COVER UP: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair (1988)

28 December 2008

UPDATE: Today, Oliver North is employed as a political commentator for FOX News. You can't make this stuff up.

National Review Is Still Filled With Partisan Hacks

According to Victor Davis Hanson, environmentalists want to cause mass starvation and human suffering: "Surely, the world right now is sort of what the radical Gorists wanted to see, since the current cutback in gasoline usage, and general economic slowdown are radically restricting the burning of fossil fuels."

The obvious response to this is a simple "No." Environmentalists are not thrilled to see our current wave of financial suffering any more than the average person. Nor has it ever been their goal to see the world as it is now, with rising unemployment and general human suffering. What the environmentalists really just want is to cut back on fossil fuel use without devastating people's lives (not "at all costs," like Victor Davis Hanson thinks). In fact, they have been explicitly arguing for a while now that switching off of fossil fuels will save us from future oil price-shocks, leave us more energy independent in general, and create millions of jobs. This is why they're always using the phrase "Green Collar Economy," and writing books like this one.

What Victor Davis Hanson is doing here is setting up a straw-man argument. It's no different from when former National Review contributor Ann Coulter covered the same topic and said (more explicitly) that "Liberals want mass starvation and human devastation."

UPDATE: In its earlier days, the National Review wrote columns like this one (pdf), titled "Why the South Must Prevail." In it, the National Review asked "'whether the white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically?" After citing to the "cultural superiority of white over Negro," the National Review concluded that "Yes—the white community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race."

Meanwhile, On FOX News. . . .

25 December 2008

Church Members Dress Like Jesus to Protest Secularization of Christmas: “Members of a church in Kansas City, Ks., are protesting the secularization of Christmas by dressing like Jesus at their jobs, malls and restaurants.”

Happy Christmas

Senate Report on Detainee Abuse

21 December 2008

The Senate Armed Services Committee recently released a report (available here) (pdf) recounting our recent policy of detainee abuse. It also recounts the approval process, and concludes that "[t]he abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own." Rather, the report finds that these policies were the direct result of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld's "message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody."

Aside from linking Rumsfeld to the Abu Ghraid atrocities, the report is a good read just for its timeline of events. It's still bizarre to look back at how these policies came to be implemented, despite such strong opposition, and warnings that they risked violating anti-torture statutes.

For more on the detainee abuse issue, you can watch this video interview with Janis Karpinski (the former Commanding General of Abu Ghraib), who was told by her superiors that "You have to treat them like dogs." The ACLU also has some interesting resources to look at on their website.

GTMO is going to be a major issue in the coming months, so you had all better do your homework.

UPDATE: One of the big misconceptions about Guantanamo is that it is filled with people who are almost certainly guilty of conspiring in terrorist plots. In the words of Donald Rumsfeld himself, these people are "the worst of the worst." While I don't doubt that there certainly are some very bad people there, it's still shocking to look back and see that 520 of the 775 detainees have already been released without charge. Furthermore, it's troublesome to see that 86% of the people detained were turned over by Afghan and Pakistani citizens, who had been offered "millions of dollars ... enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life."

UPDATE II: The New York Times Editorial Board concludes that "A prosecutor should be appointed to consider criminal charges against top officials at the Pentagon and others involved in planning the abuse." They also highlight this:

One page of the report lists the repeated objections that President Bush and his aides so blithely and arrogantly ignored: The Air Force had “serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques”; the chief legal adviser to the military’s criminal investigative task force said they were of dubious value and may subject soldiers to prosecution; one of the Army’s top lawyers said some techniques that stopped well short of the horrifying practice of waterboarding “may violate the torture statute.” The Marines said they “arguably violate federal law.” The Navy pleaded for a real review.

The legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time started that review but told the Senate committee that her boss, Gen. Richard Myers, ordered her to stop on the instructions of Mr. Rumsfeld’s legal counsel, Mr. Haynes.
I think that the internal opposition to these policies is very important to keep in mind.

UPDATE III: Failed Presidential candidate Duncan Hunter (R-CA) thinks that this is all "left-wing rubbish." Scott Horton dresses Hunter down here:
Hunter is right that the Defense Department reports made no accusations against Rumsfeld. But isn’t it worth asking why? Rumsfeld was the boss of the authors of the reports; he commissioned them and carefully set the guidelines within which the generals who wrote the reports could operate. They were not permitted to comment upon the conduct of any officials up the chain of command. However, Major General Antonio Taguba, who authored the principal report, left no question about his conclusions. “Serious war crimes were committed with the approval of senior Bush Administration officials,” he said to an audience at New York University two weeks ago (I spoke at that event as well), “there is no question about that. The only question is whether there will be accountability for the political figures who are responsible.”

Hunter demonstrates another failing. He supposes that in the absence of a “smoking gun” linking Donald Rumsfeld directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib Rumsfeld is in the clear. Of course, that smoking gun exists in the form of the Rumsfeld memos, but is not necessary. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, Rumsfeld faces per se liability for the abuses at Abu Ghraib assuming he knew or had reason to know of the abuses and failed to take steps to stop them (now well established, as the Levin-McCain Report notes).

UPDATE IV: For a longer account of the entire detainee abuse story, and its approval process, I highly recommend checking out Jane Mayer's excellent book The Dark Side.

UPDATE V: Taxi to the Dark Side is also a pretty good account.

UPDATE VI: Another popular misconception is that torture works, and has provided us with reliable information in the past. Interrogator Matthew Alexander has recently published a book pushing back against this myth, and David Rose has written an excellent article debunking the previous claims made by the current administration.

This Week's Links: Torture and Community Reinvestment

19 December 2008

  • Former senior interrogator Matthew Alexander recounts how United States officials engaged in conduct that "often resulted in torture and abuse." Alexander, who "refused to participate in such practices," details his own successful methods. It's a good read. [The Washington Post]
  • I know that many people have written much on the topic, but this is still one of the most under-covered stories of the past decade: "A bipartisan Senate report released today says that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere." [The Washington Post]
  • Paul Krugman debunks some of the myths and falsehoods about Fannie and Freddie (back in July) [The New York Times]
  • Joseph Stiglitz doesn't care for Alan Greenspan. [Vanity Fair]
  • ABC News exaggerates the wages of United States auto workers. [F.A.I.R.]
  • Howard Kurtz is not a very good media critic. [Media Matters for America]
  • Have your conservative friends and family members been holding up the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 as the root of all our current economic problems? If so, you might want to give this one a read. [Media Matters for America]
  • Media Matters debunks some of the common myths about the Community Reinvestment Act. [Media Matters for America]
  • Eric Boehlert debunks the $70/hour autoworker myth. [Media Matters for America]
  • The New York Times debunks the $70/hour autoworker myth. [The New York Times]
  • Bob Somerby suggests a better headline for the previous New York Times article. [The Daily Howler]
  • Michelle Malkin is still a reflexive partisan hack. [ThinkProgress]
  • Barry Ritholtz debunks the "intellectually silly argument" that the Community Reinvestment Act is the root of all our economic problems. [The Big Picture]
  • Slate thinks that it is "not merely offensive, but entirely wrong" to blame our current economic woes on the Community Reinvestment Act. [Slate]
  • The Westboro Baptist Church now wants to take advantage of Olympia's open forum to put up a religious display of their own, saying "Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell." [Seattle Post Intelligencer]
  • Newsweek writes up the whistleblower who revealed the warrantless wiretap program. [Newsweek]

Rick Warren to Deliver Invocation at Obama's Inauguration

17 December 2008

Pastor Rick Warren thinks that it is a "humanitarian issue" and a moral imperative that homosexual couples never be granted the right to enjoy the same legal rights and benefits that heterosexual couples currently have in the United States. He advocates for Constitutional amendments specifically singling out and excluding them from the right to marry, so that not even a democratic majority vote could grant them equal marriage rights.

Here is Rick Warren, attempting to justify his call to discrimination:

Take note of how he explicitly lies and says that no culture, in 5,000 years, has granted homosexuals the right to marry. I guess that Canada does not have a culture. Spain must not have a culture, either. Same goes for Connecticut and Massachusetts. Mr. Warren seems to have either recklessly forgotten that these regions explicitly recognize homosexual marriages (which is just as bad as outright lying), or to have deliberately lied in order to bolster his point.

Also take note of how Mr. Warren tells another untruth, and says that no religion in 5,000 years has recognized the right of homosexual couples to marry. I guess that the United Church of Christ is not a religious organization. Same goes for the Unitarians. Mr. Warren has either recklessly forgotten their existence or deliberately lied about them.

In sum, Rick Warren is an asshole who advocates for institutional discrimination and tells lies to bolster his phony arguments. It's especially discouraging to see such bile coming from such a nice-guy facade (same goes for Mike Huckabee, who has compared homosexual marriages to bestiality and pedophilia).

It's sad to see that Barack Obama has selected Warren to deliver the invocation. I suppose, though, that most other major religious leaders would be making the same thin arguments in favor of the same discriminatory policies.

UPDATE: I also particularly hate that endlessly stupid language fetish: "We can't let 2% of the population change the definition of marriage." We all know that that's not the real issue. We're always altering state marriage laws and customs, to permit or deny no-fault divorce, common law marriage, interracial marriage, inter-denominational marriage, property rights, custody issues, etc. Marriage, as a legal institution, has always been in flux, and always will be in flux. Warren's "can't change the definition" argument is pure bullshit, and everybody knows it. What this is really about is people like Warren trying to avoid any kind of institutional recognition or acceptance of homosexuality (which has been around for much more than 5,000 years).

UPDATE II: Warren and Huckabee are like two peas in a pod.

UPDATE III: Rick Warren is a creationist, by the way:

Do you believe Creation happened in the way Genesis describes it?
If you're asking me do I believe in evolution, the answer is no, I don't.

Dana Milbank Sucks At Journalism

Dana Milbank is always on MSNBC, yet he persistently manages to say nothing of substance. It's always safe and easy to spout off "conventional wisdom" and crack jokes about the topic of the day. Yet it never adds anything to the discussion, and it's always terribly shallow. Milbank continued to do what he does in the Washington Post today:

Next up in Obama's insomnia treatment was an acceptance speech by the previously unknown nominee, followed by the president-elect's own blend of convoluted and passive answers to questions...The whole thing might have ended in snores if [Chicago Tribune reporter John] McCormick hadn't piped up about Blagojevich.
Milbank will be chasing after this one like the O.J. and Ana Nicole stories. He just wants to be entertained with a sexy story. No time to report on agricultural policy and our bizarre farm subsidy problems, because that's no fun. Never mind that these people will be making important and complex decisions about our country's food and energy policies. Dana Milbank wants to be entertained.

UPDATE: See this previous post.

UPDATE II: Bob Somerby is a national treasure:
On Monday, Obama announced that his office’s “full review of this” would be withheld until next week, at Patrick Fitzgerald’s request. And Fitzgerald’s office confirmed the fact that they had made this request. But McCormack plowed ahead anyhoo, asking a question that plainly wouldn’t get answered. And then, on cable, the children started wailing, about Obama’s bad conduct.

Which part of “the information will be withheld until next week, at Fitzgerald’s request” don’t these life-forms understand?

The caterwauling was widespread on cable; for Digby’s account of one exchange, just click here. But as always, the silliest Villager was the Post’s Dana Milbank, who put his low IQ on display in this morning’s “Washington Sketch.” If the insider press is our dumbest elite, Milbank is its perfect town crier. Like Bush, he’s straight outta Skull and Bones. And as he neared the end of his “sketch,” he again seemed determined to prove it.

Classic Milbank! This is how the Post’s “sketch” artist described one part of yesterday’s session—an event at which Obama introduced his nominee for Secretary of Education. As always, Milbank found himself bored by the day’s dismal dullness:

MILBANK (12/17/08): Next up in Obama's insomnia treatment was an acceptance speech by the previously unknown nominee, followed by the president-elect's own blend of convoluted and passive answers to questions: "We're going to have to work through a lot of these difficulties, these structural difficulties that built up over many decades, some of it having to do with the financial industry and the huge amounts of leverage, the huge amounts of debt that were taken on, the speculation and the risk that was occurring, the lack of financial regulation, some of it having to do with our housing market, stabilizing that."

The whole thing might have ended in snores if McCormick hadn't piped up about Blagojevich.

Milbank began with a brainless jibe at the “previously unknown” Arne Duncan. In fact, Duncan has been head of Chicago’s public schools for the past seven years, though no one in Milbank’s circle has heard. Then, the crier took a familiar tack; he complained that Obama’s quoted answer was too “convoluted” —too long. In fairness, Obama’s answer did stretch to a punishing 71 words, and Village attention spans are quite short. At least Obama hadn’t used too many big words, the brainless complaint the Bonesman raised against dull, verbose and know-it-all Gore when the exceedingly tiresome fellow once tried to discuss his new best-selling book (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/30/07). Gore had used such terms as “the marketplace of ideas” and the ”exchange of goods and services”—and this had led to a long, loud complaint. Ponder the plight your nation faces when Boneheaded fellows of such low distinction control the shape of its discourse.

“The whole thing might have ended in snores if McCormick hadn't piped up about Blagojevich,” the Bonesman explained, helping us see his cohort’s sad culture. Again, the truth about this dullest elite: They’re constantly drowning in their own dismal dullness. Only the thrill of scandal/sex/wardrobe/personality tales rescues them from their own cosmic dullness. Big Dem pols who don’t offer such treats will be accused of using big words—of giving “convoluted answers.” Almost everything puts them to sleep. Low-income kids can be damned.

Yesterday, the nonsense was general all over cable, but no one is ever much dumber than Milbank. As he described McCormick’s Q-and-A, we got to peep inside the head of the Village’s emptiest Bonesman:

MILBANK: [T]he Chicago Tribune's John McCormick didn't want to talk basketball. He wanted to know about contacts that Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had with disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"John, John, let me just cut you off," Obama interrupted, "because I don't want you to waste your question." The president-elect said the "facts are going to be released next week”—when he, by random coincidence, will be enjoying Christmas vacation in Hawaii—and "it would be inappropriate for me to comment" before then. "So, do you have another question?"

McCormick tried to rephrase the question, to no avail. "John, John," Obama repeated, reproachfully. "I said, the U.S. attorney's office specifically asked us not to release this until next week."

Can you get dumber? We’re not sure. But try to grasp how bad it can get when these life-forms start offering snark. Again, Fitzgerald’s office confirmed the fact that they asked Obama to wait till next week before discussing Emanuel’s contacts. The Bonesman, though, interjected some “tude” into his account of this matter. He suggested that the release of the info next week was some sort of slick Obama trick, designed somehow to coincide with the gentleman’s Christmas vacation.

No, that doesn’t really make sense. But this is the Village’s Bonesman.

Let us repeat what we’ve told you before. There is no way to understand this group without understanding a basic fact: Your “press corps” is a D-plus elite—our slowest, dumbest professional cohort. For the record, we’ve been surprised by the way they’ve behaved in the ten days since the Blago tale hit. They’ve been dumber—and faker—than we would have dreamed. Nothing derails their sad culture.

Thomas Tamm Interview

16 December 2008

Newsweek has a portrait of Tamm here.

Interrogation Tactics

15 December 2008

"There's No Evidence of Any Wrongdoing, But. . . ."

14 December 2008

Kevin Drum nails it:

...I've lost count of the number of op-eds and TV talking head segments over the past week that have started out with something like this: "There's no evidence that Barack Obama was involved in Rod Blagojevich's pay-to-play scheme -- in fact just the opposite -- but...." After the "but," we get a couple thousand words with some take or another on why this is casting a "lengthening shadow" over Obama even though there's precisely zero evidence that he had even a tangential involvement in the whole thing.

Look, I get it: it was kind of a slow news week, reporters are tired of Obama the Savior stories, the Blagojevich story is theatrically sexy, and everyone is desperately trying to find a way to turn it from a local story to a national one. But there's no there there. Maybe Republicans still haven't learned their lesson from the 90s, but that's no reason the press has to follow them over a cliff once again.

Jamison Foser gets it, too:
...this week brought signs that much of the media is set to resume the absurd and shameful behavior that defined the 1990s -- guilt by association, circular analysis whereby they ask baseless questions about non-scandals, then claim they have to report on the "scandal" because the White House is "besieged by questions," grotesque leaps of logic, downplaying exculpatory information, and too many other failings to list.

If that happens -- if the media continue to behave as they did in covering Whitewater -- they will damage the country. It's really that simple. We cannot afford to be distracted from serious problems by overheated conjecture and baseless insinuation masquerading as journalism.

UPDATE: The RNC is already milking this for all it's worth, putting out a video with scary music and zero substance. Since they have no evidence of any wrongdoing, they have instead titled the video "Questions Remain."

UPDATE II: Matt Yglesias sees it, too.

But this morning on MSNBC there was a lengthy discussion of Obama's involvement in Blagojevich's corruption. Of course, there was no evidence of any involvement on Obama's part. Nor, despite this being a news channel, was there any original reporting of any kind whatsoever. There was, however, a ton of time spent criticizing the Obama campaign's PR strategy with regard to this issue - the suggestion being that had Obama adopted a better PR strategy, then people wouldn't be on television making evidence-free guilt-by-association accusations against him.

This strong me as odd. The people making the accusations kept acknowledging that they had no evidence. One might think that communicating to television personalities the fact that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on Obama's part would constitute a good PR strategy. Given that they knew there was no evidence of wrongdoing, they should have ceased implying that there was wrongdoing. But they didn't do that at all. Not, I would submit, because of any failings on Obama's part, but because Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, John Heileman, Mark Halperin, and Pat Buchanan don't care at all about the accuracy of the impression their coverage gives.

Greta Van Susteren Is Insane

12 December 2008

FOX News host Greta Van Susteren just wrote this post for FOX News:

oh oh - what does this mean?

I just read an article in the Chicago Tribune about big Dem operative close to Congressman Rahm Emanuel…his name is Jimmy DeLeo…the Trib tried to find him in several of his haunts including - get this - the Excelsior Casino in Aruba!! That is where Joran met Natalee Holloway! As soon as I get off the train I will link the whole article…but this sure is odd!!

That's just so embarrassing to read.

Also, are people still talking about Natalee Holloway? I know that it's a tragedy and all, but this is one person who disappeared about half a decade ago. There are 50,930 active missing adult cases in the United States right now. Why focus on this one so obsessively? Is it just because she's an attractive blonde woman? Why pay so much attention to this rather than, say, disappearing mass graves in Afghanistan?

And just what is Van Susteren suggesting, anyway? That Jimmy DeLeo, Rahm Emanuel, and Barack Obama are kidnapping murderers? That "Questions Remain" about whether or not they're kidnapping murderers? I don't get it. . . .

Blagojevich Charged With Corruption

09 December 2008

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) has been charged with criminal corruption.

With Barack Obama (D-IL) leaving his Senate seat vacant, Gov. Blagojevich had the responsibility of filling it with the best public servant he could find. However, Blagojevich recognized that this Senate seat was "a fucking valuable thing," and decided that "you don't just give it away for nothing." Instead, he would "drive a real hard bargain" and try to "get something real good." If that didn't work out, then "shit, I'll just send myself, you know what I'm saying."

He apparently tried to get campaign contributions, a job for his wife, a personal appointment, a new editorial board at the Chicago Tribune, etc. He also threatened to cut $8 million in funding for a children's hospital (apparently because he wanted $50,000 in campaign contributions from the hospital's executive, and he wasn't paying up).

This is the second Illinois Governor in a row to be accused of corruption. The last Illinois Governor, George Ryan (R-IL), is currently living in a federal prison, serving his sentence on a corruption conviction.

You can read the criminal complaint here (it's 78 pages long). The shorter description is on the blue shirt, pictured above.

UPDATE: The "analysis" from journalists like Liz Sidoti was way too predictable:

AP reporter Liz Sidoti, fresh off a stint delivering donuts to John McCain, pens an "analysis" of the Blagojevich indictment that begins: "President-elect Barack Obama hasn't even stepped into office and already a scandal is threatening to dog him."

Then, in the very next sentence, Sidoti admits "Obama isn't accused of anything." And that pretty much sets the tone for the "analysis" -- ominous warnings that Obama could be implicated in the scandal, followed by concessions that he, you know ... isn't.


So there's a great big ball of nothing here, yet Sidoti continues to pretend that Obama is caught up in the scandal, writing "There were signs the continuing investigation could still involve Obama."

Well, no. The "signs" Sidoti pointed to were the fact that someone who works for Obama once worked for Blagojevich (ah-ha!) and that court papers appear to refer to "Obama friend Valerie Jarrett, an incoming senior White House adviser," who removed herself from consideration for the Senate seat Obama is vacating. Blagojevich is charged with trying to sell an appointment to that seat. Jarrett removed herself from consideration for it. How that constitutes a sign that the investigation "could still involve Obama" is clear only in Sidoti's imagination.

Still, Sidoti is technically correct: the investigation could still involve Obama. But it is grossly unfair to suggest that possibility absent any evidence. That's something Liz Sidoti apparently doesn't understand -- though one suspects she would understand the unfairness of suggesting, absent any evidence, that she could be taking payments from the GOP to write garbage like this.

Sidoti concludes: "More details on the case could be forthcoming." Hard to argue with that.

So what do we have? According to Liz Sidoti:

1) "Obama isn't accused of anything"
2) "prosecutors were making no allegations that Obama was aware of any scheming"
3) "Blagojevich himself, in taped conversations cited by prosecutors, suggested that Obama wouldn't be helpful to him"
4) There is no evidence, indication, or hint that Obama was aware of scheming, or did help Blagojevich.
5) Nevertheless, "more details on the case could be forthcoming"
6) Therefore, a "scandal" is "threatening to dog" Obama.

This is nothing short of sleazy. With no evidence whatsoever, Sidoti is suggesting ties between Obama and the scandal that simply do not exist. Whatever this is, it isn't "analysis" and it isn't "journalism."

UPDATE II: The often crazy Michelle Malkin's coverage was also way too predictable. In a column titled "The Democrat Culture of Corruption," Malkin skips over the fact that the previous Republican governor is currently serving a jail term for corruption, uses words like "corruptocrats," and tries her best to suggest that there is something ominous or underhanded going on with Barack Obama ("declaring Team Obama’s hands clean — especially with Blago crony and indicted Obama donor Tony Rezko in the middle of it all — is premature. . . . this raises more questions than it answers about who on the transition team may have talked to Blago and his shakedown artists about what and when"). It also contains her generic claims of "liberal media bias" and speculation about how they would have behaved if it were a Republican (which it was with the previous Illinois Governor).

As an aside, I'd just like to point out again that Michelle Malkin is a crazy person, who writes books in defense of ethnic internment camps and publicly berates consenting adults for creating pornographic films for other consenting adults.

UPDATE III: In another column, titled "This is what patriotism looks like," Malkin offers a childish vision of patriotism that apparently involves not much more than reflexively assuming that the government and military can do no wrong:

A naturalized American from Korea loses his entire family in the military jet crash that wrecked his house and killed his infant daughter, toddler daughter, wife, and mother-in-law. But he refuses to blame the pilot or bash the military. Reader Mitch in San Diego e-mails: “I’m not even religious and I’ll say a prayer for this man. He has my utmost admiration. Truly an amazing gesture of forgiveness and patriotism on his part. There would be no discussion about immigration, illegal or otherwise, if this was the caliber of most coming here. Amazing.”

Keep Dong Yun Yoon in your prayers.
If I were Dong Yun Yoon, I might want to at least ask some questions. It doesn't involve "bashing the military" to want to know what went wrong, and how it came to be that a military jet crash could happen on top of your house. I know that this man went through a lot, but I don't see how this makes him a hero and a patriot, and I don't respect how Malkin uses his story to prop up her own vision of patriotism (which apparently also involves internment camps).

UPDATE IV: Rush Limbaugh is still an intellectually dishonest partisan.

UPDATE V: All 50 Democratic Senators Call on Blagojevich To Step Down

UPDATE VI: Tony Soprano vs. Rod Blagojevich: Can you tell which is which?

UPDATE VII: Glenn Greenwald is always right about everything. You should all read his column every day.

Religious Displays

06 December 2008

I'm not going to write a detailed post about it (since I've been pretty busy here lately), but I just want to say that the religious display controversy playing out in Washington right now is hilarious.

This Week's Links

05 December 2008

  • "[L]egions of anti-Obama bloggers are so convinced he was born in Kenya that they’ve filed more than a dozen lawsuits nationwide." There is an interesting legal question involved here (through what procedure would one bring a challenge based on the Constitution's "natural born citizen" clause?), but let's not forget that the people filing this lawsuit are insane conspiracy theorists. [McClatchy D.C.]
  • "The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide the most fundamental question yet concerning executive power in the age of terror: Can the president order the indefinite military detention of people living in the United States?" Let's see if Justice Kennedy (a Ronald Reagan appointee) does the right thing here. [The New York Times]
  • Roger Lowenstein believes that the ratings agencies deserve a good measure of blame for our recent economic troubles. [The New York Times]
  • Even Michelle Malkin believes that the "Kenyan birth" conspiracy theorists are insane. [Michelle Malkin]
  • Open Congress (a great website) puts up video highlights of the Big Three bailout hearings. [Open Congress]
  • Charles Rangel writes in to the New York Times to complain about their coverage of him. The New York Times responds. [The New York Times]
  • Now is not a good time to be working in Legal Aid. [The New York Times]
  • Tom Daschle (D-SD), the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (who happens to wear weird red glasses), says that health care reform will be a "top priority" for the next administration's economic recovery plan. [Bloomberg]
  • Did I mention that the "Kenyan birth" conspiracy theorists are insane? [Mother Jones]
  • Yogurt and Cucumber do not seem like appealing soda flavors. [The Onion]
  • If you have a Netflix account, I recommend that you watch Street Fight and Lake of Fire. Two very good documentaries. [Netflix]
  • Bill O'Reilly is giving up his radio show. However, he will keep appearing on television and will presumably keep comparing everyone to Nazis. [Daily News]

Larry Kudlow Accountability Watch

01 December 2008

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) just confirmed that we have been in a recession since December 2007.

This is what leading conservative economic expert, and graduate school dropout, Larry Kudlow had to say about the economy in that same month:

There is no recession. Despite all the doom and gloom from the economic pessimistas, the resilient U.S economy continues moving ahead—quarter after quarter, year after year—defying dire forecasts and delivering positive growth. In fact, we are about to enter the seventh consecutive year of the Bush boom.

The pessimistas are a persistent bunch. In 2006, they were certain a recession was just around the corner. They were wrong. Instead, the economy posted two consecutive quarters of near or above four-percent growth.

Earlier today, a doom and gloom economic forecast from Macro Economic Advisors was released predicting zero percent growth in the fourth quarter. This report is off by at least two percentage points. These guys are going to wind up with egg on their faces.
Looks like the "pessimistas" were right, and Kudlow was wrong.

Brian Lehrer and Lawrence Lessig Discuss Copyright Law

30 November 2008

This Week's Links

28 November 2008

Thanksgiving Pardon

25 November 2008

In Thanksgiving Tradition, Bush Pardons Scooter Libby In Giant Turkey Costume

Ben Stein vs. Neil Cavuto: Whoever Wins, We Lose

23 November 2008

Ben Stein and Neil Cavuto are both kinda crazy. Neil Cavuto thinks that national healthcare is a "breeding ground for terror," blames Obama for the stock market decline (relying on economic experts such as Hollywood's Kelsey Grammer), and has hosted an entire panel discussion devoted to the topic: "Do married men hate Hillary because she sounds like their nagging wives?" In addition to using his show to promote partisan hackery, Cavuto also likes to focus on topics such as these: "KNOCKOUT GIRLS: GIVING MEN 'HOT' HAIRCUTS," "LINGERIE BOWL," "NEW DATING SERVICE HOOKS UP 'SUGAR MAMAS' WITH 'BOY TOYS,' " and "PORNO-TAX!"

Ben Stein, on the other hand, is a creationist who frequently compares scientists to Nazis, and once compared the police officers who caught homosexual Senator Larry Craig in a public restroom to Nazis.

In the above video, the two men shout at each other about something.

Marc Elias Sets the Wall Street Journal Straight

21 November 2008

Ever since election night, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page has been huffing and puffing and insinuating that Al Franken is trying to "steal the election," "conjure up. . . disqualified[] ballots," "invent votes," etc. They utterly fail to back up any of their voter fraud claims, and just rattle on and on about how they see "funny business" and "potential fraud."

Today, Marc Elias (Franken's attorney) goes through the Wall Street Journal's ridiculous claims, one-by-one, and tears them apart. On the Wall Street Journal editorial page itself, no less.

UPDATE: On FOX News, in their never-ending quest to de-legitimize the state-mandated recount process, they are now falsely claiming that Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie is a "former member of the Communist Party." That is a shameful lie, and the crudest kind of propaganda.

UPDATE II: Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL) is now saying that "Al Franken only needs to steal 130 more votes to win that thing," apparently insinuating that Franken is a brazen vote-thief, hatching a plot to steal the votes and steal the election. Scarborough, of course, does nothing whatsoever to substantiate his claims. The best he can do is make vague allusions to the discredited votes-in-the-car meme ("he can . . . hide 130 votes in the back of a station wagon"), which Marc Elias thoroughly debunked.

UPDATE III: Without citing any evidence, Rush Limbaugh jumps on board:

The Democrats are in the process of stealing the Franken-Coleman election in Minnesota. They're doing it. They're finding all these votes. . . . They're stealing that Senate race right under everybody's nose. . . . I think our elections have been corrupted. In fact, there's no doubt in my mind the elections have been corrupted.

UPDATE IV: FOX News' Fred Barnes is also peddling the votes-in-the-car meme.

FOX News Has the Story - Part XVIII

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl
Part IV: Panty Bandits
Part V: Hooters Haircuts
Part VI: Sexy Stripper Scam
Part VII: Stripper Fitness
Part VIII: Exotic Erotic Ball
Bonus: FOX Attacks
Part IX: Drunk Upskirt Pictures
Bonus: FOX Porn
Part X: Bunny Bar
Part XI: Teens Seen Grinding
Part XII: Porno-Tax!
Part XIII: Sexy Teacher
Part XIV: Sugar Mamas and Boy Toys
Part XV: Sexy Part-Time Job
Part XVI: Hot Cops
Part XVII: Sex Sells

This Week's Links

"Another Black Eye for the Bush Administration's Detention Policy," Harper's
"Brawl on Voter Fraud Allegations Breaks Out in Senate Judiciary Committee Report on U.S. Attorney Firings," Election Law
"Five Detainees Ordered Released 'Forthwith' After Seven Years at Guantanamo," Salon
"FOX News' Napolitano Falsely Smears Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie as a 'former member of the Communist Party,' " Media Matters
"Has There Been Too Much Bipartisanship or Too Little?," Salon
"Judge Orders Release of Five Guantanamo Detainees," McClatchy D.C.
"The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Consensus," American Meteorological Society
"Preliminary Thoughts and Facts About Eric Holder," Salon

Daniel Henninger Has a Crazy Theory About Our Economic Problems

20 November 2008

Daniel Henninger is the "deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page." This major, nationally circulated newspaper pays Henninger a salary to come up with intelligent and insightful commentary about politics, culture and the economy.

Daniel Henninger has failed at his job. His latest article is a serious candidate for Worst Op-Ed of the Year, blaming our current economic woes on atheism and "
the disappearance of [the phrase] 'Merry Christmas.' " Seriously.

This year we celebrate the desacralized “holidays” amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin — fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man’s theory: A nation whose people can’t say “Merry Christmas” is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.
Over the past year, the United States has lost 1.2 million jobs, consumer sales have plummeted, the automobile sector has bled money and failed to move its inventory, retail sales have plummeted, oil price shocks have driven down transportation and demand, banks have failed, and institutional investors have gone under, bringing with it a credit freeze that fundamentally affects the entire economy.

Daniel Henninger blames "Northerners and atheists" who are "throwing out nurturers of useful virtue." All because some retailers prefer to use the more expansive "Happy Holidays" phrase, in an attempt to reach out to non-Christian shoppers.
It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. . . .

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

Feel free: Banish Merry Christmas. Get ready for Mad Max.

Seriously. This man got paid by a nationally circulated newspaper to write and print this. Can you believe it?

: Here is a video of Henninger being stupid:

UPDATE II: This is pretty spot-on:
[E]ach of Henninger's points seems more ridiculous than the last. There is no "dereligioning" of America. "Dereligioning" isn't even a word, but more importantly, the United States is the most religious of any industrialized democracy, and among the most religious countries on the planet. "Happy Christmas" has not been banned. The financial crisis is not the result of secular values. Morality is not being "erased."

Why anyone would attach their name to such transparent foolishness is a mystery to me. Why anyone would publish such inanity is even harder to understand.

Cardinal Stafford Cries "Hot, Angry Tears" Over the Election

18 November 2008

Cardinal James Stafford recently had this to say about the election of Barack Obama:

"His rhetoric is post-modernist and marks an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic. Catholic weep over his words. We weep over the violence concealed behind the rhetoric of our young president-to-be. What should be do with our hot, angry tears of betrayal?"
What should Mr. Stafford do with his "hot, angry tears"? Maybe he should go to his bedroom and release his anger on an electronic drum.

No word on whether he had similar "hot" tears when his organization enabled serial child predators to access and abuse innocent children. In fact, Stafford tried to pin the abuse of children on "homosexuality" instead of his own organization's high-level negligence, saying of the children abuse scandal that "I think it's more of an acting out homosexually."

In other news, the U.S. Conference of Bishops released a statement saying that "A Catholic cannot vote for" Obama, a South Carolina priest has called it a "mortal sin" to vote for Obama, and a high level Republican has been denied communion for voting for the President-elect Obama.

Despite all this, "Obama won the Catholic vote 54 percent to 45 percent."

UPDATE: Oh no! Postmodern!

UPDATE II: McClatchy has more here.

Down the Tubes

It looks like convicted felon Ted Stevens (R-AK) will not be serving another term in the Senate. After a long vote-count process, the race has just been called for this guy.


16 November 2008

According to WorldNetDaily, evolution is "an element of witchcraft" and Harry Potter is a clear and present danger to your children (WorldNetDaily refers to these children's books as being "pro-bigotry" and possibly leading to children practicing the occult). It's not unusual to go to this website and see a line such as this: "Liberals want mass starvation and human devastation."

Basically, WorldNetDaily is a news outlet for unhinged, angry and paranoid conservatives with little regard for facts or rational discussion.

If you don't believe me, then please take the time to read this WorldNetDaily article by Janet Folger. She writes it from the perspective of a prisoner in the future, who has been put in jail by Hillary Clinton simply for being a Christian.

Nov. 20, 2010

To the Resistance:

I'm writing this letter from prison, where I've been since the beginning of 2010. Since Hillary was elected in '08, Christian persecution in America has gotten even worse than we predicted. . . .

For a while now, as you might have guessed, WorldNetDaily has made it their mission to pass along any anti-Obama story it could, no matter how baseless and absurd. They first argued that Obama was a gay coke-fiend. That didn't pan out, as their career criminal source failed a polygraph test.

Next, they argued that Obama was planning to create a "massive but secret national police force that will be even bigger than the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force put together" (false), that his energy plan consisted of nothing more than tire inflation (false), that he supports cash reparations to blacks for slavery (false), etc.

Lately, WorldNetDaily has been promoting the myth that Barack Obama was born in Africa, and thus is ineligible to serve as the President of the United States. Their sources, as usual, are nutcases who have utterly failed to substantiate any of their claims.

These psychopaths will never rest.

UPDATE: As you might have guessed, college fail-out Rush Limbaugh frequently uses WorldNetDaily as a source. It's all a big crazy circle.

UPDATE II: They use actor Chuck Norris to argue against the scientific theory of evolution, for God's sake!

UPDATE III: WorldNetDaily recently settled a libel claim after baselessly asserting that an Al Gore supporter was "a suspected drug dealer."

UPDATE IV: My favorite WorldNetDaily headline is this: "Soy is Making Kids 'Gay' "

UPDATE V: Here is another actual WorldNetDaily headline: "Is Obama Devotee of Monkey-God Idol?"

Reminder: Mos Def Is Insane

First, Mos Def ruined the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Then he went on national television to say that (1) Bin Laden was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks, (2) the moon landing was faked, (3) O.J. Simpson didn't kill his wife, and (4) Bigfoot is real. Now I see that he has a video claiming that "Bush knocked down the towers." Even though the song is kinda catchy, this serves as a reminder that Mos Def is insane and/or stupid.

Michael Barone and Dennis Miller Are Hacks

14 November 2008

The post-election coverage on cable news has left us with a wealth of asinine commentary. However, what I find most mind-boggling is how several wacko (and sadly influential) conservatives have created some sort of weird psychodrama martyr out of Sarah Palin. For example, conservative columnist Michael Barone recently made the off-the-wall absurd argument that "The liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby." Conservative comedian Dennis Miller similarly argued that "the Left hate her — mostly women on the Left hate her — because to me from outside in it appears that she has a great sex life, all right?"

What's wrong with these people?

UPDATE: Sarah Palin herself once argued that her critics were just "ticked off" at the idea "that normal Joe six-pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency."

How on Earth Did This Happen?

The International Herald Tribune recently ran this headline: "Saudi Arabia to lead UN talks on religious tolerance"


The first half of the first sentence in this article reveals how absolutely bizarre this situation really is: "Saudi Arabia, which deploys a special police force to ensure that only one narrow sect of Islam predominates in the kingdom. . . ."

Stop right there. This is too ridiculous.

UPDATE: See also Bill Donohue.

Reminder: Bill Donohue Is Insane

13 November 2008

Video proof is here. In responding to an atheist group's self-advertising in a public place, Donohue first compares the group to "gay terrorists," then to Jeffrey Dahmer ("Jeffrey Dahmer had a conscience, too -- You know what he did, he destroyed his victims and he ate them -- we saw what happened"), and finally to "Pol Pot, Hitler, Mao." Donohue concludes that there are "fifty million people dead because of this man's philosophy."

This man is insane.

This Week's Links

11 November 2008

"Anti-Gay, Anti-Family," The New York Times
"Drawing Lines," Columbia Journalism Review
"Fixing Election Administration," Election Law
"Guantanamo Down To 250 Detainees, Future Uncertain," McClatchy D.C.
"Joe Lieberman, The Progressive Who Lost His Way," Center For American Progress
"Joe Scarborough: Hoisted By His Own Sanctimonious Petard," Glenn Greenwald
"Oral Arguments in Summum Case," Ed Brayton
"A Senior Fellow at the Institute of Nonexistence," International Herald Tribune

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is a Cazy Person

10 November 2008

Back in July, Obama gave a speech about national service, and made a comment about how we can't just rely on our military to achieve our goals. Rather, we also needed "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful."

Reasonable people interpreted this as Obama "talking about expanding a range of domestic and international agencies such as AmeriCorps, the Foreign Service, and the Peace Corps — and adding some new ones"

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) (left), however, is not a reasonable person. Rather, he is a crazy person who interpreted this as Obama openly declaring that we needed some sort of Marxist Gestapo:

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force. I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may -- may not, I hope not -- but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism. That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."
You were right the first time, Broun. It does sound crazy and off base.

But Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is not the only unhinged maniac to make crazy statements this past week. Over in Poland, Polish MP Arthur Gorski had this to say:

"Someone regarded by the (American) Republican right as a crypto-communist has become the leader of the world's greatest power ... and al Qaeda are rubbing their hands with glee that the new president wants peace, not war. . . . The black messiah of the new left has crushed the Republican candidate John McCain, and America will soon pay a high price for this quirk of democracy. . . . Obama is an approaching catastrophe. This marks the end of white man's civilisation," he said in an address.

Just to repeat, Gorski thinks that Obama marks "the end of white man's civilisation."

In other news, there are still crazy people who desperately insist that Obama was born in Africa (despite the fact that this myth has been repeatedly debunked).

UPDATE: Broun also said this: "We can't be lulled into complacency," Broun said. "You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that road."

UPDATE II: You may remember that Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) also tried to spread some false rumors about Barack Obama during the primaries. Why does Georgia elect so many crazy people to Congress?

UPDATE III: Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has also introduced legislation prohibiting adult military personnel from purchasing and possessing pornography. I'm really sick of Congressmen like Broun dictating what consenting adults can and cannot view.

UPDATE IV: Broun is not the first conservative wacko to compare Obama to Hitler (FOX News, Jonah Goldberg, Ann Coulter, and Ben Stein have all done it at various times). However, this deserves mention because it is an actual Congressman.

UPDATE V: Broun just released a statement defending his crazy remarks.

The Electoral College and National Popular Vote

08 November 2008

Rush Limbaugh, In a Nutshell

07 November 2008

For the past ten months, the United States economy has lost jobs. A lot of jobs. 1.2 million in 2008, to be precise. The automobile sector has been hit hard, bleeding money and failing to move their inventory. Retail sales have plummeted. We've seen banks fail and major institutional investors go under, bringing with it a credit freeze that fundamentally affects the entire economy.

This has been the major story of 2008. The other day brought even more bad news, as unemployment figures were higher than most expected.

Given all this, how does Rush Limbaugh explain yesterday's stock market decline?

By blaming Barack Obama, of course (see Obama Recession in Full Swing, November 6, 2008).

According to Limbaugh, "his ideas are killing the economy." In this bizarre alternate universe, all of the most obvious explanations are cast aside in order to pin blame on the guy Limbaugh insists is "an Arab" and a "man-child." The overwrought Limbaugh thinks that "His ideas are killing Wall Street. . . . He's causing it! He is causing the sinking economy." He also insists that "the market sell-off is Obama fear-based. There's no question." Limbaugh, of course, does not cite any evidence to back up his claims. He does, however, shout a few times.

UPDATE: FOX News, of course, is following suit.

Gretchen Carlson: “There’s a lot of feeling in the market not reacting very well to the election of Barack Obama.”

Fred Barnes: “We have seen the stock market go down over 800 points the last two days. There is great uncertainty out there about [Obama’s] policies.”

Dick Morris: “Now the other thing that I predicted in “Fleeced” is that the stock market would go crazy after he was elected. Not just because he’s a radical, not just because he’s a Democrat, but because he’s going to raise the capital gains tax. […] Its going to continue to tank.”


UPDATE III: The Dow rose 250 points on Friday. I wonder if these people will attribute that to Obama, as well.

UPDATE IV: The Los Angeles Times sees it, too.

UPDATE V: Sean Hannity predictably joins the chorus.

"Wall Street keeps sinking. Could it be the Obama recession: the fear that taxes are gonna go up, forcing people to pull out of the market?"