Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, everyone!


by Ken

People are saying a lot of mean things about 2009, so let me just point out that never in the history of mankind has it been possible to choose from so many YouTube clips of "Auld Lang Syne."

Of course they're mostly pretty horrible. To the extent that I was briefly tempted, in the course of my search (during which I seemed constantly under pursuit by Kenny G -- is there some link I'm not aware of between Kenny G and New Year's?), by a karaoke version blasting with distortion (good idea, problematic execution) and even, yes, by André Rieu (I mean this at least initially rather sweet version, not this really tacky one).

Not wishing to be still searching as the ball drops, I settled on a trusty old-timer -- first part kind of over-syrupy, but then it really digs in.

Of course you can still do the karaoke thing. I'm sure Guy won't mind. (What do you figure the chances are there's anyone alive who participated in that recording? Actually, it usually turns out that there are survivors, so let me say that if you did play with Guy, on that or any other occasion, and have memories to share -- in particular New Year's-related ones -- we'd be happy to hear 'em.)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you'll buy your pint cup !
and surely I'll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we've wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine† ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there's a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o' thine !
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

[Note: I make no claim for accuracy or authenticity, since this was simply stolen off of HuffPost -- except that I've respaced to what I think they meant. By the way, they've also got, in addition to this English translation, the Scottish original, which I assume is actual Robert Burns. I wasn't reading all that carefully, and one thing I've never aspired to be is a scholar of "Auld Lang Syne," or Robbie B, for that matter. I guess that's two things.]

Anyway, a safe and healthy and productive as well as Happy New Year to all our friends, old and new, from Howie and Noah and me, and of course all the little people behind the scenes at DownWithTyranny.


Economnics 2009-10: Joseph E. Stiglitz's "Harsh lessons we may need to learn again"


"We are accustomed to thinking of government transferring money from the well off to the poor. Here it was the poor and average transferring money to the rich. Already heavily burdened taxpayers saw their money - intended to help banks lend so that the economy could be revived - go to pay outsized bonuses and dividends. . . .

"The bailout exposed deep hypocrisy all around. Those who had preached fiscal restraint when it came to small welfare programs for the poor now clamored for the world's largest welfare program. Those who had argued for free market's virtue of "transparency" ended up creating financial systems so opaque that banks could not make sense of their own balance sheets. And then the government, too, was induced to engage in decreasingly transparent forms of bailout to cover up its largesse to the banks."

-- Nobel economist Joesph E. Stiglitz, in a China Daily op-ed,

For our last economic word for 2009, we turn to one of our more trusted voices. -- Ken

Op-Ed Contributors

Harsh lessons we may need to learn again

By Joseph E. Stiglitz (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-31 07:51

The best that can be said for 2009 is that it could have been worse, that we pulled back from the precipice on which we seemed to be perched in late 2008, and that 2010 will almost surely be better for most countries around the world. The world has also learned some valuable lessons, though at great cost both to current and future prosperity - costs that were unnecessarily high given that we should already have learned them.

The first lesson is that markets are not self-correcting. Indeed, without adequate regulation, they are prone to excess. In 2009, we again saw why Adam Smith's invisible hand often appeared invisible: it is not there. The bankers' pursuit of self-interest (greed) did not lead to the well-being of society; it did not even serve their shareholders and bondholders well. It certainly did not serve homeowners who are losing their homes, workers who have lost their jobs, retirees who have seen their retirement funds vanish, or taxpayers who paid hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the banks.

Under the threat of a collapse of the entire system, the safety net - intended to help unfortunate individuals meet the exigencies of life - was generously extended to commercial banks, then to investment banks, insurance firms, auto companies, even car-loan companies. Never has so much money been transferred from so many to so few.

We are accustomed to thinking of government transferring money from the well off to the poor. Here it was the poor and average transferring money to the rich. Already heavily burdened taxpayers saw their money - intended to help banks lend so that the economy could be revived - go to pay outsized bonuses and dividends. Dividends are supposed to be a share of profits; here it was simply a share of government largesse.

The justification was that bailing out the banks, however messily, would enable a resumption of lending. That has not happened. All that happened was that average taxpayers gave money to the very institutions that had been gouging them for years - through predatory lending, usurious credit-card interest rates, and non-transparent fees.

The bailout exposed deep hypocrisy all around. Those who had preached fiscal restraint when it came to small welfare programs for the poor now clamored for the world's largest welfare program. Those who had argued for free market's virtue of "transparency" ended up creating financial systems so opaque that banks could not make sense of their own balance sheets. And then the government, too, was induced to engage in decreasingly transparent forms of bailout to cover up its largesse to the banks. Those who had argued for "accountability" and "responsibility" now sought debt forgiveness for the financial sector.

The second important lesson involves understanding why markets often do not work the way they are meant to. There are many reasons for market failures. In this case, too-big-to-fail financial institutions had perverse incentives: if they gambled and succeeded, they walked off with the profits; if they lost, the taxpayer would pay. Moreover, when information is imperfect, markets often do not work well - and information imperfections are central in finance. Externalities are pervasive: the failure of one bank imposed costs on others, and failures in the financial system imposed costs on taxpayers and workers all over the world.

The third lesson is that Keynesian policies do work. Countries, like Australia, that implemented large, well-designed stimulus programs early emerged from the crisis faster. Other countries succumbed to the old orthodoxy pushed by the financial wizards who got us into this mess in the first place.

Whenever an economy goes into recession, deficits appear, as tax revenues fall faster than expenditures. The old orthodoxy held that one had to cut the deficit - raise taxes or cut expenditures - to "restore confidence." But those policies almost always reduced aggregate demand, pushed the economy into a deeper slump, and further undermined confidence - most recently when the International Monetary Fund insisted on them in East Asia in the 1990's.

The fourth lesson is that there is more to monetary policy than just fighting inflation. Excessive focus on inflation meant that some central banks ignored what was happening to their financial markets. The costs of mild inflation are miniscule compared to the costs imposed on economies when central banks allow asset bubbles to grow unchecked.

The fifth lesson is that not all innovation leads to a more efficient and productive economy - let alone a better society. Private incentives matter, and if they are not well aligned with social returns, the result can be excessive risk taking, excessively shortsighted behavior, and distorted innovation. For example, while the benefits of many of the financial-engineering innovations of recent years are hard to prove, let alone quantify, the costs associated with them - both economic and social - are apparent and enormous.

Indeed, financial engineering did not create products that would help ordinary citizens manage the simple risk of home ownership - with the consequence that millions have lost their homes, and millions more are likely to do so. Instead, innovation was directed at perfecting the exploitation of those who are less educated, and at circumventing the regulations and accounting standards that were designed to make markets more efficient and stable. As a result, financial markets, which are supposed to manage risk and allocate capital efficiently, created risk and misallocated wildly.

We will soon find out whether we have learned the lessons of this crisis any better than we should have learned the same lessons from previous crises.

Regrettably, unless the United States and other advanced industrial countries make much greater progress on financial-sector reforms in 2010 we may find ourselves faced with another opportunity to learn them.

The author is an Economics Nobel laureate and university professor at Columbia University. He has many books, including Globalization and Its Discontents and The Roaring Nineties, to his credit. His latest book, Freefall, will be published in January.

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Counting down to 2010 with -- what else? -- the craziness of "Big Dick" Cheney


Just the other day I was bitching about the failure of the Obama campaign or administration to create a plain narrative of the ideological catastrophes of the Bush regime's ideological catastrophes. One consequence of the failure to do so is that we continue to be stuck listening to the lies and inanities of its vilest actor, despite the sub-zero approval ratings to which he seemed to be sinking back when he was still fixed inside the public's increasingly shorter window of memory. -- Ken

Dick Cheney's lies about President Obama

By Eugene Robinson
Thursday, December 31, 2009; A17

It's pathetic to break a New Year's resolution before we even get to New Year's Day, but here I go. I had promised myself that I would do a better job of ignoring Dick Cheney's corrosive and nonsensical outbursts -- that I would treat them, more or less, like the pearls of wisdom one hears from homeless people sitting in bus shelters.

But he is a former vice president, which gives him a big stage for his histrionic Rottweiler-in-Winter act. It is never a good idea to let widely disseminated lies and distortions go unchallenged. And the shrill screed that Cheney unloosed Wednesday is so full of outright mendacity that, well, my resolution will have to wait.

In a statement to Politico, Cheney seemed to be trying to provide talking points for opponents of the Obama administration who -- incredibly -- would exploit the Christmas Day terrorist attack for political gain. Cheney's broadside opens with a big lie, which he then repeats throughout. It is as if he believes that saying something over and over again, in a loud enough voice, magically makes it so.

"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war," Cheney begins.

Flat-out untrue.

The fact is that Obama has said many times that we are at war against terrorists. He said it as a candidate. He said it in his inaugural address: "Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." He has said it since.

As Cheney well knows, unless he has lost even the most tenuous grip on reality, Obama's commitment to warfare as an instrument in the fight against terrorism has won the president nothing but grief from the liberal wing of his party, with more certainly to come. Hasn't anyone told Cheney that Obama is sharply boosting troop levels in Afghanistan in an attempt to avoid losing a war that the Bush administration started but then practically abandoned?

Cheney knows this. But he goes on to use the big lie -- that Obama is "trying to pretend we are not at war" -- to bludgeon the administration on a host of specific issues. Here is the one that jumps out at me: The president, Cheney claims, "seems to think that if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won't be at war."

Interesting that Cheney should bring that up, because it now seems clear that the man accused of trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was given training -- and probably the bomb itself, which involved plastic explosives sewn into his underwear -- by al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. It happens that at least two men who were released from Guantanamo appear to have gone on to play major roles as al-Qaeda lieutenants in Yemen. Who let these dangerous people out of our custody? They were set free by the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The former vice president expresses his anger that the Obama administration is bringing Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to trial in New York. Cheney is also angry that Obama does not use the phrase "war on terror" all the time, the way the Bush administration used to. But Obama just specifies that we're at war against a network of terrorists, on the sensible theory that it's impossible to wage war against a tactic.

Toward the end of his two-paragraph statement, Cheney goes completely off the rails and starts fulminating about how Obama is seeking "social transformation -- the restructuring of American society." Somehow, this is supposed to be related to the president's alleged disavowal of war -- which, of course, isn't real anyway. It makes you wonder whether Cheney is just feeding the fantasies of the paranoid right or has actually joined the tea-party fringe.

I can find reasons to criticize the administration's response to the Christmas Day attack. Obama and his team were slow off the mark. Their initial statements were weak. Obama shouldn't have waited three days to speak publicly, and when he did he should have shown some emotion.

But using a terrorist attack to seek political gain? I have a New Year's resolution to suggest for Cheney: Ahead of your quest for personal vindication, put country first.

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12 Days of Christmas Scorn: Day 7 -- A Circus of Horrors, Carny Row Edition


There isn't really such a person, is there?

by Noah


This can only go to the person for whom it is named. My first reaction to this creature was that she was really someone who had wandered off the set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Certainly it’s possible. She could be Tim Curry’s sister, or she could be Tim Curry. But the more I dwelled on it, and after taking in the Carny Row factor, I realized exactly who she is: the Chicken Lady from Kids in the Hall.

Whatever this person Taitz is, it was the ultimate in nonsense, yet the media put her and her crackpot version of history on camera, repeatedly. Orly, if what you wanted was attention, you really succeeded. My question: Would you have done the same thing if Panama-born Cranky McCain had been elected? (Of course you would have been just as wrong.) Just between us, though. Orly: You're not a third-grader anymore, are you?

And do something about those loose feathers.


To the U.S. Citizens Association. There are lots of wingnut organizations like this one, but rather than list them all, I decided to pick out one of the more visible ones, with the idea of having one representative one.

I first came upon this Republikook organization, not in a local paper where the ad at this link
has been running for months, but on a Long Island TV station. The ad forcefully tries to cram in every Repug-Fox News talking point it can into one page or 30 seconds of air time. It’s a Drudge wet dream. It’s bizarre enough when you see the print version, but seeing and hearing it on TV, it comes across as vintage SNL fake ad material, or better yet, MADtv. They’re out there (in more ways than one), and they are serious. The ad also runs in a daily fish wrapper called USA Today, in lieu of a comics section. The USCA is reportedly based in Akron, Ohio, a town that is probably most famous for tire factories and the rock band Devo (“Whip It, Whip It Good”). Once you factor in Devo, it all starts to make sense somehow.

The same folks also run some alternate-universe bizarre-world anti-healthcare reform ads on several TV networks. Someone has a lot of money, or maybe the ads are some sort of weird social-engineering experiment being run by a super-secret think tank or intelligence group.


This award, inspired by a certain late-night TV advertisement for some “Awesome God” pop music, is given to the Repug who best exemplifies the combination of religious hypocrisy, homophobia, and an unfounded yet firm belief that he/she is so important that God would even bother to talk to him/her. What an ego! And the winner is . . . Carrie Prejean, the former Miss California (and Miss USA runner-up) and anorexia poster girl, the gift that just keeps on giving. I guess she’s just so pretty that God couldn’t resist trying for a chat-up. Hey, it worked with Mary!

“God made me criticize gay marriage.” Man, talk about not accepting responsibility for your actions! How Republican!


To Ron “I’ll Say or Do Anything for a Prom Date with My Repug Masters Christie. You know how if you photocopy something and then phtocopy each copy in turn, each is less refined and less detailed, a cheap knockoff facsimile of the original? For those who don’t know who this clown is, because of his ever-dwindling face time on TV, Ron Christie is a former Darth Cheney aide and Repug Party-owned operative and attack bitch. He is, stylistically, a mediocre at best knockoff of Tucker Carlson (seen at left in his full polka-dots-on-stripes sartorial splendor). Like Carlson (but without the bowtie), Christite just oozes the rationale of a spoiled six-year-old, who can’t deal with the fact that reality isn’t the way his mommy told him it was, and that he won’t always be first in line for ice cream. He’s the kid in the first grade that goes up to the teacher and tattles on someone at least five times a day. His sense of right and wrong and who’s entitled is too misshapen to squeeze back into his narrow little box of a mind.

Christie’s one real talent, other than tsk-tsking like some little old lady complaining about the length of the skirts on the girls who walk by the house, is, like Carlson, the ability to quickly twist the statements of those he fears and judges undeserving of his precious respect, and fire back childish, reality-defying inanities. For instance, about the controversy surrounding the infamously racist “Harold, Call me” ad that was run against Harold Ford in Tennessee, Christie, with a straight face, whined “Why is it racist to have a white blonde woman say that she met Harold Ford? Where’s the racism?”

"I think the Republicans have been caricatured as being a white, Southern, religious party. We're more than that, but clearly we did not get our message out." Clearly, Ron.

Trying so hard to be a typical elitist, Christie also likes to interrupt anyone who starts to offer a reality-based opinion that doesn’t fit his worldview and then turn around and whine, “I didn’t interrupt you!” For this kind of behavior, TV programs actually pay him money. On the surface, that makes sense. TV producers know full well that people like to watch a car crash. The problem has been that Christie has all of the annoying qualities of Carlson but little of the smarts. Plus, a certain number of viewers found Tucker physically attractive. Sorry, but that’s TV. Christie just isn’t working out. Christie not only manages the seemingly impossible, becoming even more irritating than Carlson, he overplays it in such a dumbed-down way that he has the special quality of driving viewers to reach for the remote. That’s a no-no in TV land.

At least when Carlson got the boot, he could still make a few bucks dancing around a pole. Christie has fewer options. Waitress, let’s have some drinks!


To so-called President Bush’s press flak Dana Perino. Press secretaries used to be intelligent, knowledgeable human beings. Such spokespersons are a rapidly disappearing species. The darkly farcical GWB administration called the Iraq War for Oil “mission accomplished” years ago. Then they campaigned on keeping us safe from terrorists when they did anything but. The attacks had happened on their watch, but apparently a lot of people bought the charade. From almost the beginning of the Bush darkness, their failings, including not “reading the memo,” were blamed on Bill Clinton. Everything was Clinton’s fault, right down to the weather.

With Repugs, it’s always someone else’s fault. I’m no fan of Clinton, but the last thing Clinton did was warn Chimpy about bin Laden. Bush thought Terry Schiavo was worth leaving the fake ranch and flying back to Washington for, but not the dire warnings of impending terror attacks. ‘Nuff said.

Now the Bush concern is his legacy, his place in history, and, they are trying to doctor the story as fast as they can. Recently, in an ultimate example of Bush revisionism, Perino kicked the current Bush line up a notch. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the most high-profile time, when she went on Sean Insanity’s bizarro-world TV show and, with a straight face and no shame, claimed that there had been no terror attacks during the Bush years. Did Hannity bother to correct her? What do you think?

The fiction continues. The fiction grows. Dana is out there working the Bush storyline every day, and, no doubt, sanding her nose down to human size with a power sander every night. Next thing you know, if the Bush Museum ever gets built, it will contain a wing that celebrates the Texas Rangers baseball team’s ten consecutive world championships under Dubya’s leadership. Mission accomplished.


To all those in Congress who have opposed healthcare reform and insurance reform with all their cold, dead hearts. We pay for the healthcare of those in our government who oppose giving us healthcare. They live on our tax dollars. No one in our society lives on more welfare than our members of Congress. The same slime went bonkers -- with media help-- over “saving Terri Schiavo,” strictly for political points, but when it comes to saving anyone else? Hell, so-called President Bush even volunteered (probably the only time he ever volunteered for anything) to undergo vacationus interuptus and got on Air Force One (another taxpayer expense) to fly from his fake ranch back to D.C. to “save Terri Schiavo.”

Just because someone claims that they are “pro-life” doesn’t mean they are pro-your life. You also gotta wonder about politicians and media hacks who block health care and insurance reform while saying that they don’t want a government plan while their own parents are benefiting from a government plan called Medicare. The Repug ones even want to dismantle Medicare. Now, that's bumping off Grandma!


Mark and Jenny Sanford

To SC Gov. Mark Sanford for his treatment of the wifey. (Kudos to Jenny Sanford for movin’ out.) And dumping the mistress. And saying God wanted him to stay in office. Once, it was Larry Craig and his exhibition of closed-space tap-dancing. This year, it was Sanford and Miss Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and I’m just headed down the old Appalachian Trail of love.

What, oh what will it be in 2010? I wait with great anticipation! What could it be? A naked Congressman running down Connecticut Avenue with a stack of Tiger Woods Mistress Calendars during rush hour? Sheep dressed in little elephant costumes in the $enate Office Building? The C Street Boys, naked except for crosses as they chant and dance around the Washington Monument at midnight?


Or possibly not even one "lanaguage"?

To the 1.7 million, er, make that 65,000 Teabaggers who showed up on the Mall in Washington with their misspelled signage. The above is just a sample of the wonders you'll find here.

These are the people who, in medieval times, gathered in town squares yelling about witches. You can feel their hatred based on both received misinformation (heaped upon them by media hacks that play them for fools) and on their own fermented stew of bigotries. Perhaps the most glaring example of what these lowlifes are is the treatment they recently gave a woman at a Chicago-area town-hall meeting when she stood up to tell the story of her pregnant sister’s death and how insurance would have save both the sister and the baby. They laughed. They jeered. They shouted her down. Nice folks.

TOMORROW: Day 8 -- Utter Freak Show Edition

1. The Rev. Jimmy Swaggart Carload o' Porn Award
2. The Gift That Keeps On Giving Award
3. The Sen. David "Diapers" Vitter Golden Diaper Award
4. The Adolf Eichmann Award
5. The Joe McCarthy "I Have a List" Award
6. The Pitter-Patter of Little Feet Award
7. The Very Special, Special Loon Award
8. The Why Do You Hate Americans? Award
9. The Why Do You Hate the Bible? Award


Day 1: Con Men, Grifters, and Outlaws Edition
Day 2: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same Edition
Day 3: Media Manipulators and Seditionistas Edition
Day 4: Teabaggers Edition
Day 5: A Circus of Horrors
Day 6: Toys in the Attic Edition


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sigh no more, ladies -- Karl Rove is available again (and good luck to you)


Darby and Karl (seen here at the second GWB inaugural,
in 2005) -- oh, where did the love go wrong?

by Ken

If you haven't heard the news, I don't know how to break it to you gently. The love story that was Darby and Karl Rove is, alas, no more, finito, kaput, just this side of what would have been their 25th anniversary, in January. Here's how the Lonelyhearts pages of Politico broke the news:

Karl Rove granted divorce in Texas

by Mike Allen
12.29/09 11:27 AM EST

Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, has been granted a divorce in Texas after 24 years of marriage, family spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

“Karl Rove and his wife, Darby, were granted a divorce last week," said Perino. "The couple came to the decision mutually and amicably, and they maintain a close relationship and a strong friendship. There will be no further comment, and the family requests that its privacy be respected.”

The Roves were married in January 1986.

A family friend told POLITICO: “After 24 years of marriage, many of which were spent under incredible stress and strain during the White House years, the Roves came to a mutual decision that they would end the marriage. They did spend Christmas together with their son, and they plan to spend time together in the future. They maintain a strong friendship, and they both feel that that friendship is a source of comfort and inspiration for their friends and family.”

Rove’s 608-page memoir, “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,” is due out from Simon & Schuster’s Threshold Editions on March 9.

Ed Gillespie, former counselor to President George W. Bush, whose wife Cathy has been friends with the Roves for 20 years, said: “It’s always sad to see a marriage end. These are two very good people, who came to a not-easy decision. But they care a lot about each other, and they love their son. And they’ll work through it.”

Yesterday Glenn Greenwald, bless his soul, tied himself in knots deducing lessons in logic from the illogic of this man who has devoted so much of his life and energy to imposing, well, somebody's views on the sanctity of marriage on a captive public and enforcing, well, somebody's views on the godlessness of same-sex marriage on that same punch-drunk public.
Karl Rove is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, citing "5,000 years of understanding the institution of marriage" as his justification. He also famously engineered multiple referenda to incorporate a ban on same-sex marriage into various states' constitutions in 2004 in order to ensure that so-called ""Christian conservatives" and "value voters" who believe in "traditional marriage laws" would turn out and help re-elect George W. Bush. Yet, like so many of his like-minded pious comrades, Rove seems far better at preaching the virtues of "traditional marriage" to others and exploiting them for political gain than he does adhering to those principles in his own life. [And so on and on.]

Glenn is absolutely right, of course, and it's good that somebody is getting all this lying hypocrisy on the record, but jeez, is there's anyone who didn't know that 99 percent of what has ever come out of Karl Rove's mouth is lying hypocrisy? (This was, as Glenn noted in an update, our Karl's second divorce.)


(a) Somewhere along the line, the magic those kids once had just somehow faded. It happens.

(b) Like any relationship, the Roves' had its ups and downs, but they stayed together for the sake of the child, until Darby started fooling around with the poolboy.

(c) Like any relationship, the Roves' had its ups and downs, but they stayed together for the sake of the child, until Karl started fooling around with the poolboy.

(d) Karl reached a point in his life where he realized his right-wing buddies and clients weren't likely to whisper among themselves about his being "a bachelor," and if they did, well, screw 'em.


That's a joke, right?

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Is CA-19's George Radanovich's political demise an opening for the return of "Dirty Dick" Pombo?


“I don’t miss the politics,” Pombo said. “I miss the policy side of it. Obviously California needs some help.”
-- former Rep. "Dirty Dick" Pombo, quoted by the Fresno Bee

by Ken

CA-19 Republican Rep. George Radanovich announced yesterday, a step ahead of a torch-bearing Teabagger lynch mob, that he's retiring (as reported by the L.A. Times):
Central Valley Rep. George Radanovich announced Tuesday that he is stepping down from his strongly Republican district seat next year and has asked state Sen. Jeff Denham, a fellow conservative Republican, to run to replace him.

Radanovich, a 15-year veteran of Congress from Mariposa, said in statement that he wants to spend more time with his wife, Ethie, who is battling ovarian cancer; and his son.

"My family needs me, and I intend to be by their side to win this battle," Radanovich said. "It is for this reason that I have decided to not seek reelection to Congress in 2010."

As Howie points out, though, "Radanovich is hated by the Teabaggers because he voted for Bush's Wall Street bailout," even though "his lifetime ProgressivePunch score on substantive matters is 1.81, making him the 355th most progressive member of Congress. The only CA congressmen with more extreme-right voting records are freshmen nutcases Tom McClintock and Duncan Hunter Jr, plus Buck McKeon, Darrell Issa, Gary Miller, Ken Calvert, Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes, all just fractionally."

No sooner had Radanovich slipped back into his political crypt than word surfaced of a possible return from the political dead of an old DWT thug-favorite, "Dirty Dick" Pombo.

Pombo may seek Radanovich seat

Posted at 07:01 PM on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009
By John Ellis / The Fresno Bee

After Richard Pombo narrowly lost a 2006 re-election bid in the 11th Congressional District to Democrat Jerry McNerney, he went back to work on his Tracy cattle ranch.

Now, the 48-year-old Republican is thinking about a return to Congress — in George Radanovich’s 19th Congressional District.

“I started getting phone calls last night,” Pombo said today. “Obviously, I haven’t made my mind up on it at all, but it is something that I am considering.”

Already, former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson and state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, have said they will seek to replace Radanovich, and Fresno City Council Member Larry Westerlund has been calling potential supporters about a run.

But the addition of Pombo would add a whole new dimension to the race. He was a seven-term lawmaker in Washington D.C. who rose to become chairman of the House Resources Committee, which writes environmental laws.

Earlier this year, Fresno County agricultural interests frustrated with Radanovich contacted Pombo about running. Pombo said he declined at the time because he did not want to challenge a sitting Republican.

But with Radanovich’s announcement Tuesday that he will retire after this term, Pombo said he is now seriously considering a run for the seat.

“I don’t miss the politics,” Pombo said. “I miss the policy side of it. Obviously California needs some help.”

Pombo said he expects to make a decision within in the next week.

Despite early threats that he would return, Pombo has been basically out of politics in recent years. Last year his Rich PAC collected nothing and paid out $26K+ in PAC legal fees plus a dribble of small gifts.

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Want something new to bash your right-wing relatives with? Try "planet abuse?


As we head toward a new year -- even a new decade, if you don't count your years so good -- of environmental ravagement, colleague Jim Gilliam, who describes himself as "a geeky activist building Internet tools to shake up a broken political system," says he "thought this was a simple idea worth throwing out there." -- Ken

Jim Gilliam

Planet Abuse

Published on December 30, 2009

One of the big problems in building a movement is trying to get people to do “less” of something. If it’s morally wrong, you shouldn’t just do less of it, you shouldn’t do it at all! Without the moral clarity of “murder is wrong,” people just keep doing what they’re doing.

This is a big problem for issues like climate change, rampant consumerism, pollution, trash, etc. “Pollute less” or “buy less” simply isn’t cutting it.

These issues need to be framed into one thing that eventually everyone can agree is bad. Planet abuse.

This has been done before. Child abuse. It wasn’t always a bad thing, but today many things, like striking a child in anger are widely regarded as wrong. Very few think kids should be forced to work. However, there is controversy on spanking children, and the age line of what constitutes molesting a child keeps moving. But if you ask someone “is child abuse wrong?” 100% will say yes.

If we started to talk about “planet abuse” we could eventually get a lot of people to agree that it is wrong, and then we can fight to define exactly what planet abuse is. Some things will be clear, and others will be murky and change over time. “You can’t do that, it’s planet abuse!”

I just googled this phrase, and apparently it’s never been used before. Let’s change that.

This came out of a discussion with Aaron Swartz.


12 Days of Christmas Scorn: Day 6 -- Toys in the Attic Edition


by Noah


To Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer or, Chief Executive --------, you fill in the blank. Personally, I kinda like the idea of just removing the ‘l’, and adding a ‘d’ to the end of his surname, then switching the order of a couple of letters. I anoint this slug LORD BANKFIEND and grant it this award not just for demonstrated money-shifting and human-misery-creation abilities, but more because this greedmaster slithered out from under his rock earlier this year just long enough to proclaim that his company was doing, in his words “God’s work.” Some God! No one in the media asked him how he knew that that what Goldman Sachs does to the world is “God’s work,” but, I guess, just like Dubya, he hears the voices and they tell him what to do. I suppose we are just supposed to take the miscreant’s utterances at face value.

Well, I don’t. I am, however, pleased to report that Lord Bankfiend and others at Goldman Sachs are suffering a tiny bit from their misdeeds. It seems that Bankfiend and several other Goldman Sachs slimebuckets are suffering from paranoia, suffering so much that they are, as reports in the New York papers tell us, now getting pistol permits and buying guns for self-protection in case there is a populist uprising! They even double down on their arrogance by thinking that buying a pistol will be enough to protect their butts when the uprising comes. Sure, they can get a pistol permit in NYC. That’s easy. But they’ll be needing a bazooka permit.

One question, though. You need a character reference in order to get a pistol in this town, so . . . Tell ya what, Bankfiend. I’ll give you a character reference so you can get your pistol. Then you meet me at the Not OK Corral at high noon on the 4th of July. Draw, you sniveling bastard!


To Dick Cheney. Mr. Five Deferments, Mr. “I’d Rather Hunt Birds Than Viet Cong ‘Cause They Don’t Shoot Back (and Neither Do My Hunting Buddies. A serial draft dodger who had “other priorities” that kept him from serving in 'Nam and who saw a future for himself as a master war profiteer instead. Now, after he’s just had eight ill-gotten years to do the things he whines and bitches about Obama not doing, he issues his “covering my butt” mutterings like some twitching, prehistoric Dr. Strangelove hiding out in undisclosed bunkers.

If ever someone needed healthcare, this is the guy. When even a former Bush administration official of the stature of Lawrence Wilkerson says he can’t recognize Cheney anymore, Cheney’s got problems. That he is completely deranged and unhinged is beyond debate; stark raving mad. Maybe we should all take up a collection to get him some intense psychiatric care. We could get him a nice comfy straitjacket with a vice presidential seal on it. We could even tell him it’s a presidential seal. That would ease his shattered, troubled mind. I suggest some shock therapy, followed by a deluxe program of waterboard therapy. We keep hearing about his weak heart and his four heart attacks, but that’s bogus. His heart disappeared long ago. So how about it? Collection? Bake sale? Will he have to sell his furniture, or has he gnawed it all to pieces?

Oh wait, Cheney has healthcare, free government-plan healthcare! That damn socialism stuff! It’s kept him alive and cranky for decades! It works, even on him. It’s a true measure of the greatness of democracy that government healthcare can help even the worst among us, and Cheney is living-dead proof! It works! Irony of ironies, it works!


To Heartless Dick’s daughter Liz, who makes the rounds because Daddy can’t anymore and is often reduced to issuing his diatribes from his cave, like his twisted half-brother Osama bin Laden. Come to think of it, another member of this family of malignant hell-bound munsters, Mama Lynne Cheney, hasn’t been heard from of late. Maybe she’s working through her frustrations with a new novel! How long do we have to wait?


To Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), darling of Repugs everywhere. This one is a measure of a particularly self-destructive stupidity. Rep. Bachmann has made it quite clear that she doesn’t think American citizens should participate in a census, “reasoning” that a census will be used to determine who goes to another crazy Michelle’s, Michelle Malkin's, imaginary American concentration camps built by FEMA.

In the real world, though, the census is used to, among other things divide up the population into congressional districts. If, per her instructions, Bachmann’s constituents are not included in the census because they are not counted, her district could shrink, to nothing, and she could be redistricted out of her job and her platform. Genius! I’d like to be able to think that she would then have to return to being the local village idiot, but we all know that she’d be on Dancing with the Stars in no time and be paid by some seditionist wingnut think tank to speechify her babbling gibberish all over the land.

This is a person to watch. Much like her Alaskan counterpart, she is just the kind of front that the money people behind the Repug Party like to put forward for President. Remember, Dubya and Ronnie Reagan weren’t “all there” either but they knew how to follow a script when it was handed to them.


To Lou Dobbs. Is this guy a tortured soul? Is he someone who went well past his sell date in the back of the CNN fridge? Is it just a matter of brain synapses just not firing anymore? Did he ignore that “check engine” light? Maybe if he just stuck a towel in one ear and pulled it out the other side…

TOMORROW: Day 7 -- Circus of Horrors, Carny Row Edition

1. The Orly Taitz Birf Certificate Award
2. The One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest Award
3. The My God Is a Big Gay God Award
4. The Tucker Carlson Memorial Mister Twister Award
5. The Revisionist Award
6. The Terry Schiavo Award
7. The Smooth Dude Award
8. The Militant Ignorance Award


Day 1: Con Men, Grifters, and Outlaws Edition
Day 2: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same Edition
Day 3: Media Manipulators and Seditionistas Edition
Day 4: Teabaggers Edition
Day 5: A Circus of Horrors


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In Alabama, Ron Sparks declines to run in AL-05, sticking to his gubernatorial bid


"It would be an honor to represent the people of the 5th Congressional District in Washington. It would be my honor to stand up against those who break their word and betray their supporters. But right now I think it's more important that I represent the people in the 5th Congressional district in Montgomery."
-- Alabama State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks,
in a statement today

by Ken

Well, Alabama State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks has made his decision. He's not going to switch his sights from the Democratic gubernatorial nomination (to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Bob Riley) to the nomination for AL-05, the House seat currently held by first-termer Parker Griffith, apparently one of the less popular members of Congress, all the more so since he announced his (largely technical) switch from DINO-dom to full-fledged Confederate, I mean Republican, Party membership.

Sparks had been encouraged to run for that seat in 2006, when long-time Rep. Bud Cramer retired, but declined, and he's declining again. "I made a commitment to the people of Alabama when I decided to run for governor," he told the Associated Press.

When I wrote on Monday that DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen was reported to be personally lobbying Sparks into the race -- thereby also leaving a clear path to the Dem gubernatorial nomination for go-along, get-along Rep. Artur Davis -- I mentioned that Howie had written about Sparks in 2007, with some pretty inspiring quotes to back up the claim that he's a fiery populist. I thought of requoting those quotes, but eventually settled for including a link. Or at least I thought I did.

No, I was sure I did. Except I couldn't find any damned link there! Well, I've inserted it now, but since people who read that piece originally didn't have the link available, I'm also going to resurrect those 2007 quotes, so you can see what caught Howie's attention back then:
I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of the $3 a gallon gasoline. I'm tired of seeing Exxon-Mobile bringing out these $10 billion profits. I'll tell you something: There's something wrong when you pay an executive, a CEO of a large company, $28,000 an hour. We haven't increased minimum wage in this country since 1997. We had a minimum wage in Washington, and they tied the estate tax to it. It's not about the working people when you tie those two types of legislation together.

Things are not getting better in this country. You know, we've got a president who marched us off to war with no plan. I'm a veteran. I served this country. But there is something wrong when you carry your soldiers into battle and won't give them the tools to fight with. Don't send these young men and women across the water to fight for our freedom in this country when you won't give them a gun to fight with and you won't give them a bullet-proof vest. Then when they come home, you don't want to give them what they deserve. That's wrong, ladies and gentlemen.

Apparently the Davis campaign people are less impressed. Josh Kraushaar reports on Politico's blog that Davis spokesman Alex Goepfert said, "There is a reason why Ron Sparks continues to lag way behind Artur Davis in every poll -- he has no core convictions, believes in nothing and as a result will say anything, and the last thing he ought to be is governor of Alabama."

And Sparks shot back:
I am seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor against another man who has abandoned the values that put him in Congress.

My opponent, voted against vital health care reform measures. He voted to protect the rights of credit card companies rather than the rights of Alabama families. He thumbs his nose at the democratic leaders of our state and panders to right wing power brokers and big business contributors. He draws more of his support from Manhattan than he does from main street Alabama.

Yes, it would be an honor to represent the people of the 5th Congressional District in Washington. It would be my honor to stand up against those who break their word and betray their supporters. But right now I think it's more important that I represent the people in the 5th Congressional district in Montgomery. My opponent is a man who breaks his word and betrays his supporters.

So it looks like a pretty ugly gubernatorial primary ahead. For what it's worth, Swing State Project blogger James L., who was the source of those 2007 Ron Sparks quotes, isn't much impressed with Sparks's gubenatorial campaign, and neither are his commenters. "It's difficult not to agree that Artur Davis is useless," James L. writes, "but I don't see why Sparks saw any upside in staying in such a fratricidal primary where he'll be severely outgunned financially. I think this move shaved a few years off of his political longevity."

As for AL-05, Politico's Josh Kraushaar reports: "Democrats are now looking at several other candidates, including Public Service Commissioner Susan Parker (who ran against GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2002) and former state Supreme Court candidate Deborah Bell Paseur."

By way of background on Susan Parker, here is a March post, "Why Susan Parker Is Right for Alabama's Fifth District," from the blog Left in Alabama, which by the way our progressive friends on the ground in Alabama caution us isn't noticeably "left," being in fact pretty comfortably aligned with the Davis-DLC world view.

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Bob Herbert takes a closer look at that so-called Cadillac tax on supposed fat cats' health insurance policies


UPDATE: WaPo's Ezra Klein responds

"The tax on health benefits is being sold to the public dishonestly as something that will affect only the rich, and it makes a mockery of President Obama’s repeated pledge that if you like the health coverage you have now, you can keep it."
-- Bob Herbert, in his NYT column today,

by Ken

The subject of the "Cadillac tax" on supposedly exclusive-to-the-super-execs health care insurance plans has been questioned frequently. I have a bad feeling that my own plan, which I consider "adequate," and is my one real employment "perk," and maybe the thing that most ties me to a job I'm far from crazy about, either qualifies or is going to, and believe me, I'm not any kind of fat cat.

It would have been easier for me to know back in the days when, at each year's benefits meeting, we were told both the old and new figures for the portion coming out of our paychecks as well as the percentages of the total costs our contributions represented. In recent years, curiously, we've been told only our new contribution amount, meaning we have to dig out an old pay stub just to compare it with our previous year's contribution. I'm guessing we're paying a significantly higher percentage of the total cost than we used to, but considering the skyrocketing total cost, I worry that the amount of the company's contribution is going to put us in that "Cadillac" class.

Today Bob Herbert devotes a whole column to the subject, and it's not exactly reassuring.


A Less Than Honest Policy


There is a middle-class tax time bomb ticking in the Senate's version of President Obama's effort to reform health care.

The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it's a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.

Which is exactly what the tax is designed to do.

The tax would kick in on plans exceeding $23,000 annually for family coverage and $8,500 for individuals, starting in 2013. In the first year it would affect relatively few people in the middle class. But because of the steadily rising costs of health care in the U.S., more and more plans would reach the taxation threshold each year.

Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers with employer-provided health coverage in the country, affecting some 31 million people. Within six years, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would reach a fifth of all households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Those families can hardly be considered very wealthy.

Proponents say the tax will raise nearly $150 billion over 10 years, but there's a catch. It's not expected to raise this money directly. The dirty little secret behind this onerous tax is that no one expects very many people to pay it. The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.

These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.

Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful -- that is to say, more reluctant -- to access health services. On the other hand, people with very serious illnesses will be saddled with much higher out-of-pocket costs. And a reluctance to seek treatment for something that might seem relatively minor at first could well have terrible (and terribly expensive) consequences in the long run.

If even the plan's proponents do not expect policyholders to pay the tax, how will it raise $150 billion in a decade? Great question.

We all remember learning in school about the suspension of disbelief. This part of the Senate's health benefits taxation scheme requires a monumental suspension of disbelief. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, less than 18 percent of the revenue will come from the tax itself. The rest of the $150 billion, more than 82 percent of it, will come from the income taxes paid by workers who have been given pay raises by employers who will have voluntarily handed over the money they saved by offering their employees less valuable health insurance plans.

Can you believe it?

I asked Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., about this. (Labor unions are outraged at the very thought of a health benefits tax.) I had to wait for him to stop laughing to get his answer. “If you believe that,” he said, “I have some oceanfront property in southwestern Pennsylvania that I will sell you at a great price.”

A survey of business executives by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, found that only 16 percent of respondents said they would convert the savings from a reduction in health benefits into higher wages for employees. Yet proponents of the tax are holding steadfast to the belief that nearly all would do so.

“In the real world, companies cut costs and they pocket the money,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and a leader of the opposition to the tax. “Executives tell the shareholders: ‘Hey, higher profits without any revenue growth. Great!' ”

The tax on health benefits is being sold to the public dishonestly as something that will affect only the rich, and it makes a mockery of President Obama's repeated pledge that if you like the health coverage you have now, you can keep it.

Those who believe this is a good idea should at least have the courage to be straight about it with the American people.


The Washington Post's Ezra Klein has posted a response to Bob Herbert's column. Here are some excerpts:
Bob Herbert's column today isn't so much a good argument against the excise tax as it is an example of why cost control will be virtually impossible, and thus national bankruptcy -- a real decrease in wages -- is a near-certainty.

Herbert argues that the excise tax will push people toward less expensive insurance premiums and begin to tax some portion of some health-care plans. Both are true. I'd say this is a good thing. He says it's a bad one. Distilled to its essentials, Herbert is arguing that, even at the high end, more expensive insurance policies are better insurance policies, and that the government should be subsidizing their purchase. Does that sound like a world in which we're going to control costs? . . .

[T]he people who receive that subsidy like receiving it. But the unemployed don't get any of that money, nor do people whose employers don't offer them insurance. The tax preference is huge, regressive, and encourages more spending on health-care insurance. And beyond all that, it separates workers from the cost of their health-care insurance, which is one of the main drivers of our cost problems. . . .

There is no way to sharply cut costs in a fifth of the economy without there being losers. And those losers won't all be Goldman Sachs executives. They won't all be providers (indeed, if you cut provider costs too much, they stop accepting patients, and then the patients lose). There's really no way around it. Even single-payer would bring a lot of losers with it, taking people in Cadillac plans and downgrading them to the same Camry as everyone else. . . .

[A]t some point, we need to start trying cost control. If the policy doesn't work, if it hits people too hard and falls on the wrong plans, well, little is easier to repair than an unpopular tax. But little is harder to do in the first place than cost control. Those who would kill this attempt should think really hard about what their counter-policy is, and who will lose from that policy, and why that is preferable, and whether it can actually pass, and where we're left if it doesn't, and who loses from that. Cost control has losers, unfortunately. Herbert's column is proof of that. But not controlling costs has the most losers of all.

I wish I were equipped to evaluate this, but as with so much of the health care debate, we're stuck choosing mostly blindly among our "experts." One thing I do know is that when E.K. suggests, "If the policy doesn't work, if it hits people too hard and falls on the wrong plans, well, little is easier to repair than an unpopular tax," I assume he's kidding. Because I'm sure he knows as well as anybody that once my health care benefits are dismantled, I'm never getting them back.

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Feeling nostalgic for 2009? "Part the Second" of Tom Tomorrow's "Year in Crazy" should cure you


[Don't forget to click on the cartoon to enlarge.]

And in case you missed Part the First, in order to save wear and tear on your clicking finger here it is again:


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12 Days of Christmas Scorn: Day 5 -- A Circus of Horrors


That secession business isn't Texas Governor Rick's only little faux pas. Like there's that pesky matter of the man he allowed to be executed for arson-murder even though Rick had been presented with compelling scientific evidence that the fire wasn't arson, and the frantic cover-up he's waged ever since. But oh, that lovely hair! Does it say "governor" or what?

by Noah


To Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who wants his state to secede. Says Perry, while offering still more evidence that Repugs live in the deep 19th century: "Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that."

OK with me. One less nut state, and yes, it’s a unique place, for sure. Let ‘em leave. Then we can invade them for what’s left of their oil. All in favor of Texas going bye-bye? Any nays? Hmm. On second thought, they do have some recipes for whipping up tasty barbecued roadkill, and the deep-fried snake with honey-cactus peyote glaze is very nice this time of year.


To the U.S. Senate’s 30 pro-rape senators. When newly minted Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to our country’s deal with outside contractors that would give a rape victim the right to file charges if raped by a fellow employee of such a contractor while in the service of that contractor, 30 senatorial scumbags voted NO. Go ahead, digest that. Yes, the Senate has a pro-rape caucus. Guess which party.

How did this even get to that point? Who took away the basic right most citizens have in the first place? I’ll let you guess again. Hint: The cretin who signed the original piece of paper removing this right to redress has the initials GWB. And Teabaggers draw Hitler moustaches on Obama’s face? Where were they when Bush was soiling the Oval Office?

The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur introduces a clip of $en. David "Diapers" Vitter (R-LA) running from a constituent asking about his pro-rape vote. Cenk notes, "If he was a Democrat, what the Republicans would do is: 'Senator Vitter, in favor of rape.' And they'd run that ad over and over again."

I’ll leave it to the shrinks to determine what’s wrong with the pro-rape caucus crew. It probably goes back to how they saw their own fathers interact with their own mothers. One thing we do know is that they didn’t grow up as gang-bangers in South Central L.A. Nevertheless, their feelings about power and domination seem to be remarkably similar, especially as it pertains to women. Is there a thread here that connects directly to the hawkish pro-war, let’s-nuke-‘em, let’s-invade, let’s-crusade policies that Repugs have traditionally adhered to for a century or more? From fighting against voting rights for anyone who isn’t white and male to taking a stand against equal pay for equal work or even whether you should get work and in what field to telling you what you can do with your own body, mind, and soul.

It has always been the conservatives who attempt to keep people in their place, or put them back in it when they slip out. And rape is the ultimate manifestation of that power and dominance. It’s a twisted, childish, sadistic craving for power over others. Is this a case of domination as a philosophy and as a way of life? There are times when I start to have feelings of pity or sympathy for the women who married such hideous men. Then I remember that they made their bed.

The story goes that the company involved in the incident that spotlighted the need for Franken's amendment to the deals with the contractors was Halliburton-owned KBR. A female employee in Iraq was reportedly gang-raped by fellow employees and then, in an ultimate example of objectification and corporate sadism, KBR attempted to cover up the incident by locking the woman in a shipping container. Our tax dollars pay KBR. KBR reportedly also deprived the victim of food and water and threatened her if she told anyone about what was done to her and how the wonderful folks at KBR handled the incident. Sound like a great company to work for?

Franken's amendment is designed to prevent such behavior from going unpunished and is also designed to be a deterrent to such activities. How would any decent, reasonable person vote? Who lined up against such rape victims? Who saw nothing wrong here? Here are the names of the lowest of the low, starting with Alabama''s KKK boy, Jeff Sessions, famous for his despicable treatment of then-Judge (now-Justice) Sonya Sotomayor at her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Not surprisingly, Alabama can be proud that both of its senators voted in favor of rapists. Sessions called Franken's legislation "a political attack on Halliburton." That's what mattered to him. I know that if I had a daughter who worked for Sessions, or any of these knuckle-draggers, she'd be carrying a Glock and starting to look for a new job. The rest of the pro-rape vermin are:

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-ID)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

That's quite a list. It happens to feature most if not all of the most Far Right, reactionary, nasty, bigoted goons in the Senate, who take a similar thuggish approach to all that life has to offer, whether it's pillaging other countries, politics, civil rights, voting rights, or even economic warfare against our own citizens. I'm also reminded of those stories about how John McCain tells rape jokes and how he treats the women around him, including his wives. One wonders if these knuckle-dragging cavemen in suits know how to use forks and spoons yet. To be fair to Alabama, you can see that it's far from alone in having two pro-rape senators. As can be expected, the former (to most Americans) Confederacy is well represented on this list. Must be a swell place for women! The Far Right corporate-front organization known as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also came out against Franken's amendment, which ended up passing, 68-30. No thanks to these scumbags.


To those overgrown gay-hating fratboys of C Street infamy, the Family, who claim it’s just a place where like-minded Christians can get together and pray and practice a lifestyle of religious piety with an eye toward leading the world along their righteous repressive path to glory, mostly on the taxpayers' tab, of course. Sounds a lot like any Muslim terror cell’s public description, doesn’t it?

Actually, it seems to be both that and a college fraternity house that serves as a safe house for members' extramarital affairs. “Hey, honey, I’m gonna stay in town tonight and pray with the boys at the C Street Cabana. Maybe we’ll watch Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments again. We have a nice new VHS copy that one of the pages gave us!”

“You’ll have to pry these stone tablets from my cold dead hands!”

Ten Commandments of a Dominatrix is more like it. Or maybe Buttman’s African Adventure, Part 17, since these fellows like to go to Africa -- particularly Uganda -- at taxpayers' expense often to seek out opportunities for exploitation while they back regimes that want to execute people for being gay, like the American Taliban that they aspire to be. (Even Obama’s buddy Pastor Rick Warren appears to be involved in that one.)

I suspect there are some Republicans who are running away so hard from their own gayness that they end up encouraging the death penalty for being gay, until they get questioned about it. How pro-life of them! Anyway, I’d love to hear what the wives have to say about all of this frat-house stuff. I guess the media just doesn’t want to go there. Maybe the wifies just get together and go to Chippendales or something. Then they come home and ask Little Baby Jesus in the Grilled-Cheese Sandwich for forgiveness, or maybe they just wait until Sunday, when they can go to Our Lady of Jesus Depicted in an Oil Slick, repent, and start the week all new and almost virginal while their menfolk think about fitting them for leather burkas.

Rachel Maddow talks to Jeff Sharlet about the Family's ties to Uganda's proposed "kill the gays" legislation.


To $en. Ben Nelson (D-NB), who came up with the idea of turning over his anti-choice healthcare amendment to the Catholic Church for approval and donations. I know I already covered this woman-hating thug in a previous post, but his lowness cannot go unrecognized at year’s end.

"Change is what's necessary today," says $en. Ben Nelson about our healthcare system. Just not too much change, or the wrong kind. He notes sadly, "The quality of this debate has not always measured up to the quality of the American people." Don't be so modest, $enator -- take a bow!

Imagine if some other cretinous senator decided that he or she would pass amendments over to a group of Muslim imams for review before they went to a vote. Would the media be as silent? I guess in Ben Nelson’s unconstitutional, anti-American mind, he sees a future where presidents give the State of the Union address and sitting behind him are the VP, the House speaker --and a bishop or cardinal, with full control of the speech, of course.

It’s odd how things have changed in our country. Back during the 1960 presidential campaign, conservatives were all up in arms about the fact that a Catholic named John Kennedy was running for president, which was a dangerous thing because, in their weirdo minds, the Vatican would be calling the shots if he won.

Wasn’t having K Street writing our legislation bad enough? Think about it: multinationals and Rome ruling our lives by creating the policies and laws we have to live under. Thanks, Ben. Why not turn us back over to the inbred British royals too?

People actually voted for this clown?

TOMORROW: Day 6 -- Toys in the Attic Edition

1. The His Supreme Arrogance Award
2. The Tin Man Award
3. The Wormy Apple Don't Fall Far from the Diseased Tree Award
4. The Some Choose Not to Count Award
5. The Clean Those Spark Plugs Award


Day 1: Con Men, Grifters, and Outlaws Edition
Day 2: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same Edition
Day 3: Media Manipulators and Seditionistas Edition
Day 4: Teabaggers Edition


Monday, December 28, 2009

Yes, the minority party in Congress tends to obstruct, but on a scale like this?


“Once you get in these battles where you break into camps, every vote is about the next election,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who occasionally works with Democrats on difficult issues. “As soon as the last election is over, those who lost are thinking, ‘What can I do to get back in power?’ and those who won are thinking, ‘What can I do to stay in power?’ When you try to solve problems from the perpetual campaign mind-set, it is very difficult.”
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), "a South Carolina Republican who occasionally works with Democrats on difficult issues," quoted by Carl Hulse in today's NYT

by Ken

So Lindsey Graham "occasionally works with Democrats on difficult issues"? Do his Republican colleagues know about this? Like, say, his fellow South Carolina senator, Jim "Li'l Bug" DeMint? Boy, if word gets out . . .

The Hulse NYT piece is called "As Aisle Gets Wider, Arms Get Shorter," and some of it is actually interesting. If only Hulse didn't feel subscribe to the "On One Hand, On the Other Hand" Code of They All Do It, to make it seem as if the present Republican policy of across-the-board obstruction in Congresss is the same thing minoirty parties have always done.

So naturally Hulse starts out with a "startling admission" by "a top congressman" -- that he "demagogued," zz'voted against an administration priority as a way to score political points as his party battled to regain power" -- and the top congressman turns out to be (gasp) current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. What Hulse brands "Mr. Hoyer's frank acknowledgement' is that he voted voting against Bush-era debt-limit hikes, and this is presented as equivalent to virtually every Republican congressman and senator voting against virtually every Democratic-supported bill in this entire session of Congress.

Is it any wonder polls aren't showing major backlash against Republicans for their scorched-earth policy of obstructionism? I mean, if this is how the liberal New York Times reports it?

Even Hulse has to retune his equivalences:
Republicans have dug in almost unanimously this year against legislation that at least some should have been able to vote for, whether it was the economic stimulus, health care changes or a crackdown on Wall Street. Democrats did the same thing in the run-up to the 2004 and 2006 elections, with a new Medicare drug benefit providing an example of a policy many backed but did not support with their votes.

Um, sorry, Carl, still not remotely equivalent. Not until we take into account the number of Democratic votes cast for Bush-regime-supported legislation. After all, most of us regard that as the disgrace of the Democrats in Congress under the Bush regime.

And really, the Medicare drug benefit as an example of something Democrats would have supported? That's something that was proposed primarily for political capital, to reposition the GOP from the traditional enemy of Social Security and Medicare to a champion -- well, that and as a big giveaway to the party's big drug-company sponsors. And it was such a dubious proposition that, if we remember, the GOP congressional leadership had to pull every trick in the book to get its own people to narrowly pass. Unfortunately for Mr. Hulse, he actually returns the Medicare drug benefit when, after citing uniquely Republican instances of minority obstructionism, he tells us:
Democrats drew their own stark lines in 2003 when Republicans and the Bush administration coalesced around adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare, an expansion Democrats had sought for years. The plan, which Democrats criticized for its generous subsidies to health insurers, was endorsed by AARP, but House Democrats sought to keep their members from voting for it, though 16 did in the end.

Again, conveniently forgotten is how controversial the AARP's endorsement was, and how much anger this obvious sop to the Bush regime generated both within and without the organization. Isn't it the pits when history refuses to behave? (And ironically, today's Washington Post has a piece called "The not-so-sweet side of closing 'doughnut hole'" -- referring to the doughnut-hole gap in drug benefits created by the Bush regime's Medicare Part D.

Nevertheless, that said, the basic point under discussion is interesting and important, even if (or perhaps especially because) no one has any solutions for it:
"There is no question that partisan parity tends to raise the stakes of any particular election because of the potential for change in majority party control," said Thomas E. Mann, a Congressional expert at the Brookings Institution.

While partisanship is a constant in Congress, the unwillingness of the parties to work together seems to be reaching new levels. Some trace the beginning of the current trend back to the early 1990s, when House Republicans were trying to break out of their virtually permanent minority status.

Much to the distress of more rebellious Republicans, House Republicans who had never tasted life in power tended to try to cooperate with Democrats as their best chance of getting things done. It was not uncommon for top Democrats and Republicans to have close and cordial relationships.

But former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his allies showed that drawing the sharpest possible contrasts with the opposition could pay political dividends as they gained control of the House, and the see-saw fight for the Congressional upper hand began.
At the same time, a political toll was being taken on the centrist Democrats and Republicans who were most prone to compromise. Many left Congress or were defeated.

Naturally, current Republicans deny their obstruction is political.
Republicans say their opposition is based on substantive differences. But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said Sunday that he expected the midterm elections to be driven in large part by the health care votes.
"It will be a huge political issue next year," Mr. McConnell said on the ABC program "This Week," predicting the issue would spill over into 2012 as well.

Immediately afterward, we return to our putatively bipartisan pal Lindsey Graham: "Even with partisan clashes likely to worsen in 2010, Mr. Graham said Congress needed to find a way to get past the mind-set that 'if the other guy wins, I lose' and find a way to deliver legislation more equivalent to a win-win."

No mention is made, of course, of how far the Obama administration, in its desperate quest for "bipartisanship," bent over backwards to make it possible for Republicans to vote with it. If Senator Graham has some magic way to produce this "win-win" result for the two parties, perhaps he'd like to share it?

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