Reconciling Reconciliation

February 27, 2010

I thought Norah O’Donnell was fairly lucid on this subject below (and here is more information on Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao’s flip-flop on this subject, and among other things, this tells us more about the 22 reconciliation bills passed between 1980 and 2008, including three vetoed by President Bill Clinton).

Pap On “Wingnuts: The Next Generation”

February 26, 2010

Concerning “filmmaker” James O’Keefe, I think this clarification from law professor Jonathan Turley on the charges against O’Keefe is important, as well as this information about O’Keefe’s “pimp” costume.

And after watching some videos about the goings-on at the recent Bund rally CPAC conference, I think the group should change its name to the Infested of Political Extremists Conservative Action Conference (IPECAC), though I must admit that I would be inclined to gag at them regardless of what they’re called.

Our Corporate Media Glosses Over The “Stack Attack”

February 25, 2010

This Altenet column tells us the following…

I have to admit, if Joe Stack had flown his plane into the new headquarters of Goldman Sachs, it would be tempting to label him a hero. His political leanings notwithstanding, his act clearly falls within the FBI definition of a Domestic Terror attack. And while the rope a dope the right wing is playing with this political hot potato as they cajole more Tea Party momentum out of this act is despicable, it is but one more distraction in the false fight between right and left in this country.

OK, before I say another word, I should state up front that I think it is every bit as repugnant for anyone on my side of the ideological fence to hope that Stack had hit a favorite target of ours as it is for any wingut to feel any kind of sick sense of gratitude over the fact that Stack ended up hitting a right-wing target. I can’t think of a punishment prescribed by a court of law that is appropriate enough for Lloyd Blankfein and his G-S pals, but I certainly don’t recommend a physical attack against them. And this also needs to be pointed out, after all, because two people died in the attack (including Stack) and thirteen were injured.

And this article tells us how airline pilots have reacted…

“General aviation is a small community, mostly misunderstood by the general public and more unfortunately, our government,” said one pilot in an e-mail.

“We are perceived as a bunch of rich people with expensive toys that now can be used to kill people,” he wrote. “Frankly, we’re tired of it.”

Many pilots are quick to compare the perils posed by any large truck loaded with a bomb – witness the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

“We saw two people rent a truck and blow up a federal building but no call to require more restrictions on truck rental,” wrote another in a different e-mail.

I think that’s a silly comparison. In the event that someone goes nuts and decides to employ a transportation vehicle to try and hurt someone, there are a lot more ways to regulate vehicle traffic than there are to regulate aircraft in flight.

I have some questions about Stack that I’m sure will be answered in future news reports, such as, how many hours of flight time had he accumulated? When was he last certified? Are pilots required to take some kind of a psychological test periodically in an effort to detect and future aberrant behavior? If not, why not?

Also, as noted here, where are the calls for profiling the individuals of Stack’s race, job occupation, or religious affiliation (yes, I know the answer to those questions, but I believe they must be asked). And this Media Matters post argues that our corporate cousins with initials for names dropped the ball by not linking Stack to the teabaggers; I don’t know that Stack associated directly with that group, but his actions do seem to dovetail with the teabagger boilerplate of anti-government threats.

We do know this much, however, based on this…

Stack’s writings suggest he was part of a loosely organized movement that stretches back to at least the 1950s. Some believe the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to levy income taxes, was not legally ratified; it was ratified in 1913.

Others believe that paying taxes is purely voluntary. Still others believe in fictional loopholes that would exempt large groups of Americans from paying taxes if they were only in on the secret.

Believers aren’t limited to anti-government militia members living off the land out West. Stack was a 53-year-old software engineer in Austin. Other followers include movie star Wesley Snipes and a decorated police detective in the nation’s capital.

“They’re fairly prevalent,” said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups. “We’ve had a right wing tax protest movement going back several decades now. They were very hot in the 1990s, but they are very much still out there.”

The most bitter irony to me, though, is that Stack may actually have had a point in his protest. I hasten to add, though, that he should have sought a remedy through constructive political action instead of a murderous act of terrorism (full disclosure: I do not work as a contractor, and I have a feeling the main culprit here is the depression of wages due to the recession and offshoring, but I cannot imagine how some congressional hearings on this subject in the wake of this story could be a bad thing).

This tells us that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 ended up encouraging companies to hire computer programmers (Stack’s occupation) instead of retaining them as contractors out of fear that companies wouldn’t withhold tax revenue from these people (less money for the government), though they would work as salaried employees did (with taxes deducted from their paychecks, of course).

However, as Wikipedia tells us, “A 1991 Treasury Department study found that tax compliance for technology professionals was actually among the highest of all self-employed workers and that Section 1706 would raise no additional tax revenue and could possibly result in losses as self-employed workers did not receive as many tax-free benefits as employees.”

I skimmed over Stack’s manifesto from The Smoking Gun, and for a guy who plainly was tormented and should have undergone counseling, I should tell you his writing is fairly lucid. Maybe a thoughtful examination of it as part of a wider story on Stack and the forces in this country that espouse anti-government violence would be enlightening to us all, to say nothing of possibly preventing future attacks.

The Teabaggin’ “Nashville Non-Event”

February 23, 2010

The latest from Pap and Ring of Fire…

So Bob Marshall Is A “Satirist” Too?

February 22, 2010

This is going to be a bit difficult I’ll admit, but I’m going to try and diagram the thought processes of Sarah Palin (be very afraid, I know).

So Rahm Emanuel says that liberals are “f*cking retarded” for targeting the “Bush Dog” Dems opposing health care reform, so Emanuel is bad (here). However, Flush Limbore is good when he uses the word “retard” because it is merely “satire” (here). On the other hand, Seth MacFarlane of “The Family Guy” is bad for a story with a girl who has Down’s Syndrome saying her mother is former governor of Alaska, even though the actress who voiced the character has Down’s also and basically told Palin to grow up (here).

Now, along comes Repug Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall, who says that God punishes women who have had abortions by giving them children with disabilities (here).

Sounds like it’s time for some new connivance by Palin to try and burnish her Repug credentials and make the Dems look bad at the same time.

That is, of course, unless Marshall is right in Palin’s case, and there’s something else the former Wasilla mayor needs to discuss…??

Why Health Care Reform Still Matters

February 21, 2010

And to do more about this, click here.

Al Haig And The “Pistol-Packin’ Nuns”

February 21, 2010

Former Reagan Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who recently died, should be remembered for his service to our country both in the government and the military. Also, our deepest sympathies should be extended to his family and friends upon his passing.

However, he should also be remembered for the episode described here, in which he testified in 1981 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about three nuns and a laywoman who were beaten, raped, and murdered by members of the El Salvadoran National Guard (that country was engaged in a civil war at the time). Haig testified that “the nuns may have run through a roadblock or may have accidentally been perceived to have been doing so, and there may have been an exchange of fire.”

Thus had begun the ruinous conservative ascendancy from which this country has tried to extricate itself with mixed results ever since.

Friday Mashup (2/19/10)

February 19, 2010

  • I haven’t paid much attention to Christine Flowers of the Philadelphia Daily News lately, but she came up with a whopper today in her column about “anti-social networking,” in which gangs reportedly use Facebook, etc. to congregate for juvenile delinquency…

    It’s beyond frightening – and frustrating – to think that this is what is being spawned in our urban incubators these days, clueless, rudderless and amoral boys and girls who don’t give a damn about private property and the safety of others. Their anti-social, criminal behavior shouldn’t be cleaned up with euphemisms.

    In recent times, bleeding hearts who have more sympathy for the lawless than for their victims have urged understanding. Argued against stiff sentences. Opposed placing these baby felons into adult proceedings and have even, somehow, convinced the Supreme Court that minors shouldn’t be eligible for capital punishment, no matter how heinous their crimes.

    Notice that Flowers didn’t say anything about “rural incubators” (so clever with the wingnut code, Christine).

    And Flowers is right that The Supremes ruled against juvenile capital punishment in 2005, as noted here. However, we should keep in mind the following…

    (Justice Anthony) Kennedy’s (majority) opinion rested in large part on the fact that 30 states, including the 12 states that have no capital punishment, forbid the death penalty for offenders younger than 18. That number represented an increase of five since the court upheld the juvenile death penalty in 1989.

    The court weighs death penalty laws according to what a 1958 ruling called the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” and looks to state legislation and jury verdicts to decide whether a “national consensus” has developed against a previously accepted practice.

    In 2002, the court voted 6 to 3 to strike down the death penalty for the moderately mentally retarded, which it had upheld 5 to 4 in 1989. In the 2002 case, Atkins v. Virginia, the court noted that the number of death penalty states banning that practice had grown from two in 1989 to 13 in 2002, while none had gone the other way.

    The recent shift of states against the juvenile death penalty, though less dramatic than the evidence the court found sufficient in the mental-retardation case, was enough to carry the day, Kennedy concluded.

    For the Supreme Court itself, perhaps the most significant effect of yesterday’s decision is to reaffirm the role of international law in constitutional interpretation.

    The European Union, human right lawyers from the United Kingdom and a group of Nobel Peace laureates had urged the court in friend-of-the-court briefs to strike down the juvenile death penalty.

    Even a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger such as yours truly opposes destruction to people and/or property, no matter who the alleged perpetrators are. But is Flowers seriously contemplating the death penalty here for a bunch of dumb kids who vandalize a department store?

  • Also, Dick Polman of the Inquirer weighed in on the brewing travesty concerning the production on the Kennedys currently being worked on for The History Channel here (I got into this here)…

    (Filmmaker Robert) Greenwald is unhappy that the top guy on the Kennedy film project is Joel Surnow, a conservative who created the Fox show “24.” Greenwald insists, however, that he’s not trying to censor anybody. But judge for yourself whether Greenwald ally Ted Sorenson, a former Kennedy aide and one of the earliest Kennedy hagiographers, is threatening censorship when he warns that “there will be hell to pay if anyone is ever foolish enough to put this banal, repetitive, old hat lists of libels and slanders on the air.”

    This bid to, at minimum, pre-spin an unproduced docudrama is foolish for many reasons. Attacking the partial early drafts of any film script is akin to attacking a singer-songwriter on the basis of how his new material sounds as it’s taking shape in early studio sessions. In that sense, Greenwald’s campaign is an attack on the artistic process itself. Things change. There are endless revisions, additions, and deletions. Perhaps the Kennedy flamekeepers should take chill pills and let this process play out; as Stephen Kronish, the project’s writer – and a self-described liberal Democrat – reportedly said the other day, “Next year, when it’s done and it’s on the air, if people want to criticize it, so be it.”

    Soo…Polman thinks that Sorenson, Greenwald etc. are supposed to know this stuff is going on…and say and do nothing?

    Polman points out that Greenwald and others have objected to scenes where “JFK” is making out with some floosie in a swimming pool while a crisis develops, as well as a remark about Kennedy needing sex to prevent migraines, and Polman responds that both of those episodes have been documented.

    However, there is also a moment in this production when Joe Kennedy Sr. breaks a crucifix over his knee, when there is no record anywhere of that ever having occurred. Further, there is no mention whatsoever of the Cuban Missile Crisis. What the hell kind of a Kennedy “documentary” is this, then (Polman would have learned this from Greenwald’s approximately-twelve-minute film, which you can view from the link to my prior post, in which Greenwald features Sorenson, along with historians Thurston Clarke, David Nasaw, Nigel Hamilton – who is hardly a Kennedy fan – and Rick Perlstein, as noted here).

    The point of all of these individuals is that, if Surnow wants to make some trash biopic on the Kennedys, that’s his right, Polman’s editorializing to the contrary. However, such a mess has no place on The History Channel (and it’s more than a little disingenuous for Polman to mention “The Reagans,” since that didn’t show on The History Channel either; it ended up on the Showtime cable network, which has a significantly smaller audience than CBS, where it was originally slated to run before the right-wing outcry).

  • Finally, as we wind down towards the weekend, it’s time for some comedy from Matthew Continetti of The Weakly Standard (here, concerning a certain presidential election)…

    In 2000, George W. Bush’s solid lead collapsed the weekend before the election when media broke the news of his 1976 DUI. Florida was the result.

    Too funny (the Dubya DUI story broke too late to matter, just before November 4th) – as noted here…

    Bush took an early lead in the polls but his opponent, Vice-President Al Gore, bounced back after the Democratic convention, when he started sounding a populist theme. The media had a field day with Bush’s tendencies to malapropisms and Gore hammered at his foreign policy weaknesses and lack of experience. There was also some criticism of an alleged subliminal messages in a Bush campaign ad in which the word “Democrats” morphed into “rats” for a split-second. Bush immediately pulled the ads, and continued to display his people skills. “What Bush does with people is establish a direct, personal connection,” wrote reporter Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker. Lemann claims that Bush has “a talent for establishing a jovial connection with an unusually large number of people.” The polls drew close and a series of three debates in October was expected to be decisive. Gore, portrayed as a man with more command of policies and details, was expected to win. However, Bush more than held his own, and his folksiness made Gore look stiff by comparison. In a second debate Gore was more agreeable, and the two candidates declared much common ground. However, Gore’s dramatic mood shift made him appear insincere to some voters. Bush remained adamantly “on message,” repeatedly sounding his issues of education reform, social security privatization, and tax cuts, while downplaying controversial issues such as abortion.

    And I would argue that former Commander Clueless was aided in no small part by some big-time media love in 1999-2000; how many “Bush as a regular guy” stories did we hear, as opposed to variations on this theme when it came to Gore?

    Continetti concludes, by the way, by saying that “in politics, ignorance rules.”

    Spoken like a true Republican.

  • It’s Bill Donahue, “Handin’ Tickets Out For God” Again

    February 19, 2010

    Yep, in a desperate ploy to remain relevant, Bill Donahue of The Catholic League is spouting off about Elton John referring to Jesus as a “gay man” (here).

    OK, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing I’ve ever encountered that indicated His sexual preference in any way, not counting any “DaVinci Code” conspiracy theories about Mary Magdalene. But I think what we have here is something on the order of John Lennon saying The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” fast-forwarded about 45 years or so.

    I realize that it probably escapes Bill Donahue that there’s a fair amount of religious references in Elton John’s songs, not merely the one I noted in the title (which comes from “Tiny Dancer,” of course). There’s also “Levon” and “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters,” as well as the song that appears below; I realize the tune first and foremost is about criminal behavior that can never be excused (and I personally wish our politicians would take to heart what John says at the very end, but I know it won’t happen), but it also shows a hell of a lot of introspection on the part of Elton John and Bernie Taupin to create it, I believe.

    And based on what I know of Bill Donahue, I don’t think the word “introspection” is in his vocabulary at all (though of course, should Donahue ever be inclined to listen and learn…).

    Another Dose Of Repug “Stim” Hypocrisy

    February 18, 2010

    Because it cannot be pointed out enough times (more proof is here)…

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