tale for the United States.
According to a team of experts for the Nigerian government and international and local environmental groups, as many as 546 million gallons of oil spilled into the Niger Delta in the past five decades, or nearly 11 million gallons a year. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 dumped an estimated 10.8 million gallons of oil into the waters off Alaska.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
(NYT) A government panel raised its estimate of the flow rate from BP’s damaged well yet again on Tuesday, declaring that as much as 60,000 barrels a day could be gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The flow was already categorized as the largest offshore oil spill in the nation’s history, but the new figures sharply increase previous estimates. Scientists on Tuesday estimated that the flow rate ranged from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day—up from the rate they issued only last week, of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. It continues a pattern in which every new estimate of the flow rate has been dramatically higher than the one before.How long before the nuclear option is back on the table? Seems to me that if we're going to have to nuke the thing in the end... well, we might as well nuke it sooner rather than later.
LSB: The nuclear option ("inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow") sounds dangerous and incorporates all kinds of political problems, but nothing else is stemming the flow of oil. Can it be any more detrimental to the environment than the long-term problems of even more oil in the ocean?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
According to a recent USA Today report:
Schools in Hispanic areas report unusual drops in enrollment. The Balsz Elementary School District is 75% Hispanic, and within a month of the law's passage, the parents of 70 students pulled them out of school, said District Superintendent Jeffrey Smith. The district lost seven students over the same one-month period last year, and parents tell Smith the Arizona law is the reason for leaving. [...]
Businesses serving the Hispanic community say business is down, signaling that illegal immigrants are holding on to cash in anticipation of a move from the state, said David Castillo, co-founder of the Latin Association of Arizona, a chamber of commerce for nearly 400 first-generation Hispanic business owners.
But the reports out of the state don't yet serve as a comprehensive analysis of population numbers, and some say that the recent outflow of Hispanics from Arizona may just be the latest in a trend that has shown diminished immigration numbers and increasing departures from the state due to the poor economy over the past few years. (More)
The heart of the immigration dilemma: Only 5,000 green cards to cover 500,000 unskilled-labor jobs (David Neiwert, Crooks and Liars). When reality catches up to Arizonans for their passage of their misbegotten police-state immigration law, it's going to be ugly and unpleasant. If other states really are considering passing similar laws, they will want to watch what happens to Arizona -- and they will inevitably wind up thinking twice.
We've pointed out previously -- as have the nation's police chiefs -- that the law is almost certain to in fact increase violent crime and dilute law enforcement's capacity to deal with it in Arizona.
And that will only be the first consequence (and a decidedly ironic one, since this law was sold as being a means to crack down on violent crime). The longest-lasting and most significant, however, will be the economic one: When the Latino workforce flees Arizona, their economy will suffer a dramatic downturn unlike any they've seen in decades.
It's already starting to happen:
Arizona’s hard-hitting immigration law is driving Hispanics out of the state weeks before the controversial law goes into effect.
Although concrete figures are not available, anecdotal evidence suggests Hispanics, both legal residents and illegal immigrants, are starting to flee.
Schools in Hispanic neighborhoods are reporting abnormal enrollment drops, and businesses that serve Hispanics also report that business is down, according to a USA Today report published Wednesday.
The report suggests that the immigration law is compounding demographic trends that have already significantly curtailed illegal immigration during the past two years. The bad economy has been the primary deterrent to many Hispanic immigrants seeking to enter Arizona, says Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.
“If you have a bad economy and a hostile environment, then that’s likely to cause people to think twice about coming, and possibly even to leave,” Mr. Passel says.
... Any loss, however, will be a loss for the Arizona economy, [David Gutierrez, a professor of immigration history, at the University of California San Diego] suggests.
“Latinos...are a highly flexible, highly exploitable work force, a buffer to economic downturns,” he says. “Many of the industries here – agriculture, service industries, low-end manufacturing, construction – are massively dependent on undocumented workers.
“If I were able to conduct an experiment and pay all of Arizona’s undocumented workers to not work for two weeks, the economy would come to a screeching, crashing halt instantaneously.” ...
... because we pursue the American Dream, we will always have a need for immigrants, particularly those who perform unskilled labor. As the economy grows, so will the demand for that kind of labor. And we need immigration laws that will help fill that demand rationally and in a controlled way, not through the induced illegality of our current system.
Blaming the immigrants themselves, as the Arizona law does, is not a solution: it only worsens the problem. When Arizona businesses start failing because they cannot obtain a legal workforce under their new regime, the rest of the nation will get to see why just "enforcing the laws we have on the books" is no longer a viable option -- socially, legally, or economically.