Archive for April, 2009

The GOP is looking pretty sick from the flu

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Let’s quickly outline the contributions (that we know of) the GOP has made to our nation’s preparedness for flu pandemic. First, Susan Collins helped strip $780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness from the stimulus bill. Second, we have no health secretary in place to help deal with the potential crisis, because the GOP wanted to use the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius to play abortion politics. 

You have to give the Republicans one thing: they’ve got incredible timing.

Al Gore kicks him some rightwing butt

Friday, April 24th, 2009

God, I’ll never get over the fact this man could (should) have been president during the last eight years, instead . . . well, you know who instead of.

Watch him at his best.

Those crazy liberal Kansans

Friday, April 24th, 2009

It turns out that the governor of KANSAS, Kathleen Sebelius, is just too damn liberal for many GOP senators to accept! So they’ve decided to stall her confirmation as health secretary:

President Obama will have to wait a bit longer to round out his Cabinet. Senate Republicans refused today to allow a confirmation vote on his health secretary nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.). She is the last Cabinet member awaiting Senate approval.

At the start of the session today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proposed taking a vote after five hours of debate. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, arguing that lawmakers needed more time to consider her “fairly contentious” selection.

*  *  *

In the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, eight of 10 GOP members opposed her nomination. Two Republicans, Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Olympia Snowe of Maine, voted to confirm her.

Eight out of 10 Republicans voted against the governor of Kansas — a political moderate known for her willingness to reach across the aisle, by the way — because she’s such an ideologically “contentious” choice.  

Who knew the book “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” was actually a reference to our radical liberalism? Apparently not electing a Democrat to the US Senate since 1932 and only voting for one Democrat for president (Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 landslide election) in the last 60 years has all been part of some clever subterfuge to hide our true leanings.

So beware, my fellow Sunflower State closet Bolsheviks: the gig is up! Soon they’ll be discovering our secret stashes of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and all those autographed pictures of Fidel Castro.

Let’s just hope they don’t also blow the cover of our comrades down in secretly ultraliberal Oklahoma.

Don Siegelman — a line in the sand

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I’ve never met Don Siegelman. I’m not entirely sure I’d ever even heard of him before the scandal regarding his prosecution came to light.

But none of that matters. When it comes to the Department of Justice, I’m now close to a one issue man. Siegelman’s conviction was a travesty of justice — the ultimate politically inspired prosecution made even worse by prosecutorial misconduct.

Eric Holder played the bipartisan saint by cutting Republican Ted Steven’s free: so far, however, he’s completely washed his hands of the Siegelman miscarriage of justice.

What’s the glory of righting a wrong against a fellow Democrat?

As it happens, though, 75 former state attorney generals have now upped the ante by writing a letter to Holder, asking him to personally review the matter — as he did in Steven’s case. But it’s far from clear he’ll do it. Here, for what little it’s worth, is where I stand: if he doesn’t — if he lets Siegelman go back to jail without at least a full personal review of the case — in my mind the man’s a bum. And nothing else he achieves as Attorney General will change that.

That is my line in the sand.

Torture and hearts still in darkness

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Sometimes irony can hang thicker than a November fog in Seattle. For a long time now, liberals have been calling for criminal investigations into the Bush Administration’s torture of terrorism suspects: we’ve marshaled strong arguments — legal arguments, moral arguments, even geopolitical arguments. But — and this is where the irony comes in — it turns out that in the end it hasn’t been any of our words that have made the strongest case for prosecutions.

No, beyond a doubt, that award goes to the right wing shrills who, even as we speak, continue to defend the use of torture.

The torturers had a choice in the aftermath of their crimes. If George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes, II, John Yoo and their various coconspirators and right wing enablers had simply admitted error — conceded that in the aftermath of Sept. 11 that maybe, just maybe, they went a bit too far — the case against pursuing them criminally would be much stronger. With torture thus repudiated, and the darkness truly behind us, the pressure to forgive those who were trying to keep us safe (or at least so they claim) would doubtlessly have grown. 

But instead of even a hint of contrition, they offer exactly the opposite — a full-throated defense of torture and a condescending dismissal of those who consider it shameful. And with that, surely, in all good conscience, their fates must be sealed. How can anyone honestly argue that it’s time simply to move on in the face of this defiance against the norms of humanity? These aren’t contrite sinners: they’re torturers in waiting. They aren’t even trying to hide their intentions. Given half a chance — and in an election or two they may get it — they’ll have no hesitancy at all in breaking out the waterboards once again.

These are people who seek nothing less than to permanently redefine what it means to be an American, in one of the darkest and most evil ways imaginable. And we’re supposed to walk away?

Take a look at just a few examples from this roll of dishonor:

– Dick Cheney sneeringly defends torture as an effective intelligence tool.

– Marc Thiessen suggests that it’s acceptable to torture Muslims because it gives them a welcome excuse to tell the truth.

– John Yoo makes it clear he regrets nothing.

Rush Limbaugh opines, “”If somebody can go through water-boarding for 183 times, 6 times a day . . . it means you’re not afraid of it, it means it’s not torture. If you’ve found a way to withstand it, it can’t possibly be torture.”

– Charles Krauthammer insists this isn’t a dark chapter in American history at all.

– Brit Hume sanctimoniously announces, “What we really need is to have all these techniques at our disposal . . . they talk about the banging of the guy’s head against the wall. It turns out to be very controlled and it’s a soft wall that gives way . . . I’m not at all sure that’s torture.”

Mike Huckabee jokes, “I’ve been in hotels with more bugs than these guys faced, and they’re tortured?”

– Karl Rove argues that the torture memos actually demonstrate how humanely the suspects were treated.

(Many of these examples were taken from here. More of the same here.)

How can you declare a cancer cured and “move on” when the disease still grows within the body politic? And if we don’t legally repudiate and punish torture this time, what excuse will we have next time?

It isn’t, after all, like we haven’t been warned.

My congressman bows to the temple of Rush

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

As much as I’d rather not claim him, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) is my congressman. So it is with a mixture of grief, embarrassment and mostly snickering contempt that I discover Todd’s now entered the ever growing army of Republican politicos who’ve found it necessary to apologize to his Most Majestic Rushness.

This from the Wichita Eagle, via Kansas Jackass, via Think Progress, via Talking Points Memo (ain’t the Internet grand?):

Asked about the episode and resulting Web buzz, Tiahrt spokesman Sam Sackett said Tiahrt was not speaking negatively about Limbaugh but was trying to defend him against the suggestion that Limbaugh could be blamed for the GOP’s woes. “The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America — not a party leader responsible for election losses,” Sackett told The Eagle editorial board. “Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement.”

I sure am glad he got that cleared up. Now he can get back to fighting it out with fellow GOP congressdude Jerry Moran for the US Senate, safe in the knowledge he’s resolved his dittohead crisis.

Dick Cheney — champion of transparency

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Excellent point: now that Dick Cheney seems to have finally seen the light on the need for public transparency (calling for the release of documents supposedly showing that the torture of terrorism suspects worked in producing valuable intelligence) we should take him up on it. But let’s not just stop there, but, instead, bring all of the relevant information to light through a Truth Commission.

In that way, there’ll be no more of the cherry picking Cheney seems to be implying has taken place: just the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (by the way, Dick, you might want to get used to that phrase, as hopefully you’ll be repeating it in a court of law real soon).

Thanks Dick, great idea. Keep ‘em comin’.

Pulitzer Prizes: National Enquirer edition

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

I think it fair to say, the last year featured some fairly big news stories: the election of the first African American president; the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression; ongoing scandal over American torture of terrorism suspects; ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; continued turmoil in the Middle East; and much more.

So, given this rich tapestry of subjects, what topic of investigation proved most Pulitzer-worthy this year?

Sex scandals!

It’s good to know that the prospect of facing imminent death hasn’t caused the newspaper industry to engage in sensationalism.

Torture — what torture?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

A rose by any other name . . .

Posner the hippie?

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Given the dominant role played within the right wing by anti-intellectual blowhards like Rush Limbaugh, it’s easy to forget that there actually are brainy conservatives — but there are. And few (if any) are brainer than Richard Posner. A judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Posner is credited with being the most cited legal scholar of all time. No one on either side of the political divide denies his brilliance.

Staunchly conservative, Posner helped start the law and economics movement at the University of Chicago. He’s published nearly 40 books in addition to numerous articles, the vast majority of which were written, at least in part, to preach the virtues of unfettered capitalism.

Posner’s conservative credentials include acting as the chief intellectual defender of the Supreme Court majority in the Bush v. Gore case. Although, as a measure of the man’s intellectual honesty, he couldn’t quite bring himself to endorse the Court’s equal protection analysis. He argued, instead, that the Court reached the right decision (from a practical standpoint), but for the wrong reason.

But it’s always been in his near religious dedication to the virtues of deregulated markets that Posner’s made his biggest mark.

That, however, as they say, was then. And now? Welcome Posner the “hippie”:

(Huffington Post) Judge Richard Posner Questions His Free-Market Faith In “A Failure Of Capitalism”

One of the most prominent proponents of free-market capitalism is having second thoughts.

Judge Richard A. Posner, a federal appeals court judge who has been called the most cited legal scholar of all time, discussed his doubts and his analysis of the current financial crisis in a wide-ranging interview with the Huffington Post.

A longtime proponent of deregulation, the idea that business works best in a free market without burdensome government regulations, Posner began to change his mind when he realized the enormity of the crisis. This change of heart inspired him to write his upcoming book, “A Failure Of Capitalism.”

Though still a believer in the virtues of capitalism, Posner now emphasizes the importance of government regulations; the need to strengthen the regulatory structure by directly funding authorities rather than the current fee-based model; the dangers of excessive executive compensation, and even expressed support for the idea of changing bankruptcy law to make it easier for homeowners who face foreclosure.

Ladies and gentlemen, the earth just moved. From the standpoint of its intellectual underpinnings, free market conservatism is dead.

Long live the regulated economy.