Monday Mashup Part 1 (11/30/09)

November 30, 2009

  • 1) I detected a bit of an inconsistency with the following from Republican political strategist Ed Rollins in this CNN editorial…

    …Michaele and Tareq Salahi want to be famous as stars of reality television. I am all for that. Give them a reality television series and call it “Trial and Jailtime” in the D.C. criminal justice system. This despicable, desperate, duplicitous couple disgraced the Secret Service and embarrassed the president in his home.

    If someone wants to bring charges against these two and investigate how they came face-to-face with the President of the United States the other night at the state dinner for the Indian prime minister and his wife, then I would tend to think that that’s a good idea.

    However, it would have been nice if we had heard such outrage from Rollins and his pals when James Guckert (under the alias “Jeff Gannon”) accessed the White House and was admitted to the White House press briefing room on day press passes for almost two years, even though the following was true:

    • (Gannon had) no media experience other than a two-day training course at The Leadership Institute’s Broadcast School of Journalism.
    • (Gannon) was denied media credentials April 7, 2004, by the “Standing Committee of Correspondents, the press body that oversees the distribution of credentials on Capitol Hill.”
    • (Gannon) was not working for a recognized media outlet.
    • (Gannon) had access to the White House press briefing room before Talon News (a “psuedo-news” organization tied to a right-wing web site; it was the alleged news site Gannon worked for) was operational.

    So to sum up, Rollins thinks that the two gate crashers at the state dinner recently held at the White House should be prosecuted, but neither he nor anyone else in his party thinks Jeff Gannon should pay any price whatsoever, considering that he “somehow bypassed both Secret Service and FBI screening to access the White House press room.”

    And Rollins wrote this for CNN.

    We’ll have to “leave it there.”

  • 2) I felt like I was taking a bit of a trip back in time when I read through this “Politico” rehash of Republican talking points, called “7 ‘Stories’ Obama Doesn’t Want Told” (including the following – I’ll explain in a minute)…

    People used to make fun of Bill Clinton’s misty-eyed, raspy-voiced claims that, “I feel your pain.”

    The reality, however, is that Clinton’s dozen years as governor before becoming president really did leave him with a vivid sense of the concrete human dimensions of policy. He did not view programs as abstractions — he viewed them in terms of actual people he knew by name.

    Obama, a legislator and law professor, is fluent in describing the nuances of problems. But his intellectuality has contributed to a growing critique that decisions are detached from rock-bottom principles.

    Both Maureen Dowd in The New York Times and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post have likened him to Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

    The Spock imagery has been especially strong during the extended review Obama has undertaken of Afghanistan policy. He’ll announce the results on Tuesday. The speech’s success will be judged not only on the logic of the presentation but on whether Obama communicates in a more visceral way what progress looks like and why it is worth achieving. No soldier wants to take a bullet in the name of nuance.

    (Oh, by the way, this is “story” number two of seven – insert your snark here.)

    So basically, what we have here is a “reboot,” if you will, of the Al Gore “Ozone Man” narrative of the 2000 election (as the punditocracy told us, Gore was intellectual, not a “common man” like George W. Bush, couldn’t decide whether or not he was an “alpha male” and was therefore a liar, etc. – I know I’m leaving some other contrived mythology on Gore, but you get the idea).

    And it’s appropriate actually that Harris would mention MoDo here since, perhaps more than anyone else (here), she piled onto the former veep during the campaign over Gore’s “obsessions about global warming and the information highway”; she also compared Gore to the “wackadoo wing of the Democratic Party” for his criticism of the Iraq war; and has repeatedly furthered numerous falsehoods about Gore, such as that Gore once claimed to have “invented the Internet” (guess there was no way to avoid that one) and that author Naomi Wolf advised Gore on his wardrobe.

    And by the way, I would not have blamed Dowd or anyone else if what they wrote was legitimate, verifiable criticism instead of corporate media idiocy.

    But getting back to Obama, John Harris of Politico takes note of the president’s “peculiar” bow to the Japanese emperor and concludes with the following…

    Obama’s best hope of nipping bad storylines is to replace them with good ones rooted in public perceptions of his effectiveness.

    Of course, there’s no word on whether or not Harris and his playmates will actually take note of those “good ones” (such as Obama’s speech before Congress on health care and not taking the bait of the oafish Joe “You Lie” Wilson) as opposed to rehashing the bad ones instead for the millionth time.

  • Update 1 12/1/09: And while The Politico concocts dookey like this, blogger Nathan Newman actually went to work and reported on achievements of the Obama Administration here (of course, too bad that reality conflicts with Harris’s dumb narratives – hat tip to Chris Bowers of Open Left).

    Update 2 12/1/09: “Spock this” indeed – ha, ha, ha.

  • 3) And finally, here is more unintentional comedy from “Z on TV”…

    A consensus is starting to build that says so far, Barack Obama has been a lot better at playing a president on TV than actually being one in 2009.

    Maybe it is the arrival of the holidays and the inescapable realization that our president has seemed to be mostly indifferent to the millions of Americans who are out of work and can’t even start to think of holiday cheer. While the White House has been focused in recent months on such misguided campaigns as trying to beat Fox News into submission for daring to criticize him, more and more Americans are wondering why the president hasn’t heard their growing cries of desperation. That’s what the intensity and outrage of the town halls were really about during the summer. But the tin ears in the administration didn’t hear it. They were too busy booking the president on every talk show on television — as long as it wasn’t on Fox News.

    You know, it’s really hilarious to read someone like Zurawik criticize Obama for “playing president” (and any proof on this emerging “consensus,” by the way?) after less than a year in office after we all had to endure the antics of Commander Codpiece since he was installed into An Oval Office in November 2000 (I’ll tell you what, Z – let me know if Obama “drops in” on our troops with a plastic Thanksgiving turkey like 43 did here, and maybe I’ll take you seriously, OK?).

    And as far as Obama being “indifferent” to Americans out of work, all I can ask is which party supported the “Stim” and which one didn’t (and which president signed it into law – this tells us that the ARRA “added roughly 2.3 percentage points to real GDP growth in the second quarter “ and created or saved between 660,000 and 1.1 million jobs…and I didn’t recall hearing a plan for a “stimulus” from the Palin/McBush ticket last year).

    Also, as far as Obama appearing on every talk show except Fix Noise, is “Z” aware that Obama was interviewed here by Major Garrett on November 19th? And another thing… anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the corporate “Astro-turf” support behind the teabaggers and their faux outrage over the summer is suffering from a serious case of reality avoidance anyway (here).

    And finally, how’s this for a “Z” “mea culpa”…

    Don’t blame me on this one, folks. I have been saying this since early in the year, and generally catching hell for it even from some of my colleagues.

    If you, Z, as a salaried media pundit who writes for a living, don’t even have the fortitude to take some criticism, then stick to writing about TV “reality” shows and Tiger Woods’ vehicle accident instead (or the White House “gate crashers” I noted previously), and leave political criticism for those who do even a bare minimum of research to make their case.


  • Friday Mashup (11/27/09)

    November 27, 2009

  • 1) I don’t know if anyone else noticed that the New York Times was able to discover some typos on the menu for the state dinner the White House recently held for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and his wife, Gursharan Kaur (with CNN taking note here).

    However, what would really impress me would be if they weren’t quite so brainless in their feature writing (here), to say nothing of acting as a propaganda conduit for global warming denialists (here).

  • 2) Also, get a load of the latest from U.S. House Minority Leader John “Man Tan” Boehner here…

    At every turn this year, Republicans have offered better, fiscally-responsible solutions to tackle the immediate challenges facing the American people, including an economic recovery plan that would have created twice the jobs at half the cost, a budget that would impose strict caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis, and the only health care bill that would cut the deficit and consistently reduce federal spending on health care over the next two decades.

    When Boehner is referring to “fiscally-responsible solutions,” would he be talking about the budget alternative noted by Nate Silver here (the one with, like, no actual numbers in it)? You know, something containing all the worst ideas from right-wing “think tanks” (here)?

    And when he’s talking about an alternative health care bill, is he referring to the one noted here, with “eight or nine ideas” posted on the RNC web site?

    Yes, busting on Boehner in this way is like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel, but he makes the temptation irresistible when he continues to peddle such obvious nonsense.

  • 3) And finally, former Dubya speechwriter Michael Gerson laments the demise of journalism today in the WaPo (here – hint; as far as Gerson is concerned, it’s the fault of those darned U.S. bloggers who mostly don’t report from war zones and cable TV).

    Oh, and by the way, what exactly are the “lies” of Dan Rather to which Gerson refers, I wonder (here)?

    Such pontifications are actually funny from someone like Gerson, who, as noted here, ignored a speech President Obama gave to evangelicals and then accused Obama of not reaching out to them.

    And as noted here, Gerson said Obama should “come out strongly for policies reducing the number of abortions,” even though did just that. And this tells us how Gerson inflated his role in the development of his former boss’s AIDS initiative in Africa, otherwise known as PEPFAR, which, as I noted here, had strings attached all over the place.

    Oh, and this discusses the phrase “pulling a Gerson” (linked to the post)…

    “Gerson is a ‘planner,’ not a ‘plunger,’” a 2005 National Journal profile noted, “meaning that he makes a meticulous outline, which he consults during the writing process.” This is true, and equal care and intensity went into crafting the Gerson image. Colleagues were not in the outline, nor were the normal standards of discretion in White House speechwriting. People have a way of disappearing in Mike’s stories. The artful shaping of narrative and editing out of inconvenient detail was never confined to the speechwriting. (The phrase pulling a Gerson, as I recently heard it used around the West Wing, does not refer to graceful writing.) And though in (Gerson’s book) Heroic Conservatism (ugh!) Mike has doubtless offered a kind word or two for speechwriting colleagues, no man I have ever encountered was truer to the saying that, in Washington, one should never take friendship personally.

    And as noted here, Dubya and his pals (including Gerson) “came into office determined to tightly control the flow of information,” which is the life blood of any decent journalist (a stretch in Gerson’s case, I know).

    So the next time Gerson decides to go “tut-tut” over the “slow, sad death” of the profession to which he claims to be a member, he ought to take a good, long, hard look at himself in the mirror first before he ever decides again to waste our time with such sickeningly self-righteous drivel.


  • Happy Thanksgiving

    November 26, 2009

    Wednesday Mashup (11/25/09)

    November 25, 2009

  • 1) Leave it to Dem U.S. House Rep Alan Grayson to launch a petition calling for the Senate to change its rule invoking cloture, or the end of debate on legislation prior to bringing it to a vote, in an effort to combat the abuse of the filibuster by the Repugs in the U.S. Senate (here)…

    “Why should launching wars and cutting taxes for the rich require only 50 votes while saving lives requires 60?” asked Grayson, who listed a series of important bills that passed with fewer than 60 votes.

    “Join me in calling for an end to this unfair system,” he added. “Tell Majority Leader Reid to modify the rules of the Senate to require only 55 votes to invoke cloture instead of 60. Fill out the form below to sign the petition today!”

    I know there are individuals in his district working to knock off Grayson in next year’s election, which is their right of course. If they are unsuccessful, though, I hope this guy serves forever.

    It should be pointed out, though, that if and when the Democrats become the minority congressional party once more (and given the overall ebb and flow of things, that is likely to happen again, though not for some time I hope), such a rule change could work against them.

    As noted here…

    Despite his attempts to persuade senators to vote for a medical malpractice bill limited to capping damage awards to providers of obstetrical and gynecologic services rather than all medical specialties, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) is not expected to get the 60 votes he needs Feb. 24th to cut off debate on the “Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Access to Care Act of 2003.”

    And it’s a good thing, too; imagine a monstrosity like that getting passed by an all-Repug congress and signed into law by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History.

    Concerning the history of the filibuster, though, this tells us the following…

    Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie said that since the nation’s start, dissident senators have prolonged debate to try to kill or modify legislation. The word “filibuster” — a translation of the Dutch word for “free-booter” or pirate — appears in the record of an 1840s Senate dispute about a patronage job.

    From Reconstruction to 1964, the filibuster was largely a tool used by segregationists to fight civil rights legislation. Even so, filibusters were employed only rarely; there were only three during the 88th Congress, which passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 after two months of filibustering.

    Filibusters were infrequent partly because the Senate custom of civility prompted consideration of minority views — and partly because they were so hard to overcome that compromises were struck. In 1917 cloture rules for ending filibusters were put in place, but required a two-thirds vote — so high it was rarely tested.

    Post-Watergate, in 1975, the bar was lowered to three-fifths, or 60 votes, and leaders began to try it more often.

    By the early 1990s, tensions between then-Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine and Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas upped the ante, and the filibuster-cloture spiral has soared ever since as more partisan politics prevailed. The use of filibusters became “basically a tool of the minority party,” Ritchie said.

    The McClatchy story from 2007 also tells us the following…

    By sinking a cloture vote this week, Republicans successfully blocked a Democratic bid to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by April, even though a 52-49 Senate majority voted to end debate.

    Some Republicans say that (Majority Leader Harry) Reid forces cloture votes just so he can complain that they’re obstructing him.

    Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., called the all-nighter on Iraq “meaningless, insulting” and “an indignity.” “There is no doubt that there are not 67 votes present to override a veto. There is little doubt that there are not 60 votes present to bring the issue to a vote.”

    Maybe, but as noted here, Specter voted for cloture on a non-binding resolution opposing the surge in February 2007, to Specter’s credit, though the vote failed (so maybe Reid knew something Specter didn’t?).

    Again, I applaud the intention of what Grayson is trying to do here. However, I cannot imagine a body as monolithic as the U.S. Senate acting in accordance with his wishes (and again, even if it did, it might one day work against us).

  • 2) Also, as noted here, investigators in Kentucky have ruled that the death of census worker Bill Sparkman is a suicide, not a homicide…

    FRANKFORT, Ky. — On the surface it all seemed like a gruesome hate crime in a rural part of Kentucky with a history of disdain for the government: a census worker found bound with duct tape and hanging from a tree, the word “fed” scrawled across his chest.

    But investigators noticed the foot-tall letters scrawled in black felt-tip pen looked like they could have been written by the victim himself, and they soon found out that he believed he had cancer, had two insurance policies worth $600,000, and had an adult son in need of money.

    Investigators said Tuesday what they had been hinting at for weeks, that Bill Sparkman’s hanging was a ruse to mask his suicide for a big insurance payout.

    Cue the wingnut umbrage (here, where the following parties are listed for supposedly owing apologies)…

    MyDD – “No Suicide: That’s the one thing we know for certain now in the case of the Kentucky lynching….But the most worrying possibility – that this is Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts – remains real. We’ll see.”

    (By the way, if you click on the MyDD link above from the Reason article, it does not take you to the preceding paragraph.)

    Andrew Sullivan – The gruesome lynching of this Census worker seems to bear a disturbing similarity to some of the worst hate crimes committed across this country. Regardless of what the motive for the killing may have been, why would a murderer(s) take such pains to so blatantly convey anger, fear, and vitriol towards a Census employee? Perhaps because some on the right have created an impression that Census employees are terrifying.

    Earlier this summer, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) waged a high-profile, wildly-dishonest campaign against the Census.

    (Same as above – too funny.)

    ThinkProgress – Others, namely the type to kill a Census worker and string up his body as message to the government, may call it a retraining camp run by the “Feds.”

    This is the kind of violent event that emerges from a culture of paranoia and unsubstantiated attacks.

    (Same as above – this is hilarious.)

    Huffington Post – From this profile of the cancer survivor and volunteer, it appears suicide is unlikely. We’ll find out. But at some point, unhinged hostility to the federal government, whipped up by the Becks, can become violence. That’s what Pelosi was worried about.

    (OMIGOD!!!)

    Andrew Sullivan – Send the body to Glenn Beck…Is it possible that the time has come for the FCC to consider exactly what constitutes screaming fire over the publicly owned airwaves? And what if Mr. Sparkman’s murderer(s) is never found? How many other lunatics will be emboldened to make their own anti-government statement as the voices of Beck, Limbaugh and Dobbs echo in their ears?

    Nobody ever intended our public airwaves to be turned over to irresponsible voices. Maybe the time has come for the FCC to worry a bit less about wardrobe malfunctions and a whole lot more about those who would use our airwaves to make a name for themselves at the expense of the public they are suppose to serve–particularly when the expense comes in the form of blood.

    (A perfect five for five here, people! NONE of the excerpts shown above link back to the original posts. And I searched on keywords that Reason excerpted above – “violence,” “hostility,” “Beck,” “Pelosi,” “paranoia,” like that – and found nothing that matched.)

    Speaking for myself, I had this to say at the time, alleging that a teabagger or two might have gone too far, but I didn’t accuse anyone in particular.

    And such whining about being accused falsely is funny coming from the bunch whose de facto ringleader (sorry Rush) told us the following here.

  • 3) And finally, the ever-sanctimonious Cal Thomas had the following to say about the dustup between Dem U.S. House Rep Patrick Kennedy and Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin here (and once more, kudos to Patrick Murphy for defending Kennedy – had a link to a Chicago Tribune story that has mysteriously disappeared)…

    Catholic politicians have been trying to have it both ways for years, some even obeying that church’s teaching when it comes to capital punishment for convicted murderers but disobeying those teachings when it comes to “capital punishment” for the innocent unborn.

    No one is forced to join the Catholic Church and no one is forbidden to leave it. But if a Catholic politician wants the benefits of Roman Catholicism in his political life and the life to come, he should be expected to obey its most fundamental teachings.

    Strong stuff (and actually, as noted here, Thomas is exactly right about the Church’s position on capital punishment).

    But it’s a funny thing – this tells us the following…

    When the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to proceed after earlier ruling it unconstitutional, it said, “the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community’s belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death.”

    Injustices and inequities can and should be repaired. But two brothers who beat a sleeping couple to death with baseball bats and a father who tortured his mute, severely retarded and handicapped stepdaughter for five years until she died (these were among the death-row inmates whose sentences were commuted by former Republican Governor George Ryan of Illinois) deserve to have their lives taken from them and not to be permanent “guests” of the state and a burden to taxpayers for the rest of their lives.

    Call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but if I didn’t know better, I’d say that that sounds like a defense of the death penalty. I wonder who could have written that?

    Why, it was none other than Cal Thomas, in 2003!

    What was that again about obeying the “most fundamental teachings” of the Catholic Church, Cal?

  • Update: And in a related story, as they say, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has officially lost its collective mind (here, its “heart” and basic sense of decency having long since departed as well).


    One Hell Of A “Stocking Stuffer”

    November 25, 2009

    I’m only too happy to give these fine folks a plug here.

    (By the way, posting is questionable for the rest of the week – don’t know if I’ll get another one in here or not.)


    More Repug Health Care Lies

    November 24, 2009

    Think Progress has more here.


    A Simple, If Unpopular, Method To Fight A Deadly Scourge

    November 23, 2009

    The following feature by writer Tina Rosenberg appeared in the Sunday New York Times magazine (about AIDS, and good luck finding many stories on that vitally important topic, by the way)…

    We know that abstinence, sexual fidelity and consistent condom use all prevent the spread of H.I.V. But we do not yet know how to persuade people to act accordingly.

    Then there is another way that H.I.V. infects: by injection with a hypodermic needle previously used by an infected person. Outside Africa, a huge part of the AIDS epidemic involves people who were infected this way. In Russia, 83 percent of infections in which the origin is known come from needle sharing. In Ukraine, the figure is 64 percent; Kazakhstan, 74 percent; Malaysia, 72 percent; Vietnam, 52 percent; China, 44 percent. Shared needles are also the primary transmission route for H.I.V. in parts of Asia. In the United States, needle-sharing directly accounts for more than 25 percent of AIDS cases.

    Drug injectors don’t pass infection only among themselves. Through their sex partners, H.I.V. is spread into the general population. In many countries, the H.I.V. epidemic began among drug injectors. In Russia in 2000, for example, needle-sharing was directly responsible for more than 95 percent of all cases of H.I.V. infection. So virtually all those with H.I.V. in Russia can trace their infection to a shared needle not many generations back. Though it has been scorned as special treatment for a despised population, AIDS prevention for drug users is in fact crucial to preventing a wider epidemic.

    Unlike with sexual transmission, there is a proven solution here: needle-exchange programs, which provide drug injectors with clean needles, usually in return for their used ones. Needle exchange is the cornerstone of an approach known as harm reduction: making drug use less deadly. Clean needles are both tool and lure, a way to introduce drug users to counseling, H.I.V. tests, AIDS treatment and rehabilitation, including access to opioid-substitution therapies like methadone.

    As Rosenberg tells us, “needle exchange is AIDS prevention that works.”

    However, as the Times also tells us here…

    A bill working its way through Congress would lift a ban of more than 20 years on using federal money for needle exchange programs. But the bill would also ban federally financed exchanges from being within 1,000 feet of a school, park, library, college, video arcade or any place children might gather — a provision that would apply to a majority of the country’s approximately 200 exchanges.

    “This 1,000-foot rule is simply instituting the ban in a different form,” said Rebecca Haag, executive director of the AIDS Action Council, an advocacy group based in Washington. “Clearly the intent of this rule is to nullify the lifting of the ban.”

    Under a separate bill, all exchanges in Washington within the 1,000-foot perimeter would be barred from receiving city money as well as federal money.

    And guess which utterly clueless Republican is behind this idea…

    “Let’s protect these kids,” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who introduced the Washington bill. “They don’t need to be playing kickball in the playground and seeing people lined up for needle exchange.”

    OWWWW!!! TEH STUPID!!!! IT BURNS US!!!!!!!

    And of course, in Kingston’s Ward and June Cleaver World, the girls wear hoop skirts, the guys are all rebuilding the engine blocks on their ’57 Chevys, and they both surreptitiously rendezvous at Lookout Point at midnight to watch the submarine races.

    Ugh (somehow I think that, if individuals were to come to a needle-exchange center, not necessarily each one would be highlighted by, say, ground-up glass on the blacktop of basketball courts surrounded by chain-link fences in typically urban settings, on a route traveled by school kids of course).

    As noted here, President Obama proposed an increase in spending to combat AIDS (as has just about every other president in my memory, including Dubya, believe it or not, though with at least one “string” you’ll read about shortly), and Obama has also lifted the idiotic ban his predecessor placed on people with AIDS traveling to this country. However (as noted here), his FY2010 budget proposal retained the decades-old ban on federal funding for syringe exchange (though Congress passed legislation to lift the ban shortly after Obama’s budget was announced, as noted here – that body instituted the original ban in 1988, hence Kingston’s antics in trying to get it passed once more).

    And as the Times Sunday article tells us…

    The administration of George W. Bush made the policy more aggressive, pressuring United Nations agencies to retract their support for needle exchange and excise statements about its efficacy from their literature. (Today, U.N. agencies again recommend that needle exchange be part of H.I.V.-prevention services for drug users.)

    Figures.

    Rosenberg’s article also highlights the effectiveness of needle-exchange programs in Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, among other regions. The biggest enemy to such programs, though, is the stigmatizing of needle users so manifestly on display in Kingston’s grotesquely stupid measure (as Rosenberg states, internationally financed groups can implement effective programs, but only governments can protect the rights of those populations who would stand to benefit, which, ultimately, includes all of us).


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