Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Right-wingers Vow Revenge Against Mary Bono Mack AND Her Husband


I never thought I'd step up to defend Mary Bono Mack, a very mediocre absentee representative from California's High Desert (Riverside County)-- and don't worry, I won't. She inherited her increasingly blue congressional district based in Palm Springs from her then-husband Sonny Bono after his fatal skiing accident. Since then she's married one of the most far right extremists in Congress-- a lunatic fringe kook named Connie Mack IV from Florida-- while managing to stay in office by voting 2 or 3 times a year with the Democrats, especially on gay issues, not because her marriage to Connie is a lesbian match but because Palm Springs is almost as gay as San Francisco, NYC, Miami Beach or West Hollywood. In a district that embraced Obama, Progressive Punch shows her lifetime voting record on crucial, substantive issues to be more mainstream conservative than radical right, but by no means moderate.

There are 33 Republicans-- including dependable rightists like Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Jimmy Duncan (R-TN), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Ed Royce (R-CA), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and even full-fledged-no-foolin'-around fascist stooge Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL)-- who vote more frequently across the aisle than Bono-Mack. When it comes to economic issues facing ordinary American families-- like fair taxation, labor rights, equal justice, and corporate subsidies-- you'd have to search pretty hard to find many Republicans in Congress more reactionary and anti-family than Bono-Mack.

So it was probably a bit of a shock to her when she saw the headline above that I captured in a screen shot from the Republican Party blog, Red State: Mary Bono Mack Should Be Burned In Effigy And Voted out Of Office. It was written by Georgia Republican Party operative Erick Erickson and something tells me Erickson isn't about to endorse Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, who's not just gay, but married (to another man) and happily raising their two children! Too far a stretch for Republicans who seem to always be involved with "opposite marriages," or whatever they call the degrading situations traditional marriage sanctity defenders like Mark Sanford, David Diapers Vitter, Larry Craig and John Ensign are in.

Erickson and the fringe loons on the furthest reaches of the non-criminal right are so upset with Bono Mack that they are threatening to not just defeat her but to go after the right-wing extremist husband to boot! He demands that she vote against health care reform and against the energy bill when it comes back from the Senate-- where it will probably be watered down and look more acceptable to mainstream conservatives!!!-- or face the consequences.
Otherwise, we beat her and her husband at the polls.

Yes, you heard me. We can get at Mary Bono Mack in two ways-- her district and that of her husband. He should feel the heat just as much as her.

I bet they're trembling in their boots.

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How do we thank Justice David Souter for his service?


"The first lesson, simple as it is, is that whatever court we're in, whatever we are doing, at the end of our task some human being is going to be affected. Some human life is going to be changed by what we do. And so we had better use every power of our minds and our hearts and our beings to get those rulings right."
-- David Souter, after being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice in 1990

"'I have written the following reply,' Souter said dryly [in response to Chief Justice Roberts], as if preparing to read a dissent. A ripple of laughter went through the courtroom. 'You quoted the poet, and I will, too, in words that set out the ideal of the life engaged, "where love and need are one,"' Souter read. 'That phrase accounts for the finest moments of my life on this court, as we have agreed or contended with each other over those things that matter to decent people in a civil society.'"
-- Dana Milbank's Washington Post account of retiring Justice Souter's response to Chief Justice John Roberts' reading of a letter to Souter from his eight current colleagues as well as his longtime former colleague, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- and the justice's parting words

by Ken

In his Washington Post piece Milbank went on to write:
Because of Souter's quiet ways (he uttered all of 200 words in his farewell yesterday), it's easy to forget how different the country would be today if this unmarried recluse from the North hadn't decamped long ago to join the court's liberal wing. Had he remained the conservative that President George H.W. Bush thought he was getting when he nominated Souter in 1990, there's every possibility that abortion would be illegal in the United States today, that the Ten Commandments would be displayed throughout schools and courthouses, and that the law of the land on any number of issues -- guns, terrorism, race -- would be different.

Before yesterday's session began, William Suter, the clerk of the Supreme Court, stood in the chamber in his tails and vest, giving a talk to a group of visitors. "Politics is over here," Suter said, holding up one fist. "Law is over here," he said, holding his other fist apart. Would that it were so. Everybody who has heard of Bush v. Gore knows that the justices have at times been as political as their counterparts across the street in the Capitol.

But Souter refused to play his assigned partisan role in the court's battles -- and he defied the conservatives one final time yesterday. As the five other Reagan and Bush appointees formed a majority to say that New Haven, Conn., discriminated against white firefighters, Souter joined the two Clinton appointees and John Paul Stevens in a dissent accusing the majority of a "confounding" opinion that "misconceives one of our nation's principal civil rights laws."

It's been a busy day, and a contention-filled one, and so it's been left till now to say good-bye to a real American hero. A hero of mine anyway. A man who came almost literally out of nowhere. Had anyone besides New Hampshire home-state colleague then-Sen. Warren Rudman heard of Souter when Rudman recommended him to President George H.W. Bush to replace one of the great justices in the Court's history, retiring 84-year-old William J. Brennan? (The two NH pols went back a ways. In 1971 then-state Attorney General Rudman had picked Souter, an assistant AG, to be deputy attorney general.)

Naturally we all assumed the worst. Wikipedia reminds us:
The nine senators voting against Souter included Ted Kennedy and John Kerry from Souter's neighboring state of Massachusetts. These senators, along with seven others, painted Souter as a right-winger in the mold of Robert Bork. They based their claim on Souter's friendships with many conservative politicians in New Hampshire. Their allegations failed to influence the other 90 senators. The press called him the "stealth justice" and reported that his professional record provoked little real controversy and provided very little "paper trail." President Bush saw this lack of a paper trail as a positive for Souter, because one of President Reagan's nominees, Bork, had recently been rejected by the Senate partially because of the availability of his extensive written opinions on issues. Bush claimed that he did not know Souter's stances on abortion, affirmative action, or other issues. The National Organization for Women opposed Souter's nomination and held a rally outside the hearings to oppose his selection. The then-president of NOW, Molly Yard, testified that Souter would "end... freedom for women in this country." Souter was also opposed by the NAACP, which urged its 500,000 members to write letters to their senators asking for Souter's defeat. Despite this opposition, Souter won an easy confirmation compared to those of later Republican appointees.

Souter spoke of his admiration for the conservative Justice John Marshall Harlan II of the Warren court, as well as for liberal Justice William Brennan of the same court, during his confirmation hearings. The Wall Street Journal described the events leading up to the appointment of the "liberal jurist" in a 2000 editorial, saying Rudman in his "Yankee Republican liberalism" took "pride in recounting how he sold Mr. Souter to gullible White House chief of staff John Sununu as a confirmable conservative. Then they both sold the judge to President Bush, who wanted above all else to avoid a confirmation battle." Rudman wrote in his memoir that he had "suspected all along" that Souter would not "overturn activist liberal precedents." Sununu later said that he had "a lot of disappointment" about Souter's positions on the court and would have preferred him to be more similar to Justice Antonin Scalia.

Well, I've learned a lot about Senator Rudman that I didn't know at the time. It was a great, history-making recommendation he made, and for 19 years we've been beyond fortunate to have this quiet, unassuming man serving on our highest court. It's generally reported that he became increasingly unhappy with the poinsonous partisan divide in Washington, which of course has become pretty hard to escape on the Supreme Court, and it's hard not to honor his feeling that he's had enough, just as it's hard not to honor his wish not to cling to his seat, but to retire still in relative good health to go back home to enjoy his retirement years.

Boy, will he be missed.

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Midyear snapshots of our glorious two-party system: (2) The R's in the wilderness (which they're gonna kill if their polluters don't do it first)


MINNESOTA UPDATE: Franken wins, Pawlenty will sign! [see below]

Is it Princess Sarah's turn to watch gasoline being poured
on her 2012 presidential campaign?

by Ken

As we continue our snapshots of our glorious two-part system at work, moving on from the Dems, it's not entirely clear that the Republicans ought to be included. Do you call that "work"? Here's what Republicans do now: Whatever happens, if it comes from a Democrat, they Just Say No. O perhaps I should say they Just Scream No.

From a certain vantage point, we could just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the Republicans in the wilderness, after eight years of consolidation of all federal government power in the hands of the Permanent Republican Majority (pat. pending). Ha ha!

In theory, being out of power should be right up the right-wing loons' alley. Opposition is what they're traditionally good at, probably the only thing they're good at. They're sure as hell no good at governing. If we learned anything in the eight years of the Bush regime -- and mind you, it's not at all clear that a lot of the country did learn anything -- it's that turning actual governance over to these crackpots can be a recipe for catastrophe, especially when the particular crackpots harbor megalomaniacal delusions.

Unfortunately, for the moment the wingnuts seems to have lost their touch. Oh, they remember the joys of opposition, all right, they've just come to think "opposition" consists of saying "Fuck no, fuck no" all day long, intermixed with the occasional "yo mama wears sweatsox." Now I don't at all underestimate the disruptive potential of the Republican campaign of nonstop obstruction and obfuscation, all greased with the now-standard policy of "all lies, all the time," so carefully nurtured during the 2008 presidential campaign. And people will grow impatient, even though they kept claiming last fall to understand that it would take time to haul the economy out of the deep trench in which the Bush regime buried it.

Still, it's kind of a limited message, and there are signs that it hasn't escaped the country's notice that the R's have given up any pretense of interest in constructive participation in the governing process. Meanwhile, somehow they just don't seem to have regained the flair they exhibited in the Clinton years for nuclear opposition, though they do seem to have become rather good at the meltdown part.

I don't have the heart to jump ugly any more on poor South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, the conservatives' conservative. Besides, apart from the question of whether he will resign, a question he doesn't seem much interested in, the principal question under discussion is, who done him in? And since the list of his enemies seems to include most everyone in South Carolina, this could take awhile.

[UPDATE: Oops! In breaking news, it appears that the number of encounters with his Argentine love goddess admitted by Governor Sanford has jumped from four to seven. The guy does appear to have this small problem with how he's, like, a pathological liar. Is it any wonder that he was so highly regarded by die-hard movement conservatives as such a steadfast man of principle?]

Then, has anything been heard from Nevada Sen. John Ensign since his Senate colleagues welcomed him back last week, accepting his apology?

It all seems to be enough to throw a scare into card-carrying wingnut loon Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who seems to be showing unexpected signs of sanity, indicating the other day that he might be prepared to sign Sen.-elect Al Franken's election certificate if the state's Supreme Court were to rule that way (as it has just done) -- heresy for the wingnut conspiracy headed by Texas Sen. John Cornyn to keep that seat open as long as possible rather than allow Franken to be seated.

[UPDATE: Governor Tim says he will indeed sign. The only thing is, that followed a full-fledged confession from Norm Coleman. So I'm not sure how many grains of sanity he gets credit for, considering that at this point he really had no alternative.]


Is it America's Princess' turn to watch gasoline being poured on her 2012 campaign? New York Daily News political correspondent Michael Saul offers this preview of a piece upcoming in Vanity Fair:
Sarah Palin trashed by members of John McCain's campaign team in Vanity Fair

Alaska's lipstick-wearing pit-bull is a "Little Shop of Horrors."

That's how one longtime friend and campaign trail companion of John McCain, the vanquished 2008 GOP presidential nominee, described veep nominee Sarah Palin.

In an expansive story in the August edition of Vanity Fair, a slew of senior members of McCain's campaign team told reporter Todd S. Purdum that they suffer a kind of survivor's guilt following the 2008 presidential election.

"They can't quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be," Vanity Fair reports.

During the campaign, there were reports of anonymous McCain aides describing Palin, the governor of Alaska, as a "diva" and a "whack job."

The Vanity Fair article recounts how strained Palin's relationship was with the McCain advisers. She maintained "only the barest level of civil discourse" with Tucker Eskew, the operative assigned to be her chief minder, the magazine reports.

She believed Steve Schmidt, McCain's top strategist, had lied to her about conducting polling in Alaska - that was a "belief she conveyed to anyone who would listen," the magazine reported.

As previously reported, Palin was so intent on delivering her own concession speech on Election Night that she wouldn't accept advisers telling her that McCain had decided he would be the only one to speak. She took the issue up with McCain himself, discussing it on the walk from his hotel suite to the farewell rally.

Palin did not speak on Election Night. Only McCain addressed the crowd and the nation.

One McCain aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he "always wanted to tell myself the best-case story about her."

"I think, as I've evaluated it, I think some of my worst fears…the after-election events have confirmed that her more negative aspects my have been there…."

As his voice trailed off, he said, "I saw her as a raw talent. Raw, but a talent. I hoped she could become better."

Palin refused to comment for Vanity Fair.


Here's our Willard burbling about the Sanford Affair:
“Seeing this family become healed is our highest priority,” Romney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“At the same time, and not commenting particularly on Governor Sanford, … people in public life ought to be held to a higher standard. … I heard one … former governor say, ‘Well, everybody makes mistakes.’ Well, that’s true.

“But not all mistakes are the same. And not everybody is a governor or a senator or a president. And we expect [those] people to live by a higher standard, because what they do is going to be magnified, their families are going to be hurt more by what they do, the things they care about will be hurt, and the culture of the nation and the people who follow them will be hurt.”

Does the man have a silver tongue, or what?

"Not everybody is a governor or a senator or a president." Check! Should we perhaps have exact figures on this? It seems to be important. A rough percentage, at least? Let's see, there are 50 governors, and, um, 99 senators (thanks, Norm Coleman and John Cornyn!), and one president . . . so we add that, and divide by the entire population, and . . .


We used the Waxman-Markey "climate" bill as a sort of test case for how the Dems are functioning at midyear 2009. How about the R's? Let's consider the case of Jeff Flake (AZ-06).

Naturally Congressman Flake, as a Republican, opposes ACES. His website reports:
“The last thing a fragile economy needs is a new energy tax, yet that’s essentially what this cap and trade bill is,” said Flake. “This bill is more about generating revenue for the federal government than it is about addressing climate change.”

So we know for darn sure that the congressman voted his conscience Friday night, right? Um, not exactly. The website report continues:
Unfortunately, Congressman Flake was unable to vote on the bill due to a family obligation. Congressman Flake’s daughter was Arizona’s representative in the America’s Junior Miss scholarship program, and Congressman Flake and his wife were there supporting her.

“Obviously, it was a tough decision to miss voting against the cap and trade bill. But I’ve let my daughter down enough over the years, and I felt I just couldn’t let her down again.”

Had he been able to vote, he would have voted against the bill. Unless it is changed substantially, Congressman Flake will vote against the cap and trade conference report when it comes back to the House.

Whatta guy! I'm sure the fact that the congressman will vote against the bill later was of great assurance to his ideological comrades as they did battle in the vote Friday night.

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Breaking news: Minnesota Supreme Court says unanimously, it's "Senator Al Franken." AND NOW: Coleman concedes, Pawlenty will sign!


FINAL UPDATE: Coleman concedes! Pawlenty says he'll sign!

From USA Today:
Republican Norm Coleman is addressing supporters in St. Paul following a Minnesota Supreme Court decision today that found Democrat Al Franken has won the election. The USA TODAY story is here.    

"I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest United States senator, Al Franken," Coleman said. "I have never believed that my service is irreplaceable. We have reached the point where further litigation damages the unity of our state, which is also fundamental. In these tough times, we all need to focus on the future. And the future today is we have a new United States senator."

Update 4:28 p.m. ET: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has released a statement announcing that he will sign the election certificate, which clears the way for Franken to be seated in the Senate. "In light of [the] decision and Senator Coleman’s announcement that he will not be pursuing an appeal, I will be signing the election certificate today as directed by the court and applicable law." Earlier, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Franken could be seated as early as next week.

[1st UPDATE below: statement from Sen. Harry Reid]

The Associated Press reports:

Minn. rules for Franken in Senate fight

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 30, 2009; 2:18 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered that Democrat Al Franken be certified as the winner of the state's long-running Senate race.

The high court rejected a legal challenge from Republican Norm Coleman, whose options for regaining the Senate seat are dwindling.

Justices said Franken is entitled to the election certificate he needs to assume office. With Franken and the usual backing of two independents, Democrats will have a big enough majority to overcome Republican filibuster.

Coleman hasn't ruled out seeking federal court intervention.

Unfortunately, the ruling doesn't seem to include the death penalty for Norm Coleman -- and Sen. John Cornyn and the rest of his election-stealing supporters -- for kidnapping the U.S. electoral system. Now the ball is in Governor Pawlenty's court, and he has indicated that he might actually be prepared to do his job certifying the election.

By the way, the ruling unanimously rejected outright all of Coleman's claims, and that's with the two justices who had participated in the recount commission not participating. -- Ken


I congratulate Senator-elect Al Franken, the next Senator from the state of Minnesota.

The people of Minnesota will now finally get the brilliant and hardworking new senator they elected in November and the full representation they deserve. After all the votes have been counted and recounted, the Minnesota Supreme Court has made the final determination that Minnesotans have chosen Al Franken to help their state and our country get back on track.

The Senate looks forward to welcoming Senator-elect Franken as soon as possible. He will play a crucial role as we work to strengthen our economy, ensure all Americans can access and afford quality health care, make our country more energy independent, confirm the President’s outstanding nominee to the Supreme Court, and tackle the many other challenges we face.

I once again encourage Governor Pawlenty to respect the votes of his constituents and the decisions of his state’s highest court. He should put politics aside, follow his state’s laws and finally sign the certificate that will bring this episode to an end.


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Midyear snapshots of our glorious two-party system: (1) The Dems "in power" manage to get a crappy climate bill through the House


Is there more to governing than Rahm Emanuel?
Well, there could hardly be less!

by Ken

If by "power" you mean wheelin' 'n' dealin', crackin' heads, stabbin' backs, squeezin' balls, then I give you the Democratic Party at midyear 2009: Stand up, Master Rahm!

One of the big differences between our end of the political spectrum and theirs, as we've long known, is that they know how to enforce message discipline, whereas we tend to remain stuck on, you know, stuff we believe. Where a puling pile of puke could lead his sheeplike followers on a death march over the edge of the universe, it was only too predictable that there would be no such unanimity in a new Democratic administration, even with theoretically commanding Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

This extends to the respective media, of course. It was graceful of Rush Limbaugh to admit that for eight years he had been "carrying the water" for Little George, though naturally this admission didn't come till he was ready to publicly question the wisdom of all that water-carrying he had done. (This is the dark side of that sort of enforced unanimity. When the sheep turn on you, it can be as if you never existed. Try finding a Republican or a card-carrying right-wing extremist who even remembers the name George W. Bush, never mind acknowledges have shrieked his/her undying loyalty and screamed for the violent death of anyone who so much as questioned his sainthood for, oh, about seven years.)

At the same time, though, we knew that the reality-dealing anti-Bush media like The Daily Show and Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show would never give the new administration a new free ride. That's not how we do things on our side. This seems to have caught the Washington Post by surprise in the case of its best reporting, which for some years had been done -- only on the paper's website -- by Dan Froomkin in his "White House Watch." More than anything, Froomkin's axing seems sttributable to his scrupulously even-handed coverage of the Obamaadministration, which is ironic, because you know damn well that the Post, which hews to the straight Inside the Beltway line, will never hesitate to trash the president. But they'll always do it from the approved Village view. Obama isn't a Villager, and alas for Dan Froomkin, neither is he.

So here we are, nearing six months in, with a president who keeps showing us showing us in those special speeches that he can rise to the occasion, at least rhetorically, as he did again in his remarks at yesterday's East Room LGBT Pride Month reception commemorating the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. But as the president himself made clear, his record will be judged by actions, not words.

How's that working out?


On Saturday, when I expressed my deep misgivings about Waxman-Markey, the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill, which narrowly passed the house Friday night, I went looking for a good summary of the environmentalist objections. I had only to go to a Friday post by my online energy-and-environment go-to guy A Siegel on his Get Energy Smart Now blog, and there was a clip and transcript of the remarkable comments made by Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett on the House floor early Friday.

The remarks began, you may recall:
In his comments, the President emphasized that this is a “jobs bill”, tying this quite directly to prospects to dig ourselves not just out of the climate hole, but our unemployment hole. The President’s statement is a strong one, a powerful discussion of the value of meaningful, strong climate legislation. And, it will (should) be hard for any Democratic member of the House to ignore his call for a yes vote.

I also noted that by the time of the ACES roll call, Doggett voted yes, saying (according to the Washington Independent) "he was tired of listening to the members of 'the flat earth society' across the aisle making 'inane' arguments."

Today Politico has an inside account of the behind-the-scenes arm-twisting that went on in the House on Friday. Of course the Politico writers basically view the day's activities as a knuckle-busting triumph for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- unconcerned, for example, that the screws were put to progressives, who were basically accused of trying to destroy the president, the party, and the country, while the muddled and gutless right-wing Dems, owing to their supposed electoral peril, were largely left to vote, well, not so much their consciences as what it's supposed to be necessary for them to vote to win reelection.

So instead of going to Politico, I think we should turn the reading of their report offered by our Firedoglake pal Jane Hamsher:
What happened? Why did members like Doggett and Tom Perriello, who had committed to vote against the bill, switch their votes? [See CORRECTION below; Perriello was not committed to voting against the bill.]

Now we know:
Pelosi and her top lieutenants would spend the next four hours whipping, cajoling, begging and browbeating undecided Democrats -- and triple-checking their whip lists to decide who was a solid “yes” and who was prevaricating on the cap-and-trade legislation.

Yet no matter how many calls they made -- or how many times they checked and rechecked their list -- Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) kept coming up between 12 and 20 votes short of the 216 votes needed to win.


Party leaders agreed to bring the bill to the floor during a meeting Monday night, even though some of the members present had reservations about forcing vulnerable Democrats to cast votes on a package that may not go anywhere in the Senate.

That's crap -- vulnerable progressive Democrats like Perriello were forced to vote yes against their conscience to give cover for safe Blue Dogs like Gene Taylor to vote "no."
One of Pelosi’s first targets was Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), a key fence-sitter who wanted more money generated from the carbon trading to be directed to the research and development of green technology.

Pelosi talked to him again and again, but he wouldn’t budge. Her message to him was the same as it was to others: It wasn’t worth voting against the bill because of what wasn’t in it.

According to witnesses, Pelosi perched herself on the arm of Holt’s chair and went nose to nose with him for a half-hour warning him that his no vote could scuttle the entire climate change effort — and that liberals would have another chance to make their case once the bill came back from the Senate.

Around 2 o’clock, he became a “yes.”

Next up was Austin, Texas, liberal Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who had seemed to be leaning toward the bill during a Thursday night visit with Obama in the Oval Office — but then infuriated the White House midday Friday by declaring the measure too weak on polluters to win his vote.

An exasperated White House staffer told POLITICO it was “stunning that he would ignore the wishes not just of his president but of his constituents and the country.”

This is exactly the argument that was made to progressives during the supplemental -- it turned into a loyalty test to the President.
Then Pelosi began working Doggett as the two stood in the back of the chamber near the railing, making the same perfect-is-enemy-of-the-good argument she had used against Holt. Doggett ended up voting “yes.”During the vote, Washington Rep. Jay Inslee, one of the taller members of the House, guarded the doors on the floor leading out to the Speaker’s Lobby, warning members not to leave the floor in case anyone needed to switch his or her vote. But that didn’t stop some Democrats, like Colorado Rep. John Salazar, from voting no early and sneaking out to avoid getting pressured by party leaders.

Leadership aides say Texas Rep. Ciro Rodriguez promised Pelosi he’d vote yes, but voted no and sprinted from the chamber. California Rep. Xavier Becerra tried unsuccessfully to flag him on his cell phone — and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) bounded into the ornate Speaker’s Lobby off the floor shouting, “Rodriguez! Rodriguez!” as puzzled reporters looked on.

This is a picture of what will happen on the Public Option. Trial balloons are already being sent up about a sell-out, and the "co-op" plan is now the "liberal option" among the Villagers. Progressives (like Adam Green) who represent the feelings of 76% of the country are "extremists" who want to "kill health care reform."


There doesn't appear to be any doubt about Politico's report that Lloyd Doggett was one of the earnestly environmentalist Dems whose arms were twisted by Speaker Pelosi on Friday to support ACES. Apparently, though, Jane and I are mistaken in saying that Tom Perriello was among that group.

His office confirms that Congressman Perriello always intended to vote for the ACES bill, believing it represents a necessary starting point in taking action against manmade climate change, and despite my grave reservations about the bill, I understand that someone committed to protecting the environment could support it. After all, no less than the League of Conservation Voters has declared it "the most important piece of environmental legislation to ever come before the House of Representatives," adding, " The historic bill has the potential to transform America by creating clean energy jobs, improving our national security, and protecting our planet from global warming pollution," and taking the extraordinary step of promising to refuse endorsement in 2010 to any House member who votes against final passage of this bill." And my energy-and-environment go-to guy A Siegel allowed: "There are quite strong (and even compelling) arguments to vote for the bill despite its flaws. Honestly, in [Comgressmen Doggett and Pete DeFazio's] shoes, I don’t know what statement I would have made today."

Tom Perriello is one of the congressmembers we most admire, and we wouldn't want his position misrepresented. There is, apparently, some apprehension that he can be portrayed as a "tool" of Speaker Pelosi. Indeed, I've heard suggestions that the DCCC was actually pressing him to vote against the bill. It would be interesting to have confirmation of this. Is it really possible that, with both the White House and the House Democratic leadership supposedly all-out committed to the bill, the DCCC was actually lobbying against it?


Howie already did some picking around in the ashes earlier today, but there's still more fun to be had.

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Will The Next Leader Of The Republican Party Be Gay Or Gayish?


A National Journal survey of bloggers I participate in weekly asked today to pick between 3 maladies facing the GOP and determine which is the most harmful to the Party of No. I picked the obstructionist thing but another choice was the GOP's lack of leadership. Despite Cheney's desperate claims to the contrary, the Republican Party has no national leaders-- unless you want to note that more and more of them are liking Obama. (I wonder if he's gaining Republican admirers as rapidly as he's losing progressives; for his sake, he'd better be.)

With a plague of scandals having removed John Ensign and Mark Sanford from any leadership pretensions, Inside-the-Beltway media is suggesting the GOP turn to one of their biggest untapped wells-- closet queens and, more specifically, closet queens from South Carolina. First a note about South Carolina closet queens in general: they're barely in the closet at all. I mean, it's almost-- not quite, but almost-- like Mark Foley (R-FL): everybody knows (except the suckers in the churches who turn out dutifully to vote for them). It's long been an open secret that effeminate Senator Lindsey Graham-- once publicly called "too light in the loafers to fill Strom Thurmond's seat"-- is the gayest blade in the U.S. Senate. On top of that, South Carolina's Lt. Governor, Andre Bauer, usually described as a confirmed bachelor, isn't fooling anyone and neither is the Palmetto State's Senate President Pro Tempore, Glenn McConnell, who will move up to Lt Governor when Bauer becomes governor after Sanford tangos off to Argentina in a few weeks. (Right now, the delusional, love-besotted Sanford, still babbling about King David and how the Devil made him do it, says staying on as Governor of South Carolina is part of God's plan.)

When Cheney announced his hopes for a Republican future during yesterday's Moonie Times' radio show, he didn't mention anyone from South Carolina-- or any known closet cases. He talked up Paul Ryan, a sad sack light-weight who passes for a GOP "thinker," Jon Huntsman, who fled to China rather than face the increasingly virulent attacks from his own party's far right, and Rob Portman, some detritus left over from the Bush Regime waging a hopelessly uphill battle for Ohio's open Senate seat. Chris Cillizza, on the other hand, thinks he may have found the new Republican leader: Lindsey Graham-- just like McCain... only very gay and ridiculously hypocritical. Is Cillizza making a funny? Nope; he was impressed with Lindsey's "inspired performance"-- his words-- on Meet the Press Sunday. Cillizza's explanation defines Village-ism:

EVERYBODY wears pink shirts in South Carolina, silly!

Graham, who spent the 2008 election cycle as Sen. John McCain's loyal sidekick, appeared alongside former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the GOP frontrunner in advance of 2012, and managed to stand out.

Why? Because unlike other Republicans who seem to be so fixated on scoring political points on President Obama, Graham was willing to point out where his own party had strayed while also making a reasonable argument for GOP ideals.

Asked about Gov. Mark Sanford's extramarital affair, Graham, who is close to the governor, said that he was "disappointed" in his friend's behavior and praised Obama as "one of the better role models in the entire country for the idea of being a good parent, a good father."

Of the two major legislative victories for Democrats so far this Congress-- the economic stimulus bill and the climate change measure-- Graham offered a criticism that acknowledged the mistakes his own party had made while subtly hanging the politics as usual label on Obama and Democrats.

"The stimulus package was Karl Rove politics; pick a few Republicans off, call it bipartisan," said Graham. "The climate change bill was Tom DeLay banging heads and twisting arms to get one vote more than you needed. So there's really been no change in Washington."

President Obama didn't invite Lindsey-- or any of the other GOP closet cases-- to his commemoration of Stonewall yesterday. If Obama is supposed to be so bipartisan why no Lindsey Graham or Mitch McConnell or Patty McHenry or Adrian Smith or Dana Rohrabacher?

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Annals of right-wing skulduggery: Failed Dutch right-wing blog gets money from the government for failing!


If there's one thing right-wingers know how to do, it's squeeze money out of government -- yes, the very government whose spending they so loudly and righteously decry. I hope you're sitting down for this pip of a story, passed on by our friends at the English-language Dutch blog PoliGazette.

Outrageous: Failed Dutch Blog Receives 170,000 Euro Bailout
June 29th, 2009 | By: Michael van der Galien

Several weeks ago, influential Dutch conservative blog De Dagelijkse Standaard broke the news that another wannabe rightist blog (PlustPost.nl -- I won’t link to it, see below) owned by Grimbert Rost van Tonningen -- who happens to be a millionaire -- was doing so badly that the owner asked the Dutch government for a bailout (in the form of a loan). That's not a joke. The Dutch government has a budget to bail out struggling media organizations that "make a difference."

PlusPost was founded by Rost van Tonningen, who hoped it would quickly become one of the most prominent rightist blogs in the Netherlands. He and his business friends invested heavily in it but, after many months, still fail to top 1500 unique visits on good days, mostly because the website is extremely boring. In fact, June was the blog's best month thus far, with an average of just about 30,000 visitors in total. That is 1000 a day on average. Basically, that's what reasonably good blogs have if they publish one-and-a-half posts per week.

This while Van Tonningen said earlier that PlusPost has to have at least four times as many unique visitors each month in order to be able to pay for the costs it makes -- its editors, etc. all make money for doing absolutely nothing and, when they do write something, they write about issues that interest no one.

Today, the responsible department told DDS that PlusPost will receive the bailout it requested. The struggling blog -- which pretends to be rightist (for the free market, small government, individual freedoms, etc.) -- will receive 170,000 euro. That is $238,000.

Who pays for that? The taxpayer of course. The Dutch taxpayer, who works hard every day to make a living, who struggles to keep his head above water due to the severe economic crisis, pays for a failed blog owned by a millionaire.

That's bad, isn't it? But wait, there's more. The bailout is a loan only if PlusPost succeeds. If it fails -- and it will because it is still not able to reach its ridiculously low target of 5.000 unique visits a day simply because its owner doesn’t understand blogging one bit -- Van Tonningen has to pay back exactly… nothing.

In other words, it's a win-win situation for the millionaire turned failed blogger. He can't lose. PlusPost fails, he loses the taxpayers' rather than his own money. If he succeeds, he'll pay it back in two years time. By the way, it's safe to forget about that second scenario, for PlusPost will never -- and I do mean never -- succeed. As said, its owner doesn’t understand blogging, nor blogreaders, and he pretends to be rightist while he’s clearly nothing but an opportunist; people see through that.

It’s outrageous.

The moral, presumably, is that when you've got one of these SOBs down, don't offer him a helping hand, offer him a swift kick in the groin. You know, just the way Jesus would.

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Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan Declares War-- Against The Image Borat Cursed It With... Bonanza For Far Right Beltway Lobbying Firm


Is it time for Ken Silverstein to update his incredibly thought-provoking book Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship-- with a little humor? Or maybe just an honest warning to the government of glorious nation of Kazakhstan: save your money; there's not a lobbyist alive, not even among the den of notorious scam artists who populate the crooked right-wing firm founded by Haley Barbour, who's going to be able to compete with Borat. Just go with the flow. Maybe even open a Borat-themed cultural park, if not in Astana, the capital, or Almaty, the biggest city, then perhaps in the Semipalatinsk Polygon (now called Semey), the old Soviet nuclear weapon testing site.

“People look at Borat and think this country is a backwater, that it’s unsophisticated,” said William Nixon, a former Reagan speech writer, now chairman and CEO of Policy Impact Communications, the lobbying firm that snagged the $1.5 million deal straight out of the pages of Silverstein's book.
A team of a dozen lobbyists registered for the account and is working on the country’s ascension to the World Trade Organization, removing a number of trade restrictions put in place by the United States and improving its image.

Nixon said that the impression of Kazakhstan created by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who exploited ignorance of the little-known nation, was false. “Part of our job will be to change that perception,” he said.

“It has a rich history, a deep culture and is a key economic ally of the United States,” Nixon said.

Nixon's firm seems to be taking its game plan straight from Turkmeniscam and I can't help but think they're pissing in their pants when they talk with the sophisticated non-backwater Kazakhs. This is one of the silliest things I've ever read-- Nixon's plans, not Silverstein's fantastic book:
According to the contract, Policy Impact lobbyists hope to achieve several objectives for Kazakhstan in Washington over the next year.

For example, they will advocate for legislation that will repeal trade restrictions and will extend normal trade relations treatment to Kazakh products. In addition, lobbyists will work to form a Central Asia Caucus on Capitol Hill. And they will “build a positive image of Kazakhstan” through “an aggressive earned media campaign,” according to the contract.

That last objective will include placing at least four op-eds in “prestige media,” reaching out to think tanks and arranging trips to Kazakhstan for high-level U.S. government officials.

The firm also plans to monitor coverage by a list of “writers known to be critical of the nation,” which includes Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post’s editorial page editor, and David Stern of the New York Times, according to the contract.

Kazakhstan will have a tough image to correct in Washington. The most recent State Department human rights report says the country has had incidents of prisoner abuse, restrictions on freedom of speech and the press as well as evidence of government corruption.

Nixon is well aware of the nation’s struggles and plans to emphasize the changes the former Soviet republic has made, including its initiative to extend religious freedoms to all of its citizens.
“There is a lot of good going on. It is part of our objective to make sure people understand it is a work in progress,” Nixon said.

Maybe the Kazakhs are following the outline of Silverstein's book too. In June of 2007 their sham parliament named the brutal dictator-- and former Soviet era Communist Party boss-- Nursultan Nazarbayev, president-for-life. It has been reported that he maintains "strict control" over the country's politics, while creating a right-wing think tank-inspired predator economy for his people family and cronies. That "strict control" is maintained through strict censorship, rigging electoral farces, and killing political opponents and journalists. Let's see what these Central Asian fascists and the Inside-the-Beltway crooks they hired can do to combat this:

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Muammar G likes "Leeza" R, all foreign dictators love the Cheneys, and Chimpy got hisself a calf-and-foot massager!


What do you give the crackpot despot who has everything? Certainly not diamonds. How 'bout a lovely DOS dinner plate?

Our pal Al Kamen has been rummaging around the State Dept's latest annual foreign-gifts list for today's Washington Post "In the Loop" column, and among other things has discovered that Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi apparently has a thing for a certain former U.S. secretary of state. No word from "Leeza" as to whether wedding bells might be in the offing.--Ken
Libyan dictator Moammar Gadaffi, a somewhat eccentric fellow, was clearly bewitched by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whom he had taken to calling "Leeza."

So when Rice visited him in Tripoli in September, the two had a private dinner in a small kitchen in his personal quarters, in an area where only women are allowed (except, of course, the leader himself).

Gaddafi gave her several gifts, our colleague Glenn Kessler reported at the time, including a diamond ring in a wooden box, a lute, and a locket with a photo of the leader himself inside. He also gave her a signed copy of his manifesto, "The Green Book," signed "with respect and admiration." There was also a DVD -- probably starring him.

Last week, in the State Department's annual compilation of gifts from foreign officials, we find out that the value of what Rice got from the lovestruck Gaddafi -- as appraised by State Department officials -- was $212,225. Must have been one huge rock.

Rice was obliged to accept the gift; this must be done, according to protocol rules, when "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to the donor and U.S. government." Alas, she was also obliged to turn it in to the appraisers. If it is determined a gift is worth a minimal amount -- around $200 -- the government recipient may keep it.

If it's worth more, the official may buy it for the appraised value or it is handed over to the General Services Administration. The annual report says that the diamond and, sadly, the locket with his picture, are headed to the GSA.

And what did Rice give Gaddafi in return? A plate adorned with the Great Seal of the United States and her robo-pen signature. Gaddafi told her he thought it was lovely. A plate? What? If he's good and she returns seven more times, he has a full service? This from the world's only remaining superpower to our best buddy in North Africa?

Times surely are tough. A small plate with a seal, though unsigned, goes for $39.95 at the State Department gift shop.

Gaddafi's largess was, as would be expected, outdone by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who showered close to $1 million on U.S. officials in 2008. His Highness gave Rice a "gold, diamond and sapphire set with necklace, ring, bracelet and earrings" as well as a "ceremonial robe." Value: $230,145.

But not all gifts are lavish.

Some can be a bit quirky, like a Singapore official's gift to President George W. Bush of a "Creative Zen MP3 Player and an OSIM uSqueez Calf and Foot Massager."

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko gave Vice President Richard B. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, "Two bottles of 1940 Massandra Golden Collection Wine" the gift list says, noting these, like any perishable gifts, are "handled pursuant to U.S. Service policy." (Bet the wine tasted really good.)

Yushchenko also gave Lynne Cheney "Three Ukrainian cookbooks," valued at $90, which she kept. And he gave the Cheney daughters and grandkids seven Ukrainian children's books, six plush stuffed animals, three girls' blouses, three boys' shirts, and a "wooden toy cart with horses," which they kept.

Even King Abdullah can get practical. He gave Lynne Cheney "two pairs of Dr. Scholl's high-heeled clogs," valued at $450. She declined. He gave daughter Liz Cheney (who was doubling as a deputy assistant secretary of state at the time) three pairs of those high-heeled clogs.

Nothing that many of the GSA-bound gifts "go on display or are used in government buildings," Al suggests, "Maybe we can auction them off to help pay for Obama's health-care plan?" (There's no indication whether the uSqueez foot-and-calf massager found its way to the GSA. Our research indicates that the list price on this baby -- not to be confused with the $100-cheaper iSqueez model -- is $499, but surely that would have been a small price for Chimpy the then-Prez to pay to tickle those delicate tootsies.)

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Busting Out of the HCAN Straitjacket-- Guest Post From Marcy Winograd


In 2006 DWT supported Marcy Winograd's primary campaign against Blue Dog Jane Harman in Los Angeles' 36th congressional district. On May 9th we announced the good news-- Marcy is running against Harman, the wealthiest member of the House and one of the most insidious defenders of the status quo inside the Democratic caucus, again. Because Marcy has been such a persistent and outspoken opponent of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-- something we emphasized a few weeks ago in a post called The Importance Of Electing GOOD Democrats Rather Than More Putrid Democrats-- I was delighted when Marcy wrote a guest commentary for us on the health care debate. Marcy's progressive, forward-looking perspective is at great variance with Harman's begrudging minimalist approach that plays into the grasping hands of her Big Business pals but, she hopes, is enough to get her re-elected in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Here's Marcy's post:

With single-payer virtually off the table in Washington, what's a true believer to do?

Sit on the sidelines and surrender one's power?

Join the Health Care for America Now crowd championing a public option that leaves the insurance industry intact?

Or bust out of the political straitjacket that says there are only two choices:
business as usual or the public option.

I'm busting out, running 6 am - 10 pm cable ads, targeted into my district (CA - 36th CD),challenging my 2010 opponent, Jane Harman, to sign on to Congressman John Conyers' bill, HR 676, for single-payer health care.

The commercial, posted on my campaign web site (and above), shows
me standing in front of Harbor-UCLA Hospital in Torrance. "I'm Marcy Winograd and I'm running for Congress in 2010 to unseat Jane Harman in southern California. But I'm not waiting until 2010 to challenge my opponent. I challenge her right now, in front of this hospital to sign on to the most economic and efficient health care plan ... "

Imagine if a slew of progressive challengers in the 2010 primary stepped forward at this moment, this critical juncture in the health care debate, to broadcast single-payer cable commercials on Olbermann's Countdown or the Rachel Maddow show. Maybe if enough of us were on television, challenging the old guard's dismissal of single-payer, we could force a vibrant debate.

Grassroots activists are certainly eager for one. At a recent HCAN forum sponsored by Congressman Waxman's office at UCLA, single-payers showed up en masse, waiving lime-green (no real significance, just bright) placards championing, "Single-Payer Now!" Every time an HCAN advocate mentioned the public option, up went the placards amid a roar of protest.

Days later Congressman Waxman, once a co-sponsor of the Conyers' bill, reversed his decision not to hold hearings on single-payer.

But all the hearings in the world won't lend legitimacy to single-payer, unless we have a government scoring, a fiscal projection of what single-payer would cost or save. Conveniently enough those who could order a financial analysis, the chairs of the committees of jurisdiction (Budget, Finance, Appropriations, Health, Education, and Welfare, Commerce, Ways and Means) have yet to submit a request.

I know because I called the Congressional Budget Office, left a message requesting a scoring, and received a message on my cell phone from Melissa Merson, the office's Communications Director. In her words, "We are fully aware there are members of the public who would like us to provide a cost estimate of single-payer, but we are inundated with requests from committees of jurisdiction. The priorities are set for us by the congress."

Let the people set the priorities. We should demand an accounting; otherwise we are looking at a public option that, like mandated drivers' insurance, bolsters the profits of the insurance industry while, according to the CBO, leaving 36 million Americans uninsured 10 years from now. With most of the public option money designed to subsidize private insurance policies, we're two steps forward, ten steps back.

Before we hypnotize ourselves to champion a compromise that could, in turn, compromise the ability for states to bypass the feds to form single-payer coalitions, let's put the heat on those committee chairs, not just for the single-payer scoring, but for a new bill that calls for Medicare for All with an Opt Out clause for people just dying to buy private health insurance.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Of Loving-- Roy Zimmerman Was Also Inspired By Loving Vs Virginia


DWT regulars are unlikley to have missed one of our dozen or so mentions of Nanci Griffith's latest album, The Loving Kind and an explanation of the unanimous Supreme Court case that struck down all of the remaining laws that prohibited marriage between men and women of different races. Just before she died last year, Mildred Loving talked about how her plight was virtually the same as that of same-sex couples today.

California singer-songwriter Roy Zimmerman, formerly of the Foremen, sent us a video of himself and some friends, Laura Love, John McCutcheon, and Sandy O. of Emma's Revolution, performing his own song along the same lines, "Summer of Loving," at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. In a note Roy pointed out the "obvious implications in the same-sex marriage debate currently raging in this cultural backwater we call California."

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Is Florida Senate Candidate Marco Rubio Headed Down The Path To Fascism?


58 year old Dennis Mahon is a former resident of the Kansas City area, where he was imperial dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He ran for alderman in Northmoor, Mo., on a platform that included keeping the town white. He and his twin brother, Daniel, were arrested and charged with mailing a parcel bomb to a Scottsdale diversity office in 2004. His attorney, Robert Fagan, says his client is a "(military) veteran and a contributing member of society." A third man, Robert Joos, was also arrested in connection with the case and the Indiana home of Tom Metzgar, founder of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), whose website describes him as "converted from minister to Free Thinker, reborn from right-winger to racist."

All 4 of these misfits could easily have been a chapter in Dave Neiwert's stunning new book, The Eliminationists-- How Hate Talk Radio Radicalized The American Right. The book isn't so much about Hate Talk Radio per se as it is about the gradual transformation of mainstream conservatives to full blown fascists and all the steps that lead in that direction. Recently, over the course of a few days I made a very different kind of journey; I flew from L.A. to Hong Kong to Bangkok and on to Bali. The Eliminationists was my traveling companion.

I looked to Neiwert's careful definitions, historical examination and brilliant analysis to shine a light on something that has been bothering me all week. On the surface the casual tweet from Florida Republican, an unabashedly right-wing politician campaigning for the open U.S. Senate seat from that state against heavily favored mainstream conservative Charlie Crist, was just a harmless paen to the right-wing stalwarts at the NRA, part of the coalition he hopes will help him overtake Crist. I've been following Rubio in Twitter since he signed up and he'd never used the NRA hash tag before. And on this tweet he did:

But there was something more to it that has been bothering me. Many Republicans refer to Rubio as "our Obama," presumably because he's young, wrote a book and is from a minority group; he's Cuban-American. The former Speaker of the Florida House brags about his affiliation with the Bush wing of the GOP but his current campaign is reaching out to appeal to Republicans even more extreme and further to the right than that. He's gone from someone championing a reduction in property taxes and shrinking the state government to someone apparently advocating violence in Iran. As I read deeper and deeper into The Eliminationists I kept seeing the specter of Marco Rubio in a conservative movement that has become, in Neiwert's words, "a precursor to fascism." And Neiwert is very careful to warn off his readers from mixing up mainstream conservatives and fascists. He points out that "right-wing rhetoric-- particularly the eliminationist kind-- is so innately violent, and moreover permissive about the use of violence, that it has the effect of promoting a general environment in which violence is accepted and even glorified." Earlier he defined classical fascism in a way that made me wonder if young Mr. Rubio, growing up, at least politically, around so many full-fledged Cuban fascists, might be headed down a path that is anathema to everything most of us value as Americans.
Fascism was explicitly antidemocratic, antiliberal, and corporatist, and it endorsed violence as a chief means to its ends. It was "revolutionary" in its fervor, yet sought to defend status quo institutions, particularly business interests. It was also, obviously, authoritarian.

I'm not saying Rubio is far along the road as, say, Ann Coulter, a full fledged fascist transmitter-- way beyond the pretense of conservatism-- who wrote in the National Review, as a Contributing Editor, that "[w]e should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

In fact Rubio might not even be as far along as defeated Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman, a far right fanatic-- currently a vicious Hate Talk Radio host in Houston-- and militia movement stalwart, who appears to have been involved with the catastrophic bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, although he was never charged as a participant.

Earlier today I talked a little about my visits to Afghanistan in terms of tourism and Obama's miscalculations there. Now I want to recall how I marveled at the deeply ingrained Afghan gun culture when I was there in 1969 and again in 1971. I had never seen anything like it before-- not even in Texas. I used to write letters home explaining that you would no sooner expect to see an Afghan man walking along without a gun than you would expect to see an American walking along without his trousers. I remember often seeing pairs of grizzled old Afghan men walking along holding hands, each clutching an ancient long gun in the other hand. And 1969 was a relatively peaceful time in Afghanistan's turbulent history.

Before driving to Afghanistan, I spent a couple months in Iran, primarily in Tabriz, Tehran and Meshed. Iran is a nation that prides itself-- and rightly so-- as one with a rich cultural heritage and a firm claim to being one of the word's longest surviving civilizing forces. The Iranians are as proud of their civilization and the Afghans are proud of their xenophobia and barbarism. In Iran you never see someone with a gun other than a policeman or a soldier.

Rubio bemoans this and seems to think that if the Iranian demonstrators only had some guns they could have swept the tyrants of Tehran away. When Bush and Cheney held sway in Washington I used to wonder if maybe the Second Amendment fanatics had a point. Of course that would lead me to remember that no matter what armaments civilians have-- even in Texas-- the government has more deadly ones. Certainly if the Iranian demonstrators would have carried guns and shot up the police, the Supreme Leader would have responded with tanks. Or does Rubio thinks civilians ought to have the right to own tanks as well?

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Can anyone help us find this interview in which Rush Limbaugh admitted the extravaganza is all about giving his advertisers value for their $$$?



My friend Ralph, a Philadelphian, had explained that he heard Comedian Rush Limbaugh make the following startling admission in a radio interview. It's pretty well established that this is the attitude of the lord of the dittoheads -- that in fact he doesn't believe any of the stuff he blithers, that it's all show biz, and ratings, and ultimately advertising dollars. I just don't recall him being so indiscreet as to put this on the public record.

Ralph followed up with the following record of his recollections. Can anyone out there help him track this interview down?
-- Ken

Hi Ken . . . and whoever else might be listening!

So let me tell you in print the events.

I go to the gym at 5 AM. All, or most all, of my news comes from NPR. Just prior to 5 AM, and I'm thinking it was just before the election, I heard a British interview with Rush boy.

The interview centered around Limbaugh's cochlear inplants -- he's dead . . . oh, I'm sorry, I meant deaf. Freudian, I suppose.

Anyway, the interviewer wanted the listening audience, who may not be familiar with Limbaugh, to hear a clip from one of his shows, after which Limbaugh says, "I will say anything to obtain confiscatory compensation from my advertisers. You don't get it, it's just show business."

At the time I thought it would be easy to track down this interview on some archive.
Well, eight weeks and I'm ready to open a vein.

I contacted the following: BBC, The Strand, National Public Radio, WHYY (Philadelphia local), Bill Maur. Except for Bill Maur, who hasn't replied yet, all others say they have exhausted all resources.

Can that be? I know I didn't dream this interview! We need to effect a global search pattern!



"We're in radio, we're broadcasters. We have the opportunity to move more people in a substantive way for the good of the country because of that intimacy that radio affords that television doesn't."
-- Rush Limbaugh, accepting an award from Talkers magazine

Commenter Anonymous directs our attention to a post on the Rush-Matters.com website that indeed contains language similar to what Ralph heard in the British interview. It's billed there as an "admission":
Recently, in a speech given in acceptance of a talk radio industry award, Rush Limbaugh openly admitted that his number one priority as a broadcaster is not to influence policy or sway peoples’ opinions. Rather, his foremost priority every day is to attract as large an audience as possible, hold that audience as long as possible, and then deliver that audience to advertisers in exchange for large sums of money.

In fact, though, if you actually watch the 11-minute clip, you discover that this is a clearly willful, even shocking misrepresentation of what Rush said. I have to say, it's a truly brilliant speech, arguing the unique power of talk radio "to move more people in a substantive way for the good of the country."

What the website Rush-Matters.com trumpets as an "admission" is no such thing. That strikes me as a radical misrepresentation of what Rush is actually saying, and we're not talking subtlety or nuance. He indeed says "We're broadcasters first," that "our job is to attract an audience, and to hold that audience for as long as we can, for the purpose of charging confiscatory advertising rates." He makes clear that, yes, radio is a business, and a business he loves.

But he also makes absolutely clear throughout the clip that an absolute prerequisite for what he does is that he does believe in what he says, that he is totally passionate about the beliefs he espouses. It's just that he loves his job as a broadcaster. "I don't want to move to Washington and I don't want to get involved in policy." I think he leaves little doubt about his concern for his on-air credibility in this remarkably well argued section:
[0:33] There are people who want to silence those that say things they don't agree with. That is an ever-present danger, and it's something that we all have to be vigilant against, and the best way to engage in free speech is to engage in free speech, and to not be afraid of what somebody is going to think of what you say.

[0:56] I got a piece of advice when I moved to Sacramento in 1984 -- that was actually my first full-fledged talk show -- and the guy that took me out there, who has since passed away, Norman Woodruff, one of the most important people in my career, said, "Look, we want controversy." Rush explains that unbeknownst to him he was being brought in to replace the fired Morton Downey Jr., who had told a "Chinaman" joke for which he refused to apologize.]

[1:35] "We want controversy, but don't make it up. If you actually think something, if you actually believe it, and you can tell people why, we'll back you up. But if you're going to say stuff just to make people mad, if all you want to do is rabble-rouse, if all you want to do is to stand and get noticed, that's not what we're interested in and we won't back you up."

And I've never forgotten it.

Rush goes on to talk about the intimacy of the talk radio medium, and its unmatched power as an advertising medium. The host who establishes credibility with his audience has that audience "captive," he says.
[7: 13] The host has credibility, captive audience, audience loves the host, thinks the host tells the truth, host advises the product is worthwhile, the product moves off the shelves, bingo -- success! I don't know about you, but that's what keeps me on the air, not what I think about issues, not what I think about who the president is or what he's doing.

That matters. It's a close second, don't misunderstand. But we're in radio, we're broadcasters. We have the opportunity to move more people in a substantive way for the good of the country because of that intimacy that radio affords that television doesn't.

Don't get me wrong either. I hate Rush as much as anybody drawing breath. But he is emphatically not saying that he says stuff to get ratings. What he's saying is the exact opposite: that getting big ratings is what makes it possible for him to say the things he believes on radio.


Sunday Classics: It wasn't easy being Brahms -- but for the rest of us it was sure worth it


The haunting slow movement of Brahms's Double Concerto is played by the young brothers Capuçon, Renaud (violin, born 1976) and Gautier (cello, born 1981), with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra conducted by Myung-Whun Chung.

by Ken

I thought we could ease our way back into these weekly classical music posts, with a sort of "tease," a down payment toward some discussion-to-follow (next week?) of one of the best-know and yet most persistently misunderstood and misrepresented of all composers.

What's more, I thought I had the perfect choice: the gorgeous, positively haunting slow movement of Brahms's Double Concerto -- or, more properly, the Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 102. [Thanks to commenter polderboy for catching my dumb typo on the opus number!] The Double Concerto, the last of Brahms's four brawny and beautiful concertos (there are, of course, two masterpieces for piano and one for violin, all among the most-performed works in the classical repertory), is a late work, and an intensely beautiful one, and also one that the composer would never have had to worry about being mistaken for anybody else's work. It really doesn't bear the hallmark of any other composer.

There would be the additional virtue that a certain number of readers would recognize the haunting main theme.

So I went shopping on YouTube, and ran smack into one of the things I wanted to discuss in the planned "follow-up" piece. Performers seem to feel the need to show that they know how big and important and serious Brahms's music is. So they make it elephantine and sweaty and heaving and generally rather repulsive. It's a tribute to the greatness of the music that its greatness shines through this persistent abuse. This borders on the miraculous.

There's no doubt that Brahms was a hard worker, and that he labored mightily over his work, not least with that unshakable awareness of the genius of Beethoven haunting him. (Beethoven was a hard worker too, but that doesn't seem to have been of much comfort to poor Brahms, or lessened his sense of struggle any.) The thing is, though, that when he finished, he'd done all the heavy lifting. You don't need to make the music important; the composer already took care of that, if you'll just find what makes the music happen and allow that to take place.

Part of the problem is that a lot of posters have passed over the Double Concerto's middle movement, or tacked it onto the end of the too-long-for-YouTube first movement. What I was able to find of just the gentle Andante was discouraging, and often you know you're in trouble from the very start -- that seemingly simple pair of rising-two-note motifs, the first by paired horns, the second by paired flutes. For those "perfect" intervals of the fourth, you really need pretty darned perfect tuning from the performers, without showing off the effort required to get it so.

Oh, I did find a clip of the 1982 video performance by Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic with violinist Gidon Kremer and cellist Mischa Maisky, but the clip wasn't of good technical qualty, and the performance -- in common with Lenny's later Brahms, and indeed most of the later Lenny -- stretches the music to the breaking point. I've come to think that he generally stayed just this side of that breaking point, and in the process did indeed discover beauties and depths that more casual renderings miss, but for such a performance to succeed I think it needs all elements working, and to me that means the sound has to be as good as the (quite decent) source material. I'm watching my laser-disk copy right now (coupled, like the DVD) with the Kremer-Bernstein video recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto), and I don't have much hesitation in recommending the performance, just not in mediocre-video-clip form.

Back I went to renew the search, and found a (barely) bearable clip, with a couple of adequate soloists and that pompous Brit-twit Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. Hot dog, I thought, good enough! Hallelujah! (Sir Simon isn't untalented, but for the most part he's so infatuated with his media persona -- he was invented as that rarity, a child conducting prodigy, and has been given a free ride by the British-centered musical press ever since -- that I don't expect much from his performances. I've gotten surprised a few times, but not often enough to cause me to reverse my lack-of-benefit of the doubt.)

Anyway, the performance wasn't a total botch, and I thought the basic quality of the piece would come through, so I hastened to copy the embed code, and naturally it's "embedding disabled by request"! I got news for these chillun: Their performance ain't anywhere near good enough to be fretting about people stealing it.

By now I was starting to think "backup plan." Maybe the opening movement of the Horn Trio? (As you'll have noticed from the opening of the concerto movement, Brahms loved the French horn.) Then I stumbled on the genuinely adequate audio-only performance of the Andante of the Double Concerto A up top. If anything, it goes in the opposite direction from the one I'm complaining about: perhaps too relaxed, leaving the music a bit too much to its own devices, not quite finding its inner momentum, by which I don't mean speed, I mean the irresistible need for forward movement, what makes the music go, regardless of how fast or slow the tempo. (This performance is available on CD, but I should say that I haven't heard the outer movements of the concerto or the coupled performance of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet.)

Next week: more on what makes Brahms such a special case, even as measured among the very greatest composers. (That's kind of a trick actually. Isn't it obvious that all of the greatest composers are special cases?)


Out of curiosity, I went back to the YT well to see what I might have turned up for the Horn Trio (or again, more formally, the Trio for Violin, Horn, and Piano in E flat major, Op. 40), and after some discouraging shots found this rendering of the classic 1933 recording by Aubrey Brain, the horn-playing father of the most famous of all French-horn players, the tragically short-lived Dennis Brain; the great German violinist Adolf Busch; and the then-30-ish pianist Rudolf Serkin, a lifelong first-quality Brahmsian.


There are lots of good recordings of the Double Concerto, but also, for the reasons suggested above, a fair number of mediocre ones. For starters, for a mere $8.97 plus shipping and tax Amazon will sell youthe EMI version by the great violinist and cellist David Oistrakh and Mstislav Rostropovich, with George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra, coupled with the famous recording of the Beethoven Triple Concerto that Oistrakh and Rostropovich made with their equally celebrated countryman the legendary pianist Sviatoslav Richter, with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

Even cheaper is a SONY Masterworks CD couplingof performances by a singularly notable Brahms performer, the late Isaac Stern (we'll be talking about this more) of both the Violin Concerto and the Double Concerto, with his frequent collaborator Leonard Rose, both ably backed by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

There's also a fine Philips Trio setof all four Brahms concertos -- the two piano concertos played by Alfred Brendel (not my favorite recordings, but eminently respectable ones), the Violin Concerto and the Double Concerto played by the great violinist Henryk Szeryng (with the lovely cellist Janos Starker) -- plus Brahms's Tragic and Academic Festival Overtures and the Haydn Variations, all played by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink. With brand-new copies listed on Amazon.com for under $14, this three-CD set is a steal.

As for the Horn Trio, I just now noticed while perusing the "availabilities" that there's a Chandos recording, coupled with the Brahms Clarinet Trio, by the great Borodin Trio and friends, which I've somehow previously missed. I promptly ordered myself a copy. The Borodin Trio's sets of Brahms's three piano trios and three piano quartets (not to mention much of the rest of the piano trio repertory) are among the all-time great chamber music recordings. I'll report on the disc when I get it.

Meanwhile, we have another great bargain: an attractive Philips Duoof the Horn Trio performed by the great violinist Arthur Grumiaux, hornist Gyorgy Sebok, and pianist Francis Orval, along with the three piano trios by the Beaux Arts Trio (the fine early version with violinst Daniel Guilet), and the Clarinet Trio with clarinetist George Pieterson and Beaux Arts pianist and cellist Menahem Pressler and Bernard Greenhouse.


It's been awhile. Here's about where we left off.

[UPDATE: I think I've got the damned links fixed!]

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