Friday, March 07, 2014
Stopped clock alert: David Brooks is right. Really right.
This is the best column I've read by him in many a moon and it gives me a tiny bit of hope that the right will get on board with the idea that torture by solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment:
We don’t flog people in our prison system, or put them in thumbscrews or stretch them on the rack. We do, however, lock prisoners away in social isolation for 23 hours a day, often for months, years or decades at a time.
We prohibit the former and permit the latter because we make a distinction between physical and social pain. But, at the level of the brain where pain really resides, this is a distinction without a difference. Matthew Lieberman of the University of California, Los Angeles, compared the brain activities of people suffering physical pain with people suffering from social pain. As he writes in his book, “Social,” “Looking at the screens side by side ... you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.”
The brain processes both kinds of pain in similar ways. Moreover, at the level of human experience, social pain is, if anything, more traumatic, more destabilizing and inflicts more cruel and long-lasting effects than physical pain. What we’re doing to prisoners in extreme isolation, in other words, is arguably more inhumane than flogging.
This seems obvious to me. Simple human empathy should be enough to show that this is a form of torture. The anguish this causes in prisoners has been clear since ... forever. But having science back up what any decent person would already know, adds a layer to the moral argument that might convince at least a few people. (I have no hope for a large number of my fellow Americans on this --- they believe torture in our prisons is useful --- and entertaining.)
Brooks' conclusion is quite something for a Republican, even one who sells himself as a moderate:
The larger point is we need to obliterate the assumption that inflicting any amount of social pain is O.K. because it’s not real pain.
Imagine that. He thinks even prisoners have a "need for health, which is social, emotional and relational." What a concept. If our criminal justice system made a decision to end the practice of "social pain" we would have taken a large step toward becoming civilized again.
When you put people in prison, you are imposing pain on them. But that doesn’t mean you have to gouge out the nourishment that humans need for health, which is social, emotional and relational.
digby 3/07/2014 06:00:00 PM
California still believes in progress. Other places are heading in the opposite direction.
This piece by Irin Carmen about the new California law allowing non-doctor medical professionals to perform abortions ins a must read. This legislation was based upon real science and a genuine belief that the right to control your reproduction is fundamental and should be available to women who need to end unwanted or unhealthy pregnancies.
Unfortunately, that story of rationality and progress on this issue is all too rare:
This is going the wrong way in most of the country. Even as gay rights have become accepted at warp speed by historical standards, women's fundamental rights have been eroded in equal measure.
I hate to be a grudge about this, but I have to blame Democrats, including Democratic women, for being all too willing to accommodate the right's onslaught and allow their propaganda to flourish. The mere fact that we are simultaneously fighting over birth control should prove that this is not about squeamishness over abortion. And the people who continue to advise us that the best strategy is to enthusiastically support "pro-choice" politicians who insist that the goal of "zero abortions" is desirable and attainable if only we provide enough birth control and economic support are affirmatively helping them. Too many people only hear the "zero abortions" part and come away with the belief that members of both parties believe that abortion is so bad that we must try to eliminate it.
It would be nice to think that the old saw of "as California goes, so goes the nation" still applies. But it's a very heavy task trying to reverse the momentum on this issue. It's going at full speed in the other direction.
More here on the new "20-week ban" part of the strategy. I thought this bit of editorializing was especially interesting:
In the court of public opinion, however, 20-week bans raise relatively few hackles.
Right. They're no biggie. They only affect 1% of the population. Even though:
the circumstances of these abortions are often dire, as most fetal abnormalities are only detectable at 20 weeks, according to Planned Parenthood, a group that provides contraception and abortions.
Yes, that's a shame. They probably should have thought of that before they had a pregnancy with fetal anomalies. But what can we do? Now that it's been brought to their attention that it's ok to think abortion after 20 weeks is wrong, (and that some of the avatars of the pro-choice movement are on board) why shouldn't most people think the 20 week cut-off is perfectly fine?
And when the anti-abortion zealots move the goalposts again, I'm sure there will be many Democrats telling us that we can't draw any lines in the sand because people are uncomfortable with abortion. And over time, step by step, their dream will be realized: we'll have "zero" abortions.
Or, I should say, "zero legal abortions."
digby 3/07/2014 04:30:00 PM
The vigilante lobby
I can't see any other way to look at Wayne LaPierre's speech to CPAC:
1. LaPierre On America Becoming Too Dangerous For Children To Play Outside
"All across America, everywhere I go, people come up to me, and they say, 'Wayne, I've never been worried about this country until now.' And they say it not with anger, but they say it with sadness in their eyes. 'I've never been worried about this country until now.' We're worried about the economic crisis choking our budgets and shrinking our retirement, we're worried about providing decent healthcare and a college education for our own children. We fear for the safety of our families. It's why neighborhood streets that were once filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air now sit empty and silent. In virtually every way, for the things we care about most, we feel profound loss. We're sad, not because we fear something is going wrong, but because we know something already has gone wrong."
2. LaPierre: Americans Buying Guns Because Of "Reckless Government Actions" And Because The "Entire Fabric Of Society" Is In "Jeopardy"
"It's why more and more Americans are buying firearms and ammunition. Not to cause trouble, but because that America is already in trouble. We know that sooner or later reckless government actions and policies have consequences, that when government corrupts the truth and breaks faith with the American people, the entire fabric of society, everything we believe in and count on, is then in jeopardy."
3. LaPierre On How The National Media Is One Of America's "Greatest Threats"
"One of America's greatest threats is a national news media that fails to provide a level playing field for the truth. Now it's all entertainment, ratings, personal celebrity, the next sensational story, and the deliberate spinning and purposeful use of words and language, truth be damned, to advance their own agenda. You see it every day in this country. And here's how you know the media is lying: they still call themselves journalists. I'll tell you they've never been honest about the NRA. They hate us. Just for saying out loud and sticking up for what we believe. As if we have no right. So they try to ridicule us into oblivion or shame us into submission. But their moral indignation, it should be directed right into their own makeup mirrors. The media's intentional corruption of the truth is an abomination. And NRA members will never, and I mean never, submit or surrender to the national media."
4. LaPierre: "Knockout Gamers" And "Haters" Just Two Reasons We Need Unlimited Rifles, Shotguns, And Pistols (Also "Waves Of Chemicals" Could Collapse Society At Any Moment)
"We don't trust government, because government itself has proven unworthy of our trust. We trust ourselves and we trust what we know in our hearts to be right. We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want. We know in the world that surrounds us there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
5. LaPierre Quotes From "Independence Day" At Speech's Emotional Peak: The NRA "Will Not Go Quietly Into The Night!"
"This election, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, it's going to be a bare-knuckled street fight. They're going after every House seat, every Senate seat, every governor's chair, every statehouse they can get their hands on. And they're laying the groundwork to put another Clinton back in the White House. They fully intend to finish the job, to fulfill their commitment, their dream, of fundamentally transforming America. Into an America that I guarantee you won't recognize. But mark my words -- the NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight. I promise you that."
Basically, he's saying that everyone needs to be armed and prepared to shoot first and ask questions later. Whether it's the jackbooted cops or the rampaging criminals, they're all trying to kill you and you'd better kill them before they get the chance.
George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn heard the call. I'm sure they won't be the last.
digby 3/07/2014 03:00:00 PM
The GOP openly trying to stifle free speech. Hitting too close to home?
Louisiana doesn't like this:
“They clearly have protected free speech rights and can say whatever they want to criticize an elected official as long as it does not violate our registered service mark,”
Yeah. It's all about protecting the "trademark." The Lieutenant Governor, Jay Dardenne, has demanded the billboards be removed saying it will "confuse" people. Move On is refusing.
All I know is that these people just hate these satirical ads because it hits home and people like them. That's why Blue America does it as frequently as possible:
digby 3/07/2014 01:30:00 PM
They ain't done yet. (The Jeff Sessions moment)
Adam Serwer has a nice piece up today providing some important context for the failureof President Obama's nominee to head the civil rights division, Debo Adegbile, to win a majority in a Democratic Senate. He characterizes the Democrats who voted against him as "frightened" but I'd characterize them as opportunists. They know which side their racist bread is buttered on. Times have changed, but not that much. "Law and order" isn't just a TV show --- it was one of Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy slogans and it was all about keeping the you-know-whats in line. That's ultimately what was in play here. And there are, apparently, still enough Democrats who want to join that game still. Oh progress ...
But Serwer rightly points out that the attack on this nominee to head the civil rights division is part of another long term GOP strategy:
Republicans don’t just oppose Adegbile. They oppose the civil rights division itself. That’s a tremendous irony given that it was first established under a Republican president – over the opposition of many Southern Democrats.
There's more at the link. This strategy is designed to stoke the grievances of white people who are being screwed by society and the focus them on racial and ethnic minorities as the cause of all their woes. That along with this long term scheme to sabotage civil rights and suppress the vote along with the emergence of that old stand-by of "law and order" signals that there's still life in that old racist strategy yet. And this vote shows that there are still Democrats who are subject to being intimidated/seduced by it.
Yet recently when a president of their own party has been in charge of the division, Republicans have sought to purge it of civil rights lawyers perceived as too liberal. Failing that, they’ve simply declined to zealously enforce civil rights laws. During the Obama administration, Republicans have painted the division as racist against white people, and came to the defense of predatory financial industry practices that helped drive the American economy to the brink of destruction.
Where they have been unable to hamper the civil rights division’s enforcement of civil rights laws, they have turned to the conservative majority on the Supreme Court to neuter the division by gutting the laws themselves.
During the George W. Bush administration, an internal Justice Department report found Bush appointees had attempted to purge the division of liberals, or as one Bush appointee Bradley Schlozman put it, “adherents of Mao’s little red book.” The report found that Schlozman, who had vowed to “gerrymander” all those “crazy libs” out of the division, replacing them with Republican loyalists, had violated civil service laws with his hiring practices. His colleagues saw it differently – the Voting Section chief at the time, John Tanner, complained that before Bush, one had to be a “civil rights person” to get hired in the division. Imagine.
Shortly after Obama took office, conservatives seized on a now-discredited conspiracy theory that the new administration had sought to protect the New Black Panther Party. They argued that “If you are white,” in the words of Bush-era Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky, “the Division won’t lift a finger to make sure you’re ‘protected.’”
Apropos of nothing, I heard Fox's Brett Baier call this a "Jeff Sessions moment" the other day. I'm not entirely sure what he meant. On repeated viewing I realized it may not have meant what I thought it meant. But considering Jeff Sessions' history you can see why I might have been startled and thought the right wingers saw this as payback:
In 1986, Reagan nominated Sessions to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions judicial nomination was recommended and actively backed by Republican Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton. A substantial majority of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which rates nominees to the federal bench, rated Sessions "qualified," with a minority voting that Sessions was "not qualified."
Just to show how much the nation has changed, here's a quote from Sessions during the Adegbile debate:
At Sessions' confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, four Department of Justice lawyers who had worked with Sessions testified that he had made several racist statements. One of those lawyers, J. Gerald Hebert, testified that Sessions had referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as "un-American" and "Communist-inspired" because they "forced civil rights down the throats of people."
Thomas Figures, a black Assistant U.S. Attorney, testified that Sessions said he thought the Klan was "OK until I found out they smoked pot." Sessions later said that the comment was not serious, but apologized for it. Figures also testified that on one occasion, when the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division sent the office instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close, Figures and Sessions "had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them,'" by which Figures said Sessions meant civil rights cases generally. After becoming Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, Sessions was asked in an interview about his civil rights record as a U.S Attorney. He denied that he had not sufficiently pursued civil rights cases, saying that "when I was [a U.S. Attorney], I signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation, where we as part of the Department of Justice, we sought desegregation remedies."
Figures also said that Sessions had called him "boy." He also testified that "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks.'"
Sessions responded to the testimony by denying the allegations, saying his remarks were taken out of context or meant in jest, and also stating that groups could be considered un-American when "they involve themselves in un-American positions" in foreign policy. Sessions said during testimony that he considered the Klan to be "a force for hatred and bigotry." In regards to the marijuana quote, Sessions said the comment was a joke but apologized.
In response to a question from Joe Biden on whether he had called the NAACP and other civil rights organizations "un-American", Sessions replied "I'm often loose with my tongue. I may have said something about the NAACP being un-American or Communist, but I meant no harm by it."
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said, “The civil rights division must protect the civil rights of all Americans, it must not be used as a partisan tool to further the political agenda of any special interest groups, as too often has occurred in this administration in my opinion,” adding that “I do not believe the president’s nominee is therefore qualified, because I do not see the required degree of objectivity and balance that will be necessary.”
He didn't use the "n" word. He called African Americans a "special interest group." Progress.
digby 3/07/2014 12:00:00 PM
They just lie, Part XXIV
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) fired up the audience Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference with an anecdote about what he called the heartlessness of giving out free school lunches -- but it turns out that "moving" story never really happened.
I doubt Ryan cares. He believes that giving kids free school lunches is a waste of money that rich people could use more productively by buying jewels and designer handbags. It is interesting that he also feels he needs to lie and pretend that it's all about kids feeling that nobody cares about them if they get a hot lunch. Which is absurd.
Ryan used a story about a young boy choosing a lovingly made brown bag lunch over a free school meal, relayed to him by Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson, to illustrate that Democrats offer Americans a "full stomach and an empty soul."
But when Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler looked into that tale, he gave it "four pinocchios" because Anderson presented it out of context.
Kessler found Anderson told the story at a 2013 congressional hearing that Ryan chaired, and claimed she had spoken to the boy herself. Kessler notes her story closely paralleled an exchange from a book called "An Invisible Thread," in which an executive offers to either give a young, homeless panhandler money to eat for the week or else make lunch for him each day. The boy insists on having his lunch made for him in a brown-paper bag, because that means "somebody cares" about him.
A spokesman for Anderson told Kessler that the secretary "misspoke" and was actually describing a television interview she had seen with Maurice Mazcyk, the boy described in the book. Kessler further noted that school lunch is not brought up in the book, which means Anderson inserted the program into the anecdote.
They're getting so filled with contradictions they are pretty much reduced to speaking gibberish.
digby 3/07/2014 10:30:00 AM
Look who loves the Keystone Pipeline
Hey guess what? Short term, self-interested Wall Street ethics aren't confined to Wall Street:
It will create some construction jobs. I don't know what is meant by "significant" but for those who need the work any job is significant. And I get why people who would get those construction jobs are in favor of the pipeline even if they know there could be environmental disaster. Food in the belly today over whatever happens tomorrow is a powerful incentive. But that isn't 65% of the American public. What about all those people who already have jobs and know there will be a danger of environmental disaster? Apparently they just don't give a damn. I guess they figure it will allow them to drive their gas hog cars a little bit longer and for them, that's all that matters.
Why do they hate their children so much?
digby 3/07/2014 09:00:00 AM
Public banking gets off the ground in Vermont
by David Atkins
Last weekend I mentioned in my longish essay on the future of the Left the need for maximalist policy at a local level, including a strong push for public banking such as exists in North Dakota.
Some good news in that vein: 15 Vermont towns have just voted to establish a public bank that will serve the people, not Wall Street.
By a more than three-to-one margin on Tuesday, communities voting on whether to support the creation of a public bank in Vermont approved the idea, calling for the state legislature to establish such a bank and urging passage of legislation designed to begin its implementation.This is a good start. The idea needs to be replicated all across the country until the federal government starts to take notice.
In a show of direct democracy that also exposed the citizenry's desire for a more localized and responsible banking system, fifteen of nineteen towns passed the resolution during 'Town Meeting Day'— an annual event in which voters choose local officials, approve municipal budgets, and make their voices heard on a number of measures put before local residents for approval.
The specific proposal under consideration, Senate Bill 204, would turn an existing agency, the Vermont Economic Development Authority, into a public bank that would accept deposits and issue loans for in-state projects. Currently, the only state in the U.S. to maintain a public state bank is North Dakota. However, since the financial downturn of 2008, other states have looked into replicating the North Dakota model as a way to buck Wall Street while taking more control of state and local finances.
thereisnospoon 3/07/2014 07:30:00 AM
Thursday, March 06, 2014
I am not the first one to observe that American conservatives have always secretly admired the former Soviet Union. They are both, after all, authoritarians and they both have a feel for the "efficiency" of the police state (as long as it's directed the the 'right" people, of course.) But this survey at CPAC takes it to a new level:
[H]ow bad do they think Obama is? Would they, for example, prefer to have Russian President Vladimir Putin running the country?
It’s an absurd question, of course. But it’s one the conservative website The Daily Caller kind of asked when it put out an “URGENT NEWS POLL” asking: “Who would make a better president? Obama or Putin?”
Rather than wait for the answers, The Huffington Post decided to do the field work. We spoke to a dozen attendees out in the hall, showing them the Daily Caller’s webpage and asking them for a reaction. One person said she would take Obama over Putin. The majority was ambivalent, while a few talked themselves into the potential benefits of a Putin administration.
Here are some of their answers.
Somebody get Grover or Newtie over there to instruct these poor kids about how they're supposed to answer this question. They are completely lost.
Ed Porter: “I feel so uncomfortable answering. My instinct on that is: I don’t know. I would think Putin would be just as lawless, but he would have actual leadership and gravitas. It pains me to say it. But I’d go with him.”
John Rhodes: “Neither one. I would stay home. Putin has a long-term strategy. There is nothing we can do over Crimea and even then it is not worth it … It would be the first election I didn’t vote in."
Emily Hillstrom: “I think Obama will still make a better president. Putin discriminates against people. He puts them in jail. I just don’t think he is a good leader. He also invaded Ukraine.”
Sarah Kelley: “I don’t know. Putin is a lot more forward with the way he does things.”
Conor (declined to give his last name): “Putin.”
Huffington Post: “But he puts people in jail.”
Conor: “So does Obama.”
Huffington Post: “But he just invaded a neighboring country.”
Conor: “So would Obama.”
Huffington Post: “But then why Putin, if they’re both bad?”
Conor: “Because, hope and change.”
Brent (asked for his last name not to be used): “Putin. He has done a stronger job of playing international politics.”
The Huffington Post asked Brent about Putin’s domestic record. In response, he said that on 2nd Amendment rights, the IRS screening of Tea Party groups, and domestic surveillance, Obama was pursuing policies that are “hallmarks of everyday circumstances in Russia.”
“As absurd as the poll is, there is greater respectability for someone who can effect change,” he added.
Mark Roepke: “It’s tough. Putin is an effective leader. He is getting things done. It depends where I live ... I probably don’t want a Soviet running this country, but I already got a socialist.”
digby 3/06/2014 06:00:00 PM
A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has now become the least popular U.S. Senator in the country.
I guess the more people see him, the less they like him. Here's a list of the most appearances on the Sunday shows in 2013:
Key findings: "Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn't much variability in his numbers by party- he's at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents, suggesting he could be vulnerable to challenges in both the primary and general elections the next time he's up."
If you add up all the appearances he makes during the week, it's a wonder he has time to vote.
digby 3/06/2014 04:30:00 PM
You can fix inequality on the front end and on the back end. I prefer the front.
by David Atkins
A new report shows that boosting the minimum wage to a paltry $10.10 an hour would reduce SNAP expenditures by $4.6 billion:
Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would cut federal government outlays on food stamps by $4.6 billion per year, according to a study released Wednesday.The standard way you'll hear most progressives address inequality issues is to allow the labor market to run as usual, but levy heavy taxes on the back for redistribution.
The estimate published by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, is among the first to assess the effect of increasing the minimum wage on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as food stamps). The study backs supporters who say the policy change would benefit not just low-wage workers, but also taxpayers by reducing government expenditures.
The group’s analysis found that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 from the current $7.25 rate would lower total food-stamp aid by $4.6 billion, or 6% of the program’s budget.
“Our results show that a minimum-wage increase to $10.10 would reduce the need for 3.5 million people to support themselves on food stamps,” said Michael Reich, one of the study’s authors and an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.
No doubt that is the simplest way of doing it. But it also creates some problems, including a perception of unfairness, the potential to simply lower the tax rates when conservatives are put in charge, and capital mobility in which the richest people simply leave the country.
Front-end fixes that distribute wealth more fairly before it makes it to the hands to the plutocrats is more desirable in my book. They're harder to get rid of legislatively, they eliminate the "we're overtaxed" argument, and they reduce the incentive for capital mobility.
Raising the minimum wage, altering the structure of corporate law to encourage worker ownership, and instituting regulation and transaction taxes on Wall Street to encourage real long-term investment instead of job-slashing hollow corporations are all examples of front end fixes.
We need to focus on both sides of the equation, of course, but it would be great if the progressive movement as a whole spend a little more time on the front end than it does.
thereisnospoon 3/06/2014 03:33:00 PM
Why don't they just release the torture report?
Emptywheel answers a question I and others have posed about this SSCI torture report: why don't they just release it?
Over the last few days, I’ve tracked the accusations and counter-accusations between CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Historical reminder from Rick Perlstein's forthcoming book:
A number of people have asked why, as a way to end this issue, the Committee doesn’t just declassify the entire SSCI Report.
But it’s not so simple as that.
It’s not clear there are the votes to release the Report.
Recall that when the Committee approved the Report back in 2012, the vote was largely split on party lines, with the exception of John McCain, who voted as an Ex Officio member (as Ranking Member of Senate Armed Services Committee) to release the Report. McCain is no longer SASC Ranking member: Jim Inhofe is, and I’m betting he’s not going to vote to release the Report.
There are few other changes in the Committee proper since the report was originally finalized. Martin Heinrich and Angus King have replaced Bill Nelson and Kent Conrad, and Susan Collins and Tom Coburn have replaced Olympia Snowe and Roy Blunt.
And while Heinrich has quickly become one of the better overseers on the Committee, including on torture, it’s not actually clear whether King would vote to release the report. Collins, too, has been reported to be undecided (and her vote would be critical to making this a “bipartisan vote,” now that McCain doesn’t have a vote). There are even hints that Mark Warner wouldn’t vote to support its declassification (though he supported its finalization).
...The [Pike] report, drafted by an Ervin Committee veteran, was, for a government document, a literary masterpiece, and hard-hitting as hell: it opened with seventy pages savaging the Ford administration's lack of cooperation with Congress's work, and continued, more aggressively than Pike's public hearings—which had been plenty aggressive themselves, far more so than Senator Church's—by documenting the CIA's wasteful spending (where it could figure out what it spent), its bald failures at prediction, its abuses of civil liberties and its blanket indifference that any of this might pose a problem. It singled out Henry Kissinger for his "passion for secrecy" and statements "at variance with facts"; it detailed a number of failed covert actions—not naming countries, but with plenty enough identifying details to make things obvious enough for those who cared to infer. For instance, how the Nixon administration encouraged the Kurdish minority in Iraq to revolt, then abandoned them when the Shah of Iran objected. "Even in the context of covert action," it concluded concerning that one, "ours was a cynical exercise."
And I'm quite sure that someone has reminded all the cowardly Senators of this as well:
And something about all this seemed to spook cowed congressmen—who soon were voting to neuter themselves.
The House Rules Committee approved a measure by nine votes to seven to suppress publication report unless President Ford approved its contents. The full House debated whether to accept or reject the recommendation. Those against argued that the "classification" system itself violated the canons of checks and balances that were supposed to be the foundation of the republic. A moderate Republican from Colorado pointed out that the executive branch was desperate to serve as judge and jury in the very case for which it was plaintiff: that the report definitively established that the CIA had committed "despicable, detestable acts," but that "we are being castigated by those who perpetrate the acts and classify them." Pike made a demystifying point: that each of these things called "secrets," and hemmed around with such sacralizing foofaraw, talked of as if they were blatant instructions to our enemies on how to defeat us, "is a fact or opinion to which some bureaucrat has applied a rubber stamp." A Democrat from suburban Chicago drove home the bottom line: "If we are not a coequal branch of this government, if we are not equal to the President and the Supreme Court, then let the CIA write this report; let the President write this report; and we ought to fold our tent and go home."
To no avail. On January 29, the full House voted by two to one, led by conservatives, to suppress the very report it had authorized a year of work and several hundred thousand dollars to produce.
It all was too much for Daniel Schorr. He took his copy to his bosses at CBS: "We owe it to history to publish it," he said. They disagreed. He went to a nonprofit organization called the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to see if they could find a publishing house that might be interested, with the proceeds perhaps going to their group. They could not. Finally the alternative weekly the Village Voice agreed to publish it, in a massive special issue, and since the Reporters Committee now controlled the document, theVoice made a contribution to the group. This set off a fierce backlash among the polite guardians of journalistic decorum; the New York Times editorialized that by "making the report available for cash" Daniel Schorr was guilty of "selling secrets." On ABC, anchor Sam Donaldson said, "There are those that argue that in an open society like ours nothing should be concealed from the public. Depending on who espouses it, that position is either cynical, or naive." He said "mature and rational citizens" understood this—but not, apparently, Daniel Schorr. Nor his bosses at CBS News, who suspended him, though local affiliates begged CBS brass to fire him.
The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into who leaked the document to Schorr, who never told coughed u his source; they ended up spending $350,000, interviewing 400 witnesses, coming up with, yes, one leaker, Congressman Les Aspin (D-Wisconsin)—but he had leaked it to the CIA, as a political favor.
T]he unfortunate fact is that such investigations, while necessary, tend to be politically poisonous for the lawmakers who run them. Frank Church had presidential aspirations in 1975, but the investigation ate up so much of his time that it kept him from campaigning (he later groused that it might have cost him a shot at being Jimmy Carter’s vice president, too). The public and Congress, who had been furious about agency abuses of power in 1975, had mostly lost interest by the time the committee delivered its report a year later. Only one of its recommendations—the surveillance court—actually made it into law, and Church lost his Senate seat in the 1980 election following spurious accusations that his investigation had led to the assassination of a CIA station chief in Greece. The chairman of the concurrent investigative committee in the House, New York Democrat Otis Pike, saw his reputation similarly battered, and left office in 1979.
And that was in the aftermath of Watergate.
I'm sure the CIA realizes this history which is why they are as freaked out by anyone having access to documents as they are about the report itself. Who knows where they might end up?
digby 3/06/2014 01:30:00 PM
New Christie scandal! (He's a Koch addict ...)
Well, not exactly a scandal...
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke to thousands of conservative activists Thursday, burnishing his Republican credentials by touting his efforts to stand up to unions, reform entitlement programs and oppose abortion. Christie also defended Charles and David Koch, the billionaires who have helped sustain the conservative movement and have come under attack from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Huzzah! No wonder all those big donors from both parties loved Christie before his little "problem:"
"What they're for in Washington, D.C., is that the leader of Senate Democrats stand up and rail against two American entrepreneurs who have built a business, created jobs, and created wealth and philanthropy in this country. Harry Reid should get back to work and stop picking on great Americans who are creating great things in our country," said Christie at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference. His audience applauded.
Gov. Chris Christie is cashing in donations from top Democratic fundraisers and other traditionally liberal donors across the country, even nabbing the support of a handful of rainmakers aligned with President Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Star-Ledger review of state and federal records shows.
The really good news is that these rich donors are putting their feet down and taking an active role in Party strategy now. They have such good judgement, after all. If Christie keeps defending the Kochs maybe the rest of them will rediscover their affection for the big lug.
The checks are flying into the Republican governor’s war chest from all sorts of unlikely places — the hedge fund run by liberal billionaire George Soros, for example, and the politically progressive halls of the University of California, Berkeley.
The nascent support from Democratic donors is an early sign of Christie’s fundraising prowess in a potential run for the White House in 2016, experts and Democratic donors said, and dovetails with recent polls showing him gaining popularity nationally among Democrats and independents.
Christie’s partnership with New Jersey Democratic leaders and his warm relationship with Obama after Hurricane Sandy could be enticing donors who don’t often give to GOP candidates, even if they are closer ideologically to Democrat Barbara Buono, Christie’s lesser-known challenger, political scientists and Democratic fundraisers say.
"While I do not agree with his stance on every issue, he is one of the best political leaders I have talked to in a long time," said Ken Rosen, a UC-Berkeley professor who cut a $3,800 check to Christie after chatting with him at two events. "He is willing to take on tough issues such as pension reform, education reform, mental-health issues, even if his views are not politically correct."
digby 3/06/2014 12:30:00 PM
Rand Paul is the new Howard Dean? Not bloody likely
Mark Murray at MSNBC says that Rand Paul could be the Howard dean of the GOP:
... someone promising to change his party's thinking who has the potential to catch fire, but who also has the potential to fizzle out.
I guess anything's possible. Except the Democratic party has been the home of the anti-war faction in American politics for the past 50 years while the Republicans have run on law and order and national security. Howard Dean tapped into an existing strain of voters who were already Democrats and who were with the Party on most other issues. I suppose Paul can theoretically get a few libertarian isolationists out there who have never voted, but I suspect he'll have a big problem with anyone who currently identifies as a Republican.And young people as a whole may be anti-war but they're not anti-government, anti-taxes or pro business.
Like Dean with his opposition to the Iraq war, Paul wants to fundamentally change the Republican Party’s hawkish national-security and foreign-policy tendencies. “America has never backed down from a fight-but we should never be a nation that is eager to get involved in nations' conflicts that work against our own national security,” he said in a Nov. 2013 speech.
Like Dean with the young voters he attracted, Paul wants to bring more young and minority voters into the GOP fold. “We need young people in the party. The president won the youth vote 3 to 1,” Paul said back in January. “Since we’ve had the different spying scandals, I think if there were a Republican who stood up for privacy, who stood up for the Fourth Amendment, I think the young people will come back to us.”
In any case, I'm going to guess that unless we're involved in WWIII (always a possibility) "war" is not going to be the salient issue in 2016, and even if it were, the Republican Party of Taft died out long ago and is a long way from resurrection. I think the beltway is succumbing to the idea that because Rand Paul is espousing these ideas and getting some respect among the GOP faithful, it's because the GOP faithful believes in it on the merits. This is not correct. The GOP faithful believes in anything that is in opposition to Barack Obama. Look at them today with the Ukraine crisis. Rand Paul cannot thread that needle. Nobody can.
But it's fun to play these games because we'll be able to come back and make fun of these absurd notions down the road.
digby 3/06/2014 11:00:00 AM
QOTD: Tom Harkin
From the senate floor
"We sent a message: We have a double standard. A terrible double standard," Harkin said, pointing out that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts once worked on behalf of a mass murderer.
"Here's the message we sent today. You young people listen up. If you are a young white person and you go to work for a law firm … and that law firm assigns you to a pro bono case to defend someone who killed eight people in cold blood … my advice from this, what happened today, is you should do that … Because if you do that, who knows? You might wind up to be the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.
"However, if you are a young black person and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund … and you're asked to sign an appeal for someone convicted of murder, what the message said today is, 'Don't do it! Don't do it.' Because you know what? If you do that, in keeping with your legal obligations and your profession, you will be denied by the U.S. Senate from being an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice," Harkin said.
"What about that guy sitting over there -- the chief justice of the Supreme Court -- defended a person who killed eight people?" Harkin asked, pointing toward the nearby court building. "Maybe we should institute a -- an impeachment process? Maybe that's what we ought to do. Maybe my friends on the Republican side did not know this about John Roberts, that he had defended a mass murderer. Maybe that's what we've got to do, bring up an impeachment process. Let's impeach the chief justice because he had fulfilled his legal obligation to defend a murderer. Well, I hope that you see the ridiculousness of that argument."
I doubt they do.
digby 3/06/2014 09:00:00 AM
Let's play a game: libertarian professor of economics, or crazy man on street corner?
by David Atkins
Let's play a game. I'm going to blockquote an article, and you tell me who you think wrote it.
Here you go:
1. As I've argued in detail here, poor healthy adults in the First World are largely undeserving. Indeed, few are even objectively poor; just look at the many luxuries the American poor typically enjoy. ?
2. People who used to be healthy adults in the First World are also largely undeserving. As long as they were healthy enough to work for a couples of decades, the vast majority could have easily saved enough (or purchased enough insurance, annuities, etc.) to protect themselves from unemployment, accidents, sickness, old age, and other perennial troubles.
In sum: The stages of blame, combined with basic facts about poverty, are deeply consistent with a radical libertarian critique of the status quo. Modern social democracies force their citizens to help their countrymen even though the latter are largely undeserving - and often not really poor. The most that could be justified is a rump welfare state that helps poor children and people who develop severe health problems early in life. At the same time, social democracies deliberately and massively increase global poverty by banning employment contracts between citizens and foreigners.
Like it or not, much-maligned U.S. Gilded Age poverty policies - minimal government assistance combined with near-open borders - were close to ideal. And the broadly-defined poverty policies of much-beloved post-war social democracies are morally perverse - enforcing absurdly inflated moral duties toward poor citizens while slandering poor foreigners as criminals for using the most realistic strategy they have to avoid poverty: getting a job in the First World.
Hazard a guess? Some random radical crank with a blog? Random nut on the Internet? Crazy man waving signs on a street corner?
Nope. It's Bryan Caplan, Professor of Economics (!) at George Mason University. Here's his brief bio:
Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He is the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, named "the best political book of the year" by the New York Times, and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN. He is now working on a new book, The Case Against Education. This nutcase is actually teaching impressionable students economics of all things, and getting published in all the big papers.
This is part of why we can't have nice things. A person this morally insane and ignorant of both history and economics shouldn't be anywhere near a classroom or a publishing house.
thereisnospoon 3/06/2014 07:30:00 AM
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Quote 'O the Day: Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity Mocks Obama For Wearing Bicycle Helmet: "It's Embarrassing"
Hannity: "When I Grew Up, All I Did Was Ride My Bike. I Never Wore A Helmet. Ever. Not Once, Not One Time. And Guess What ... We Survived."
I know what he means:
Of course Bush proved that everyone really does need to wear a helmet:
Hannity didn't wear a helmet, "not once" and we know how that turned out.
digby 3/05/2014 06:00:00 PM
Did "Emperor Alexander" spill the beans?
If not, this fine fellow needs to leave the government and start counting his spoils ... er collecting his fat paycheck in the private sector sooner rather than later. He's getting more and more Strangelovian by the minute
General Keith Alexander, who has furiously denounced the Snowden revelations, said at a Tuesday cybersecurity panel that unspecified “headway” on what he termed “media leaks” was forthcoming in the next several weeks, possibly to include “media leaks legislation.”That's right. Only government "experts" can understand the "national interest." Journalists and outside experts (much less mere citizens) are just not equipped to make such decisions. Let's move along now.
In perhaps his most expansive remarks to date since Miranda – the partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald – was detained for nine hours at Heathrow airport last summer, Alexander noted that a panel of UK judges found Miranda’s detention to be legal.
“Recently, what came out with the justices in the United Kingdom … they looked at what happened on Miranda and other things, and they said it’s interesting: journalists have no standing when it comes to national security issues. They don’t know how to weigh the fact of what they’re giving out and saying, is it in the nation’s interest to divulge this,” Alexander said.
And then he said something very curious. He said he was meeting with the White House about mass phone collection changes. And added this:
“We’ve got to handle media leaks first,” Alexander said.There has been a lot of handwringing and chest beating about arresting journalist and making the publishing of leaks akin to "trafficking in stolen goods" and other wildly undemocratic nonsense by various members of the government over the past few months. But this is the first anybody's heard of proposed legislation (or anything else) to "deal" with media leaks. Eric Holder has not entirely closed the door on prosecution and FBI Director Comey didn't rule it out entirely, but neither of them have sounded eager to get into this. So I don't know what Alexander is talking about.
“I think we are going to make headway over the next few weeks on media leaks. I am an optimist. I think if we make the right steps on the media leaks legislation, then cyber legislation will be a lot easier,” Alexander said.
The specific legislation to which Alexander referred was unclear. Angela Canterbury, the policy director for the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, said she was unaware of any such bill. Neither was Steve Aftergood, an intelligence policy analyst at the Federation of American Scientists.
The NSA’s public affairs office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alexander has previously mused about “stopping” journalism related to the Snowden revelations.
“We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on,” he told an official Defense Department blog in October.
Spencer Ackerman asked the NSA about this today:
So maybe "Emperor Alexander" is just losing the thread. Let's hope so. This certainly lends itself to that conclusion:
In an October interview with the New York Times, Alexander said: “I do feel it’s important to have a public, transparent discussion on cyber so that the American people know what’s going on.”
But staff at Georgetown University, which sponsored the Tuesday cybersecurity forum, took the microphone away from a Guardian reporter who attempted to ask Alexander if the NSA had missed the signs of Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine, which appeared to take Obama administration policymakers by surprise.
Although the event was open to reporters, journalists were abruptly told following the NSA director’s remarks that they were not permitted to ask questions of Alexander, who did not field the Ukraine question. Following the event, security staff closed a stairwell gate on journalists who attempted to ask Alexander questions on his way out.
I guess he's Elvis now.
digby 3/05/2014 04:30:00 PM
Man accidentally shoots 12-year-old, fumbles gun, shoots self. No charges will be filed.
So this guy shot a 12-year-old girl, fumbled his gun, then shot himself:
An Orlando, Fla. man accidentally discharged a gun on Friday, first striking a 12-year-old girl in a moving car then himself immediately after, the Orlando Sentinel reported.Sounds like a big deal. Criminal charges, reckless endangerment, something like that.
Ventura Santos Mateo, 60, was in his garage teaching a friend how to clean his gun.
Investigators said he was holding a Sig Sauer pistol above his waist when the weapon discharged in the direction of the street, striking the girl in her right upper arm. The 12-year-old was riding in the front seat of the car, with her younger brother in the back seat. Her father didn't realize she had been shot until he pulled into his driveway about a block down the street.
"Surprised and distressed by the inadvertent shot, Mateo 'nervously' shot again by accident, striking himself in the left thigh," the Sentinel reported, citing police.
Ah, who am I kidding? This is Florida! Shit happens, ya know? Gotta keep the guns in the hands of the sheepdogs to protect from all them wolves, know what I mean?
Both he and the girl are expected to recover from the injuries. A police report said he won't be charged, but authorities are still investigating the incident.Moral insanity. No other phrase does our guns policy justice.
thereisnospoon 3/05/2014 03:12:00 PM
Tin horn dictators quelling dissent
I hate when President Obama gets all dictatorish and authoritarian and everything and uses the power of his office to quell dissent:
Oh, sorry. Wrong YouTube. Never mind.
digby 3/05/2014 01:30:00 PM
What a lovely bunch of jackholes
Oh look, the Democratic majority of which we're all supposed to be so protective just failed to protect a highly qualified Obama nominee because some reactionary Democrats couldn't bring themselves to vote for someone who led the NAACP. What is this, 1953?
Debo Adegbile, who previously served as the acting head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, is one of the nation’s top civil rights attorneys. He’s also a leading expert on voting rights who twice defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court — the first time successfully. He was, in other words, an ideal candidate to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — the division which, among other things, oversees the federal government’s voting rights work in an era where conservative state lawmakers are currently waging a widespread campaign to prevent demographic groups that tend to vote for Democrats from casting a ballot.
And yet, the Senate just voted his nomination down, thanks to seven Democrats. The Democrats who opposed Adegbile’s confirmation are Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and John Walsh (D-MT).
Why did this happen? Apparently because he defended the constitution at one time:
In 2008, a federal appeals court unanimously held — with two Reagan appointees on the panel — that procedures used during a convicted cop killer named Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death penalty hearing violated the Constitution. Specifically, the panel of predominantly Republican judges concluded that the trial judge gave the jury a confusing form that could have been read to require a death sentence unless every single juror agreed to a life sentence. The NAACP LDF filed an amicus brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf.
But never fear, just because you are a lawyer who defends the constitution it doesn't mean you will forever be denied a job in the US Government. You can defend the constitution on behalf of all the white collar criminals you like. In fact, it's required. It's only if you defend it on behalf of the "wrong kind" of criminal (and I think you know what that means...) that you will be voted down by a bunch of right wing Senators.
At least one of the Democrats who opposed Adegbile, Sen. Casey, cited his work to overturn this unconstitutional death sentence as the reason for his opposition.
And people wonder why so many Democrats are sick to death of having to put up with these assholes.
digby 3/05/2014 12:00:00 PM
Torture? What torture?
I'm sure most people have no problem with this. After all, the world is full of dangerous people and we need to keep an eye on them lest they kill us in our beds:
The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.
I think it's very cute that the CIA sent these torture documents to the White House so they could be covered up under executive privilege --- and that the White House is actually acquiescing.
The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.
The development marks an unprecedented breakdown in relations between the CIA and its congressional overseers amid an extraordinary closed-door battle over the 6,300-page report on the agency’s use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons. The report is said to be a searing indictment of the program. The CIA has disputed some of the reports findings.
White House officials have closely tracked the bitter struggle, a McClatchy investigation has found. But they haven’t directly intervened, perhaps because they are embroiled in their own feud with the committee, resisting surrendering top-secret documents that the CIA asserted were covered by executive privilege and sent to the White House.
McClatchy’s findings are based on information found in official documents and provided by people with knowledge of the dispute being fought in the seventh-floor executive offices of the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va., and the committee’s high-security work spaces on Capitol Hill.
But hey, there's no reason to suspect our fine public servants in the secret surveillance and clandestine services would ever use their power for anything but good. We need to trust them. Just because they are covering up their crimes and spying on the staff of Senators tasked with oversight doesn't mean we should be skeptical of their goodness and righteousness. Those Senate staffers -- hell, the Senators themselves --- could be terrorists. We really can't be too careful.
Oh, and by the way, this isn't ancient history. As this piece from a few years back pointed out, the Obama administration's reversion to the Army Field Manual guidelines did not eliminate torture from the tool kit as we were led to believe. It doesn't allow waterboarding or putting people in coffins with bugs to drive them crazy like the Yoo-approved methods did. But what it does allow is still plenty bad. Also too: force feeding in Guantanamo.
The torture continues.
But never say the US Government doesn't have a sense of humor:
Update: The Guardian adds this little detail:
A leading US senator has said that President Obama knew of an “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the Senate intelligence committee, which has apparently prompted an inspector general’s inquiry at Langley.
The subtle reference in a Tuesday letter from Senator Mark Udall to Obama, seeking to enlist the president’s help in declassifying a 6,300-page inquiry by the committee into torture carried out by CIA interrogators after 9/11, threatens to plunge the White House into a battle between the agency and its Senate overseers.
McClatchy and the New York Times reported Wednesday that the CIA had secretly monitored computers used by committee staffers preparing the inquiry report, which is said to be scathing not only about the brutality and ineffectiveness of the agency’s interrogation techniques but deception by the CIA to Congress and policymakers about it. The CIA sharply disputes the committee’s findings.
Udall, a Colorado Democrat and one of the CIA’s leading pursuers on the committee, appeared to reference that surreptitious spying on Congress, which Udall said undermined democratic principles.
“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight powers and for our democracy,” Udall wrote to Obama on Tuesday.
Independent observers were unaware of a precedent for the CIA spying on the congressional committees established in the 1970s to check abuses by the intelligence agencies.
h/t to @attackerman
digby 3/05/2014 10:30:00 AM
The "tough" question
God I wish we could dispense with all this fatuous talk about "toughness" every time a foreign policy question comes up:
New York Times White House Correspondent Peter Baker joined Hugh Hewitt on his radio show Tuesday to take on the latest from Ukraine, and Baker told Hewitt that it doesn’t appear that Russian President Vladimir Putin has holds that much respect for President Obama.
Right. President George W. Bush Bush is responsible for the greatest American foreign policy disaster in at least a century, maybe ever, and yet we're supposed to believe that he's respected? For his toughness? What a joke. Bush was also the manly man who saw into "Pooty-poot's" soul and told us all he was just a wonderful guy you'd like your daughter to bring home for Thanksgiving. To the extent that Putin sees the US as an enemy he can only dream of facing another credulous boob like George W. Bush who will piss away 50 years of American moral authority with one outrageous act of "toughness."
Baker rattled off the differences between the current conflict and what happened six years ago in Georgia, saying that thie time around Putin “knows what the West is going to do, and he’s decided it’s a price he’s willing to pay.” And this time around, he said, the White House has made sanctions “the weapon of choice.”
Hewitt brought up criticism of Obama’s perceived weakness on the world stage in the midst of all this, and asked if “Putin views Obama as significantly softer than Bush.” Baker gave a pretty blunt response.
“I don’t think he has a lot of respect for President Obama. I think that’s fair. And I do think that he has tested, in his mind, President Obama on a number of occasions and did not come away feeling intimidated.”
I'm sure he finds this sort of thing very amusing:
"It is not often that you have a spit take moment when you're watching the news," the MSNBC host began on her show. She was referring to Secretary of State John Kerry's criticism of Russia's aggression towards Ukraine on Sunday's "Face the Nation." Kerry had said, "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext."
Maddow appeared amused by the comments. "Agreed," she said. "Also, it's really awkward to hear you say that." The "awkwardness," Maddow said, came from the United States being "only a couple years out now from our own near decade of war in Iraq, which was a war that was of course also launched on a trumped up false pretext."
After playing Kerry's comments again, she observed, "Absolutely true and something which the United States has absolutely no leg to stand on after it famously did the same thing on a much bigger scale."
TAPPER: Vladimir Putin spoke earlier today, Senator, defending his actions. He said military force would be a last resort. They don't plan to make Crimea part of Russia, he said, even though of course there are thousands of Russian troops there. He did take a dig at U.S. foreign policy. I want to get your reaction to what he said. Take a listen.
Yes I'm sure that Vladimir Putin very much respects George W. Bush for his "toughness." And his remarkable ability to turn the United States into an international joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): When I say do you think that everything you do is legitimate, and they say yes, so I have to remind them about the actions of the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, where they were acting without any U.N. sanctions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So there you have Putin invoking the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
Obviously, this is not a popular position in the United States, but do you think with the world community, we in the United States are perceived as having a double standard?
CORKER: Well, look, we acted -- you know, we had some degree in every case of working with other countries to make this happen.
This was a unilateral effort on their part. Obviously I saw where Eugene Robinson made a similar case in the last 48 hours, one of the our editorialists in our own country.
But, no, I don't think so. I think there are obviously countries that had a lot of concern about us being in Iraq. I don't know there's any question about that. But the comparison to me is apples to oranges, and not even close. And we should not certainly use that -- we shouldn't let someone use that as a reason for him to be where he is. It's totally ludicrous and not something that even should be considered.
Oh and by the way, the Eugene Robinson column Bob Corker refers to does make the obvious case that US officials making the strident case for sovereign borders being inviolate sound ridiculous, but he also says this:
If the goal is to persuade Russia to give back Crimea — which may or may not be possible — the first necessary step is to try to understand why Putin grabbed it in the first place.
I know that's not as exciting as assuming we can "defeat" the Hitleresque Vladimir Putin and save the world from tyranny if only our president is "tough" enough, but it's just a tad more realistic.
When Ukraine emerged as a sovereign state from the breakup of the Soviet Union, it was agreed that the Russian navy would retain its bases on the Crimean Peninsula. After Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, was deposed by a “people power” revolution last month, it was perhaps inevitable that Putin would believe the status of those bases was in question, if not under threat.
The new government in Kiev could offer formal reassurances about the naval base in Sevastopol. More broadly, however, Putin may have decided that allowing Ukraine to escape Moscow’s orbit was too much to swallow. Seizing Crimea does more than secure a warm-water port for Russian ships. It implies the threat of further territorial incursions — unless the new government in Kiev becomes more accommodating to its powerful neighbor.
This is not fair to Ukraine. But I don’t believe it helps the Ukrainians to pretend that there is a way to make Putin surrender Crimea if he wants to keep it.
The question is whether there is any way to tip the balance of Putin’s cost-benefit analysis. The Russian leader has nothing to fear from the U.N. Security Council, since Russia can veto any proposed action. Kicking Russia out of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations would be a blow to Moscow’s prestige but probably would not cause Putin to lose much sleep.
Economic sanctions are more easily threatened than applied. The European Union depends on Russia for much of its natural gas — a fact that gives Putin considerable leverage. In a broader sense, there is zero enthusiasm in Europe for a reprise of the Cold War. Putin knows this.
If Putin really has lost touch with reality, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly speculated in a conversation with President Obama, then all bets are off. But if Putin is being smart, he will offer a solution: Russia gets sole or joint possession of Crimea. Ukraine and the other former Soviet republics remember that Moscow is watching, and we all settle down.
Sadly for Ukraine, but realistically, that may be a deal the world decides to accept.
I'd also point out that presidential candidates making "Hitler" analogies is more than a little bit provocative when talking about Russia and Ukraine. They (and the other Soviet states) lost nearly 20 million people in WWII and it doesn't seem that long ago to them. I'm not a particular sticker for Godwin's law --- I think a war that cost the world 60 million lives and ranks as the bloodiest conflict in human history should not be off limits for public discussion. But this is one situation where they really should zip it with the Hitler stuff. These Russians and Ukrainians know from Hitler.
digby 3/05/2014 09:00:00 AM
We have a legislative problem more than a messaging problem
by David Atkins
It's an old complaint: the Left just doesn't get its message through. You'll often hear progressives complain that the Democrats don't phrase their ideas well enough, or that the media is against us, or that the American people are too distracted by their electronic devices, etc.
But that's actually not true. There may be some failure in terms of deeper narrative framing, but at a policy level most Americans agree strongly with most progressive positions. Consider the minimum wage, courtesy Mark Mellman:
A year ago, every single Republican member of the House voted against increasing the minimum wage. More recently, Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner one-upped his primary opponents by demanding a reduction in the minimum wage. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) went even further, backing complete repeal of the minimum wage. This isn't an issue where the media has snowed the public, or the public is too distracted, or the Left didn't message it well enough.
Yet, since November alone, no fewer than eight different nonpartisan public polls by six different pollsters have demonstrated overwhelming public support for increasing the minimum wage. Though the questions have differed, support has ranged from 65 percent to 76 percent. On average, Americans favored an increase in the minimum wage by a 43-point margin.
Indeed, in each of the polls for which a partisan breakdown is available, huge majorities of independents and at least pluralities, and often majorities, of rank-and-file Republicans join nearly all Democrats in supporting a minimum wage hike.
Even groups that are not congenial to the idea have been unable to find opposition. Reason, the self-styled magazine of “free minds and free markets,” which espouses libertarian views, conducted a poll in December that found 72 percent favoring a minimum wage increase, with just 26 percent opposed. In that survey, 88 percent of Democrats joined 70 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans in supporting a higher minimum wage.
Republicans revealed some interesting divisions, however, that could help explain the solid phalanx of “noes” among GOP politicians. Sixty-three percent of Republicans who make less than $60,000 a year support raising the minimum wage, while only 35 percent of Republicans making more than $60,000 a year favor an increase. Similarly, 64 percent of young Republicans support raising the minimum wage, compared to 43 percent among those over the age of 55. Republican opponents of the minimum wage who hold office tend to be older and richer than the party they lead.
The public is strongly in favor of our position. The public knows that we hold that position, not Republicans.
If more Democrats aren't getting elected, it's a matter of people either not believing that Democrats will follow through, or of people prioritizing other issues. Or the districts are gerrymandered.
This isn't exactly a trenchant observation, of course. But it's important to be reminded that elections really do matter, and that getting good Democrats who will actually vote to follow through on progressive policy really does matter.
When progressives on the street whine about the media, or about our "messaging", or about the "sheeple," etc., what they're doing is removing their own agency, and their own responsibility for helping to fix the situation.
If we want to raise the minimum wage, the people are with us. But Republicans and some small set of conservative Democrats are standing in the way.
The only way to get rid of them is with phone calls and shoe leather. With 2014 elections right around the corner, there's no time to start like the present.
thereisnospoon 3/05/2014 07:30:00 AM
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Google happy Bob Jones Sophomores
Dean Baker makes short work of Paul Ryan's "poverty study" in this post. But I think the penultimate paragraph says it all:
Ryan’s report is perhaps at its most convoluted when it comes to child care. Among other things, we’re told that child care “increases the likelihood of participation in the labor force”, but then a few paragraphs later that it has “insignificant effects on labor-force participation.” Similarly, we’re told that “child care subsidies have negative effects on child development” but then a few paragraphs later that they have “significant positive effects … on children’s academic performance ….” As this section suggests, too often Ryan’s report reads like a class project cut-and-pasted together by a group of Google-happy sophomores in a 200-level class at Bob Jones University.That sounds about right.
digby 3/04/2014 06:00:00 PM
"That I will not do. As Attorney General of Kentucky, I must draw the line when it comes to discrimination."
I've always liked Kentucky AG Jack Conway going back to when he ran against Rand Paul for US Senate. And his statement today about gay marriage confirms my impression of him:
As Attorney General, I have vowed to the people of Kentucky to uphold my duty under the law and to do what is right, even if some disagreed with me. In evaluating how best to proceed as the Commonwealth’s chief lawyer in light of Judge Heyburn’s recent ruling, I have kept those promises in mind.
Good for him. But he's on his own. For now anyway:
When the Governor and I were first named as the technical defendants in this lawsuit, my duty as Attorney General was to provide the Commonwealth with a defense in the federal district court, and to frame the proper legal defenses. Those who passed the statutes and the voters who passed the constitutional amendment deserved that, and the Office of Attorney General performed its duty. However, it’s my duty to defend both the Kentucky Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.
The temporary stay we sought and received on Friday allowed me time to confer with my client and to consult with state leaders about my impending decision and the ramifications for the state.
I have evaluated Judge Heyburn’s legal analysis, and today am informing my client and the people of Kentucky that I am not appealing the decision and will not be seeking any further stays.
From a constitutional perspective, Judge Heyburn got it right, and in light of other recent federal decisions, these laws will not likely survive upon appeal. We cannot waste the resources of the Office of the Attorney General pursuing a case we are unlikely to win.
There are those who believe it’s my mandatory duty, regardless of my personal opinion, to continue to defend this case through the appellate process, and I have heard from many of them. However, I came to the inescapable conclusion that, if I did so, I would be defending discrimination.
That I will not do. As Attorney General of Kentucky, I must draw the line when it comes to discrimination.
The United States Constitution is designed to protect everyone’s rights, both the majority and the minority groups. Judge Heyburn’s decision does not tell a minister or a congregation what they must do, but in government ‘equal justice under law’ is a different matter.
I am also mindful of those from the business community who have reached out to me in the last few days encouraging me not to appeal the decision. I agree with their assessment that discriminatory policies hamper a state’s ability to attract business, create jobs and develop a modern workforce.
I prayed over this decision. I appreciate those who provided counsel, especially my remarkable wife, Elizabeth. In the end, this issue is really larger than any single person and it’s about placing people above politics. For those who disagree, I can only say that I am doing what I think is right. In the final analysis, I had to make a decision that I could be proud of – for me now, and my daughters’ judgment in the future.
May we all find ways to work together to build a more perfect union, and to build the future Commonwealth in which we want to live, work and raise all of our families.”
Two of Kentucky's top Democrats split sharply Tuesday over same-sex marriage, with Gov. Steve Beshear saying outside lawyers will be hired to appeal a decision granting recognition to gay couples married in other states after the attorney general announced he would not pursue the case.
Conway knows he's on the right side of history. But it takes guts to do this anyway. This is Kentucky we're talking about.
digby 3/04/2014 04:30:00 PM
GOP Senate candidate: Obamacare is a "great idea that can't be paid for"
by David Atkins
Greg Sargent makes a great catch today:
The other day I noted that Thom Tillis, the expected GOP candidate for Senate in North Carolina, has been struggling to explain his stance on Obamacare — he knows repeal is a non-starter because the goals of Obamacare remain popular, but isn’t willing to embrace any alternatives. Tillis’s equivocations — which capture the problems with the GOP repeal stance in general — have taken a pounding in the North Carolina press.The ACA can be paid for, of course. It's a matter of priorities.
Now North Carolina Dems have unearthed a radio interview Tillis gave which again illuminates the problem here. It contains this wonderful quote about the ACA:
“It’s a great idea that can’t be paid for.”
In the interview, from February, Tillis insists he’s gung ho for repeal, saying: “If we could effectively nullify and repeal Obamacare in North Carolina, we would do it.” Then, asked whether he supports home state Senator Richard Burr’s replace plan — the leading GOP alternative — Tillis demurs. But he confirms he supports “dealing with preexisting conditions” and “dealing with some sort of safety net for people with catastrophic loss,” adding that “Republicans want to solve the problem” and that “we’re not just saying No to Obamacare.” Then he says:
“I think there’s a lot of things we can do if we focus on a systemic approach to eliminating the bad, and the majority of the stuff that is in Obamacare is bad, because it’s not fiscally sustainable. It’s a great idea that can’t be paid for.”
But that's not the point. Increasingly, Republican candidates are coming up against the fact that ACA has already improved the lives of millions of people. The public still doesn't fully trust the law, but an expanding majority doesn't want it repealed. The "repeal" mantra is increasingly becoming a millstone around Republican necks.
thereisnospoon 3/04/2014 03:00:00 PM
Marissa Alexander: can't win for losing
I'm sure you all recall the case of Marissa Alexander, the African American Floridian who got a long prison sentence for shooting a warning shot to chase off her abusive husband. We all became aware of it in the shadow of the Trayvon Martin trial as people noted the contrast between the outcomes of the two cases (and the obvious contrast in the color of the skin of the defendant ...)
Anyway, there's news. And it's not good:
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to triple Marissa Alexander’s original prison sentence from twenty to sixty years, effectively a life sentence for the 33-year-old woman, when her case is retried this July, the Florida Times-Union reports.
Alexander was convicted on three charges of aggravated assault in 2012 for firing warning shots in the direction of Rico Gray, her estranged husband, and his two children. No one was hurt. Alexander’s attorneys argued that she had the right to self-defense after Gray physically assaulted and threatned to kill her the day of the shooting. In a deposition, Gray confessed to a history of abusing women, including Alexander.
In September of 2013 a District Appeals court threw out the conviction on grounds that Circuit Judge James Daniel erroneously placed the burden on Alexander to prove she acted in self-defense, when she only had to meet a “reasonable doubt concerning self-defense.”
Judge Daniel originally slapped Alexander with three twenty-year prison sentences, but ordered that they be served concurrently. If Alexander is convicted a second time in July, State Attorney Angela Corey will seek consecutive sentences, adding up to sixty years in prison.
Florida’s 10-20-Life law imposes a mandatory minimum of twenty years in prison for anyone who fires a gun while committing a felony. Angela Corey’s prosecution team says it is following a court ruling that multiple convictions for related charges under 10-20-Life should carry consecutive sentences.
I guess I don't understand why this woman is being re-tried on the same charges. I get that the government is concerned with people firing warning shots at others, but it seems to me to be a natural consequence of the state's loose gun laws. Everybody's packing heat around there and if there's ever been a case in which one might go easy on the defendant, it should be this one. It simply cannot be ok that you can actually kill an unarmed person and be considered justified simply because you were "afraid" but that you can spend decades in jail for merely shooting a warning shot for exactly the same reason. The lesson here would be that Marissa Alexander would have been far better off killing her ex-husband. That can't be right.
digby 3/04/2014 01:30:00 PM
QOTD: Huckleberry Graham connecting the dots
Yeah. That's what happened.
digby 3/04/2014 12:00:00 PM
The new normal
These long term unemployed just need to get some entrepreneurial spirit:
The number of long-term jobless Americans missing out on federal unemployment insurance this week topped 2 million.
Benefits ended for 1.3 million workers in December. Each week since then, another 70,000 Americans who would have been eligible have joined them.
In a budget proposal released Tuesday, President Barack Obama called on Congress to restore the benefits as "a starting point in achieving opportunity and mobility," at a cost of $15 billion. The budget outline notes that 35 percent of the unemployed have been out of work six months or longer, a higher rate of long-term jobless than at any other time Congress has dropped extended benefits.
Ok, so there may not be any legitimate jobs out there for the long term unemployed. That doesn't excuse their laziness. There are liquor stores to be knocked over and anonymous Johns to service. No excuse for all this bellyaching.
The article points out that the chances of restoring those benefits has about as much chance as I have of becoming the third Mrs Brad Pitt. We just don't care about high unemployment anymore. It's the new normal.
digby 3/04/2014 11:30:00 AM
One of the biggest scandals of the Bush Administration was the politicization of the Justice Department, specifically the practice of appointing political flunkies as US Attorneys with directives to interfere in elections. This was clearly run by the political arm of the White House, undermining the independence of the Justice Department in a particularly partisan fashion. But now, it seems we have a Justice Department which has no control at all over its prosecutors, who seem to operate completely at their own discretion. At least one of them is.
Yesterday, the Huffington Post followed a young man as he submitted himself to federal prison for a 2 year term after being convicted of breaking federal law by working for a legal medical marijuana collective in California. Here's the story of the prosecutor:
As the White House revised its position on marijuana policy, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, an Obama appointee, relied on an evolving rationale to continue prosecuting three people involved with a California medical pot cooperative, according to letters Wagner sent to defense attorneys.
It's quite an evolution of legal rationales over the course of time even citing judicial independence from justice department guidelines (which is correct, of course) and then saying:
Wagner and his staff cited new reasons to press forward with the case even as they were undermined by shifting administration policy. Ultimately Wagner argued that he had no choice but to push forward because other defendants he had previously prosecuted were still serving long sentences.
Wagner and his staff went on to add that even members of the administration are not subject to directives from that administration, but rather will follow the direction of Congress as they interpret it. "The defendant points to press reports about statements of the Attorney General and the latest in a series of memoranda dealing with U.S. Department of Justice policy and priorities dealing with marijuana enforcement ... The Controlled Substances Act continues to be the law until amended by Congress and the Sentencing Guidelines apply no matter where the federal court is located," they wrote. "Thus, defendant Duncan’s argument in this area should be given little weight."
The defendants "argument in this area" was to cite the guidelines on marijuana enforcement set forth by the Attorney General of the United States. Basically, this prosecutor is saying that he answers to no one. Now, I'm all for prosecutors operating without political interference, but this is not that. I have never heard that US Attorneys are allowed to simply ignore the Justice Department if they want to. I guess I assumed that if a US Attorney didn't like Justice Department policy he or she could protest, resign, refuse and/or be fired. But I didn't know they were allowed to simply interpret the laws as they wished and carry on unobstructed.
But that's what happened in this case. He has been allowed to prosecute this case with Javert-like zeal to "send a message":
His changing rationale for pursuing the cases, as seen in the letters, suggests that his analysis was largely political. "The U.S. Attorney said with some clarity that if these guys didn't get jail time, then that would send the signal that nobody would be jailed for marijuana in the district," said Tom Johnson, Duncan's attorney. "It's just a random application of the federal drug enforcement laws. He was literally at the wrong place at the wrong time."
This raises the main question as to why it should be that anyone should be jailed for marijuana under federal law in California in the first place. (I don't suppose it has anything to do with the practice of asset forfeiture and arrest statistics, but it might be a good idea to ask.) Meanwhile, we have people engaged in legal California medical marijuana businesses being incarcerated under federal law for years. At our expense. And the destruction of their lives and futures.
While Wagner was prosecuting the three defendants, another branch of the administration had begun to protect the workplace rights of medical marijuana shop employees.
Can't anyone stop this? Eric Holder maybe? He is the Attorney General of the United States. I would think he has at least a tiny bit of influence. If he doesn't, we need to think very hard about reforming the Justice Department in major ways. US Attorneys should not be subject to political pressures to tilt elections, obviously. But they cannot be allowed to operate as extra-judicial fiefdoms without any accountability at all either. It's a very powerful, unelected office with the ability to ruin lives at the drop of the hat. And they're using it to do just that.
digby 3/04/2014 10:30:00 AM