Thursday, December 30, 2010

Go see this movie.

But only if you can stand being brought back to the level of anger and frustration you felt at the time the Bush people were lying us into invading Iraq the first time around.

I don't watch horror movies, slasher movies, or that kind of thing, but watching Fair Game the other night I felt the way you feel when the scantily-dressed young woman starts wandering around the abandoned house. "Don't open that door!" Only in this case it's more wanting to yell out "That's a lie!" every time you hear something from Condoleezza Rice or George Bush.

I had my questions about Fair Game, mostly because I had a hard time seeing Sean Penn as Joe Wilson, but he was great, Naomi Watts was great as Valerie Plame. The roles of that rat-faced weasel Scooter Libby and that porcine toad Karl Rove were also perfectly cast.

It was kind of like watching All the President's Men. The history is very recent, you remember most of it from when it was happening, and it confirms the viciousness of the crimes of the Bush administration. The movie even did a good job of explaining why the two most obvious lies from the Bush people--the yellowcake from Niger and the aluminum tubes--were pure fabrications.

One funny coincidence is that I happened to see this movie the same day I learned from Romenesko's Twitter feed that Dick Cheney's stenographer, Judy Miller, is now writing for that right-wing publication Newsmax.

Thanks, Judy.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tinkers. Paul Harding.

TinkersTinkers by Paul Harding

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book takes its structure from a period of eight days when a character, George Washington Crosby, is lying in bed, dying. It encompasses his sense impressions and experiences in his deathbed, his wandering memories, and the stories of his father and grandfather.

Unfortunately, George, supposedly the central character, lacks interest and focus. It left the people in my book group wondering what this was. Was it actually a novel or was it something else, and if something else, what, exactly?

It wasn't bad, and it was very short. I found some very interesting sections, but they weren't enough to recommend the book as a whole.

View all my reviews

Labels: ,

Friday, December 24, 2010

B- B- but, we're the Party of Lincoln™!

If you had to say something nice about the Republicans, I guess it would be that they at least have the decency to to recognize how vile and shameful their constant appeals to racism are.

Of course, that's only when they get caught, and they don't have the decency to stop.

The first macaca moment of the 2012 presidential campaign has been provided by the crapulent Haley Barbour, whose efforts at backpedaling could have qualified him for the circus.

It's a long and sordid history, going back to Nixon's Southern Strategy, but we can also recall the multiple explicit appeals to racism by Ronald Reagan, including his choice of Philadelphia, Mississippi to kick off his presidential campaign, his references to food stamp fraud by "big bucks" who use them to buy liquor, or his support for the racist Bob Jones University. More recently we have the racist campaign sponsored by the odious Lee Atwater, who capped off his life with a phony apology for his racist acts.

This year it's Haley Barbour and his praise for the White Citizens' Councils. Hodding Carter had a great explication of their nature and methods on NPR, but the short, although entirely accurate, version of it is that they were the clean hands, suit-wearing version of the Klan: they eschewed violence because they didn't need it as long as the Klan was there to enforce the more polite dictates of the Citizens' Councils.

Today's Republicans never miss a chance, particularly when their racism is exposed, to point out that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican (yes, the same republicans who still talk fondly about their secessionist forbears). Still, I don't think there is anyone outside of the Republican base, who buys it, so if you're a Republican reading this, just spare us.

What's the upshot of this week's brouhaha? Possibly not much, although it's important to expose today's Republicans for the racist dogs they are. That, and Barbour's shot at the 2012 campaign has taken a severe hit.

Hey, if he's not on the national ticket, I bet there's room for him on the ballot in Vermont as the candidate of the Second Vermont Republic.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Let's not be hasty

I know. People have accused me of being immoderate, of not being fair in my criticism of Republicans.

Maybe they're right, so I'll try to qualify my negative judgment.

I'll go on the record right now and say this: I don't consider every Republican in the Senate a worthless piece of shit, just the ones who didn't vote to block the filibuster against the bill to provide life-sustaining health care for the September 11 first responders.

Wait a minute--what?

You mean there were no Republicans who voted to support the first responders?

I guess maybe they are all worthless pieces of shit.

Labels: , ,

It's about damn time.

Thanks to Violetta for letting me know about this.

WASHINGTON – The House may vote next week on a measure that could damage U.S. relations with critical ally Turkey: a resolution declaring the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide.

We've written about this before, but just to refresh your recollection, the Turks slaughtered a million and a half Armenians around the time of World War I in what is considered the first act of genocide of the Twentieth Century.

Turkey, of course, doesn't like it when people have the bad tasted to remind them of this. Turkey, a NATO ally with a pivotal role for U.S. interests in the Middle East and Afghanistan, has warned that the resolution's approval could jeopardize U.S-Turkish cooperation and set back negotiations aimed at opening the border between Turkey and Armenia. Turkey also currently holds one of the rotating seats in the United Nations' Security Council that will have to approve sanctions against Iran.

Here's what Barack Obama said about the genocide in 2008:

I also share with Armenian Americans – so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors - a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. Senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey's acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term "genocide" to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Since then he has been less forthcoming. For instance, here's what he said earlier this year:

“On this solemn day of remembrance, we pause to recall that 95 years ago one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century began,” Mr. Obama said in the statement, which largely echoed the same language he used on this date a year ago. “In that dark moment of history, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.”

Still a strong condemnation, but not what he promised, and not what the world knows to be the case.

The time is long overdue. Call on your representatives in the House and Senate to support the Armenian genocide resolution.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The ADL gets it right

Over the years I've criticized the Anti-Defamation League. In fact, I could have sworn I'd excoriated them on these very pages, but I'm not finding it.

Where to begin? Of course, over the years they've demonstrated that they're on record supporting the Turkish genocide of the Armenians.

Or there was the time during the Gaza war when the ADL called Bill Moyers a racist for criticizing Israel's attacks on the civilians of Gaza.

Or, when Israel was at war with Lebanon, the way the ADL called for the use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians.

Still, as I say, fair is fair. If we're going to call them out when they're wrong, they deserve credit when they're right, and today is that day.

Henry Kissinger came under a lot of criticism over the last couple of days because of his comments about a potential genocide against Soviet Jews. In new Nixon tapes that were just released, tapes that once again illustrate the vicious racism and anti-Semitism of Richard Nixon, there is an exchange between Nixon and Kissinger about Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.

An indication of Nixon’s complex relationship with Jews came the afternoon Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, came to visit on March 1, 1973. The tapes capture Meir offering warm and effusive thanks to Nixon for the way he had treated her and Israel.

But moments after she left, Nixon and Mr. Kissinger were brutally dismissive in response to requests that the United States press the Soviet Union to permit Jews to emigrate and escape persecution there.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

Fortunately, the ADL is ever at the ready to come to the defense of the poor, maligned Kissinger. Here's the conclusion of their statement from earlier today:

The Nixon Tapes should not change history's verdict on the important contributions and ultimate legacy of Henry Kissinger.

When you're right, you're right.

In Slate today, Christopher Hitchens gives an eloquent assessment of all the reasons Henry Kissinger should never be allowed to be at large among civilized people. One could have demanded this at almost any time during the years since his role as the only unindicted conspirator in the Nixon/Watergate gang, and since the exposure of his war crimes and crimes against humanity in Indochina, Chile, Argentina, Cyprus, East Timor, and several other places.

So it's a matter of context. It would be hard to find someone in our history whose record of war crimes, depravity, and villainy extends to so many disparate countries; who has crushed the legitimate aspirations for democracy of so many peoples; and who has simultaneously demonstrated such abject sycophancy in the presence of the powerful.

Set alongside such a record, a few vile comments made to the most atrocious criminal ever to grace the Oval Office rest like a feather added to the deck of a supertanker.

So have some respect for the ADL. When they say we don't need to judge Kissinger any more harshly than we already do because of these latest revealed statements, for once they're right.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What went wrong?

We're still dealing with the aftermath of the deal Obama cut with Mitch McConnell the other day, even though it's really too early to tell if we're in the aftermath yet.

There's been quite a range of opinion, from overheated claims that Obama was always just a Republican in disguise or that he never planned to eliminate the millionaires' tax cut, end DADT, or promulgate real health care reform; to arguments that he actually made a good deal that we should all be celebrating, not criticizing, or that people need to understand that coming across as an angry black man won't help him get anywhere.

I think all of these claims are wrong, mainly because they're missing the point. People do feel betrayed, and with some justification. On the other hand, inspirational as his candidacy was, Candidate Obama was always just a moderately liberal centrist Democrat, and that is generally how he has governed. The sense of betrayal is more the result of disappointed supporters realizing that he didn't live up to their projections than his actual statements.

There are plenty of respectable liberal economists and analysts who make the point that the deal Obama made, given the circumstances, was the best he could have made; I suspect this is true, but there is some reason to question it.

The key phrase, though, is given the circumstances. To me, the question isn't why he made the deal he made, but why he let himself get maneuvered into such a position of weakness, and why he has repeatedly done that during his presidency.

What I've observed is that Obama has repeatedly failed or refused to take the initiative on issues that were important to him and to the Democratic base. For instance, take health care. In 1994, when Bill Clinton tried to pass health care reform he was attacked for setting up a shop in the White House to come up with a plan; it crashed and burned. Obama overlearned that lesson by deciding to just leave it all up to Congress. We know what happened: the Republicans spent the summer of 2009 lying about death panels; Senate leadership wasted their time trying to curry favor with people like Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Charles Grassley, who were never going to support anything; Obama tried to buy off special interests to get their support; but fundamentally Obama never changed his approach.

We have seen the same thing in the Middle East. Obama has failed to articulate a vision for peace in the Middle East and as a consequence he was forced to offer big payments to Israel in exchange for the hope at a token 90-day suspension of illegal settlements. We can actually be glad Netanyahu decided not to take the deal, even as it betrays Obama's weakness.

That's what happened with taxes. We're told that the polls still show that strong majorities of Americans don't support extending the millionaires' and billionaires' tax cut, but it's probably going to happen. It didn't have to, though. For months liberals have been saying that Obama should have introduced his own tax cut, he could even call it the Obama Tax Plan, that extended the tax cuts up to $250,000, lifted the FICA cap, and probably did a few other changes to make the tax system more progressive, and pushed it through Congress. It would have put the Republicans in the position of going into the election either voting for it or voting no on tax cuts for 98% of the American people. Back in September even Boehner said that if he had to he would have voted for that bill. So why not make the Republicans vote for it? Before the election is when he had some leverage, not after they won.

The same is true with the federal employees' pay freeze. I don't have an opinion on whether it was a good idea or not, but I'm sure it's something the Republicans would have wanted. They might have wanted it enough to trade something for it, but they didn't have to because Obama gave it up unilaterally. Would it have been worth enough for them to agree to extend unemployment? We'll never know, will we? For that matter, there are plenty of observers who think the Republicans, if forced to it, would have voted to extend unemployment benefits because they wouldn't have wanted to look like the economic royalists they are. I doubt that, but again, Obama never tried that, so we'll never know.

So where do we all stand? I'm not really sure. Obama has clearly mishandled this situation very badly. He will probably get the deal through, pretty much as written, but that remains to be seen. The price for the deal, though, is not just giving the Republicans the billionaires' tax cut. We've been hearing plenty of liberals who supported Obama who are now saying he has permanently lost their support. We also hear people saying it's time for a primary challenge.

I think this is misguided. History tells us that an incumbent president who gets a serious primary challenge loses, either during the primaries or in the general election. The list is a long one: Johnson, Ford, Carter, Bush. It could certainly happen to Obama in 2012, although much depends on how the economy is doing.

If that happens, though, we are not going to be trading an unsatisfactory President Obama for a preferable President Kucinich, Clinton, or some other liberal Democrat. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is not the strongest part of the party at the present time, so there's no guarantee that we will get a more liberal nominee. (If you'll remember, the only serious candidate in 2008 who was more liberal than Obama was John Edwards. I invite you to contemplate what a disaster that would have been.)

No. If Obama faces a serious primary challenge in 2012 the likeliest outcome is the election of Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, or some other vicious Republican. Do you seriously think that would be better than reelecting Obama?

If you do, please tell me what color the moon on your planet is.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More evidence of the evil influence of the Catholic Church

This time it's thanks to Wikileaks.

Newly released, confidential U.S. diplomatic cables indicate that Ireland caved in to Vatican pressure to grant immunity to church officials in the investigation of decades of sex abuse by Irish clergy.

The Murphy Commission's requests offended many in the Vatican, the Holy See's Assessor Peter Wells (protect strictly) told DCM, because they saw them as an affront to Vatican sovereignty. Vatican officials were also angered that the Government of Ireland did not step in to direct the Murphy Commission to follow standard procedures in communications with Vatican City. Adding insult to injury, Vatican officials also believed some Irish opposition politicians were making political hay with the situation by calling publicly on the government to demand that the Vatican reply. Ultimately, Vatican Secretary of State (Prime Minister equivalent) Bertone wrote to the Irish Embassy that requests related to the investigation must come through diplomatic channels via letters rogatory.

This brings to mind a couple of thoughts:

First, it proves that Ratzinger's claims to being sympathetic to the victims of child rape by Catholic priests are a lie.

Second, it illustrates the danger of ceding government power to religious organizations. People who argue that the United States is a Christian nation, or that our law is based on Judeo-Christian principles, should consider how willing they are to sacrifice their children to child rapists in black robes.

Labels: , , ,

More attention to the attack on Social Security

In my post earlier this week I mentioned one of the real problems in Obama's tax capitulation: the payroll tax cut.

If you recall, one of the biggest victories we had during the Bush administration was the defeat of Bush's plan to kill off Social Security by privatizing it. Hint: aren't you glad the Social Security trust fund wasn't in the market at the time of the 2008 crash? It was a hard fight because the Republicans have opposed Social Security from FDR's time, but for decades Social Security was considered the third rail of American politics. Now it's lost that status, giving Republicans free rein to attack the most effective anti-poverty program in our history.

But why is Obama going over to their side and trying to undermine Social Security? And trying to convince us it's a good deal for working people?

Make no mistake, the proposed deal shortchanges Social Security by cutting the FICA tax. For years, Republicans have been attacking Social Security, mainly by claiming that it's about to run out of money. How does it make sense to make their argument by taking money out of the fund?

As this story on yesterday's All Things Considered points out, the plan is actually to replace the lost FICA money with general fund revenues. In my view that doesn't make it a better deal; if anything, it weakens the support that people have had for Social Security from the beginning. It's just a bad idea. Even if the deal had nothing else wrong with it, this in itself would be enough to say we should fight it.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, December 06, 2010


The news is that Obama has capitulated to the Republicans, agreeing to extend tax cuts for the richest people in the country, take a pittance for unemployment, and actually cut funding for the Social Security Trust Fund.

The stated rationale for the tax cut proposal is that the tax cuts proposed and implemented by George W. Bush in 2001 are needed to create jobs. Uh-huh. The jobs we've been seeing for the last ten years under the tax policies in existence right now?

Yes, that's what they're saying.

What we do know is that the actual motivation for the R's is to make sure the richest people in the country continue to reap mind-boggling incomes and mind-boggling tax cuts.

And they'll screw the whole country to do it.

So here are a few facts about this "deal":

1. If the current tax rates were what we need to create jobs they'd be creating jobs right now, but they're not.
2. American corporations are sitting on unprecedented supplies of cash, and they don't need tax cuts to get enough money to hire more workers. They're not going to hire more workers until they think economic conditions will support them.
3. The real job creators are the people who spend their money. That especially means the people on unemployment, who spend every dime they get, and for this reason every dollar spent in unemployment benefits creates $1.61 in economic activity, better than almost every other mechanism for economic stimulus.
4. The deal includes a cut in the "payroll tax". The people who have been attacking Social Security since the 1930's, and supported Bush's plan to kill the program off by privatizing it, were able to get Obama to agree to a cut in the payroll tax. This means that every Republican's argument that Social Security is headed toward bankruptcy just got a little stronger.

No more negotiating with terrorists. Call your congressional delegation and tell them to vote no on the tax cut extension.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

God's work on the march

I try to avoid being typecast as someone who criticizes only one religion, the one I was indoctrinated (remarkably unsuccessfully) in during my formative years, so every so often I like to point out that stupidity isn't limited to the Catholics. Here's a sampling.

First off, let's not overlook the Catholics. Here's what passes for moral reasoning in the Catholic Church:

KELLY: Are you saying that the pope was perhaps using some sort of sliding scale here? That while not condoning contraception, not condoning homosexuality, he's signaling that they are not the worst evils, and that passing on HIV is worse?

Father FESSIO: He's not giving a scale of evil or good here. But let me give you a pretty simple example. Let's suppose we've got a bunch of muggers who like to use steel pipes when they mug people. But some muggers say, gosh, you know, we don't need to hurt them that badly to rob them. Let's put foam pads on our pipes. Then we'll just stun them for a while, rob them and go away. So if the pope then said, well, yes, I think that using padded pipes is actually a little step in a moral direction there, that doesn't mean he's justifying using padded pipes to mug people. He's just saying, well, they did something terrible, but while they were doing that, they had a little flicker of conscience there that led them in the right direction.

I know I just blogged about this, but it's so horrifying that I had to bring it up again.

Next we have the theme park for ignoramuses: the state of Kentucky is plunging millions of taxpayer dollars into religious proselytizing of the most absurd sort.

It's true. In Kentucky, the idiots who run the Creation Museum are starting a biblical theme park in Kentucky, with the help of $37,000,000 from the taxpayers of Kentucky.

The governor is defending it as the kind of business giveaway that governments engage in all the time on the rationale that government-sponsored economic development creates jobs. So what's next? Government funds to Mormon missionaries because they buy airline tickets?

Finally, this is something that's actually kind of a sad story, but it illustrates the partial obsolescence of religion in general.

You know that back in October there was a volcanic eruption in Indonesia and a few people were killed in the eruption. One of the people killed was the guy identified as the spiritual guardian of the volcano.

The man, known as Grandfather Marijan, was among 29 people pulled from the fine grey ash as rescue workers scoured the slopes for victims and survivors of the eruptions.

From his house beneath the smoking crater, the royally appointed guardian, aged in his 70s, had for years led traditional rituals to appease the Indonesian volcano's ancient spirits.

His body was found on Wednesday covered in ash and reportedly in a position of prayer, suggesting the old gatekeeper had struggled to the end to soothe the violent energies in the mountain's core.

I take no pleasure in this old guy's death, but it does point out a crucial shortcoming of religions. At one point, religions had the function of explaining natural phenomena that were beyond the knowledge and understanding of humanity.

It's 2010, though, and the mechanism that makes volcanoes erupt is well understood, at least everyplace except the hillsides of Indonesia. Because of his ignorance, Grandfather Marijan died instead of removing to a place of safety, and he's dead now.

In fact, there is no longer a single natural phenomenon that can only be explained by some supernatural concept. I recognize that this isn't the only reason people cling to religion, but we're pretty much past the "god bowling up in heaven" as the explanation for thunder, right?

Time to move on.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 04, 2010


I guess that's the lesson to be learned. The Republicans are in favor of a tax increase for 100% of American earners.

Or, to be clear, they want to make sure your taxes go up unless they can cut taxes for the millionaires and billionaires.

The Senate on Saturday rejected President Obama’s proposal to end the Bush-era tax breaks on income above $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals, a triumph for Republicans who have long called for continuing the income tax cuts for everyone.

Like most media outlets the Times has it wrong. The bill that the Republicans rejected would have extended the tax cuts for EVERYBODY. All earnings up to roughly $250,000 would be subject to the tax cut. Even if you are Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or the Wal-Mart heirs, you would have gotten a tax cut on your first quarter of a million.

How can the Republicans defend the indefensible?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 02, 2010


This is the strategy that many of us have been arguing for for months.

Using a wily procedural maneuver to tie Republican hands, House Democrats managed to pass, by a vote of 234-188, legislation that will allow the Bush tax cuts benefiting only the wealthiest Americans to expire.

(Actually, I didn't know about the wily procedural maneuver, but for a long time I've been saying that they should just go ahead and pass the cuts for incomes up to $250,000 and just let the R's do whatever they're going to do, but the principle's the same.)

They really put the Republicans in a box: vote for something they didn't like, or vote against tax cuts for people who make less than a quarter of a million a year. They chose the second option.

They can come back later in the lame duck session, or next year, and tell the American people that it wasn't good enough to cut taxes for 98% of us, they also want to cut taxes for the top 2%. Let them fight on that issue.

This is another major success for Nancy Pelosi. It also takes some of the pressure off Obama to make a deal with the R's on the other stuff.

What's the down side? The Republicans stop being accommodating?

Labels: , ,